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