Dr John Berkeley a pioneer of Mountain Rescue.

1952 first winter course

1952 first winter course.

From Ray Sefton –  It is my sad duty to inform you that mdied on 6th March 2016.  Although he lived in Aviemore I only found out about this   today in our local newspaper (the Stathspey and Badenoch Herald).

“There will be a memorial service to celebrate John’s life at Kincraig Church on Saturday 16th April 2016, at 1.30pm, to which all are warmly invited”.

John was at RAF Wig Bay 1950-1, RAF West Freugh MRT 1951-2.  John was Chief Instructor on the first RAF MR Winter Course in the Cairngorms in 1952. (This was after the Lancaster Crash call – out that crashed on Beinn Eighe and the RAF Mountain Rescue undertook huge changes in training)

John was also a Doctor at the Belford Hospital in Fort William in his younger days and was involved in many mountain rescues in the Lochaber area. He set up the Mountain Rescue Committee in June 1965 as Chairman and Hamish MacInness as Secreatary and Ben Humble as Accident Report Collater. a man of many talents.

Our condolences to the family.

Taken from the RAF MRA website

 Civilian Mountain Rescue – Dr John Berkeley O i/c West Fruegh

There had been tragedies on the Cairngorms before 1963. Two such were the deaths of Baird and Barrie in Glen Einich in 1928 and MacKenzie and Ferrier on Cairngorm in 1933. Search and rescue was carried out by local stalkers, Mountaineering Club members, and the police. Rev. R.B.Thomson of Kingussie was the leader. The cause of both fatalities was a combination of dreadful weather, with snow and high winds; a lack of appropriate clothing and equipment; inadequate food reserves in one case and carrying a very heavy load in the other fatality. We must remember that in those days tweeds, a raincoat and stout boots were standard equipment before the advent of multilayer thermals, lightweight outer garments and specialised technical equipment.

There has always been a legal responsibility for police to investigate all sudden deaths
– whether on the mountains or on the roads. The first call for help in an accident is often a “999” call to the police, who then involve the appropriate Mountain Rescue Team. In earlier days the Police Budget also provided financial help to teams, and the police played an active part in mountain rescue. For example in Lochaber Sgt. Henderson was part of the team and later awarded an MBE in recognition of his mountain rescue activities. Public awareness was also seen as a Police responsibility – as for example the 1957 pamphlet prepared by the Chief Constable of Invemess-shire entitled ”The Price Paid” following 33 people killed in mountaineering accidents on Ben Nevis, the Coolins and the Cairngorms during the previous six years.

In the post-war period the Mountain Rescue Committee established a number of posts where special stretchers and medical equipment were stored. For example in the Cairngorms there were posts at Coylumbridge, Aviemore; Derry Lodge, Braemar; Spittal of Glen Muick, Ballater and the Police Station, Braemar. In the 1950s there were organised teams in Lochaber (covering Ben Nevis & Glencoe); an Invemess team, organised by the Inverness Mountaineering Club; an Aberdeen team, organised by the Cairngorrn Club (the oldest mountaineering club in Scotland); and with the back up of teams from Edinburgh and Glasgow consisting of experienced members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and other clubs. The Lochaber Team Leader in the 1940s was Rev.R.J.V.Clark, a well-known mountaineer and outdoor enthusiast who in July 1948 was appointed the first warden of Glenmore Lodge, “The Scottish Centre of Outdoor Training”. Glenmore Lodge today has a national responsibility for training and accrediting instructors in all aspects of outdoor activities. They also provide in the winter an invaluable avalanche assessment and warning service for the whole of Scotland.

Hamish Mclnnes had climbed extensively in the Himalayas and the Karakoram before
he started regular mountain rescue work in Scotland in Glencoe in 1958. His experiences in mountain rescue are detailed in his 1973 book “Call-Out”.

A better organisation of Mountain Rescue in Scotland had been discussed in 1959 by
W.H.Murray and several other senior members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club.
A little later it was decided that we should break away from the Mountain Rescue
Committee and form a Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland. This would make
closer contact between all the teams in Scotland, and get around some of the legal
differences between the two countries, not the least being the authority to use morphine where we had great cooperation from the Scottish Home and Health Department. The committee was established in 1963 with Hamish Mclnnes as Secretary and myself as Chairman.

The role of the RAF in Mountain Rescue has been well documented in such books as
“Two Star Red” by Gwen Moffat in 1964 and”Whensoever” by Frank Card which records 50 years of RAF Mountain Rescue Service from 1943-1993. At one time there were 9 RAF teams in the UK and 2 overseas teams in the Middle East and one in Hong Kong. In Scotland at present Kinloss covers the area of Grampian and Highland, while Leuchars covers Tayside and south of Scotland. Frank Card records the awards to 36 Mountain Rescue personnel (such as the MBE, BEM and Queen’s Commendation for Bravery). However the outstanding award was the George Medal to Flt. Sgt. John Lees for the spectacular rescue of a semi-conscious man from a cliff face in Wales. Today the RAF “Sea King” helicopters play a vital role in search with “heat-seeking” equipment and in the evacuation of casualties.

Probably the youngest candidate for the Duke of Edinburgh or the John Muir Award is familiar with the prevention of hypothermia. It is therefore amazing that this condition was not recognised until 1963. Earlier in the 1950s there had been three cold-related tragedies in the Cairngorm area. In all three there was a lack of anticipation of forecast bad weather and failure to seek appropriate shelter. There was a general conclusion that ‚”the chief factor in these deaths is not cold but exhaustion”.  In 1963 as the result of a fatality on Cairngorm the Outward Bound Trust appointed a working party to report on this accident. The Working Party was chaired by Jack Longland (President of the British Mountaineering Council), W.H.Murray (President of the Scottish Mountaineering Club), Dr O.Edholm (Head of the Medical Research Council’s expert section on effects of the cold on the body), and three very experienced organisers of civilian mountain rescue services. This meeting came to a recognition of the effects of exposure. The term “exposure” became restricted to casualties suffering from hypothermia on mountains, while it was recognised that there were other groups at risk from hypothermia. The Working Party conclusions were regarded to be of great importance to all mountaineers and consequently were published as “Exposure – Notes on Recognition and Treatment”. These were issued in 1964 with the approval of the Mountain Rescue Committee, the British Mountaineering Council and the Association of Scottish Climbing Clubs.

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 Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, SAR, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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