Dedication of the RAFMRA/RAFMRS Memorial at the NMA


Thursday 5 May 2022 dawned fair and bright, a good sign in respect of the forthcoming event, the Dedication Service at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) of the Memorial Monument for the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service and Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Association.  There were about 60 attending, comprising members who had been either in a UK or overseas team and a few guests including Mike Graham, whose father had started RAF Mountain Rescue in 1943.

A small group of MR stalwarts met with guests at The Cathedral Hotel on Wednesday 4 May 2022 in Lichfield for an informal get together and catch up thanks to the efforts of Tony Dunn and Donald Baggett.  The following morning saw the group gather in the NMA main car park with assistance from the very helpful stewards.  Everyone spoke highly of them, and their help in offering parking advice and guidance was extremely useful in finding our way around the site.

The initial start of the day was a series of photographs and short interviews under the control of the RAF photographers from RAF Cosford, who took numerous pictures of the group and various sub sections, VIP’s, the whole group and especially at my request, a picture of the Leuchars 5!!

It is without doubt that many MRT members maintain contact over the years not only as team members but in later life after leaving the service, a remarkable phenomenon which is unrivalled in many service groups or even in many civilian clubs, teams or companies etc.

Where does it start from? I think that in our case of “The Leuchars 5” we were so lucky in having Bill Brankin as our team leader, his knowledge, man management skills and personality forged a group of troops with memories that last a lifetime.  Indeed, this fact was prominent in other teams as well whose team leaders of those days, Curly Betteridge, George Bruce, Archie Hay, Jack Hendren and Ian Martin and of course Mr Mountain Rescue himself, the late and great Johnnie Lees.

I firmly believe team leaders and permanent staff have the best job in the Royal Air Force and having spent many years in various teams I feel I can say it with some authority.  After all, there can only be Mountain Rescue Teams when there are volunteer members, do remember, they have jobs as well as their commitment to the team.

I was fortunate to spend just over 6 years with Bill Brankin, mostly as one of his deputy team leaders as well as Alex Morrison who is still alive and kicking in Australia and was one of the funniest troops I ever met.  There were many personalities at Leuchars in those days, apart from the “5” on parade at the NMA Dedication, names which spring to mind are, Jimmy Logan, Matt Malley, Sandy Mollison, Brian Mcluskie, Willie Reid, Chalky White and Ian Aitchison (RIP).  I wonder where they and others are now?

Over the years I saw many troops come and go, all I believe had their life enhanced because they had been involved in MR.  Long standing friendships were formed and have remained over the years,  including John Calnan,  President Has Oldham, who I remember “accidentally” cracked a carriage window on the train travelling across Turkey en route to climb Mt Ararat.  Who could ever forget PIB and the one and only George Patterson of fish and chip shop fame in Aviemore?

To be part of this Dedication event with Arthur Helsby, Robbie Borrett , Colin “Charlie” Heddle, Bill Duncan and yours truly has been a remarkable experience.  FIVE members from the Leuchars Team, ranging in age from 83 to 89 years young, all in the team in or around 1956/57; I do not think it will ever be repeated but am also sure that the camaraderie formed within the Mountain Rescue Service in today’s teams will always be present and the present troops can look forward to many happy hill days in the cold and wet. We did!

To the old and bold, take care, to the new members “Whensoever”

Chris Shorrocks

Leuchars 1957-63

Nicosia 1963-64

Akrotiri (2) 1964-66 and 1973-76

Leeming 1966-68

Stafford 1978-79

One thought on “Dedication of the RAFMRA/RAFMRS Memorial at the NMA

  1. Fame at last!
    A good account by Chris. Memories of Ararat are still fresh. Noah, we didn’t find the Ark. The train journey to Turkey took nine days. To give more room we rigged up three hammocks between the upper luggage racks. I cracked the window when climbing up. The ticket man never noticed it. He was too busy checking our tickets, but while he was doing this, Chris (above him) kept nudging his hat, he kept re-adjusting it. He suddenly looked up, and went absolutely ballistic! Ordered us out at the point of his pistol. We rapidly took down the hammocks and after a while of holding up the clapped-out steam train, he disappeared.
    It reminded me of a recent chat with Arthur Helsby (a noted climber in his day) when he said “Of all the climbs and rescues I have done, It seems I’m only remembered as the man who built a canoe at Leuchars. Hmmph!”

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