Team Members Surprise Former RAFMRS member Al Sylvester MBE on his Lands End to John O’Groats Charity Walk

This afternoon four long serving operational team members, Team President Bob Hutchinson, Vice-President Alan James, Mike Marsh and Diane Blakeley travelled to the far side of the teams operational area to meet up with ex-RAF Mountain Rescue Service member Al Sylvester MBE.

Al has been a valued friend of Bolton MRT since he was first stationed at RAF Stafford (now long disbanded) where he Started his long career in the RAFMRS commencing as a WOP (Wireless Operator) with the RAF Stafford Mountain Rescue Team.

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As Al moved from RAF Stafford to RAF Kinloss MRT and back again to RAF Stafford MRT, he became a Deputy Team Leader and then a Team Leader, both full time roles within the RAF Mountain Rescue Service, being made a MBE for his services within the RAFMRS. Upon leaving the RAFMRS Al stayed in the RAF within other branches.

Throughout this time and since he left the RAF Mountain Rescue Service, he has continued to maintain friendships with many of our older, long serving team members who remember him with great fondness and firm friendships forged in the past.

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Al is retiring from the RAF this year after 31 years in the service and decided that he would walk from Lands End to John O’Groats. Below is the reason why from Al himself.

As I approach the conclusion of my 31 years in the RAF, on 16th August 2014 I will embark on a 900 mile unsupported “Walk to Freedom” between Lands End to John O’Groats carrying around 40 lbs including my food, tent and spare equipment.

I’m planning to walk the route in less than 5 weeks and cover an average of 30 miles a day. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I’m walking the route in aid of the Prospect Hospice in Swindon, which is where Dean Singleton ex RAF Mountain Rescue Service and Wiltshire Constabulary was looked after in his final few weeks before losing his battle with Cancer.

Having recognised the first class care that the wonderful staff in the Prospect Hospice provided Dean and his family, I felt that this walk could raise much needed funds to help future patients receive such outstanding personal care.

Our four team members who have all known Al since the mid 80’s, decided that as he entered Bolton MRT’s area they would surprise him and escort him to the end of his walk for Day 16. Diane had made contact with Linzi Singleton-Myall who has been keeping people updated with Al’s progress and where he will be walking each day. So it seemed an easy task when Linzi advised Diane that Al had passed Junction 9 of the M62 and was heading on the A49 towards Ashton in Makerfield – this was not the case and after three journeys up and down the A49 Linzi was contacted again to see if she could again check where Al was. She came back to advise us he had changed his route and was heading on the A573 to Abram instead.

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Once we changed our route to the A573 we quickly found Al. As we approached from behind we jumped out of Bolton Mobile 3 (one of our Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulance vehicles) and walked behind Al for a little while listening to him singing away to his IPod, before he twigged and with great shock he turned round to find us stood there. Following lots of hugs and “I don’t believe it” from Al we made a plan of where he would camp for the evening which was approximately 3 kilometres away.

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Diane, Bob and Alan walked and chatted with Al, whilst Mike escorted us in Bolton Mobile 3. Before too long we all arrived at the The Dover Lock Inn alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal, where food was ordered and conversations continued. Before long Michael Traynor who worked with Al in the RAF joined us, (Diane had been liaising with him to keep him informed of our location) so another big surprise for Al. A little later another of Al’s friends Malcolm Wilson and his three boys Ewan, Callum and Alexander arrived. They had picked up Al’s location from Diane’s Facebook updates.

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By this stage Al was completely overwhelmed with the support he had received. Al then had a live radio interview with another ex-RAF MRT member Dave Charles (who again Diane had been liaising with) before final group photographs and good byes.

Good luck to Al, currently he has raised an amazing £18,795.32 including gift aid. For more details of Al and to donate go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AlSylvester