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RAF Kinloss

Kinloss Barracks
Motto: Power to the Hunter
WMO: 03066
Airport type Military
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force, British Army
Location Kinloss
Built 1938
In use 1939 - 2012 (RAF)
2012 - (Army)

Lt Col Andy Sturrock RE

Elevation AMSL 22 ft / 7 m
EGQK is located in Moray
Location in Moray
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 2,344 7,690 Asphalt

Kinloss Barracks is a former Royal Air Force station (RAF Kinloss), located near the village of Kinloss, on the Moray Firth in the north of Scotland.

The RAF station opened on 1 April 1939 and served as a training establishment during the Second World War. After the war it was handed over to Coastal Command to watch over Russian ships and submarines in the Norwegian Sea. Until 2010 it was the main base for the RAF's fleet of Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol aircraft. It was intended that the MR2 would be replaced by the Nimrod MRA4, but the MRA4 was cancelled in the Strategic Defence and Security Review of October 2010. This meant that Kinloss was no longer required by the RAF. Regular flying operations ceased on 31 July 2011. However, the runways will be maintained to be used as a relief landing site, e.g. from RAF Lossiemouth.[1]

In November 2011 the Ministry of Defence and 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group announced that 930 Service personnel from 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) will move from Waterbeach Barracks, near Cambridge, to Kinloss in summer 2012.[2][3] First units of 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) arrived in June 2012, with the majority expected by July.[4]

On 26 July 2012 at 1200 the RAF Ensign was lowered for the last time, and replaced by the flag of 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support), Royal Engineers, to become Kinloss Barracks.[5]


  • History 1
    • Second World War 1.1
    • Cold War 1.2
    • Post-Cold War 1.3
    • Transition from RAF Station to Army Barracks 1.4
  • Operational units 2
    • Royal Air Force 2.1
    • Army, Royal Engineers 2.2
  • Suspected postwar radioactive contamination 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Second World War

Nimrod groundcrew at Kinloss

Construction work began in the spring of 1938 to establish RAF Kinloss as a pilot training school. Land was requisitioned from local farms Easter Langcot, Muirton and Kinloss as well as Kinloss House and on 1 April 1939 with 14 Flying Training School (FTS) on camp and 45 Maintenance Unit soon to follow, RAF Kinloss opened.

In 1939, 14 FTS moved south and were replaced by 19 Operational Training Unit (OTU) training bomber crews for the offensive.

The station defences were gradually established and by May 1940, Group Captain Jarman reported that the defence of Kinloss was in order.

Throughout the majority of the war 19 Operational Training Unit was the primary training unit. Between July 1940 and June 1941 it flew over 22,073 hours almost four times the rate achieved by 14 FTS the previous year.

Cold War

Not long after VE Day 19 OTU was disbanded and the arrival of 6 Coastal OTU saw the beginning of Kinloss's association with maritime operations, an association that continues to this day.

The wartime Avro Lancaster was adapted without great upheaval for anti-submarine and search and rescue duties and RAF Kinloss changed from a bomber training unit, to a Coastal Command base training maritime aircrew. Its personnel now also included National Servicemen.

19 (C)OTU was split into No. 236 Operational Conversion Unit RAF and the School of Maritime Reconnaissance in 1947 with 236 OCU remaining at Kinloss. A further change in 1956 saw the units recombine as the Maritime Operational Training Unit (MOTU), which remained at Kinloss until 1965.

In July 1962, the station received one of its highest honours, the Civic Freedom of the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Forres, allowing Kinloss personnel the right to march through the burgh with swords drawn. This was the first time any military unit had been so honoured by Forres throughout the burgh's 1400-year history.

During the Cold War Kinloss squadrons carried out anti-submarine duties, locating and shadowing Russian naval units.

In 1972 and 1976 the new Hawker Siddeley Nimrod demonstrated its capabilities when it flew surveillance sorties over Iceland's disputed fishing limits, providing support for the Royal Navy and British trawlers in the Cod Wars. For much of the period Nos 120, 201, and 206 Squadrons were the main Nimrod units.

In November 1980 two pilots, Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Noel Anthony and RAF Flying Officer Stephen Belcher were killed when their aircraft struck birds on take off and crashed in woods to the east of Kinloss airfield. The remainder of the crew survived. Anthony was awarded the Air Force Cross and Belcher the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air.[6]

After the Argentines invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, Nimrod MR2's adapted for air-to-air refuelling, were deployed to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic.

Post-Cold War

In 1992 Nimrod aircraft deployed to the Stainforth Trophy for the best operational performance in 2004.

Nimrod MR2 aircraft at RAF Kinloss in 1999

In April 2005, Air Cadet Annual Summer Camp.

On 2 September 2006, 12 Nimrod crew members from 120 Squadron crew 3 and 2 observers were killed when their Nimrod, serial number XV230, exploded over Afghanistan.

No. 325 Expeditionary Air Wing RAF (EAW) was formed at the station on 1 April 2006. The wing encompasses most of the non-formed unit personnel on station. The EAW does not include the flying units at the station.

In December 2009, the MOD announced the premature retirement of the Nimrod MR2 by March 2010 and that the introduction of the Nimrod MRA4 would be delayed to 2012. The MRA4 was then cancelled in the Strategic Defence and Security Review of October 2010

Numbers 120 and 201 squadrons, plus 42(R) squadron (the Operational Conversion Unit), formerly equipped with the Nimrod MR2, were disbanded on 26 May 2011[7] following the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 programme.

Transition from RAF Station to Army Barracks

A retired Nimrod MR2 aircraft close to the perimeter fence in March 2011

The cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 meant that Kinloss was no longer required by the RAF.[8] Regular flying operations ceased on 31 July 2011.[8]

The station continues to be home to the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, the No 663 Volunteer Gliding School (VGS) operating the Vigilant T1 and the Moray Flying Club are also based at RAF Kinloss.

The Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) and co-located UK Mission Control Centre remain responsible for coordinating all rescue efforts within the UK and out into the Atlantic. This includes the receipt of signals from rescue beacons, and the dispatch and control of fixed-wing aircraft and search and rescue helicopters.

In November 2011 the Ministry of Defence announced that the first unit from the British Army would be 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) who will move from Waterbeach Barracks, near Cambridge, to Kinloss in July 2012. It is expected that 930 Service personnel and their families would move at this time.[2][3]

The RAF station commander, Wing Commander Edwards, said in 2011: "Our plans will change from drawing down the Station to transitioning and we fully expect a smooth transition" to the Royal Engineers.[9]

The runways will be maintained to be used as a relief landing site for aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth.[10]

A flag raising ceremony took place on 26 July 2012 at 1200 for 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support), Royal Engineers.[5]

Operational units

Royal Air Force

Army, Royal Engineers

  • 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support)[11]
    • 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) - based at RAF Leeming
    • 34 Field Squadron (Air Support)
    • 53 Field Squadron (Air Support)
    • 48 Field Squadron (Air Support)
    • 60 Headquarters & Support Squadron (Air Support)

Suspected postwar radioactive contamination

Post WW2, Kinloss was used as one of the sites to break-up the excess of aircraft that the RAF now had, and recover what ever was recyclable. The site was chosen due to its remote location, and hence easy access to potential landfill sites which would be undisturbed by the majority of the public. The aircraft broken up included various components which had carried chemical weapons (including Sulphur mustard), and were all painted with fluorescent paint containing radium to allow the planes to be more easily operated at night. On removal, these contaminated items were buried in landfill sites either on the base or close to it.[12]

In 2004, with the development of a new water pipeline, a land quality assessment warned that sulphur mustard chemical weapons may be present within landfill and waste areas accessible to the public. The report stated that RAF Kinloss authorities believed there was a potential for chemical weapons agents and radiological contamination to be present in the ground:[12]

However, no trace of chemical weapons agents was found during the land quality assessment, although material contaminated with radium was removed from land near the base in 2004.[12]

After the 2004 documents became public in May 2012, it emerged that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) was investigating radioactive contamination at the site linked to the use of "glow in the dark paint" in WW2 aircraft. Moray MP Angus Robertson and Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty are both making representations to the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond.[12]


  1. ^ "Welcome to RAF Kinloss". Royal Air Force. 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "First tranche of Army unit moves confirmed". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Waterbeach Forward - March 2012". Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Moray gets ready to welcome the Army as advance party settles in, 19 June 2012.
  5. ^ a b "RAF colours come down at Kinloss airfield". BBC News. 26 July 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Second Supplement to the London Gazette
  7. ^ "Squadron Disbandment Parade". Royal Air Force. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "Welcome to RAF Kinloss". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  9. ^ Crowther, Stuart. "RAF aim for a smooth transition for Kinloss base". STV Forres. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "Welcome to RAF Kinloss". Royal Air Force. 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  11. ^ 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support)
  12. ^ a b c d David Miller (20 May 2012). "Chemical weapon 'risk' at RAF Kinloss in Moray".  

External links

  • Website of former RAF Kinloss (Internet archive)
  • Airport information for EGQK at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.
  • 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support)
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