The Final Part – Mountain Rescue over the last 50 Years –

Tonight I have a chat at Glenmore Lodge to Scottish Mountain Rescue and I have been asked to speak about the highlights of the last 50 years. It is a great honour to speak to such people many I will know. This is the final part of my talk:

Lockerbie –  Few will realise that Scottish Mountain Rescues biggest call – out was at Lockerbie in December 1988  I was the Team Leader at RAF Leuchars at the time . In this tragedy more than 270 people were killed in what was a terrorist outrage. It happened in a rural area in Border’s Scotland and then the smallest Police Force was in charge. The Mountain Rescue Teams and SARDA were there from the beginning and  Were a huge part in the  organised  Search and locations of all the casualties that were spread over a huge area. By first light over 150 casualties were located by Mountain Rescue and SARDA, the job was horrific as one can imagine. I was only there with my team for 3 days but the local teams and SARDA were there for weeks and that took a huge toll on many involved. The job done by Mountain Rescue, SARDA and many other Agencies has never been told but it is one that affected many of us and our families and relationships for the rest of our lives. An  influential few within our system said there was no need for any help, thank God they have been proved wrong, it was not easy but big boys and girls do cry! In these days the effects of PTSD was not known and much was done after this especially in the military who finally accepted there is such a condition.

The Lockerbie Memorial and the scale of this tragedy was immense!

The Lockerbie Memorial and the scale of this tragedy was immense!

Nowadays teams and Rescue Agencies have methods of dealing with such huge tragedies after the hard lessons learned at Lockerbie by many in Mountain Rescue.

Trauma - PTSD

Trauma – PTSD


The days of simple fund raising are just not enough to  run a mountain Rescue Team and yet many still rely on this for basic funding. This is okay if you are a busy team in a popular area but the smaller teams struggle as well. The Order Of St John has been a huge benefactor to Mountain Rescue over the years. They have given vehicles and Bases to many teams and are a huge part of Mountain Rescue, without this support Mountain Rescue would struggle financially. The Team Bases are a huge benefit as at last teams has somewhere private to brief teams and speak to relatives and look after and service the equipment.

Order Of St John

Order Of St John

The assistance of the Order Of St John is of huge benefit to Mountain Rescue and it has been an incredible organisation for the teams. It is still a hand to mouth existence for many teams and despite the Scottish Government giving and annually in excess of £312.000 (2013) to the teams money is hard to find. The Scottish Police also gave an addition £60000 to Scotland’s 27 teams which was a great help. Money is a constant battle to run a voluntary service and every penny counts.    Teams have web sites and other way of raising cash but as the cost of team equipment keeps rising so do the ways of raising the teams profiles for fundraising!

A single Police Force/ Helicopter Co – ordination

2002 Kenny with Policw 19 May 04

Single Police Force I was all for this at the time, we did not need  in my views 7  Areas and the cost of 7 Chief Constable’s  and it has given a joined up approach to Policing in Mountain Rescue. I hope they still keep Regional organisation that understand Mountain Rescue to ensure that the separate areas of the country and the needs of Mountain Rescue Teams during incidents are dealt with by the Police with someone with knowledge in these areas?  It is early days and I am sure there are a few problems that will be solved. Maybe the huge costs of communications Team radios that need replaced should be within the Police budget/ Government budgets as Mountain Rescue Radios area huge expense and this was what was done in some Police Areas before the Single Police Force, I would imagine for all 27 teams  to re equip you would get little change from £ 400,000 or more?

1985 harry 001

At one  time my big worry was the varying insurance cover for teams hopefully this is now solved with the Single Police Force?  In my time we lost 2 team member’s in Mountain Rescue both were team Leaders who  I knew well, we must take great care.

Phil Jones RIP - Team Leader Assynt MRT Avalanched on Seanna Bhraigh

Phil Jones RIP – Team Leader Assynt MRT Avalanched on Seanna Bhraigh

Helicopters/ Co –ordination

Bristows heli april 2015

There have been huge changes recently with the loss of Military SAR and our thanks to the Navy and RAF for their great help over the years. The new SAR contract is up and running and we have a new aircraft that is modern and effective. It is like the change from the military to the Wessex and then the Sea King in the military took time to bed in with all agencies. It will be the same as changes in the contract helicopter operations as they will take time to settle in but many have worked with it now  and you can look forward to an interesting winter.

Helicopter Co Ordination. Single Centre

This is long overdue and again next year you will have interesting times as helicopters are run from a single Centre .This is long overdue and hopefully the Police, Ambulance and SAR Contract will work together and ensure that all assets are used nationally to the best effect for the public. Again this will take a bit of time to bed in and lots of understanding of SAR and many other subjects by the Controllers, they may need “the wisdom of Solomon at times”.

2012 seakingnavy


Mountain Rescue has so many characters  each team is unique and has so many unsung heroes. I have been privileged to meet so many men and women all over the country in most teams and what a bunch, all different but as team incredible. Mountain Rescue is a huge family that show to me the best in human nature over the years. All are supported by their families and how many of us have missed a wedding, kids party and many other family events due to a call – out. The families are the unsung heroes that wait at home and many worry for us. They are the heroes.

2013 Troops Aval - Ben Coe

Take care and may you all have a safe quite winter with blue skies and lots of  good snow!


The future

This will bring many changes and as some of the teams get busier and the task changes pressure will come from many areas . It is harder to get time of work for call -outs, the public and the Police expect more and something may have to give. Mountain Rescue is not cheap labour  but a valued resource for the benefit of those in distress. It is on the mountains and wild and remote areas that the teams make their mark. Politics in Mountain Rescue was always there but it is certainly not what happens in heated Meetings that is that important but the assistance of a casualty. It is true that nothing ever rightly stays the same but hopefully many of the great attributes of Mountain Rescue will still be around for many years to come. We have to be careful that with change we do not dilute the brand that is Scottish Mountain Rescue, that is loved and trusted throughout Scotland. We all have our part to play wherever we are!

Thanks for all the adventures and great characters that I have met over the years,

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, Books, Family, Friends, Gear, Lectures, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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