Full report on joint training exercise in Berkshire attended by team members Dave Marsh and David Cook, Friday 13th March to Saturday 15th March 2015

Further to our website ‘News’ report dated Saturday 14th March 2015, Bolton MRT team member and DVSD Handler Dave Marsh has now made the below detailed report:

Early Friday afternoon, 13th March 2015, Dave Marsh [Bolton MRT’s Drowned Victim Search Dog handler] met with the Team’s Equipment Officer – Water Dave Cook and also Mike Dermody [and his DVSD dog Quincy]. DSC_0063

The purpose of the meeting was to travel down to Slough, Berkshire, for an overnight stay in a local hotel, in order that they arrived at their final destination bright and early Saturday morning.

That destination was the National Rowing Centre at Dorney Lake, Berkshire.

Readers may well have watched the Olympic rowing events back in 2012 on their televisions, which took place at this venue.

DSC_0097It’s a man made lake some 2 kilometres long x 500 metres wide with an additional practice lake to the west and a central spine road/footpath dividing the two areas of water.

It’s fed naturally by an underground aquifer as opposed to what everybody else thinks i.e. topped up by the River Thames which runs alongside.

The purpose of the day was to meet up with trainee DVSD handler Philip Eichmann from the local ALSAR team of Berkshire [Association of Lowland Search and Rescue) who are our counterpart search organisation in the regions not covered by Mountain Rescue England and Wales. – Have a look at their site for further information – ALSAR.

DSC_0103Philip has been training his dog Skye to the same programme of water search as Dave and Sasha and Mike and Quincy undertook before they passed their assessments last Autumn.
Phillip asked for a pre-assessment exercise to establish if he was ready for a full blown assessment.

The morning’s activities commenced with Mike/Dave/Dave C and boat with a Surrey ALSAR coxswain on board placing a target within the rowing lake for Philip and Skye to search for an hour later.

Once his search strategy was explained to the assessors, Philip and Skye along with Dave/Dave C and coxswain commenced the pre-assessment search.

An hour later the target was duly found , followed by a de-brief.

The target source was later indicated on by Quincy and retrieved by Mike who re-located it in the River Thames for a bank side search exercise after lunch.

DSC_0113Before this however, a second target was placed in the main rowing lake, which was part of a full-blown exercise for all, the location being unknown to Dave and Sasha.

A briefing was given with the scenario of a person being lost, possibly drowned.

A practice life size mannequin had been placed in the water as well as a target for Sasha to find.


The exercise was carried out with Sasha indicating on the target source. The Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service Dive Team undertook a bottom of the lake search and found the target source directly below where Sasha had indicated. They then carried out an underwater search using a sweep strategy with them successfully locating and retrieving the aforementioned  mannequin.

Following a break for refreshments, Philip and Skye undertook the bank side search which ended with Skye actually diving a third of a metre underwater to retrieve the target canister. [We called that a successful find!]IMG_1296

Other handlers and dogs made use of the chance to have a run on both targets during the course of the day with various levels of success being achieved. All agreed it has been a very useful days exercise.

Following a de-brief with all concerned, the threesome travelled back to their homes arriving tired and exhausted after a very long day. Philip will now have the chance to have a further practice with Dave and Mike using their water venues prior to his assessments in June over in Northern Ireland.

Taking part in the days activities were:-

  • Bolton MRT members Dave Marsh/Sasha and Dave Cook – Dave Marsh is also a member of SARDA Ireland North.
  • Mike Dermody/Quincy who is also a SARDA Ireland North member.
  • Lorna Irish from Huddersfield University who is a PhD student studying which gasses a DVSD indicates on.
  • Philip Eichmann and Skye and other team members from ALSAR Berkshire.
  • ALSAR Surrey SART who supplied two of the boats used and their crews.
  • ALSAR Oxfordfordshire SAR members who assisted with the boats.
  • Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service who had two fire appliances/crew and other ancillary equipment and personnel on site.
  • Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service Underwater Search and Recovery Diving Unit, Dive Team and also their water search dog and handler.
  • Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue search dog and handler.
  • Representatives from the RNLI.
  • Ian Greatbach who is studying how effective air scenting and water scenting search dogs are.
  • A representative form Dorney Lake who assisted in the running of the days programme.
  • Members for NSARDA Anglia who travelled down to view the days activities.

Needless to say, thanks must be expressed for the use of all the facilities availed to us during the course of the day.