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Mountain Rescue in England and Wales
Shocked by the increasing loss of life and injuries sustained as more and more people ventured into the hills (e.g. 1903 'Scafell Disaster' where 4 climbers fell to their deaths and in 1928 when the lack of suitable equipment impacted upon the injuries of the casualty), the climbing fraternity decided to act and in 1932, The Rucksack Club combined with The Fell and Rock Climbing Club to form the Joint Stretcher Committee (JSC).
Helicopter rescue
Photograph : Judy Whiteside
The JSC was tasked to produce an effective mountain stretcher specifically adapted for steep and rough terrain. The result was the Thomas stretcher enabling the carriers to navigate across rock, scree, grass or snow, although today's equivalent, which uses the latest in technological advances, bears little resemblance to this early prototype.

The next step was the formation of the First Aid Committee of Mountaineering Clubs (FACMC) in 1936 with representation from Universities, The Ramblers Association and Youth Hostel Association. As the frequency of civilian rescues throughout Britain increased in the late 1940s the first civilian mountain rescue teams were formed to compliment and support existing RAF teams.

By 1950 the FACMC became the Mountain Rescue Committee (MRC), a charitable trust with a wider spectrum of outdoor support groups. In 1965 the MRC split and the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland (MRCofS) was formed to deal with issues at a more local level.
From these humble beginnings the mountain rescue service has developed into the only UK Rescue Organisation providing all terrain, all weather search and rescue 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The current national body, Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW) comprises of over fifty mountain rescue teams split into nine regional mountain rescue organisations. Itís purpose is to support the teams and facilitate the exchange of ideas and working practices and both teams and regions are represented at national level.

Although teams are independent and autonomous, they frequently collaborate on incidents which cross team 'boundaries' and undertake joint training exercises. The local police authority involved will call on whichever teams and assets are required for any specific rescue operation.

Nowadays, in England and Wales, Mountain Rescue receives over 1000 call outs each year varying from fallen climbers, people missing from home, overdue hillwalkers to stranded fishermen. Similar assistance is given to mountain bikers, horseriders, geologists, botanists and many other recreational and professional users of the countryside. The service also assists in aircraft and train crashes and civil emergencies such as flooding and blizzards that may occur in remote and inaccessible locations.
Helicopter rescue
Photograph : Trevor Lawton
MREW is a voluntary body and registered charity, liaising with the government and other bodies on behalf of it members. Various items of equipment such as stretchers, ropes and first aid equipment are provided from the national purse and public donations. Visit www.mountain.rescue.org.uk for more information and how to contribute.


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Last Update : 13th April 2014