Dog Tales from the back of a Land rover helicopter – Early Kinloss days – 3 days on the Ben and the Harris Shackelton Crash.

Late 1989 Call out in the Cairngorms by now a familiar place.

Late 1989 Call out in the Cairngorms by now a familiar place.

Now it was not till late October 1989 that we moved to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire and it was hard leaving the troops at Leuchars. Heavy was taking over as the Mountain Rescue Team Leader of the Kinloss Team, it was the job he wanted. We had a great farewell party at the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. Amazingly the lassies were invited to it so we had a real party. It was a special night in the Hotel with Big Ian Nicholson the mine host looking after us. While Heavy was in the Hotel I was camping outside with some of the troops but it was a great night. The helicopter popped in and nearly took the tents out, everyone was there even Hamish MacInnes popped in. After that it was a move to Kinloss in Morayshire. Now before in our moves  beforeit had been easy box stuff up and head off, now with the family it was so much more difficult. Old friends John and Mary helped and we had moved into a lovely rented house at Rafford till Heavy and Vicky found a house. I was in the last of 3 long journeys from Leuchars to Kinloss, all in the same day. it was snowing and very late when we left Leuchars for the last time and we had a full van and me and my mate Clova the cat in the same small space. It was mayhem as Clova escaped her box in the van and was driving me nuts in the back as she did. There was no room to move for me I was the last thing to leave Leuchars and for a moment thought they were leaving me.

1990 Shackelton Crash Harris

1990 Shackelton Crash Harris a terrible scene!

We soon all settled down at the new house at  Rafford and Heavy had a different Team at Kinloss to handle. There were many of the” Old and Bold” it took time but  I was happy watching the World go by outside the old section at RAF Kinloss. It was straight into winter when we arrived and Heavy ensuring things were done his way caused a few problems but he was looked after by “Man Mountain Dan” his Deputy. The call outs started straight away and s came thick and fast. It was hard winter was I getting older but still the troops dragged me out. Heavy would give me a break on the big searches and the odd day off. The troops wanted me as I was still a good navigator.  The Mountain Rescue section at RAF Kinloss was very old and had holes in the wall and it was even worse in the winter as the now came inside under the war built wooden huts.  It was like an old bothy but what character. We had a few great call – outs in this time. At times where we found several casualties and one a 15-year-old boy on the Ben a huge 3 day search was a great result. They  were asked if they could keep going the Rescue Teams were buzzing especially after  such a long search. We had been away for over a week on call –outs and Heavy asked the team if they would continue and of course they did. This caused lots of problems for the wives and partners who hardly saw their families during this period. I was on the hill exhausted like everyone when the young lad was found. The cheers  resounded round the Ben by everyone it was a special moment what a bunch.

The Basee Camp at Harris where we could relax.

The Basee Camp at Harris where we could relax.

Kinloss was a great place to be a slower pace with the Nimrod aircraft and most lunchtimes many of the team would have lunch in the MR section and plan their hill day. At the end of the winter on the 30 May a lovely day for weather at lunchtime the phone rang and it was our control that a plane had crashed. It was amazing within 15 minutes we were in a Sea King helicopter heading for the Isle of Harris the weather was magnificent and as we flew so fast it was really busy on the aircraft. Heavy was up front and on the way they had reports of a Shackelton Aircraft with 10 on board had crashed. It was the only bit of mist on the Island as we arrived. It was a mini hell, the safety beacons were all going off and all the crew were dead.  It was like a battlefield  again, I was used to it by now as was Heavy and the team.We were there for 4 days it was a sad time, we worked with the Investigation Board and  the team did crash guard as usual and the team worked so hard. The aircraft had come from the neighboring Station at Lossiemouth and the tragedy was very raw. The Kinloss team had been flown in by helicopter, Hercules and a small jet the rest drove the long way.  We flew back ahead of the aircraft bringing the 10 bodies to Lossiemouth and landed in our Hercules aircraft from there. It was my second time in a Hercules and the crew were a bit wary but I just hid under a seat before the crew could put me in a cage! My Mum Dreish ten years before had traveled in the same way to a call -out in Scotland I was now a veteran ! When we landed at RAF Lossiemouth we  drove through the station most were out to see their comrades returned but we received a few grateful thanks.

Leaving Harris to come home.

Leaving Harris to come home.

We arrived back to Kinloss and I was busy with the media and the reports, it had been a hard few days and a sad welcome to RAF Kinloss.


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 Aircraft incidents, Friends, Mountain rescue, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dog Tales from the back of a Land rover helicopter – Early Kinloss days – 3 days on the Ben and the Harris Shackelton Crash.

  1. gpcox says:

    To find that boy alive must be a feeling that is hard to describe to others. The reason this work is done!!


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