My first rescue team callout

As many of you know, I am currently trainee member of the Dartmoor Search & Rescue Team based at Ashburton. Recent promotion to a Senior Trainee has meant I am now on the callout list and on December the 14th that first callout came.

Dart 52 Ambulance


Wednesday night is training night, and last Wednesday was a joint training session with the Cave Rescue guys around some iron mines in the Teign Valley. An interesting evening as the 2 teams worked together on exercises extracting caving casualty’s to safety.

The exercise had come to a close and it was time for a quick pint before going home. On the way back to the car however a callout text was broadcast to search for an elderly man in his mid 80’s who had gone missing near Kingsbridge in South Devon.

So instead of a cosy Teign Valley pub it was an hour drive to the Rendevous (RV) at the village hall in Galmpton to pick up our briefing. Arriving at just after midnight, the car park was teeming with Police, Coastguard and Dartmoor Rescue Team vehicles. Also arriving was a band of strong winds squally showers of rain and hail, as well as a lightening display to the East. 

The Search Manager was already in dialogue with the Police commanders as to understanding what state of mind the missing person was in. This is to ascertain his probable behaviour and hence where he is most likely to be and is a science in itself. This information is vital as an individual may not want to be found – a suicide for instance – as opposed to a dimentia sufferer who has just got themself lost of disorientated. 

Once the search strategy had been agreed, the DRG members were allocated into teams and headed out to search their allocated areas. The ground our team of 4 covered was farmland, a mixture of hedgerow, ditches, fields and crops, and we stretched out into lines to cover as much ground as thoughly and as quickly as we could. It was a long night and the wind was relentless. Having covered our area with no sign of the individual, we returned to base around 05:30am and handed over to the next shift to continue the search in the other areas yet to be covered.

Having worked all the previous day, the exercise the previous evening and the all night search straight after, tiredness was beginning to kick in that even Nigel’s ultra strength ‘Java Lava’ expresso couldn’t revive, so it was home to grab a couple of hours sleep before going to work. 

It was disappointing not to have found the missing person, and even more sad and disappointing when he was found later that day in one of the final areas to be covered, and unfortunately had passed away. He was found by a rescue team search dog and his handler.

All in all Police, Coastguards, Dartmoor Rescue Team Members, Search Dogs and the Police helicopter had been involved in the search. When you see the number of search dog handlers and the other rescue team members, who had all given up their time voluntarily to search for somebody they didn’t know throughout the night in gail force winds, it restores your faith in human nature.

About the Dartmoor Search & Rescue Team – Ashburton.

The Dartmoor Search & Rescue Team based in Ashburton Devon, is a registered charity (number 1106098) completely funded by the generosity of the public providing a vital search & rescue service in Devon

Stretcher haul

Although the police have the ultimate responsibility for responding to and investigating reports of missing persons, they will often request the services of volunteer Search and Rescue organisations such as Ashburton Dartmoor Search & Rescue team to assist in such matters.

The team’s responsibility covers the highland areas of Dartmoor to the fringes of the Devon coast, where the coastguard takes over. Hence their search and rescue operations can cover both rural and urban areas.

One key element about the team is that they are a voluntary organisation that relies on the valued time and effort of its team members. They also rely on kind donations from industry and the public plus fundraising activities by its members.

The team members include a wide diversity of professionals, including A&E consultants, social care workers and electronics engineers and are on call 24x7x365.

You can donate to the team’s good work at


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