The RAF Kinloss/ Leuchars Re union held in Newtonmore at the Highland Hotel was a great event and well attended with 150 sitting down to the meal. There was another 30 plus who came later and all enjoyed the night. There were troops and wife’s from from the early days 1949 and onward up to the present day what a night. Mu wee chat beforehand went well I hope and then we went to the meal and after that Ray Sefton did his piece on the team. Ray joined the Team in the 50’s and he covered some forgotten tales. These were the days of no communications, when pyrotechnics were the way of a recall of the hill, not much use in bad weather. It was a time when RAF Kinloss would use a plane an Anson or Shackelton for top cover and pass the information back to Kinloss Base and then to the Police by phone and back to the team on the ground. No mobile phones in these days! Wife’s and family’s would at times have no clue where the team where till they got home or back from a call out. The roads were wild and a trip to Skye for a call out could take 7 hours no bridges in these days and then they went on the hill.
Helicopters were only used after 1961 for civilian call outs and many multiple casualties involved many trips up and down the hill? They had great help from the Police, JMCS at Lochaber, Hamish and his gang of mountaineers and local climbers keepers and gillies. There were tales of massive call outs and huge carry outs of injured climbers all over Scotland in a huge 70 year history. Of many aircraft crashes the teams primary job and plans for a nuclear bomber crashing in the mountains where the whole team was briefed what they had to do!
The great tradition of working with the great Estate’s before the days of freedom to roam legislation. These were the days when the Head Keepers, like Mr MaClennan in Affric, George Oswald in Benn Alder, Mr Robertson at Lochnagar, Bob Scott and many others on the West and all over Scotland looked after us for many years and we had a great working relationship this still continues to this day.
Up to the 70’s the team tented everywhere from Glencoe to the far North and at the village dances every Friday and Saturday many of the team met their partners! The Team member’s also climbed in their own time and many like Ian Clough, Terry Sullivan, Doc Pipes, Dan Stewart and many others made their mark on routes all over Scotland. From Ben Nevis, Glencoe, Skye and the North West many first ascents were climbed and a few not recorded but made a big impression on Scottish Mountaineering. Most of the team were National Servicemen and a few already mountaineers but they had a working life of 14 -16 months and it is testimony to the team that in its 70 years they only lost one team member on the hill. This was Allan Grout who was killed climbing in Argour in 1956 a sad day for the team and we have been very lucky over the years. The team are out in all-weather nowadays supporting the local teams. The area knowledge was built up by going to a different area every week but so different from a local team that gets to know there hills so intimately. Many completed the Munros a good way to get to know Scotland and many did these huge Walks across Scotland and were the first to do most of them. The hills were quieter in these days and the mountaineering community was fairly small. A lot of climbing was going on as many were pushing the grades and there were many tragedy as ambition and gear moved on, the team was at many of these tragedies.
There was also the wild days when the tea had a huge rivalry with Leuchars and the Kinloss troops went down to Kinlochleven and hid all the Leuchars wagons, which caused mayhem as the Police were involved. There were tales of various aartifacts like cannons arriving back at RAF Kinloss from all over the Highlands even one that appeared on Police 5 in the early days of TV. The team was full of and still is of real characters.
Over the year the team had been on many Expeditions abroad and climbed many of the World’s great peaks. From early trips to the Alps and on to the Himalayas is the late 50’s as members of Expeditions from all over. From Alaska, Canada in winter, The North Face of the Eiger, Shivling, Everest and many more have been climbed over the years as have several other 8000 metre peaks not bad for a bunch of troops.
We had the lovely girls arriving in the Team in the 90’s and what a great asset they are and we will never forget the early days of this huge change at the time. The girls have been amazing and superb in many ways bringing the team so many good changes to our system. Man becoming very powerful and talented mountaineers and a great credit to the team. A few are now happily married and met their partners in the team!
It is the wives, partners and children that have supported the team over the years that are rarely mentioned they are what make the team a special family. Many birthdays, celebrations are missed due to the call outs and that time is hard to recover but it is still happening and we are so lucky to have such support.
The current Team was there and Willie updated us all with the current exploits and the call outs that have been going on over the past year. It was great to see and meet them all and wonderful that the tradition is still going. The gear is far better nowadays but the heart and soul of the team member’s is still the same as it was in 1944.
Have a safe winter RAF Lossiemouth MRT and keep up the great work and to all past and present members’ thanks for all your work in the past. We will never know how many lives have been saved but everyone is a great testimony to RAF Mountain Rescue