Mountain First Aid – the early days – Donald Duff – Dave Danter – Ieuan Jones.

Many take for granted the huge improvements in Mountain First Aid and Wilderness medicine. It has been developed over the years and even in my time in the mountains it has improved so much. I had a message from a pal in Wales asking me about the famous Welsh Doctor Ieuan Jones asking for information as he ran many First Aid Courses that were a huge change in the format at the time. He was at Bangor Hospital in North Wales who many will remember was at the forefront of Mountain First Aid in the 70’s/80’s.

This got me thinking and these are a few memories of my early thoughts from 1971 and before.

In earlier days it was amazing what was down with simple gear when everything was basic and first aid post were set up in various places. Mountaineers did there best and as you can see from the photo below it was simple equipment and training.

1936 injured mountaineer fractured femur – bed from CIC Hut is the stretcher

Many forget that at the end of the war retired army officer Donald Duff was appointed surgeon at the Belford Hospital in Fort William bringing with him an  added impetus to the mountain rescue scene with innovative training exercises on both the technical and medical side.

Donald Duff at Polldubh – Mick Tighe photo

He patented one of the first ever mountain rescue stretchers in 1946 and, interestingly, was involved in legal battles with the Home Office concerning the administration of morphia to casualties. The Home Office maintaining (1949) that “morphia is bad for the man on the mountain”. Donald Duff – an officer and a gentleman – was leader of Lochaber Team during the late ’40’s and early ’50’s.


The letter above was from Doctor Donald Duff the famous pioneer who was the surgeon in charge at the Belford hospital in Fort William. He was in the process of designing a new stretcher that he used in Wales in 1941. He had was working on a collapsible/ folding stretcher, sledge with wheels. I found the reply that RAF Kinloss wrote that they thought that the idea of a wheel or wheels would be in there view impracticable for mountain use! They were working on their own ideas but would have a look at Donald Duffs stretcher. It became a winner!

The RAF were hugely influencial and if you look further back how simple the training and gear was. Yet look at 2 star red Gwen Moffat and the incredible Sqn Ldr Dave Danter the Officer i/c RAF Kinloss MRT  in the early 50’s he used to cut himself and let the troops stitch him up and practice injections on himself! RAF teams used Morphine on early Call – outs one of the first in a Scotland used on Buachaille Etive Mor Glencoe in the early 50’s.There were huge changes over the years many courses now purely for the mountains, wilderness and expedition medicine.


Before that in 1975 I did the First Aid with the St John’s with the team and then an instructors course at RAF Halton that was pretty hard at the time! It was a 2 week course mainly military First Aid and dealing with multi casualties. We had annual refreshers and mostly classroom practical with a little outside and a few times on the crags.

The Iuean Jones course was over 2 days North Wales  I did mine in North Wales 1979 – 1982 . Tony Jones was also there and assisted there were lots of great photos by the man himself of many of other injuries.  I remember the awful horse bite on face was horrendous. There was also the famous quote- “another gory slide “It was the first time that we had photos of injuries! ”

My Team leader at the time Al Haveron was a great pal of his and will have lots more info as was the late Tony Jones who along with others helped run the courses. It was one of the forerunner of Mountain first aid specific for the hill!   I was lucky enough to meet him many times – his first aid course was bespoke at the time and one of the first purely for Mountain Rescue and was the standard that many nowadays followed!

I did the Teams Course one at RAF Valley in North Wales on a specific weekend then updated regularly did one at Llanryst 1980 with the PTI ‘s  and Eric Jones the Climber was doing it as well with us ! I had a great time with him – he said that there are a few accidents at Tremadoc where he ran the cafe and he was getting a bit of an update!

More to follow Hamish’s Stretchers etc


“The kit on the outside and the equipment may have changed.

Underneath the heart and soul of the troops remains the same.”

W.MacRitchie – RAF Lossiemouth MR Team Leader


Any stories please of these early days?

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 Equipment, medical, Mountain rescue, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mountain First Aid – the early days – Donald Duff – Dave Danter – Ieuan Jones.

  1. Mo Richards says:

    I did the first aid course run by Ieuan Jones at Bangor Hospital in 1966, it was for centre instructors and the RAF lads from Valley.He was notorious for his gory slides put up on large screens! On the first session he put up a gory slide and 2 lads passed out. ‘That sorts the men from the boys’ he said! I am now a long time member of the Langdale & Ambleside Rescue Team.


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