1978 – Early days at RAF Buchan plus two big call-outs on Colonsay and Braeriach.

Few folk will know I was posted to RAF Buchan near Peterhead after getting promoted to Corporal in 1978. It was a small station but very important part of the Cold War. Even though it broke my heart to leave Kinloss and the Mountain Rescue Team I had to take the promotion there was no way to refuse. I was told do your bit and you will get back.

My job was easy at Buchan and I soon had it sorted out. The Station had no Mountaineering Club so I had a meeting and we started one. We got transport from the Station and off we went. There were only 10 interested but we got things going. We had a night climb down at Longaven 4 on a rope exciting stuff but that became a haunt of the club it was pretty serious with the sea and the cliffs. I had used the cliff before with the Kinloss Team for techniques in the past and we had our then yearly techniques weekend.

The winter was coming so I managed to get a small winter skills week to give some of the Club member’s the basics. We got my old Team Leader Pete McGowan and Tom MacDonald an old pal to come. Now Lochnagar is not an easy place to plan some winter skills and hopefully a few climbs. Yet that winter was a hard winter big snows. We had a bit of an epic with a Cornice on Raeburns Gully with our group as the Cornice was huge. It was a great few days and the club remember learned a lot. They were now ready for some big winter days. I was really pushing the club and they were keen and learnt a lot in these days taking on some epic days.

I managed to plan to meet Kinloss MRT one weekend that they were at Breamar and the Sea Kings helicopters had arrived at Lossiemouth. They were wanting to practice troop deployment and we got dropped off on the summit of Ben A Bhuird along with the Kinloss Team. We dropped into the Corrie and 5 of us did a big winter grade 3. It ended up a long day with a huge cornice it took me ages to get over. We did not know that the glens were so full of unconsolidated snow that it was a long walk out. The snow was so deep and it was -10 freezing cold we got back to Invercauld at 0200 really struggling. We were lucky the weather was good with no wind yet one of my group got frost nip. We did nothing next day we were exhausted but what a day. Ray Sefton was the Team Leader of Kinloss at the time and was worried about us we had no contact with them at that time. I learnt a lot that day after breaking the snow on the 4 hour walk off. I had a great two years but it was costly getting out with the team and getting back for work. The Club was great but very hard work but we introduced a few to the mountains and had some great days. Some of the days are listed below.

I managed to plan to meet Kinloss MRT one weekend that they were at Breamar and the Sea Kings helicopters had arrived at Lossiemouth. They were wanting to practice troop deployment and we got dropped off on the summit of Ben A Bhuird along with the Kinloss Team. We dropped into the Corrie and 5 of us did a big winter grade 3. It ended up a long day with a huge cornice it took me ages to get over. We did not know that the glens were so full of unconsolidated snow that it was a long walk out. The snow was so deep and it was -10 freezing cold we got back to Invercauld at 0200 really struggling. We were lucky the weather was good with no wind yet one of my group got frost nip. We did nothing next day we were exhausted but what a day. Ray Sefton was the Team Leader of Kinloss at the time and was worried about us we had no contact with them at that time. I learnt a lot that day after breaking the snow on the 4 hour walk off. I had a great two years but it was costly getting out with the team and getting back for work. The Club was great but very hard work but we introduced a few to the mountains and had some great days. Some of the days are listed below.

We regularly went to Glencoe and Ben Nevis doing some climbing and long hill days, the club was going well. The other weekends were spent with Kinloss but I found the travelling back to Kinloss hard going. I was out with the team when the Great Blizzards of 1978 struck we were at Fort William. I ended up being away for 7 days helping with the helicopters at Inverness with the team. All the roads were shut and I was dropped back at RAF Buchan at the end by Sea King helicopter. My Boss the plonker from (PSF)met me and told me I was in trouble and was in front of the Station Commander next day at 0900. My Boss Danny told me not to worry as I had told him what was going on and Ray Sefton had sent a signal explaining where I was. Yet here I was getting ready for to see the Station Commander.

After that the Flt Lt hated me even more and when I applied to go back to a Mountain Rescue Station he stopped it, so I decided to leave the RAF. I told my Dad that I was leaving the RAF and he spoke to George Younger who was my MP in Ayr at the time. Next thing I knew I was posted full – time as Deputy Team Leader at RAF Valley MRT in North Wales much to my amazement. Sir George Younger was my Dads MP (friends in high places). Poor Eric Hughes my Officer on the team told me this story and how he had to write a paper on me for George Younger. My Dad never told me what he had done.

Looking back what would have happend if I had a snag on some of these wild days. I learnt so much in these days and looking back we pushed the boat out a bit but we were young and invincible.

Braeriach Avalanche

Two Call-outs stand out in this period are for a French Atlantic that crashed of the Isle of Colonsay . All the crew got out safely. We stayed in caves as we swept the beaches for Confidential documents. It was like seen from “Whisky Galore”

Braeraich Avalanche – 25 / 27 Dec 1978 – 2 walkers avalanched in Coire Bogha Cloiche a tricky evacuation in wild conditions. A sad period over Christmas.

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 Articles, Avalanche info, Equipment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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