The Mountain Rescue Team at RAF Leuchars in Fife will close in December after 50 years of service. MRT expert Dave 'Heavy' Whalley shares some memories of working with the team. We've compiled this article from Heavy's recent blog post on the subject.
Yesterday I received the news that I was expecting for a while, that one of my old RAF Mountain Rescue Teams at Leuchars was to close in December 2013. I spent six great years at RAF Leuchars and enjoyed every minute. I was very privileged to be the Team Leader for three years and had some incredible experiences. I learnt so much at Leuchars that was to stand me in such good stead for my life.
RAF Leuchars is near St Andrews in Fife and a very busy station when I was there with the fast jets. We had a young team - and what a bunch of people. Leuchars has a great history and along with RAF Kinloss was at the forefront of Mountain Rescue in Scotland for many years. Many young men and women from the RAF grew up within the team and it shaped their lives.
Since Mountain Rescue began the RAF Teams have supported our civilian friends. In the early days the RAF were Scottish Mountain Rescue. Few realize this! How many owe their lives to these teams we will never know. I was very lucky to be part of the system when the teams were in their prime, operating all over Scotland on many of the big incidents over the years. The biggest in the history of Mountain Rescue was at Lockerbie where RAF Leuchars MRT played a huge and mainly unknown part. At one period the RAF teams would supply over 50 people to assist on big callouts all over Scotland. These were huge searches and rescues and it is great to see how Mountain Rescue in Scotland has developed since even my early days in the 1970′s.
'Many young men and women from the RAF grew up within the team and it shaped their lives'
RAF Mountain Rescue was formed during the war to assist with crashed military aircraft and the team over the years have been involved in many such incidents. This is the hard part of RAF Mountain Rescue and a bit few know about. The current team is still involved in this task as recent events show. It is not just the recovery of aircrew but also assisting the Air Investigation Board with safety and assistance on mountain and remote aircraft sites - a job they have done superbly. There is an incredible amount of knowledge still within this task and it is good news that the RAF will still have a team in Scotland at RAF Lossiemouth, which will be supplemented by ex RAF Leuchars team members when the team closes end of the year.
Leuchars has a great area and the local Glen Clova is a regular fun spot for the team, but they trained all over Scotland and still do. The Leuchars team was regularly in Glen Coe and worked so much with that legend in Mountain Rescue Hamish MacInnes, who has been a great friend of the team over the years. Too many epic callouts to mention!
It is incredible that even during the current manning problems the Team have still operated, and have attended many of the big call-outs in Scotland this year. The pressure on team members to attend training and call-outs must have been very hard in these days of military cuts and long overseas detachments.
There will be many accolades to the Team in the next few months and the ones that matter are the boys and girls that have worked so hard to ensure that the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team will be still saving lives right up to the end. I can only wish them and their families the best for the future, and a few of us will have a tear in our eye when the team finally goes at the end of the year.
For those who played a part in the RAF Leuchars Team there will be many memories. When I was there we were a very young team, very powerful and full of energy. The team has produced some incredible mountaineers over the years. It has also shaped many lives and our days on the mountains and wild places will remain with us forever.
Nothing stays as it is and Mountain Rescue in Scotland gets stronger every year. It is completely different from the early days and things move on. But we must never forget the dedication of the RAF Leuchars Team and their families. Great things happen when men/women and mountains meet, this is so true of RAF Leuchars MRT over the years.
Thanks for the memories, you will be missed by so many of us from the past to the present day.