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1 Operational Training Unit (1 OTU) was formed at Nhill in Victoria on 8 December 1941. Advanced operational flying training and instruction began at Nhill on 22 December 1941. 

1 OTU trained Pilots, Air Observers and Wireless Operator/Air Gunners for multi-engine squadrons. After their preliminary training, pilots went through a six week conversion to Hudsons and Beauforts, while Air Observers and Wireless Operator/Air Gunners received instruction in Oxford and Anson aircraft. Training tested bombing and gunnery, shipping recognition and reconnaissance, navigation and searchlight evasion skills.

Nhill was always meant to be a temporary location for 1 OTU, whose home base was to be East Sale. As accommodation at East Sale would not be available until 1 October 1942, it was decided to relocate 1 OTU to Bairnsdale in Victoria. Relocation began on 14 June 1942. By July 1942, 1630 personnel, men and women, had relocated to Bairnsdale. After filling all the quarters, recreational buildings and 88 tents there were still beds required for 320 airmen. To overcome this shortfall, the RAAF rented the Victory Guest House and the Albion, Club, Main, Orient, and Vic Hotels in the Bairnsdale.

On 10 December 1942, a Detached Flight of 15 Hudsons and 108 personnel including air and maintenance crews was sent to North Eastern Area to transport troops, arms and equipment to the battle areas in Papua.

On 20 April 1943, the 130 aircraft and 2,411 personnel of 1 OTU started to move to its new home at East Sale. 110 tenders made 535 trips along the Princes Highway, covering 50,000 miles over a three day period. At this time 1 OTU had 25 Hudsons, 55 Beauforts, 35 Oxfords, 14 Fairey Battles and 1 Tiger Moth. Edward Gough Whitlam was a student in the first Hudson training course at East Sale.

1 OTU lost a lot of men through aircraft accidents. By the time they had moved to East Sale they had lost 47 Beauforts in accidents. By the end of the war, 1 OTU had suffered 147 aircraft crashes in southern Australia and in New Guinea resulting in 131 aircrew dead or missing presumed dead.

1 OTU took part in operational patrols to protect shipping lanes. In April 1944, four Beauforts from 1 OTU were deployed to Mount Gambier to carry out a two escort patrol for the Dutch transport ship "Van Ruys". 

On one occasion Southern Area ordered Beauforts from 1 OTU to locate and destroy a German submarine U-862, which had shelled the Greek tanker "S.S. Illios" (4724 tons) at a location of 130 miles south east of Adelaide" on 9 December 1944.



"Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A Concise History, Volume 8 Training Units"
Complied by RAAF Historical Section


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This page first produced 27 January 2002

This page last updated 13 January 2020