Mick Anderson helicopter winch – man, MRT Troop and ARRC controller all round SARMAN
Yesterday I was told that a good friend from the past Mick Anderson had passed away in his sleep. When he left the RAF after a long career he vanished from view after doing a University Degree at Dundee. I found out he had been all over the world on his bikes for years but i eventually managed to track him down. He lived in St Andrews and I had only just got hold of him this year asking him to come to the 70th RAF MR Re Union at Newtonmore, we had a long chat and he said he was coming. Mick was a helicopter Winch man one of the best, he was also a RAF MR Team member and also worked as a controller in the ARCC. He was an outstanding winch – man and was so well known throughout Scotland by all the Mountain Rescue Teams.
These to me were the “Golden Years of SAR”, the helicopters would regularly night stop with us after a rescue, no night vision glasses in these days and we got to know the crews so well. Famous nights in Glencoe, Fort William , Cairngorms and the West and East Coasts. It was a time to wind down after an epic rescue and meet the people who flew these great aircraft. There were so many real characters and if they could do it would be done, there was a few less rules in these days. It was magic seeing Mick on the wire you knew there was chance of maybe a lift home after a long rescue. These were great days and Mick knew his mountains so well, he was a mountaineer in his own right but most of all he loved the characters that made Mountain Rescue so special. The RAF at times is very rank conscious and Mick had none of that, you were who you were not what your rank was. He was blunt “ Grumpy Mick”was his nickname and he smoked a pipe everywhere, he was far to intelligent for us but we had some great call – outs together. He was a very intelligent man and read the Telegraph / Guardian which we used to wind him up about.
I had met him on various call outs but he helped me as a very young airman clean up the bothies each winter and what a great trip that would be. He would organize a training Exercise in the Cairngorms, bothies and up North West then back via the CIC hut the helicopter full of bags of rubbish. We had very scary flights showing the new crews the area and the great cliffs and climbs. His great area knowledge not of one area but the whole of Scotland’s climbing areas. He dropped of some of our food for my 3 week walk across Scotland in 1977 and even flew out and met us on an epic day midweek in Affric – bringing us a fresh meal high on the hills! During the blizzards of 77 we were accommodated in the Police Cells for a while in Inverness as part of a huge helicopter support. Mick sorted us out with hotel accommodation and tickets to the nurses dance, we were there for a week .This went on for nearly a week as we supported 10 helicopters and on my return to camp I was dropped off by Sea King at RAF Buchan where I was stationed. I was charged for being AWOL and a quick call to Mick and Ray Sefton and they sorted it out I was a hero again. He had a way with words and always looked after us.
Epic rescues many at night with incredible flying and professionalism by the crews in the wild cliffs. I was in Kintail trying Tranters North & South Clunnie ridges when he came and picked us up to help on an incident on Pinnacle ridge. The weather was wild and with just Mick and the pilot we tried to get in bad weather. We ended up in the gorge and had an epic flight backing out, and then we were back and dropped on the third pinnacle with my dog. We helped the Skye team and then helicopter took us to Mallaig for a night stop a wild night. Mick made sure the dog got fed first; we need accommodation for 6 plus a dog!
Mick was on the Wessex that crashed on Ben More at Crainlarich in 1982 he was very badly injured in the crash along with a great friend Ian and sadly Harry the KillinTeam Leader was killed. I was at RAF Leuchars on Exercise at the time, it was a winter’s night and we were on our way home. Mick buzzed our convoy at Tyndrum with the Wessex and told us we were needed to help Killin for a fallen walker. We watched the aircraft hit the hill and knew all the crew and the Killin Team. It was a night I will never forget. That was an awful night but within two years Mick was back and the photo above was his first flight after the crash after we had wandered up Dreish and Mayar in Glen Clova. The Leuchars Wessex came in, I had planned it with the crew and took us back to the land rover! It was Mick’s first flight since the crash and was an interesting day. I thought Mick was going to kill me. After this Mick went back to flying not easy after such a tragic crash.
We went to the Alps most years, Mick organised it and drove the whole way smoking his pipe and not sleeping. These were crazy days but great fun and trips we will never forget. He never took authority lightly and we had some fun run-ins with various police, campsite owners and others.
The team was always in the odd bit of trouble but Mick being aircrew was well aware of how to handle such problems and many times he pulled us out of bother from the military authorities. He was real character and a great friend to us all. He was a member of Green peace and had a badge on his flying suit, we were both interviewed by the SIB ( RAF Police) for this breach or rules. He told me to be quiet and after they had their say he said – “ What have you got against Dolphins and Wales”
Mick was involved in many Rescues but an epic that stands in the memory was an epic of a Jet Ranger helicopter that crashed in the middle of winter of the 11 Jan 1977. It crashed in Loch Avon was a real epic call out. Mick was part of the 22 Sqn Whirlwind crew that rescued the crew. It was an epic rescue and in the words of Ray Sefton the RAF MRT Team Leader who was on – board
“I have 20 years’ experience and in that time have been involved in, and witnessed, numerous mountain evacuations by helicopter. This operation was achieved over a lengthy period of time, at night, in the most severe weather conditions and over hazardous mountain terrain. The skill and professionalism of the aircraft captain and his whole crew resulted in the saving of two lives. I cannot praise the crew too highly. It is a rare privilege to have flown with men of such caliber”
Many will write about Mick and his helicopter days who know far more than me about this part of his life. He brought so much to the job and was a big first aid improver, bringing in things like “velcro frac straps” simple ideas but sensible. To me he was a larger than life character who had this unique bond with the MRT as well. He was Aircrew but also very proud of RAF MR and the civilian MR Teams it was in his blood. We lost touch as you do over the years but I am glad we had that long chat recently. He led a full life, left the RAF and traveled extensively but we managed to get in touch. Mick stayed single all of his life but was a real hit at times with the lassies. During his University days in Dundee as a mature student he was surrounded by lovely women who took this pipe smoking man who was not politically correct to their hearts. Mick was a real character from the” Golden Age” Of SAR, he was “Grumpy Mick”, controversial, intelligent, a superb winchie but also a man who loved the mountains and the people of Mountain Rescue.
As someone said the Highlands will mourn his passing, what an epitaph!
Thanks for the memories Mick a few of your mates have contacted me and their thoughts they are below. I wonder if God allows pipe smoking in SAR Heaven. I bet you do not care.
Such sad news about Mick. Nice words Heavy for a unique and special guy. I remember that he had taken himself off for a trog round the hills one weekend with Leuchars MR quite near by. He was easing himself in after the accident. We were in the area working with the MR when “Grumpy Mr Anderson” called us up for a lift to rejoin the Troops….. Funny how you can lose the signal up there sometimes!!!!! “Station calling SWB 22 Unreadable, say again” !!! We found him in the end though – spitting teeth!!! I hope that they have mountains and tobacconists in heaven bonnie lad. RIP MickHeavy,
Many thanks for a great write on my friend and colleague – He was a truly good guy and pioneered amongst many things the marrying up of ‘lashing tape and this new stuff ‘velcro’ to produce ‘frac straps’ – He was the guy who invented the ‘hi line’ – got the Safety Quippers to manufacture it and let them pick up the kudos – He was the mainstay in promoting Immediate and Emergency Care and introducing it to the SAR Winchman World – receiving a well deserved MBE – A very modest and private person he lived for his time with the ‘troops on the hill’ – I was with him at Lyneham on Britannias then Bahrain on Wessex and then Leuchars on Whirlwinds sharing a house in St Andrews – I remember flying back to Leuchars late in the afternoon over the said house – observed that the one pair of curtains that we had a disappeared from my room so Mick must have had a new woman! I dashed back next morning after shift and still didn’t meet her! This guy was a founder member of the Kate’s Cocktail Bar Diners Club (KCBDC) St Andrews where we met once a month for a fantastic food night – yarning and drinking real beer.I dashed back next morning after shift and still didn’t meet her! This guy was a founder member of the Kate’s Cocktail Bar Diners Club (KCBDC) St Andrews where we met once a month for a fantastic food night – yarning and drinking real beer. I have very fond and happy memories since we met in 1966 a truly remarkable man. Rest in Peace my friend!
Regards Norman Pringle
Sorry to hear this sad news about Mick. What a great guy he was first meet Mick on my 18th birthday at Torridon when we did Beinn Eighe and Liathach in winter in the same day followed on later that night by a callout on Ben Cruachan.
Quotes – Rab Russell Leuchars MRT
“Aww Heavy, sad news indeed. A great intellectual character and friend in SAR and MRT worlds. Not seen him for a few years. Lived in St.Andrews when I met him last. I still remember Mick taking the lead in the severe winter 1977/78 when we all got stuck in Inverness for a week. The powers to be were happy to let us doss in polis cells TFN until Mick got onto Pitreavie. Rate 1s for a week, ya beauty. Bless Him. Rab.”
Johnnie Macleod RAF MR Leuchars and Kinloss “Sad, sad news. What a loss. We used to call him “Grumpy Mick” because when he came out on weekends with Big L, he would complain about the un-friendly tuna we used to consume with much gusto. A perfect gentleman and a vast font of knowledge. Latterly used to bump into him in St Andrews. Great loss. RIP Mick.”
Al Coy – helicopter pilot
“man is an air breathing warm blooded mammal” said Mick, every time we wanted him to do ‘wets’! RIP mate “
Donald Watt Lochaber MR Team Leader “Very sad news, a character will remember him, did some eplcs rescues with him”
Davy Gunn – Glencoe MR
“Gutted by the news. Great guy”
Bill Skelson RAF Leuchars MR
“ I remember in Breamar Lodge one evening – Mick was doing The Times or Telegraph crossword – an avid crossworder – stood at the bar, I mentioned that I had nearly completed a quite hard crossword at work, but was stumped by the last clue “overworked postman”, he mulled this over for a minute or two, then asked ” how many letters?” “‘Kin millions” I replied – I thought he was going to chase me through the Larig, we did laugh!! He also rescued me several times from The Tay, in the Whirlwind, wet winching. Sleep well good buddy
Jim Rintoul USA – RAF MRT
Very sad news, Mick was great guy, we traveled to the Munich Beer Fest and a few other watering holes round Europe. He stopped here a few years ago on his bike trip up and down North and South Americas. My best memory of Mick was when we all went for beer and curry in Dundee on ‘nurses night’, one of the nurses was dancing on the table and lifted her skirt over her head, Mick was so stunned his pipe fell out of his mouth. Safe journey MicK
Frank MacKenzie RAF
Patrick Andrew Thirkell – helicopters
“great bloke, great sense of humour,always happy, what a shame”
Dave Tomkins – Turkey – RAF MR
“when I was recovering from my broken legs and heavys dog teallach was looking after me on ben Dorian I was lateish back off the hill and Mick had a helicopter out in the area on exercise , he had to return to base low on fuel but insisted on coming back out just to make sure I was ok , all this was from just listening to the radio chatter no requests were made for assistance but Mick cared for the troop”
Richard Cox – RAF MR
“ Sad news indeed. Remember he came out to the pyrenees with us. He wasnt best pleased when me, Tommy and Julian Williams kept him awake half the night making noise with some students at a Mountain hut. He got his own back the following morning though. Lovely bloke and a gentleman. Might be able to help with a photo.”
“Sad news, a very patient man waited 3 years fir his Morgan, Will be missed”
Sue & Dave Both Canada – RAF MR Valley , Leuchars, Stafford
“Sad news, we have lost a great character who was as much a hill man as a winchie.”
Just Williams RAF MR
Very sad news indeed. I fondly remember that Pyrenees trip Richard Cox, we learned not to disturb Mick before he’d had his cup of coffee about 10.30 in the mornings! Echo all the above, a fount of knowledge and a true gentlemen. RIP.
Peter White – Canada – RAF MRT & Glencoe MR
“Very sad news, true gentlemen, always respected, always respectful. Many would have got to those pearly gates before their time had it not been for Mick. “
Robert Barker RAF MRT
“Sad news that prompted a wave of memories, and the car of course, the mighty Morgan. Sleep well Mick”
Bill Rose – Killin MRT
“ He was a great friend to mountain rescue teams. If he could not do it. It could not be done MRT”
Ray Sefton RAF MR Team – leader
Very sad news. A robust character. A tremendous write up that says it all. I had fun with Mick in the great days of SAR helicopter flying. Always great flexibility from Mick and the crews. In the great blizzards of 1978 I had difficulty recovering the troops from Inverness as Mick had organised things so well.
On another occasion Mick and Geoff Day landed to meet us at Roybridge, complete with fishing kit having been picked up from the west coast after a weeks fishing.
I remember his Alps trips well. Mick (Mr Grumpy) would not give up the drivers seat and drove for hours frightening us to death.” RIP
So sorry to hear this. – My Dad and Mick always got on so well and there was something very ironic in the fact he was in the Wessex when it came down on Ben More that night.
Sad news indeed!Heavy,
Many thanks for a great write on my friend and colleague – He was a truly good guy and pioneered amongst many things the marrying up of ‘lashing tape and this new stuff ‘velcro’ to produce ‘frac straps’ – He was the guy who invented the ‘hi line’ – got the Safety Quippers to manufacture it and let them pick up the kudos – He was the mainstay in promoting Immediate and Emergency Care and introducing it to the SAR Winchman World – receiving a well deserved MBE – A very modest and private person he lived for his time with the ‘troops on the hill’ – I was with him at Lyneham on Britannias then Bahrain on Wessex and then Leuchars on Whirlwinds sharing a house in St Andrews – I remember flying back to Leuchars late in the afternoon over the said house – observed that the one pair of curtains that we had a disappeared from my room so Mick must have had a new woman! I dashed back next morning after shift and still didn’t meet her! This guy was a founder member of the Kate’s Cocktail Bar Diners Club (KCBDC) St Andrews where we met once a month for a fantastic food night – yarning and drinking real beer. I have very fond and happy memories since we met in 1966 a truly remarkable man. Rest in Peace my friend!
Regards Norman Pringle
Pete Kay RAF MR
Sad news Hev’s, good memories of Mick on the advanced first aid courses.Mick was a stalwart of SAR 134 on the Wessex.
Davy Gunn – A real gent and always friendly. Pulled of some truly heroic jobs. One in Deep Cut Chimmney when we couldnt get to the casualty for spindrift avalanches stranded us on the 2nd pitch and down Mick came to pluck off the guy who had a broken femur and so saved his life. Keeping that helo in the air in 80mph gusts, down drafts and Mick burling about like daft thing was scary to watch. I remember a few beers and him telling us about getting interogated for being a CND member. What a character. I also remember him underslinging 3 hinds for MacRae the keeper on a rescue at Achaladair as a wee favour. Heavy’s obit tells you more about his remarkable time and special hero’s.
I will update this blog with details on Micks funeral when I get news. Please feel free to share this !
Thanks to all for your kind words. Our sympathy to Micks family