MBE for Services to Bolton MRT for our Team Leader Garry Rhodes

In the New Year’s Honours list, issued on the 29th December 2007, Vernon Garry Rhodes, our Team Leader, was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

This prestigious honour is rarely presented within the Mountain Rescue community which makes the award of it to Garry our Team Leader all that more special.

Garry as with all recipients, was made aware of his MBE in confidence by 10 Downing Street on the 16th November 2007 and had to maintain total secrecy up to the publication of the New Year’s Honours list.

Garry stated firstly his total surprise at being made a MBE, and his total pride and honour in receiving such a presentation.

At the time of the official New Year’s Honours listing, Garry along with his partner Ann were on holiday in the Eskdale area of the Lake District and to a degree were out of immediate communications with all the congratulations that were being sent to Garry.

Garry wishes it to be known that in return he extends his thanks to all those people throughout the United Kingdom Mountain Rescue community, others within the local community, family members, relatives, friends and work colleagues, who sent him personal congratulations via cards, phone calls, voicemail, pager messages, text messages and email – “your very kind comments and congratulations are truely appreciated”.

Garry also commented that although the award is made on a very personal basis against all the tremendous time he has devoted to the cause of Mountain Resuce, particularly within his home team, it is also true recognition for all the efforts made by all team members past and present with Bolton Mountain Rescue Team.

To quote one letter received, “the award of an MBE to Garry is another great day for him personally, the Bolton MRT and Mountain Rescue in general.”

Garry is now awaiting the notification of the date of the Investiture at which we will receive the MBE announced in the New Year’s Honours.

There follows a copy of the briefing information that was issued to the media to accompany the official announcement that Garry our Team Leader had been made an MBE.

Vernon Garry Rhodes, aged 50 years, born at (as was) Bolton General Hospital making him a native Boltonian.

He is currently employed by The Impact Partnership (Rochdale Council) as a Chartered Landscape Architect, and is a member of The Landscape Institute. Garry attended Manchester Polytechnic from 1976 to 1982, where he graduated with a Degree and then a Diploma in Landscape Architecture.

All his employers have always supported his involvement with Mountain Rescue, readily granting him Special Leave to attend all emergencies.

Both his parents Vernon and Frances Rhodes still live in Little Hulton, Worsley. Garry lives in Tyldesley with his partner of 15 years Ann, and her son Luke.

Throughout all his time in Mountain Rescue he has benefitted from the full support of his parents, family and partner Ann, alongside that of his work colleagues.

His first association with the Bolton MRT came in 1969, when as a young Scout, his Scout Leaders who were also in the Bolton MRT (in its very early years) would occassionally take out the Scouts with the MRT.

He first joined the MRT as a teenager in 1974, replying to an advert for members in a climbing magazine. Leaving in 1975, he rejoined again in 1980 for a year.

For the third time(!) he rejoined the Team in March 1983 and has remained a team member without break ever since.

Throughout his time to date in the team he has kept meticulous records of his involvement in team activities, and aside from holiday and illness he has attended every Wednesday night weekly training exercise and virtually every Call Out/Incident attended by the team without a break.

After rejoining the team in 1983 Vernon became the Team’s Equipment Officer. He was then elected to the role of Training Officer from 1984 to 1987, becoming Deputy Team Leader 1987 to 1989, and since March 1989 he has held the annual elected post of Team Leader.

He is now in his nineteenth year as Team Leader of the Bolton MRT, and as such is one of the longest serving current Mountain Rescue Team Leaders in English and Welsh Mountain Rescue.

By his own records he has attended in his time in Mountain Rescue:

  • Over 1500 seperate training exercises, from evening exercises to two day exercises,
  • Over 900 seperate call outs and incidents
  • 18 Mountain Rescue Annual Conferences (two day)
  • 2 Mountain Rescue Medical Conferences
  • Acted as an instructor on 20 weekend annual regional courses in Mountain Rescue for new members to MRTs
  • Acted as an instructor on 9 weekend annual regional and national courses in Party Leadership for MRT members
  • Flown numerous times on searches and rescues with Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Helicopters and also flown in the Police and air ambulance helicopters on operational incidents
  • Taken and passed nine times the rigourous Casualty Care in Mountain Rescue Certificate Course
  • Attended numerous rope rescue training courses, incident and search management training courses, MRT Controllers and aircraft crash rescue training courses
  • Considerable experience of multi team (MRT) and multi agency (other emergency services) joint working

Over his long service within Mountain Rescue, Vernon has attended search and rescue incidents mainly in the Bolton MRTs team area, and the Mid Pennine ’regional’ Mountain Rescue area.

However he has also taken part in Mountain rescues and searches in places as diverse as Glencoe, Coniston, Ogwen, Kinder, the Yorkshire Dales, Helvellyn and North East Wales, to name but a few UK mountain areas.

He is a proud receipient of the rarely presented Bolton Civic Medal (December 2002, for services to Bolton MRT), holds the Queen’s Golden Jubille Medal for Emergency Service workers (2002), and was nominated in December 2001 by the Bolton Evening News for a ’Bolton Special People Award’.

He is the proud holder of a Twenty Five Years Long Service Certificate issued by Mountain Rescue England and Wales, the national MR body (the award of this Certificate is very much a rarity in UK MR circles).

He still maintains an active interest in the outdoors and hillwalking, with a very varied and experienced backgound gained outside and inside MR of summer and winter hillwalking and mountaineering in the UK, encompassing rock climbing, scrambling, winter climbing, mountain biking, cross country and some ski mountaineering.

He has also taken part in two mountaineering trips to the high altitude glaciated mountains of Mexico and Ecuador, and enjoys annual downhill skiing holidays in the Alps.

Outside of Mountain Rescue he maintains an active interest in natural history, military aviation and local history. He is currently studying for his Private Pilots Licence, and flys as a Student Pilot from Barton Airport in an Ikarus C42 aircraft.

His interest in Mountain Rescue shows no signs of diminishing, and his personal involvement in the Bolton MRT is as strong as ever, and by his own admission he still gets “quite a buzz out of taking part in team acitivities”.

One facet of the team he enjoys is the wide variety of backgrounds and ages that make up the team membership, and over the years he has made a great many very close friendships through the Bolton MRT.

He has seen a great many changes throughout his time in the team, particularly the acceptance of the team by the other Emergency Services (from two call outs a year when he first joined, the team now gets over 180 calls a years for its unique services) and he has been largely instrumental in leading and guiding the team through his 25 years first as the Training Officer, then Deputy and now Team Leader.

Being in total overall charge of the team frequently brings him into direct contact with casualties, and sadly with the relatives and close family of persons found deceased by the team. This latter feature of his role as Team Leader can be very harrowing and personally upsetting, and he states that such meetings are often very humbling, with it never ceasing to amaze him how persons such as the close family of missing children or adults found dead during searches by the Bolton MRT always find the time very soon after their loss to always thank him and the team for all their efforts in the search.

Over his varied operational experiences within the team, he is often asked to recall what is the most memorable search or rescue you have been on. There have been so many that it’s very difficult to make mention of any one specific incident, but a helicopter crash on the local moors in February 2000 will always stay in his memory, having been in the first ground rescue party to reach the scene where the three persons on board had all perished in the crash. He is still in contact on a irregular basis with the son of one of the pilots on board who died.

Searches involving children also form many sad memories for Vernon, particularly as he is tasked within the team (and working alongside the Police) to act as a co ordinator and manager of such searches.

He is always keen to help and guide new team members, telling them that the rewards of team membership are many and varied, and that you will “always get more out of Bolton MRT than you could ever put in”.