back to Book Reviews
Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team: the first forty years
Published by Langdale
Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team
‘1 February 12.30 pm. A dental nurse,
eighteen years, slipped some twenty feet
on Scout Crag, Great Langdale. Sustained
back injuries.’ This was the report from the
Incident Officer of the first rescue by LAMRT
in 1970. There have been over 2,000 since.
This engrossing publication marks the fortieth
anniversary of the Langdale Ambleside Mountain
Rescue Team. This was formed by Sid Cross MBE,
who had set up the Langdale Team in 1965, and
Stewart Hulse and Peter Bell who, in 1969, had
established the Ambleside Team. The teams, already
working in close collaboration, merged in 1970.
It is explained in the book’s introduction that
‘rescues’ had taken place long before the formation
of official rescue teams, citing 1783 when Frank
Castlehow, a Hawkshead stone-waller, retrieved
one of Wordsworth’s school-friends who was
cragfast on Yewdale Crags. One of the earliest
detailed reports was by Dorothy Wordsworth
concerning the unsuccessful search for George and
Sarah Green who failed to return to their home
in Grasmere, leaving eight orphaned children.
Rescues continued to be carried out by farmers,
shepherds and mountaineers; St John’s Ambulance
Service became involved as early as the 1930s.
Recalling the early days of rescuing (‘we had hardly
any equipment; a stretcher, a few ropes and a first aid
sack containing a few splints and bandages’), the book
is generously illustrated by photographs from the
Team’s archives. Notable milestones are chronicled:
the first search dog, Jan, an Irish Setter, was graded
(available for call out) in 1973; the first helicopter
rescue took place in 1974 on Gimmer Crag; Peter
Bell developed the design for a new stretcher and, by
1975, ‘Bell Stretchers’ were widely used as far afield
as the Andes, Jamaica and South Africa. You can read
about the use of the Team’s first defibrillator, message
pager, GPS unit and ice rescue sledge.
While MRTs are recognised mainly for their work on
the fells, their involvement in other types of incident
is less well known and this is chronicled in words
and pictures. There are reports of the Lockerbie air
disaster in 1988, when rescue dogs found 120 bodies
on the night of the crash, of the Morecambe Bay
cocklers tragedy, the Grayrigg train crash and, most
recently, the terrible Cumbrian floods in late 2009.
This book is highly recommended to those
interested in the development of Mountain
Rescue: an additional incentive to purchase it is the
knowledge that profits go to MRT funds, hugely
worthwhile as the teams are entirely voluntary
organisations with no government financial support.
John Bewick - Member No. 225