Today is the Lockerbie Anniversary Disaster Tragedy. A hard day for many. Help is out there #itsgoodtotalk

It’s been a difficult year for me a lot of medical problems and very hard at times controlling the “Black Dog”is always there.

Today is a huge day in my life it is the Anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster in 1988. I was the Team Leader of the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team. It was my first stint as Team Leader 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. It was a scene of crime children were involved and we could not move anyone. Team members put their own spare clothes over the bodies to give them some decency.

There is much more to the story that I have written about bee were there for 3 days then returned to Leuchars. The local Mountain Rescue teams, SARDA and the Army and others were there for a lot longer. They suffered more.

PTSD was not accepted in 1988 and I had a huge fight with my superiors to accept we were struggling. It took years to be accepted took its toll on me and others as I tried to get the authorities to accept PTSD .

As the years go by it seems for me personally a little better but sadly another one of my friends who was with me at the time is not well . Many have struggled a few have not but we were all in a new environment despite most being extremely hardened SAR folk.

These were to me and many others a few days of hell and others 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.

Please – 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! This I find a disgrace and I doubt the truth will come out when most of us are long gone.

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 their families. To them many had no clue what was happening to their loved ones.

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. I explained to them 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 at Lockerbie 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 even more.

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. 

Over the years 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”

As always I am thinking of you all and despite not being able to get out in the wild as much I am surrounded by so much love.

Today with the tragedy in Ukraine, the mess the world is in yet there are so many wonderful people who give so much and rarely hit the headlines.

We all keep going make that phone call, write that letter and give folk all the love we can.

Thinking of you all at this time never forget “ we did our best despite no lives to save”

Thinking of all the kind folk of Lockerbie who opened their hearts to us, gave us so much kindness that I will never forget.

God Bless you all

Heavy 21 Dec 2022

Comments and places to seek help welcomed they will be added into this blog.

Thinking of everyone involved.

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, Family, Friends, Lockerbie, Media, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Recomended books and Guides, Views Political?, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Today is the Lockerbie Anniversary Disaster Tragedy. A hard day for many. Help is out there #itsgoodtotalk

  1. Jim Higgins says:

    On the night of Locherbie I had just come on shift to the childrens home where I was a night officer. I arrived at 9.30pm to begin my shift at 10. I came to the news of a plane crash somewhere in the borders. The children were all in bed by 10.30 and the sleepover staff were in there rooms. That left me all night simply checking security most of the time. I was able to sit in the TV lounge and watch the horror unfold as live news bulletins doninated the broadcasts on most major channels.
    I can only imagine what it was like on the ground that night and the days to follow as I remember the shock and grief unfold.
    I couldnt believe it is all I can describe what went through my mind and I remember hoping that it wasnt true. I hoped that somehow the reporters had got it wrong or news teams were sensational to somehow get the best story.
    This was not to be as I was soon to know and It affected many people in a profound way. Being so close to home made the tradegy all the more moving and tangible for me. A town I knew as a stop over place on my way to the English lakes and how I felt for the people there. It was my first Christmas with my newly married wife, we were more or less just back from honeymoon and the contrast in emotions I felt that night was immense. My heart still goes out to the people of Locherbie, pensioners, newly weds, butchers, bakers, postmen. Ordinary folk looking forward to Christmas and the expectant joy and family time that should come then.
    Sometimes in fact most of the time so little time is spent comforting and restoring the people like yourself who go in to the flotsam and jetsam to bring back the survivors. I think unconsciously and maybe through lack of education most folk look on it as your job and neglect the first stitch. I liken it to my Grandfather who came off a landing craft on the first wave on Sword Beach, Ironically a Higgins boat. I was one of the only family members he ever spoke to about what he witnessed.
    Some say he was the most bombastic, arrogant, crabbit old man in Stewarton but I saw a very different side to him a man who lost his left leg in fierce fighting at Caaen. No counselling or aftercare just left to cope with the horrific things he witnessed on Normandy’s bloodiest mile.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to you all and I hope that more of you stamp your feet and shout it from the rooftops till you get the recognition you all need.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tony B says:

    Yet another excellent piece …. Although I had left the team before the Lockerbie Tragedy … throughout my service we had a few aircraft crashes as well as civilian call outs to deal with, but no support about the effects on the troops and hard to explain unless you have been through it ….but thanks to your efforts MRS in the UK recognised the importance of support for the troops on the front line .
    Today I am just back from an appointment with a specialist at Stirling Hospital who is helping and giving me guidance through a return of my PTSD (anxiety) and it slowly working ….. Keep spreading the word Heavy, “ Lest We Forget “ ….cheers Tony

    Liked by 1 person

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