No. 1 Operational Training Unit RAAF
From Our Contribution
No. 1 Operational Training Unit (1 OTU) was formed 8 Dec 1941 in a temporary location at RAAF Nhill. Its role was to provide advanced operational flying instruction with instruction commencing on 22 December. With permanent facilities at East Sale not likely to be available before October 1942, the unit moved on a temporary basis to Bairnsdale commencing 14 Jun 1942.
By July the unit had 1630 servicemen an women with all buildings and tents filled to capacity, with 320 men without a bed to sleep on. As an interim measure, the RAAF rented the Victory Guest House, and the Vic, Club, Orient, Albion and Main Hotels in Bairnsdale. On 10 Dec 1942, a Detached Flight of 15 Hudson aircraft and crews, with 108 maintenance personnel was formed to transport troops, arms and equipment to the forward battle areas in Papua and sent to South East Area. On 20 April 1943, I OTU commenced its move to East Gippsland's East Sale station. This required 110 vehicles making 535 trips transporting 2,411 staff and 128 aircraft. The move was made without disrupting the training schedule. The fleet at that time was 25 Lockheed Hudsons, 55 Bristol Beauforts, 35 Airspeed Oxfords, 14 Fairey Battles and one de Haviland Tiger Moth.
The courses involved some basic training and a six week conversion to flying twin engine Hudson and Beaufort aircraft. While pilots became familiar with the aircraft, air observers and wireless operator/air gunners received their training in the Oxford and Anson aircraft. Due to the demands imposed by the Emp1re Air Training Scheme, No. 1 OTU worked virtually 24 hours a day. Edward Gough Whitlam undertook the first Hudson training course at East Sale. By this time the unit had experienced 47 accidents involving Beaufort aircraft and personnel were becoming fearful. No. 1 OTU also tasked operational patrols to safeguard shipping lanes.
When Beaufort A9-143 crashed on Waddy Island about 60 kilometres south-east of Paynesville, it was the fifth aircraft accident for No. 1 OTU in July 1945. The final a1rcraft accident to befall a crew of No. 1 OTU killed three members of the stations last Beaufort transport course on 27 August. While operational the unit had suffered 147 aircraft accidents in southern Australia and New Guinea which left 131 aircrew dead or presumed missing during the Unit's intense program of training exercises and operational missions.