It is a year ago since Mick Anderson passed away a few missed this so I have repeated it again as in the MRT magazine!
David “Heavy” Whalley
(From his blog: https://heavywhalley.wordpress.com)
Mick was a helicopter winchman – one of the best. He was an RAFMRS team member, and also worked as a controller in the ARCC. He was an outstanding winchman and was 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, a time to wind down after an epic rescue and meet the people who flew these great aircraft. There were so many real characters. If they could do it would be done. There were a few fewer 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, but Mick had none of that. You were who you were, not what your rank was. He was blunt. “Grumpy Mick” was his nickname. He smoked a pipe everywhere. He was far too intelligent for us but we had some great callouts together. He was a very intelligent man and read the Telegraph and the Guardian, which we used to wind him up about.
I had met him on various callouts. As a very young airman he would help me clean up the bothies each winter. What a great trip that would be: He would organize a training exercise in the Cairngorms bothies and then up to the northwest, 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 was epic, not just of one area, but the whole of Scotland’s climbing areas. He even dropped of some of the food for my three week “Coast-to-Coast” walk across Scotland in 1977, flying out to meet us on an epic day midweek in Glen Affric – bringing us a fresh meal high on the hills!
During the blizzards of 77 we were accommodated in the Inverness police cells for a while as part of a huge helicopter support operation. Mick sorted us out with hotel accommodation and tickets to the nurses’ dance! This operation went on for nearly a week, as we supported 10 helicopters. On my return to camp, I was dropped off by Sea King at RAF Buchan, where I was stationed. I was put on a charge for being AWOL, but I put in a quick call to Mick and Ray Sefton and they sorted it out, so I was a hero again! Mick always had a way with words and always looked after us.
Memories: Epic rescues many at night with incredible flying and professionalism by the crews in the wild cliffs. I was in Kintail trying Tranters North and South Clunnie ridges, when he came and picked us up to help on an incident on Pinnacle ridge on Skye. The weather was wild. With just Mick and the pilot, we tried to get in to the hill in the bad weather. We ended up in the gorge and had an epic flight, actually backing out, and then we came back a different way and were dropped on the third pinnacle — with my dog, Teallach. We helped the Skye team bring the casualty off into the Corrie.. The helicopter took us to Mallaig for a night stop, a wild night. Mick made sure the dog got fed first. We needed accommodation for six, 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. Sadly, Harry the Killin Team 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 at Killin for a fallen walker.
We watched the aircraft hit the hill. We knew all the crew and the Killin Team. It was a night I will never forget, but within two years Mick was back.
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 seriously, 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 a member of Greenpeace and had their badge on his flying suit. We were both interviewed by the SIB (RAF Police) for this breach of rules. He told me to be quiet, and after they had their say, he said, “What have you got against Dolphins and Wales.” He was real character and a great friend to us all.
Mick was involved in many Rescues but one that stays in the memory was the epic of a Jet Ranger helicopter that crashed in the middle of winter, 11th January, 1977. It crashed in Loch Avon, a real epic call out. Mick was part of the 22 Sqn. Whirlwind complement that rescued the Ranger’s crew. 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 calibre.”
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. He also with Hamish MacInnes introduced the use of the High- line for evacuating casualties from the hill. 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 the RAFMRS and the civilian MR Teams. MR was in his blood. We lost touch, as you do over the years but I am glad we had a long chat recently. He led a full life, left the RAF and travelled 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!