Guilt or Gratitude missing out on big Callouts ? By Pete Kirkpatrick


This is a interesting article that I think many of us in the Emergency Agencies who may feel they miss out on a big incident. This happens as family,holidays, sickness and many other things may stop you going out on a shout. I feel many of the feelings are felt by others. Am I wrong?

This is another article inspired by the challenge by someone to put pen to paper.

When I look back at my younger self at 16. I see a teenager who was interested in rugby, girls, music and looking for an escape from a boring job in flat Hull. Normally in a sea port, young men run away to sea. I chose the RAF, with diddly squat ideas about what might happen next.

When I eventually left the RAF 34 years later. I was amazed how this East Riding Yorkshire tyke had found a passion and career in RAF Mountain Rescue and other roles that had given me the opportunity to climb up many lumps, bumps, hills and mountains of the world. Plus, chances to help lost people in the mountains or with the youth work I did, lost in life. However, with all that, I acquired an addiction that I still struggle to understand and manage.

Happily, it isn’t a love of Guinness, pork scratching or red socks.

It’s the wee bit of guilt that you feel that comes about when you have a certain hard won skill set and experience, and you want to be involved in some drama where that expertise is tested. In my early years, you wanted the Rescue Control Centre (RCC) to ring and then hear the Station Tannoy broadcast. ‘MOUNTAIN RESCUE CALL OUT, MOUNTAIN RESCUE CALL OUT. ALL MEMBERS TO ASSEMBLE IMMEDIATELY.’

Forgive me Lord. I remember one quiet call out period when I was at RAF Valley in North Wales, I heard myself suggest placing a tripwire on the narrow part of the ridge on Grib Coch to relieve the boredom.

Looking back, I see, with maturity, that once you view casualties as people, with life’s and stories, and just not, the means of your professional satisfaction you’re almost there in achieving a guilt free conscience.

All that preamble was my way into writing about the Lockerbie air disaster. I was the Team Leader at Valley on the night of the tragedy just before the Christmas grant. That evening, the permanent staff had cooked and served a Christmas Dinner meal for troops and family members, and we had then performed our version of a Christmas Pantomime. The highlight was, the fairy Queen (Jim Groak.) abseiled out – Frank Spencer fashion – out of the roof space into the section.

Then Pittreavie (RCC) rang and the Christmas mood evaporated, with the orders to be on standby to go north. This was the biggy that was a thing of nightmares for thousands, then, still is and will be for future generations. And I felt pissed off.

My angst was that the RCC had told me that Valley MRT is to stay local to cover England and Wales, while other 5 teams will be travelling to Lockerbie. That frustration persisted, even when watching the awful scenes that dominated the television coverage that night. A shrink might diagnose that I had a huge desire to help. But, my help was needed in other ways than I wanted.

Over the years, I’ve heard many stories from troops, especially, Heavy Whalley, Quackers and Alister Haveron about what they experienced, and heard tales of people in the MR community diagnosed and suffering from PTSD symptoms.

My frustration is long gone. It is replaced with a ‘Thank You Lord (Or RCC.) for not sending me that night. You knew best.

Strangely, my addiction to help people now manifests itself in my efforts as a Samaritans listener and with a military veterans charity called F4H (Future4heros.) This combination can be full of drama, happy and sad endings, and still that wee bit of guilt.

Anybody else in the rescue business experience such guilt? Pete Kitkpatrick thank you for allowing me to re publish this.

Comments as always welcome.

Roddy R – “Was frustrated to have missed the Mull of Kintyre Air Disaster while on leave. On reflection, and after speaking with some who were there, I feel I might not have been made of the stuff required to deal with the trauma involved with the post disaster clean up and recovery operation.”

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, Lockerbie, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, SAR, SARDA, Views Political?, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Guilt or Gratitude missing out on big Callouts ? By Pete Kirkpatrick

  1. Steve Blythe says:

    It’s a regular p’s take from old team mates, I joined Leuchars in Jan 02 and was posted in Dec 2006 after years of trying to get to an MR unit. Unfortunately I served on the team during one of the quietest periods of its existence and when we were called out I seemed to be on detachment somewhere. It erked me at the time, after all what was the point of all that training? Now I’m older (maybe not more mature) I see it as all those safe days on the hill folk enjoyed and I’m less bothered, also it gives folk something to laugh about when we get together.

    Liked by 2 people

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