On a cold, wet and windy evening almost 40 volunteers attended one of the regular training evenings to practice keeping people safe on Dartmoor.

At a moment’s notice, the 60 volunteers of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Ashburton are available 24/7 to come to the aid of the lost injured or missing on Dartmoor and surrounding area.

On the evening I joined them we gathered at Challacombe Cross and were quickly briefed by Kate in the Control Vehicle, their mobile command centre.

This was a mobile office with a large computer screen keeping track of all the teams that were about to be sent out.

We were informed that on this drill an elderly couple – Steve and Sue – had been out walking. After Sue had gone to answer a ‘call of nature’, the pair had become separated and Steve had raised the alarm when she had not returned 45 minutes later.

I was in a team of four lead by Richard as we set off into the growing darkness as an advance party to King Tor, their last known location. In constant radio communication thanks to their high level of equipment we reached King Tor and quickly found Steve. He was assessed and cared for by two of the team as Richard and Dave scanned the immediate area for signs of Sue.

As darkness fell a faint torchlight was spotted nearby and as we approached we could hear feint cries of help. It was Sue and she was injured – with a suspected broken ankle.

Due to the high level of training the team was able to administer first aid and pain relief while help was called in. It was decided she would need to be stretchered off the moor. 

Shortly after the ‘cavalry arrived’ and Sue was treated by ‘Doctor Dave’, the stretcher put together and the team took it in turns to carry her to safety.