Lockerbie another year on and the pain is still there.

Today is the Anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster in 1988. I was the Team Leader of the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team. My first stint as TeamLeader and I had a great young team. We were involved in so many Call outs all over Scotland. There was a good blend of experience and youth. We coped with so much and I was extremely proud of them all. Yet that night thing changed and it has had a huge effect on my life and those I love.

I was there at Lockerbie with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and many other Agencies! It took a huge toll on many of us and still does. What we saw and did was a like a memory from hell and something I never want to be involved in anything like that again. It was a scene of a battlefield with such trauma in a small Scottish town your mind could never take it in. Add to that so near Christmas and we could do little but locate the fatalities and map the wreckage. There is much more to the story we were there for 3 days then returned to Leuchars. The local teams, SARDA and Army and others were there for a lot longer.

This year it seems for me personally better but sadly another one of my friends who was with me at the time is not well .

These were to me and many others a few days of hell and he has just recently been effected by PTSD! It like many others has take years over 30 to manifest itself in him! This is a common occurrence most years I get the similar calls.


This is the time to keep an eye on those who were involved ! Few have got away unscarred and many just need a hug or a bit of family love at this time! Or even time out.


As always the 21st Of December is a hard day for those involved in the UK’s worst terrorist murders and shame on the UK that no one has been held responsible for it!

In 1988 I asked for assistance with our mental health . To even ask at the time was not accepted by the powers that be. In these days you were in the military and told to “man up”.

We did get some help and the tale is told in other Blogs. Professor Gordon Turnbull was then a young medical officer in the RAF and formed a small team to try and help us. His book Trauma explains part of the story. These were difficult times for me as the help I got and my team was limited.

It was even worse for my friends in the Civilian Mountain Rescue Teams, SARDA and other agencies like the Army and Police. Dark days indeed. There was little help for them and there families.

In 2018 I took part in a cycle to Syracuse in the USA . This was where over a week we met many of the relatives of the Students who were killed in the crash. It was a physical and physiological journey for me. Yet I got great comfort from the families who I met. It was also comforting to speak to many and tell them what we all did. How many of those involved were very young and how it effected them. In the end it was a journey I needed to do. Thanks to Colin, Brian, Paul and Dave for there support.

I thought back then I was at my invincible phase in 1988 I had a strong young team and many years of Mountain Rescue. I had dealt with so many tragedies in the mountains and plane crashes. Nothing in my experience was like Lockerbie. It changed my life and I still live with it.

A few tips on looking after those involved.

Keep an eye on those who were involved. They need you now ! 

They deserve it and they gave so much!

With thoughts for :

The People of Lockerbie 

Those on the Flight.

The Police, Fire and Ambulance Services

Mountain Rescue RAF and civilian  Teams.

SAR Helicopters  

SARDA – U.K.  Wide 

The Military especially the Army

The Coastguards 

The Volunteer Services and all those other incredible Agencies involved WRVS etc. 

I have been privileged to talk to many about my insights and hope to be able to speak about what many of these unsung heroes did during these dark days in 1988. It was not easy doing it but it’s as they say #goodtotalk

These were the only chance to tell the tale of the efforts of so many and how it still effects them . As the years go on there are there are few who know about in what happened in Lockerbie Scotland or the UK about Lockerbie!

From A pal

“It’s strange how much it has affected us. I was asked about Lockerbie just the other day and could feel the emotions welling inside of me. It’s been 4 years since I was struck with PTSD from this event and despite all the help I am now realising I will never be cured, none of us will. We just find ways to deal with it.”

Another comment 

“Hi Heavy, tomorrow will be a difficult day for many people, touched by the Lockerbie disaster on the 21st of December 1988. Small comfort, I know but MR are that happy few that have shared the misery and in doing so shored up the spirits of those profoundly affected by much of what we have seen. Together tomorrow, in spirit if nothing else. Memories of times shared with people we trust.

This is why every year I write about it. None of you are forgotten.

Stay safe and well it’s good to talk. If you need help seek it and remember “ we all did our best”

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 Aircraft incidents, Articles, Cycle to Syracuse Training, Lockerbie, Media, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Lockerbie another year on and the pain is still there.

  1. Jim Higgins says:

    I was working on night shift in a residential childrens home on the night of the disaster. I had just came on shift at 10pm when the newsflashes started filtering through. I was the lone waking night shift worker at night along with two other sleepover staff. The images I saw through the night as the news broke still affects me. I can only imagine what it was like for personnel on the ground. My wife and I frequent towns like Moffat and Gretna for short breaks and we holiday often in the lakes. I still get that “feeling” as we travel down the 74 past Lockerbie and Johnstonbridge.
    Stay safe heavy your teams are always in my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope you are well Heavy and in touch with the rest of the team. It must be a mixed blessing this time of year. Not a time for celebration but a time for a congratulation, on work done and lessons learnt. The whole world felt the impact, that winters night, of that crash, on an unknown village, that will be in the thoughts of all those who travel by air in the future.

    God bless!

    Like

  3. Peter Aikman says:

    Like others I never go past without first seeing the hill where the tail landed, and then thinking about all the rest of it. A doctor friend in Dumfries was called into the hospital with all the medics they could get hold of, but then no injured arrived.

    Like

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