History of Mountain Rescue


The history and development of mountain rescue has been extensively documented and many comprehensive accounts have been written. Sometimes, people downplay the value of historical information and take the view that what we do today and the issues that currently influence our work are more important. But historical evidence should not be dismissed. It’s always good to understand our roots and reflect on how this has shaped current practice. Indeed, it is quite refreshing to see that some things change very little over time, and that ideas and practices long forgotten sometimes resurface and impact again. And it’s quite humbling to appreciate the hardships and initiatives of the early pioneers and the enormous contribution they made. All this puts into perspective our own efforts, and helps generate a measured and reflective approach to what we do. And it’s also worth noting that for duration of our involvement in mountain rescue, we all serve as guardians of our own team and therefore have a duty to record fully all that we do for those who follow.

The history of many teams is posted on their own website. The following are a few more in-depth resources that may be of value.


Starting year for all Rescue Teams in the UK/RoI

This article lists every team that has existed from the start of the service in 1935. It attempts to explain why so many teams were established in the mid 1960s. It also explores the historical timeline of each country. Download by clicking – The Adventure Begins

Annotated list of all teams

A complete listing of all teams (mountain, cave, SARDA) both current and former (civilian, police, RAF, school, outward bound) organised by country and region (where appropriate) with start years and annotated notes for each team.  Download by clicking – All teams

The History of Mountain Rescue in England and Wales

This article looks specifically at how mountain rescue developed in England and Wales, focusing on the development of the first bespoke stretcher and how the service has changed in recent years with the advent of new technology and diversification into new areas of work. Download by clicking – The History of MR

History of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service

This website looks briefly at how the service developed from its inception in 1943 through to 2013.  A comprehensive account of the service from 1943 to 1993 was written by Frank Card in his book “Whensoever”.  Now out of print, copies can be obtained from Amazon and Abebooks. Go to – http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafsearchandrescue/operations/mrs.cfm

History of the British Cave Rescue Council

There is a brief history on the BCRC website. A much fuller account of the development of cave rescue in the UK is the book – “Race against Time” A History of the Cave Rescue Organisation”. Now out of print by available from Abebooks.

History of Scottish Mountain Rescue

Published in 2003, this book provides a brief history of every team in Scotland as well as SARDA and the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland (now renamed Scottish Mountain Rescue). Download by clicking – The History of Scottish MR

History of Mountain Rescue in Ireland

A comprehensive and up-to-date look at the history and development of every rescue team in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  The author Pat Holland describes some early incidents and how teams grew from the climbing club scene, and how the representative body – the Irish Mountain Rescue Association was established as a body which oversaw teams in bot the north an south of the country.  Download by clicking – The History of MR in Ireland

International Mountain Rescue Handbook

This classic book by Hamish MacInnes last revised in 1998, provides a fascinating look at how techniques, equipment and practices have changed over the years. Available from Amazon.

The First Mountain Rescue Stretcher

This short article describes how the first Joint Stretcher Committee came about in 1933 and led to development of the first bespoke MR stretcher – the Thomas Stretcher. Download by clicking – The First MR Stretcher


Articles have been written about some of those who made a seminal contribution to the development of mountain rescue in the very early days.  Here are a few –

Sid Cross

Wilson Hey

Wilfed Noyce

Rusty Westmorland

Jim Cameron

Ieuan jones

Donald Duff

Hamish MacInnes