The Mountains have no respect for rank – My early days at RAF Kinloss MRT.i

Me aged 17 - skin and bone on my first cook with the team!

Me aged 17 – skin and bone on my first cook with the team!

After I joined the RAF I was posted to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire.  I immediately wanted to join the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and went down to the section to meet them on my lunch break. I was at this time a small 5 feet five, very skinny about 7-8 stones, young lad. They took one look at me and told me to get lost. I was heartbroken but amazed how non – military they were, there seemed no rank but they all looked hard as nails. I later found out that I did not meet the Team Leader but some of the young full time Mountain Rescue staff who worked there. I vowed to join the team somehow. The team had just completed a huge callout in November the Cairngorm Tragedy where they were heavily involved in the recovery of 6 fatalities 5 that were children from the Cairngorm Plateau. This was Scotland worst mountain disaster. Naturally the team were very shaken by this tragedy and were fairly close like a family group and they did not want any other new members at this time.

None of this stopped me wanting to join and when I met the team leader when he came in to collect the team rations for the weekend exercise I spoke to him. Flight Sergeant George Bruce BEM was the team Leader. George was a small, laugh a minute man, he was as  hard as nails, a Physical  Training Instructor a Scotsman from Edinburgh, a  teetotaler who spoke and led the team like the famous Bill Shankly the Liverpool Manager and Alec Ferguson he also had a sense of humour like Billy Connolly what an incredible combination. George immediately took to me and said come out this weekend we are going to Kintail on the West Coast and we will see what you are like. He had a charm and an amazing personality and when he spoke he was so authoritative, the team were all in awe of him, I was over the moon.   He was also a fanatic Rangers man and loved the West Coast banter on football and religion which was lost on many of the team. He was also a very proud Scotsman and this is also another great bonus to me. George had a sign in his office “The mountains have no respect for rank” a phrase that was to get me into trouble in the years to come, but was to prove very true as most of Georges statements.

The RAF MRT Badge you had to earn this!

The RAF MRT Badge you had to earn this!

The RAF Mountain Rescue was founded during the Second World War to rescue aircrew that crashed in the mountains. In these days teams were very basic and proved their worth saving many aircrews from the mountains. It was decided after the war to keep the teams and they were six teams in the UK when I joined in 1972. The majority of incidents teams were used for were for civilian climbers. The RAF Teams at one point were the backbone and founding members of the Mountain Rescue Service within UK. They had a team Leader and 4 full –time personnel, a wireless operator, store man, a motor transport driver and deputy team leader. These were made up of any trade within the RAF and the Team Leader was usually a Sergeant or Flight Sergeant. The rest of the team was made up volunteers from any trade or any rank within the RAF, who in those days had to train with the team three weekends out of every 4 and be on callout apart from leave 24/7. There was no pay or time off for team members. To join you had to do a three weekend trial or you could be posted to a team for 21 days to see if you were up to the job.  The majority lasted one day on the hill and decided it was not for them, it was an all-encompassing trial, not only fitness was essential but you also had to show a drive and determination to keep going and also fit in with the team personnel on the hill and socially. This was all after a full weeks work; The team left at 1800 each weekend for a different base camp in the mountains of Scotland. This was to ensure we had area knowledge of the entire mountain areas in the event of an aircraft crash.    The time given to the team was huge and if  you were married or in a relationship it was extremely hard to get the committeement right and work and many relationships fell by the wayside. We returned most Sunday night after a hard weekend usually about 2100 depending on weather and call outs, not an easy task for anyone or those with families. I was ready for the challenge despite the horror stories of the “Trial” I was told 95% fail so you have little chance by a few of the troops, they would see!

George Bruce BEM - one of the greatest men I have ever met, a true gent, Billy Connelly, Bill Shankly and Alec's Ferguson rolled into one. A very sharp wit and what a leader. Thanks George RIP!

George Bruce BEM – one of the greatest men I have ever met, a true gent, Billy Connelly, Bill Shankly and Alec’s Ferguson rolled into one. A very sharp wit and what a leader. Thanks George RIP!

To be continued.

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Friends, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Mountains have no respect for rank – My early days at RAF Kinloss MRT.i

  1. Lovely blog matey ,never served on a team with the great man ,but did many winter/summer courses with him ,what a sense of humour he had ,the call out in the Cairngorms for an Army officer and his dog ,the said dog started a fight with Georges dog Bruce ,I shall never forget Georges reaction “Bruce you should know better than to fight with an officers dog”.The Norwegian huts Feb 69 .


  2. David says:

    Hi Heavy,

    So…how’s the book coming on?
    If you need to hook up with a publisher, and haven’t already come across Sandstone Press (Dingwall-based) ( I’d be happy to put you in touch with them.

    You quite literally have a lifetime of memories, stories and anecdotes which I’m sure many of the readers of your blog (and many others) would enjoy reading about. I know the book’s a ‘work in progress’, but it’d be worth speaking to Bob Davidson at Sandstone if you haven’t got a publisher. Bob’s keen to publish good mountain related material (he’s a Munroist, now-semi retired hillwalker). And I have to say, you’ve got some great material.



  3. stacey cameron says:

    my grandfather.


  4. William Bruce says:

    He is my grandad and my best friend and also my hero I love you grandad and miss you always x


  5. Will says:

    Thank you for your kind words George is my grandad but he wasn’t just that he was my best friend and my hero I miss him so much but I know he’s watching over me aswell as my mum and dad R.I.P grandad love you and miss you so much xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still often speak about George what a great man and such an influence on us all! He made a huge impact on my life and many more !

      My thoughts are with you all

      Thinking of you and your family and their kind words !



  6. Will says:

    I love you grandad and miss you so much you will always be my hero xx

    Liked by 1 person

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