MPSRO Long Service Award in recognition of 30 years Service to Mountain Rescue awarded to Bolton MRT Team Leader Vernon Garry Rhodes MBE

Tonight, during our Annual Team Dinner and Presentation Awards Evening our Team Life Vice President Tony McNally had the honour of presenting to our Team Leader, Vernon Garry Rhodes MBE (to use his full name, after all his partner Ann and his mum and dad were present to witness it all) a Long Service Award Certificate, issued by our regional mountain rescue organisation, the Mid Pennine Search and Rescue Organisation (MPSRO), recognising thirty years of service to Mountain Rescue.

Vernon Garry Rhodes, aged 53 years, was born in (as was) Bolton General Hospital making him a native and very proud Boltonian. (Somewhat at odds with his parents Salfordian roots)

He attended Eccles Sixth Form College 1973 to 1975, where an inspiring Geology Teacher first wakened his interests in the outdoors through college field trips. He then attended Manchester Polytechnic 1976 to 1982, where he graduated with a Degree and then a Diploma in Landscape Architecture.

Up to accepting voluntary redundancy in January 2010, he had a long career, mainly in Local Government as a Chartered Landscape Architect, and remains a member of The Landscape Institute.

Garry accepting his award from Tony McNally

He has been very lucky, as throughout his entire employment all his employers have always supported his involvement with Mountain Rescue, readily granting him Special Leave to attend all emergencies over the years.

Both his parents Vernon and Frances Rhodes still live in Little Hulton, Worsley, whilst he lives in Tyldesley with his partner of 18 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 former work colleagues and employers.

His first association with the Bolton MRT came in 1969, when as a young Scout in 6th Worsley Scout Group, his Scout Leaders who were also in the Bolton MRT at the time, (Namely Glen Atkinson, Howard Hill and John Entwistle) would occasionally take out the Scouts with the Bolton MRT.

He first joined the Bolton MRT as a teenager in 1974, replying to an advert for members in the climbing magazine, ’Climber and Rambler.’ He still recalls a team weekend in Snowdonia from this time, when on the Snowdon Horseshoe in summer, high on Crib Goch ridge, he witnessed his first total cloud inversion, with all the peaks of Snowdonia peeping up above a full cloud inversion into a perfect blue sky.

Leaving in 1975, he rejoined the team 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 Garry became the Teams Equipment Officer.
He was then elected to the role of Training Officer in 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 twenty third 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 1600 separate training exercises, from evening exercises to two day exercises,
  • Over 1000 separate call outs and incidents,
  • 19 Mountain Rescue Annual Two day Conferences,
  • 2 Mountain Rescue Medical Conferences,
  • Acted as an instructor on 23 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 during training and 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 ten times the rigorous Casualty Care in Mountain Rescue Certificate Course. (Ok one was a retake!)
  • 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 Garry 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 recipient of the rarely presented Bolton Civic Medal, (December 2002, for services to Bolton MRT) holds the Queens Golden Jubilee 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.

In the New Years Honours Listing for January 1st 2008, he was made a Member of the British Empire for services to Bolton Mountain Rescue Team, journeying to Buckingham Palace in May 2008, with his partner Ann, and his mum and dad, to proudly receive his MBE from Her Majesty the Queen. In his own words, “An absolutely memorable and very proud day in my life.”

He still maintains an active interest in the outdoors and hill walking, with a very varied and experienced background gained outside and inside MR of summer and winter hill walking 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, trekked in the Annapurna and Everest areas of Nepal and enjoys annual downhill skiing holidays in the Alps.

Outside of Mountain Rescue he maintains an active interest in natural history, military aviation, modern military history and local history. (He even tried studying for his Private Pilots Licence before his redundancy and flew as a Student Pilot from Barton Airport in an Ikarus C42 aircraft, before “the money ran out!”

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 activities.”

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 100 calls a year for its unique services) and he has been largely instrumental in leading and guiding the team through his 27 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 deceased 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 its 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 Garry, 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.”

On receiving his thirty years long service award, Garry thanked all present for their friendship and acknowledged all the past and current members who he has had the pleasure of working alongside throughout his time to date in the team.

He also specifically thanked long serving team members Alan James (Forty four years), Geoff Seddon (Forty two years) Bob Hutchinson (Thirty one years) Mike Marsh (Twenty five years) and Tony McNally (Twenty years) for their ’guiding hand, help, support and friendship over the last thirty years.’