Tales from the RAF Mountain Rescue Kitchen Bombs and scary times.

1972 Glenmore camping site

When I joined the RAF Mountain Rescue Team at RAF Kinloss in 1972 one of the biggest hurdles for many was the Duty Cook. This was well before the Food Safety Act and Health and Safety. This meant you cooked all day for the team it was every ferry months and scared most of the team to death. Even though I was a Caterer by trade it was a big day the first time you cooked!

Ready for an early cook – not the Protective gear.

You were in these days mostly in a tent for cooking the “cook shack”. The cooker was a “bomb” or Hydro burner that ran on petrol. It was lit heated up when the leaded petrol vaporised in a tunnel made of heavy bomb plates.

The Bomb – Army No 1 Cooking Stove Hydra Burner
Ex MOD No 1 ‘Hydra’, Cooking stove in working order with Spanners and spares
Runs on Leaded Petrol
The No 1 Hydra Cooker was made to form the basis of a Field Kitchen, dug into a Trench the same width, up to the depth of the front plate and up to 2 meters long it could Boil Bake and Roast at the same time.
Complete with storage cover
Accessories (not available) included Ovens, Dixie’s, Hotplates, and a Trench Lining Kit with grid supports.

Looking back Tents,Petrol and fire what a scary combination. It also had a series of “bomb” plates to cook on. In addition a very simple oven with no temperature gauges . To many in these days this was the hardest part of the MRT trial everyone cooked apart from the Team leader and Deputy they cooked at Christmas and New year.

I was lucky my Mum had taught me to make a basic meal from an early age : breakfast soup and mince and tatties. I was more ahead of the game yet it was still a scary day. The cooking shift / day started early especially in winter. Relight the Tilly’s lamps and clean up from the nights mess that the troops would have made after the pub. Breakfast was busy it was a full on in a limited time. It was a full Scottish breakfast then bacon ,sausage eggs beans etc and porridge.

Often you were cooking for over 20 so the morning was the worst as you-have to take bed tea round everyone before breakfast and wake the troop who got the weather by radio. Tea in bed was a ritual usually served to all in the famous green cups. Everyone wanted away early in the hills so it was a busy time. Soup had to be ready by 1200 in case the team were recalled for a Call-out.

It was so full on then you had to have the meal ready for 1700. Troops would arrive back have their soup and change for tea.Washing up was in a tin bath with hot water. This was hard to get and keep the water hot and once the team was back you had to have lots of hot water for tea and brews. This was hard to keep up with the demand .

If there was a Call- out the meal could be delayed for hours and had to be edible. Never an easy task.

It could be such a hard day and so long you were exhausted at the end of your cooking stint. The only protection you had was fireman’s gloves to move the hot pots and pans. At the end of the day you smelled of cooking. There was limited washing facilities available. Yet there were som great meals produced and on big call outs in remote areas we had our kitchen up as soon as we arrived. There was brews for everyone including SARDA.

All the food was fresh in the early days and we had some great meals.

Memories

The cook shack burning down at Glenfinnian when a Tilly lamp was dropped.

Cooking disasters;

Mars bars in soup!

Chicken boiled whole in a Dixie. Giblets left inside in a plastic bag.

Turnips uncut and boiled whole in pan.

Occasionally The cook to drunk to cook he had gone into the nearby pub and “met the locals”at lunch . He was rewarded by a visit to the river.

Curry to hot to eat a military thing?

One team leader hated Garlic so the troops put it in everything he never noticed.

Many of the locals ladies would pop in and “save the cook”?

Many of the local kids would be employed peeling spuds and veg for the team ration of chocolate “as a reward”

A famous tale with a newer cooker in the 90’s

“I remember the fire extinguisher exploding in the Mk5 cooker at Ballatar. Kaz, the Chef for the day Ex Team leader just stood there calmly, as troops dived all over thinking it was an IED, saying “a touch too much curry powder added l think” What a great man 👍👍👍Al Slyvester “

Davie Walker “I remember the incident well. Kas forgot to remove the fire extinguisher from the stowage cage, compounded with as we all did placing the oven on top. Got way too hot. “

We moved into Bothies and bunkhouses and kitchens things got better with running hot and cold water.

A well known SARDA team member burnt part of the kitchen at Newtonmore village hall.

I caught a famous Regiment man getting the RAF cooks at Base to prepare his food for his main meal he was so worried about the meal and also one of my Officer I/c who did the same..

The new hall at Crianlarich just opened when we burnt the floor. MOD had to sort it out.

Nowadays things are a lot better. Team members are trained in cooking by Catering “experts “but I bet there are many current tales ?

Top tip.

Soup was great to rehydrate after the hill and still is.

I still remember warmly some great soups made by troops followed by an hour in bed before the evening meal. Some of the meals were incredible Some were awful.

Some troops Mums would travel out to our Base camp and help their son or daughter.

That reminds me of the rats at Skye and other Bothies like Tomdoun. Food Safety was to say the least scary. We carried all this on our 4 ton truck along with comp rations for call – outs only. We had tables chairs and all the cooking utensils needed.

I remember being asked why we had used so many saucepans by stores over the years. When the troops burnt them that badly they would ditch them. I sent a wagon off midweek and located 7 pots and 2 frying pans from the Bothies. The troops had got rid of them usually on the roof! Crazy days.

Comments, stories and photos welcome.

Great 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, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Tales from the RAF Mountain Rescue Kitchen Bombs and scary times.

  1. Mark Powell (wop) says:

    At Stafford, someone thought it would be a good idea to bring an alcoholic onto the team for rehabilitation. He was put on cooking duties. One day we came of the hill and couldn’t find him, the bread or the massive pork roast. Found him in the pub. He was selling pork sandwiches to buy copious amount of beer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. robert george blyth * mrs cm blyth says:

    Remember one day sleeping at the bottom of the Bomb tunnel and waking up with the hint of fresh petrol on my face. I sat up just in time!. Spoons

    Like

  3. Roy Hancox says:

    Remember being told that the TL always cooked Christmas dinner so was quite mortified to be told I was cooking the dinner at Dundonnell, Christmas 1981! It seems Kaz Taylor didn’t fancy it or had forgotten the protocol. At just 18 this was a daunting task in a 4 x 4 tent on a field kitchen. Lucky for me the hotel cooked the turkey and overheard me phoning my mum, to ask how you made brandy sauce and provided that as well. Staying in the hotel staff bunks, accommodation was great, a real bed. Troops came off the hill and straight into the vino, many too drunk to manage the dinner after the soup, what a waste. Great times and some great characters. Fell in love with An Teallach in its winter glory that bank holiday and its been my favourite mountain ever since.

    Fortunately never got dunked in a loch or river for burning the soup and never got staked out naked and left for the midges after concentrated orange juice was poured over you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Roy hope your well

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      • Roy Hancox says:

        Overweight but keeping well Heavy. Trust you are well and no doubt itching to get back out on the hills. I have great memories of my short time on KMRT (May 81 – Apr 84). Just a young pup but so grateful to have known so many great people.

        Like

      • Roy did we not have a hard time at New year Christmas dropping down to the Etcheacan hut in the Cairngorms for the night?

        Like

      • Roy Hancox says:

        Heavy, think you are referring to our Boxing Day trip to the Hutchison Memorial Hut. The team were staying at Victoria Barracks in Ballatar for Christmas, very posh, beds and showers! You decided I would join you for an overnight bivvy at the hut. Boxing Day was a super winters day and we walked in from the Linn of Dee with Teallach leading from the front as always. On arriving at the hut we then did Derry Cairngorm in deep snow. The plan next day was to do Beinn Mheadoin, Beinn a Chaorain and Beinn Bhreac, walking back out to the Linn of Dee. Woke up and there had been the mother of all thaws overnight. Days plan went out of the window and we had an epic crossing the Derry Burn, now a fast flowing river. We had to use rope to get across and I remember getting back to the Barracks absolutely knackered and soaking wet. A great memory of mine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for that hard days!

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      • Yes it was we had an epic descending your crampon did not fit! We met the late Andy Nisbet in the bothy

        Like

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