Millom Fell Rescue Team, Furness MRT and merger to the current Duddon and Furness MRT
In the early 1990s, the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association (LDSAMRA) commissioned Wally Keay, an experienced outdoor educationalist, to review rescue provision in the Lake District. His report, “Rescue 2000”, was published in July 1993 and among his recommendations he suggested the amalgamation of the Millom Fell Rescue Team and the Furness Mountain Rescue Team.
As the Millennium approached, the two teams began talks that led to an “operational merger” in 2000 when we began joint training and attendance at call outs across both areas. This lasted for two years during which time joint working parties went through all our procedures, protocols and equipment to evaluate their effectiveness and distil best practice for the future joint team. At the same time, administrative procedures, constitution and election processes were debated, refined and revised in separate sessions at first but eventually in joint meetings.
The "Millom Fell Rescue Team" and "Furness MRT" clearly had a huge history of their own, in terms of jobs done, years of service committed by local members and more focussed memories of people who directly benefitted from rescue.
Millom Fell Rescue Team
The Millom Fell Rescue Team was formed in 1967 after a light aircraft which had been reported overdue was found several days later by a shepherd near the summit of Blackcombe. The two occupants unfortunately did not survive the impact.
Jack Morris-Eyton a local farmer, proposed that a mountain rescue team should be formed in the Millom area. Local climbers and walkers were recruited and from this group the Millom Fell Rescue Team came into being.
Beck Quarry 1974
The first Call Out the team attended was to assist the Eskdale OBMS team to evacuate an injured climber down from Scafell via Brown Tongue. The team also erected a new stretcher box on the Mickledore ridge.
The teams first base was in the old GPO exchange with a separate garage in the town. A new purpose built base was built in Millom to house the teams equipment and vehicles.
New vehicle presentation circa 1975
As the majority of the teams incidents were in the Duddon Valley it was decided to relocate the base to Foxfield as part of the merger process.
During the teams operational period it covered many incidents ranging from crashed aircraft, rescuing injured walkers and climbers, assisting other MR Teams on major searches within the Lake District. Working with the Police and Coastguard on coastal and urban searches, assisting the Ambulance Service in evacuating casualties in periods of bad weather and from remote locations.
Furness Mountain Rescue Team
The team was founded in 1962 and was originally the “Furness Mountain Search Team”, formed to support more central Lakeland teams. John Wyatt MBE, retired Chief Ranger for the Lake District National Park and Vice President for the Lake District Mountain Accidents Association, was instrumental in setting up the team following experiences of a particular tragedy focused on Red Dell, Coniston. A boy reported missing (1961) was not found by initial searches of the area - as the search area grew wider, it was clear that many volunteers lacked search skills necessary. Eventually a body was discovered. From this experience and with encouragement from the Police, the team was formed.
The Team had little resources in the early days and was developed through the perseverance and knowledge of members. By the 70’s the team had a base in the cellar under Neville House. This was part of the old Police Station and also used as a morgue! Annual membership in 1975 was 50 pence each and members were expected to provide all of their kit.
Early transport was a pair of “team roof bars”, it was not until the 1980’s that the team began to develop it’s resources and became in 1982 “Furness Mountain Rescue Team” to reflect its increasing workload. The base moved from the cellar in Neville House, to the Old Coach House at Ulverston Police Station, which is still in service.
Key developments was the arrival of two kitted out Land Rovers, better and lighter personal radios, with a radio uplink to Kirkby Moor which gave the team unparalleled comms and an ability to operate as a relay for other teams. Work to make the team base useful as an operational base went on over many years with the hard work of many members.
Furness MRT circa 1995
Far Back, Dave Rothery.
Middle Standing, Left to Right; Keith Warwick, Dick Long, Keith Stephenson, Ed Cargill, John Mason, Paul Harrison, Mark Jones, John Leadbetter, Alan Clark, Nelson Clark, Pete Clafton.
Front Kneeling Left to Right; Les Brown, Elspeth Mason, Mike Margeson, Bob Henson, Pete Buxton, Dave Hughes, Duncan Scott, Trevor Oldham.
At times the team had up to three search dogs active at once, which gave a massive resource in terms of ground that could be reliably searched for an injured person.
The Furness Team celebrated it’s 40th Anniversary shortly before the merger and was a fitting point to look back at the effort and commitment of many past members, but to look forward to the new opportunities a merger offers.