1982 – At RAF Kinloss in Moray Scotland -The ongoing Tails/Tales of Teallach a big soft dog that loved the Mountains.
It is 1982 and I am up in Scotland getting out every weekend with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team all over Scotland. This is just a few tales of some of my adventures.
I had been to a few aircraft crashes by now as this was Heavy’s job with the RAF Mountain Rescue and was aware how dangerous they were, with all the sharp metal and fuel about. For a dog this is a very wild place to be and the smell of fuel is overpowering with my sensitive nose . It was in the helicopter that flew into Strathconnan for a USA F111 aircraft that crashed and that was completely different incident as both of the crew got out safely, pretty unusual as most we went to there were no survivors. The F111 has a capsule like the space shuttle ejects the whole canopy of the aircraft which should come down in a parachute over land or in the sea. This was what the RAF MR Teams are trained for and we have to pull out all the stops. This was where I was usually handy with the team as they could use me on the crash site as a guard dog? At least I looked the part? The team had to ensure that the security of the crash site was kept until the investigation Board arrived. The team was there for a few days and it was a great place to be but I glad when we left. Just a few months later in the depths of winter in December, we got a report of another F111 missing in Skye. Heavy had just finished a 12 hour shift at work and was sorting his kit out for the weekend when we got the call in the MRT block a helicopter was inbound from RAF Lossiemouth a few miles away and would be with us in 15 minutes, it would take Heavy plus 5 others. This was December 1982 and the weather was horrendous.
Now Skye is a wild place to be and the last call-out a few months before had shown me how tricky it is in the wet but in a wild winter night, with fresh snow, it would be taxing. The flight over was awful we were low-level and poor Heavy who hates flying was up in the front, we went by Achnasheen and had to land on due to the snow and wait for the heavy snow shower/ blizzard to go through. We got really battered by the weather tried to pick up some of Skye Team at Elgol but nearly hit some power wires and the only place to land was by the sea near Camusunary a mountain bothy that Heavy knew . It was the most scariest flight ever!
Heavy has written about that night in his Blog but I will never forget getting told to swim the river it was deep dark and scary and then work our way up onto the hill Stron Na Stri to find the crash site. I picked a line up the hill it was snowing really steep, wet grass with big crags and after a few hours located the crash. Heavy tied me up as the wreckage was everywhere and we spent the night out on the hill till nearly midday next day. We were frozen, soaked, it was a long night and I was really hungry, even I was cold! It was not until midday that the troops came to take over from us; we had no sleep and were exhausted. The weather had brightened up by the time the team arrived to take over. Both crew sadly were killed instantly so there was little we could do but after the other crash at Strathconnon we were sure we would find them alive. I spent a week with Heavy and the American Investigation Team at the crash site at the scene, travelling in every day it was not an easy week. I grew up that week.
The winter to come was a real epic, big snows and a lot of searches with the RAF Kinloss Team, the worst weather was on Ben Nevis looking for two Irish climbers. It was a wild search in some of the worst weather I had been out in, the Teams searched for days and I made friends with some of the SARDA Dogs and even Jimmy Simpson the Policeman and his “War Dog” Rocky got to like me. I think I proved my value in the wild conditions and I was pretty aware of the Cornices and heavy Avalanche slopes that we searched. It was all part of my training getting out every weekend meant that I felt was at one with the mountains! I met many of the Characters in Mountain Rescue and got to know the real people in the other teams. The poor Irish boys we were looking for were not found till in the summer when the snows melted. It is such a big mountain especially in the winter.
Most nights after the hill I went to the pub and feel asleep listening to the troops talking the usual rubbish after a few drinks but we were always up for the hill the next day. We stayed in the local Village Halls and even camped at times. I loved the camping but in winter it could be pretty rough. In the Village Halls we slept on the floor om mats by now I had my own mat and sleeping bag, I was part of the team, this was my 3 winter, I was gaining experience and even getting a bit cocky, not a thing to be in Scotland in winter!