Awarded to an individual member of a helicopter crew, a complete crew or the crews of multiple helicopters, for an act of outstanding courage or devotion to duty in the course of land or sea search and rescue operations.
At 1431hrs on 08 March 2022, the Inverness SAR crew, Rescue 151 (R151), were requested by Police Scotland for a tasking to a 28-year-old male who had fallen on Ben Nevis, at 3600ft, CPR ongoing.
R151 arrived on scene at 1510hrs. Despite progressive attempts, wind speeds above 60 knots with severe turbulence meant a safe winching position or low hover was impossible. R151 landed at Halfway Lochan (1870ft) although significant aircraft power variations during the approach and landing made it extremely difficult to descend and keep the aircraft on the ground. After a thorough crew brief, the Winchman, with crampons, ice axe and First Response Bag, began his ascent whilst R151 deployed Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) personnel; each serial requiring the utmost skill and concentration to land the aircraft without endangering it, the crew or MRT.
The Winchman saw a flashing torch up in Red Burn Gulley. With a direct route looking precarious he continued up the zig-zag path and soon met 4 people descending on all fours. They confirmed one deceased and 2 injured, one with a broken leg, and another group of 8, higher up, were struggling. It was 1630hrs and conditions were treacherous. Faced with multiple casualties with unknown injuries, a Major Incident was declared and additional MRT and another SAR helicopter was requested. R151 remained airborne as on-scene commander, providing the essential communications link between the Winchman (in cloud), MRT, the MRT base and UK Rescue.
The larger group were found exhausted and barely moving. Only one, a British Army Sgt, had an ice axe and crampons. He confirmed there were 2 crag fast walkers at the top of Red Burn Gulley; the companions of the deceased.
The Winchman, through a chance cloud break, saw MRT approaching the fallen casualty and could now focus on the crag fast walkers. With conditions deteriorating and, anticipating a night extraction, the Winchman asked the Sgt to assist.
R199 arrived on scene at 1730hrs. By now, 22 MRT had been deployed in extremely challenging flying conditions. After establishing an airborne deconfliction plan, the 2 crews deployed another 10 MRT as night fell before R199 returned to Prestwick.
Despite high winds and visibility below 20m, the Winchman eventually heard shouting and saw someone waving. The casualties were in a desperate state. Traumatised from their friend’s fall, they were cold, exhausted, and difficult to motivate. Somehow, they had to cross a 20m, >20deg ice-covered slope. A technically challenging traverse without crampons was extremely dangerous. Each step cut into the snow/ice filled in quickly. The casualties were escorted in turn; the Winchman standing downslope to support their feet. With no margin for error, an ill-placed foot or fall would be catastrophic.
Already in white-out conditions, it had become dark and uncertain of his position, the Winchman updated R151. The Sgt obtained a fix from his phone and together they located the path; normally 2m wide, but now a 30cm snow-covered ledge. On one occasion the Winchman was blown off his feet and accelerated down the mountain before arresting his slide with an axe.
Multiple casualties, exhausted and barely standing, were descending the mountain. R151 exploited a short weather window to extract 2 groups, including the stretcher casualty with a broken leg. A 3rd extraction was aborted; night light levels were extremely poor and wintry showers significantly reduced visibility just after take-off. A lightning strike then lit the sky overhead and despite further attempts Halfway Lochan was back in cloud.
The remaining casualties were walked off the mountain; the deceased and the Winchman were recovered using the MRT’s soft track vehicle. After 6 hours apart, the crew of R151 finally reunited at Torlundy before returning to Inverness at 2220hrs, 8 hours after the initial tasking. In total, 32 MRT were deployed to Ben Nevis; 24 casualties were rescued.
This highly demanding rescue was completed in the most extreme weather conditions. The winchman’s actions on the mountain side demonstrated self-less tenacity and bravery in the face of the most demanding situation. However, the entire crew, faced with a developing multiple casualty scenario, displayed the highest standard of crew-cooperation, judgement and handling skills to ensure a safe outcome for those in danger. Accordingly, the crew of R151 are joint recipients of the Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award.
1978/79 Captain G Bain, Captain C C Bosanquet, Captain A Campbell, B Johnstone Esq
1979/80 Flt Lt R E Neville, Flt Lt M J Lakey, Flt Sgt J K Moody, Flt Sgt C M Yarwood
1980/81 MALM David Edward Bullock GC (posthumously)
1981/82 Lt Cdr H S Clark 825 Sqn
1982/83 Wessex MK3 of HMS Antrim Flight - Lt Cdr I Stanley DSO, Lt C J Parry, Sub Lt S Cooper, POACM D B Fitzgerald
1983/84 POACM John Stephen Coleman
1984/85 Joint Award to 826 N.A.S (Sea King) and HMS Endurance (WASP)
1985/86 Lt D Marr, POACMN M C Palmer, POACMN L Slater
1986/87 WO1 I D Johnstone AAC & Sgt D I Lewis REME
1987/88 Jeff Todd Esq
1988/89 Flt Sgt Vaughan Dodsworth AFM RAF
1989/90 POACM S W Wright, POACM D S Wallace
1990/91 Flt Lt D Kerr-Sheppard RAF, Flt Lt D G Gow RAF, MAEOP M R Cornes, MALM W Payne
1992 not awarded
1992/93 772 NAS Helicopter - Lt M I P Langley, POACM A Rogers, LACMN B Buggins
1993/94 Flt Sgt Chris J Wood
1994/95 The Crew of Rescue 169: Flt Lt A Cooper, Flt Lt M Dennis, Flt Lt G Holmes, Flt Sgt P Trethewey
1995/96 Rescue 25 78 Sqn Falkland Islands: Flt Lt M Dennis, Flt Lt T Gear, Flt Sgt Larke, SgtS Labouchardiere
1996/97 Rescue 193 from RNAS CULDROSE - Lt B J Nicholas, Lt J M Collicutt, Lt G P Norris, POACM P J Warrington, LACM R W McKee
1997/98 Posthumously for William (Bill) Deacon
ALSO: A special award to: Crews 03, 06 and 10 of Sea Flight 810 Sqn RNAS Culdrose
1998/99 The Crew of the Bell 412 Helicopter VH-CFT of Careflight
1999/2000 The helicopter pilots and crew of the South African Air Force
2000/01 Awarded twice:
Crew of HMS Montrose
Flt Sgt Trevor Thompson AFC
2001/02 Crew of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter
Peter Yates, Dr Michael Novy, Tim Thistleton, Matthew Scott, Paul Featherstone
2002/03 'Rescue 137' D Flight No 202 Sqn RAF Lossiemouth
2003/04 Rescue 193 RN
2004/05 Rescue 193 (Boscastle)
2005/06 Rescue 193 of 771 NAS
2006/07 Awarded twice:
The Crew of 'Rescue 901' 442 Sqn CAF
Hong Kong Government Flying Service
2007/08 Awarded twice:
HMS GANNET SAR FLIGHT 'Rescue 177'
'BLACKOUT 26' 7 Sqn RAF
2008/09 Crew of "Rescue 193" of 771 NAS
2009/10 Crew of R902, 442 Sqn CAF
2010/11 "HMS Chatham" Lynx - 226 Flt 815 NAS
2011/12 Crew of Rescue 193 NAS: Lt Cdr Mike Luscombe RN, Capt Martin Roskilly RM, Lt Jason "Tom" Sawyer RN, Sgt Anthony Russell RM
2012/13 Rescue 912 103 SAR Sqn RCAF: Capt Aaron Noble, Capt Jon Groten, MWO Jeff Warden, Sgt Brad Hiscock, M/Cpl Mark Vokey
2013/14 Rescue 193 771 NAS: Lt Cdr Richard Calhaem RN, Lt Cdr Paul Robertson RN, Kapitanleutnant Steffen Volkwein and POACMN Russell Adams
2014/15 Crew OF ‘RESCUE 177’, HMS GANNET SAR FLIGHT - Lt Cdr Charles Fuller RN, Lt Meirion Hammond RN, Lt Angela Lewis RN and POACM Michael Henson
2016 Awarded twice:
Crew of United States Coast Guard Rescue 6033 - Lt John Hess USCG, Lt Matthew Vanderslice USCG, AMT2 Derrick Suba USCG, AST3 Evan Staph USCG
Crew of HMS Gannet SAR Flight R 177 - Lt Cdr Martin Lanni AFC RN, Lt Richard Lightfoot RN, Lt James Bullock RN, POACM Alan Speed
2017 Awarded twice:
Crew of HM Coastguard Rescue 951 Inverness Captain Simon Tye, Captain James Livitt, Mark Lean and Scott Sharman
Crew of HM Coastguard Rescue 912 Humberside Captain Peter Mackenzie-Brown, SFO Rob Backus, Winch Operator Paul Bramley and Winchman/Medic Kate Willoughby
2018 The Hong Kong Government Flying Service
2019 Caernarfon Rescue 936: Captain Kate Simmonds, Captain Dave Kenyon AFC, Winch Operator Richard Taylor QGM and Winchman Paramedic Alistair Drumond
2020 Crew of Royal Air Force of Oman Rescue 01 - Ll Cdr George Thompson RN, Mulazim 1 Tay Mahmood, Wakeel 2 Jaw Yaqoob, Raqeeb Jaw Ibrahim
2021 Crew of 'Schooner 20' and Crew of 'Mako 27'
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