Squadron Leader “Ant” Downing RIP.

Ant Dowling in the mountains he loved a true hero, an unassuming man and a terrible loss to his family and friends!

My life has been shaped by being a member of the Mountain rescue most of it spent in the RAF Mountain Rescue. You meet many types of people and many become friends for life, some are special, many go on to do great things. Today the news was broken that many of us knew that Ant had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan whilst working with the Special Forces. I have left the service for over 5 years but still have links with the team giving the odd lecture and meeting them on the hill. I met Ant a few times,he always came up and thanked me for the chat which is unusual for team members. He was also after information about big walks like “Tranters Day” in Lochaber with nearly 20 Munros in a huge hill day and other massive hill days that Kinloss team is renowned for. He was extremely quiet and showed great humility and always spoke after the troops were away. He was a triathlon man and iron-man  and very fit, keeping it all very quiet what he did.  I never even knew he was an officer, which is very unusual as he fitted in with the boys and girls on the team where rank means little. It is what you are in the mountains that counts and Ant was one of them. He loved the team as I have only found out he was a key man on the station dealing with the loss of the Nimrod and in charge of all the engineers. He was also in the frame to be the Officer in charge  who runs the whole RAF MRT Service in the future, he would have been ideal such a leader is so needed in today’s world. There will be great sadness today that such a man lost his life, he fought so hard to live and I believe that his incredible inner strength kept him alive to at least die back home after such terrible injuries.

I leave you with the write up by young Ed  Jones  the Deputy Team Leader of RAF Kinloss MRT, many more will have their say today but to me Ed says it all and I thank him for his words.

Ant Downing

“Ant quickly showed himself to be an exemplary Team Member who inspired all with his great fitness and endurance. Mountain Rescue work is by its nature demanding but not for Ant who would often (even after a challenging weekend) cycle from a remote ‘Bothy’ back to Kinloss just for extra training. Once when recovering from an injury that kept him off the mountains he cycled 220 km so as not to lose any fitness! Often the training was for a competition in which he regularly took part. These including several Iron Man’s along with a 24 hr endurance event in which he helped raise £6,000 for Breast Cancer UK. For many these events would be enough in themselves but for Ant they were just another adventure for he was a true adventurer at heart. He had travelled extensively round the world and we had many a long conversation about places we had been and wished to go. Ant completed many of his trips alone showing great self-reliance, determination and trust in his fellow-man. On one epic journey he cycled across America despite having to put up with searing heat and swerving juggernauts. Perhaps Ant’s greatest strength was his humility, before joining the RAF he was a volunteer for the Samaritans often helping others in their darkest hours. He was rarely interested in rank or status being more concerned with the person and often encouraged others to achieve things they previously thought impossible.
Ant you were a truly great friend. You are gone now but I will never forget our adventures in the mountains. Goodnight, God bless.”

The word hero is used so easily nowadays Ant is a real hero, his loss must not be forgotten.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Squadron Leader “Ant” Downing RIP.

  1. Kev Higgins says:

    I was greatly saddened when I found out that Ant had passed away in such tragic circumstances. As an engineer who worked with him on NLS and an ex-Kinloss troop, I had tremendous respect for what he achieved throughout his short life. I’d like to add a little about Ant.
    My first encounter was on Nimrod Line Squadron where a young, baby-faced, Junior Engineering Officer (JEngo) turned up to what was a very busy place. He settled in remarkably quickly and gained respect of those around him with apparent ease (even the “old-sweat” Crew Chiefs!). We subsequently spent time in Oman, ironically setting up the Forward Operating Base for the MR2 operations in Iraq and Aghanistan. Ant then moved onto pastures new and I left the RAF. A couple of years later, I was back at Kinloss working with BAe Systems to oversee the engineering, transitional training from MR2 to MRA4 and was delighted to see Ant as the Senior Engineering Officer on NLS. We had several dealings around training, specifically what we could do to enhance the recovery programme for the Station, post XV230’s tragic crash. Paramount in Ant’s eyes was the need to give as much assistance to the young engineers of the day with less experience than many of the older hands. His leadership throughout this torpid time was exemplary and regardless of the situation, he would always take time out to have a chat, especially about the MRT and the mountains. Somethings never change with the Troops!
    Ed’s comments sum up this oustanding individual. You come across many special people in line of work, MRT and other avenues and to use the term “hero” to describe Ant, is wholly justified.
    His adventurous spirit has clearly taken him to perform the SF duties he would have relished. It is a travesty that his life has been taken whilst doing something he choose to do and no doubt excelled at.
    Rest in Peace.
    Wee Kev


    • heavywhalley says:


      It is a sad day and amazing what Ant did in a few years, it is also great to hear how good he was at his job, most troops have to work so hard to get out with the team nowadays he must have been pushed.

      It is a terrible tragedy and the world has lost a good man and a real leader, of which there are very few, your words are greatly appreciated.

      No doubt we will raise a glass tonight, “great things happen when men and mountains meet”

      This world is crazy at times and I do not understand it at all?

      Take care

      Kind regards Heavy


  2. Kelda says:

    Just remembering Ant as I always do in these few days, a dear friend, it was good to stumble across another mention of him here. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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