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First UK mountain rescue helicopter operations

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First UK mountain rescue helicopter operations

Old 5th May 2022, 14:03
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First UK mountain rescue helicopter operations

Can anyone tell me when and where helicopters were first used for (or in support of) mountain rescue operations (as opposed to maritime rescue) in the UK? I've been searching the internet for days now and can't seem to find anything relevant.

Thanks in advance,
Brian
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Old 5th May 2022, 16:59
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I expect jimf671 will be able to answer that one for you
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Old 5th May 2022, 21:05
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Wouldn't that have been the military, Crab?
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Old 5th May 2022, 21:10
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Wouldn't that have been the military, Crab?
Almost certainly but I don't know for sure when we started providing full UK SAR - sometime in the mid 50s probably, with the Whirlwind.

Military SAR had a primary role to recover military aircrew but 90% of the jobs were civilian rescues so mountain rescue would have been part of that.
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Old 6th May 2022, 10:06
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Almost certainly C Glight 22Sqdn based at RAF Valley,equipped with the Whirlwind HAR.2 in the mid-late 1950s and then the more powerful MK.10 .However the winch cable only allowed a hover height of 50ft Max,improved by tying climbing ropes and then webbing straps to the cable!
More detail likely by studying the comprehensive SAR archives held by the Helicopter Museum at WsM.
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Old 6th May 2022, 20:21
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On line you may get some clues from the archive of Flight but it will be a lot of reading.

Bearing in mind that a lot of the MRTs were police, groups I researched police use of helicopters way back and there were 'interactions' between Westmorland police and winch equipped S51s at Anthorn in 1954 and numerous police forces in 1956 under the Civil Defence banner. None of those spoke of "SAR" but of course it may just have been a terminology ommission, especially with hoists that were restricted in ability. Perhaps the specific term grew out of the later civil Bristow Whirlwind operations?
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Old 6th May 2022, 21:16
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I remember reading in the Aberdeen P&J about a woman on a shooting party who injured her leg. A helicopter was called from Lossie. When she found she would be on a stretcher strapped outside, she declined, and was taken off the hill by ground means. Dragonfly helicopter? Memory is of a small item in the paper, not a big story.
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Old 7th May 2022, 10:10
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Thanks, all, for some useful leads.
I'd have thought that the first civilian rescue on land would have been a newsworthy event. I've tried searching for articles in Flight etc but have drawn a blank so far.
Any more suggestions - or better still, links to an article about a specific event - will be very much appreciated.
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Old 7th May 2022, 21:27
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Have you contacted civilian mountain rescue teams? Cairngorm are likely, being close to Lossie. Also Lochaber. I think there were ground mountain rescues before the RAF teams were formed
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Old 7th May 2022, 21:29
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There were hundreds of civilian rescues on what should have been land (!) by 705 Sqn FAA on 31st January 1953 and the days following. The 1953 floods were the event that seared the helicopter as a lifesaving device into the collective consciousness of the British people forever.

However, not a mountain rescue. What it does mean is that any subsequence rescue of a civilian either by the Fleet Air Arm or their RAF colleagues (dedicated yellow helicopters arrived on the scene just a few months later), that happened to be in mountainous terrain, wasn't quite as ground-breaking.

Maybe Ogwen Valley MRT have some info about early Valley jobs.

Last edited by jimf671; 8th May 2022 at 14:02.
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Old 8th May 2022, 10:01
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While Mountain Flying was a distinct separate skill in helo training, I don't recall any such distinction made in respect of call-outs. As a 22 Flight at Valley, we had an obvious mix of operations as did the northern 202 Flights. but the most 'mountainous' job we had at Thorney was climbers falling off the Needles ! Possibly arguable that our Sycamore operations in Aden in the mid 50s covered the areas up to Mukheiras (6000') and similar.
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