Two Star Red – the early days of hill communication.

It’s hard to imagine in the early days of Mountain Rescue the simple ways of recalling hill parties of the hill. It was by flares but there were so many parties on the hill that some never saw them due to weather or location. How many did not know till they came off the hill that the missing party had been located. Even in my time that still occurred.

Two Star Red by Gwen Moffat is a great book about the early days of the RAF Mountain Rescue and gives an insight into mountaineering and mountain rescue in the 50’s and 60’s. Gwen married Johnnie Lees and was one of the first women guides, she has had an incredible life and is a fairly well-known author. Her other books describe how hard it was to be a single woman climber with a young child in these years. How things have changed, thank goodness. You can pick up some of Gwen’s books on Amazon she is still an incredible lady. A great read still

The book Two Star Red by Gwen Moffat has on its cover flares used on a call out they were pretty dramatic if you saw them. This was before my time as when I joined we had I think Pye Bantam radios. They were not great mainly line of sight and were pretty useless in wet or wild weather. They was one between a party of 4 , often it was a nightmare carried in a canvas bag inside your rucksack. We had a base set as well but communications were often poor. The military had radios that were big and cumbersome mostly ex Second World war up to the late 50’s

Base set radio photo Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection.

It was worse for the Search and Rescue Dogs (SARDA) they often worked alone in wild remote Corries in these days. They often did not pick up the messages that the Call out was over till they came of the hill. When I became a Team Leader I would ensure we did not leave till everyone was off the hill. We would move a wagon and try to regain communications.

Nowadays things are so much better I watched the communications improve over the years. Repeater stations were put up in various team areas. In the past we would put a link with a couple of troops on a high point to pass messages. This was never a great job to be given. Thankfully things have improved over the years the RAF teams even used aircraft or helicopters at time’s to get better communications.

Nowadays with excellent phones better communications linked to the Police and helicopters things have moved on.

It must have been amazing to see the flares go up and know the call out was over not so good of you missed them . I am sure the RAF teams had at some time a flare gun but that was long before my time

Changing time’s .

Flares were fired from a flare gun, also known as a Very pistol or signal pistol, is a large-bore handgun that discharges flares.

Very Pistol

The flare gun is used to create illumination for improved vision or as a distress signal. A flare gun can be used as a deadly weapon; however, that is not its intended function.

Dava Moor

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 Books, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Two Star Red – the early days of hill communication.

  1. Ray Sefton says:

    In my early days, the flares were fired from a Verey pistol (red, green and illuminators}. Illuminators were fine for getting off the hill in the dark.
    Our radios were the T46, weighed 28lbs with a 9 feet aerial. The radio was carried in a bag in front and was powered by a 120 volt battery carried on your back and it seldom worked. Obviously, not much kit could be carried.
    Helicopters were not allowed on civilian rescues so there were some long carry outs. And, as you say, long days on the hill if you did not hear the re-call.


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