A few thoughts after the Mountain Rescue Conference – “All the matters is that the casualty comes first”

It was at the weekend  as I have mentioned I was asked to speak at the Mountain Rescue Conference, I met many old friends and it was great to see so many young people involved so full of enthusiasm. That chat/ lecture was to celebrate 50 years of Mountain Rescue and I found it was very hard to put together and I spent a long time on it. I was given great help from many others with use of their photos and thoughts and tried to put a view across that covered much of the history and some of those who put together this great organisation.

I spent the best part of 40 years in the teams, mostly it was with the RAF Mountain Rescue where I held a full-time position for many years. In the RAF we had few worries the gear and equipment was supplied by MOD and though at the time we moaned we achieved a great thing but we also gave a so much in return. Few in the MOD hierarchy appreciated what they had until a Lockerbie or another aircraft disaster occurred and I unfortunately went to many in my time. In the later years MOD bureaucracy took over and though I love the RAF  Mountain Rescue it has changed beyond all recognition. As it times as with the military you ended up with more Bosses than troops.  Yet those in the three RAF Teams that remain are the same type of people and get on with the job. It is so similar to what I joined all the years ago and I am very proud of what they do, despite having so many hoops to jump through.

Change is never easy and must come but it must be managed carefully by those in charge?

I have watched the Civilian Scottish Mountain Rescue develop as well over the years and  managed to play a small part, during my spell with the Executive helping  developing the idea of government funding and the incredible sponsorship by the Order Of St John. It is hard to believe that a few were  against it at the time but the rewards especially for the casualty ( and that is what it is all about) is there for all to see. The benefits are are  a more professional service and the SAR world has moved on so much. I wrote at length in my Blog about this a few days ago.

Cost of gear

Cost of gear

I was approached by many at the Conference who are really worried that Mountain Rescue in Scotland may be reaching a crisis. Things have changed one-third of the incidents that the teams are involved on  are on – mountaineering looking for vulnerable people who societies changes have brought to every town and village in Scotland. In my view this is an important part of a caring society  that Scotland is and who with all the training the Mountain Rescue has could refuse a search for a lost child or vulnerable person from your locality? The Police sadly do not have the resources and the Teams and SARDA have filled this vacuum for many years, so many are alive today thanks to these efforts.  There seem to be a thought  that Mountain Rescue is losing its way but to me it is a natural progression as times change. Teams have always helped in natural disasterS such as snow and weather blocking roads, people stranded, train crashes in remote areas and floods, it was accepted by all that Mountain Rescue would help  and is now called “Resilience” by the Government.  Mountain Rescue plays a big part in these plans.

Teams have taken Government Funding nowadays and though not a lot £312000 ? in 2013 is a great help especially to the smaller teams with little local population.  Teams like Assynt, Torridon and others rely on this as do many of the others in the Borders and all over Scotland. Few teams have huge financial support and everything is raised by fund-raising and of course the great work of the Order Of St John the main sponsor.

Change is never easy to manage and as Mountain Rescue changes so must attitudes. Mountain Rescue is an incredible brand in the modern world. It is made up of unpaid volunteers a unique and a proffesional bunch of people who risk their lives often for people they do not know.  The 27 teams despite the many differences all have unique areas all with specific problems and areas of expertise. Yet united the Mountain Rescue Teams offer an incredible service to the public, this has been built up over the years by so many incredible events and the best asset is our team members.  I hope any decisions taken at the next Mountain Rescue Meeting are to improve the system for the future and for everyone involved. Each Teams area of expertise is so  important. It could be your son daughter, grandchild, relative  or friend that needs help in a mountain, difficult terrain or in a rural environment. The teams have excellent training and resources fought for over the years by many to make a huge difference and help others. In this society that at times cares for little but themselves it is a wonderful attribute to have saved so many lives. These are changing days but  what impressed me was the thoughts of many of the audience at my chat was the younger members who just want to help the casualty and help others. Things do not change. It was a privileged to speak and pass on my personal thoughts.

The Casualty Must come first!

The Casualty Must come first!

Maybe I should not have written this piece as I am no longer active in Mountain Rescue but I do care deeply for this unique system. Be careful what you wish for and I hate to use the slogan “but you are stronger together” and what you have worked so hard for over so many years by so many please do not throw it away.

As the old saying goes all that matters is the casualty, we must never forget that.

I would appreciate any comments and hope if you can you share my thoughts and views.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Charity, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A few thoughts after the Mountain Rescue Conference – “All the matters is that the casualty comes first”

  1. Davy Gunn says:

    Change is never easy. I am out if now also, but 37 years work is hard to shrug off, even from 5 years out. You could go back these 42 years to when money was tight or non existant but we still made the committment, even though by present standards the equipment wasn’t good that was more than compensated for by spirit and an ethic of being your brothers keeper. The equipment was good enough for its time and folk got helped. That bond between MR and the mountaineering public was a bit like the military covenant. If you serve then you will be looked after. By that I mean the mountaineering public looked after MRT’s by donating. That pact was muddied by central funding. Don’t get me wrong its a good thing to have a guarantee of money. However, it can be devisive. Personaly I see no difference in the committment it takes to save those who are vulnerable through age or those who are fallen, those who are searched for in the remote border lands, or the only relatively remote central highlands. I have been more lost in Galloway than I ever was in the Highlands and more injured on a mountain bike on a remote trail than ever on an iconic mountain. It’s what MR/SAR have in common for the common good that joins MR/SAR and to break that in my opinion would be a sad day. As a parting shot I would say that as part of the covenenant between public and local MRT it always seemed to me at least that if we were unfortunately busy, then we were equally well donated to by the grateful. Here’s hoping for another 50 years of a level field of respect where “Rescue” is the central precept.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter Kay says:

    Not sure the military covenant analogy works Davy, we only have to look at the number of homeless ex-servicemen to realise how short are the memories of the ruling elite. Having to rely on charities to give seriously injured (body and mind) ex-service personnel the support that should be theirs by right is a national disgrace. Apologies if I’ve hijacked the blog.

    Best Regards


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bob Sharp says:

    Once more Heavy we come together in agreement on all you say. There are forces at work which would see the break up of our superb organisation, but I sense this has always been in the background although not so vocal as today. As Davy and you say, we are much better together – stronger, more able and more versatile. Indeed, versatility is what we do best. I suspect that in all of our 50 years no team has ever been found wanting – we always do the job asked for by the Police. So what if the profile of our work is on the change? It’s always been like that and always will be. We should embrace that change, rise to the challenges by learning how to cope, becoming even more skilled and sharing good practice. That can only happen if we remain a single and unified organisation. I am convinced that common sense will prevail – as it has done in the past – and SMR will remain a strong, corporate organisation. Not only do we owe this to all current members, but also to those past who developed our organisation in the past, and especially, to our future casualties who would expect nothing less.

    Liked by 1 person

    • heavywhalley says:

      Thank you Bob

      I felt I had to say something and hope a few others will comment ! As you say we owe it all those who came before us.

      I hope that sense is seen and that the SMR moves forward for the future.

      Only time will tell. Many thanks Heavy


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.