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Baby Max inside the Sea King
Looking after mum
The crew of HMS Gannet SAR
HMS Gannet SAR Sea King
HMS Gannet's SAR Sea King

Phot Ex turns into lifesaving mission for 16 week old

Published: 20 Jun 2013

What was supposed to be a routine photographic exercise turned into a real time rescue for HMS Gannet Search and Rescue crew and accompanying HM Naval Base Clyde Royal Navy photographers. The plan for the two day exercise period was to conduct routine winch exercises and mountain rescue training (MRT) scenarios with the Sea King crews and helicopter from Prestwick in Ayrshire. What then unfolded was the rescue of critically ill 16-week-old baby Max.

The helicopter and crew were called to assist in the rescue of young Max MacRaild, who had been reported displaying the symptoms of suspected meningitis. The call came in and the crew immediately sprang into action. Heading for Glasgow’s Yorkhill Children’s Hospital, they collected two on-call doctors, who would provide initial, professional medical support during the rescue. The helicopter then proceeded to Strachur on the Cowal Peninsula where young Max and his worried parents Rebecca and Neil anxiously awaited their arrival at the village’s shinty pitch.

On arrival the two doctors went straight to work, providing immediate medical treatment, before evacuating the young family to Yorkhill for further medical support. Max’s mother Rebecca said: “I was so relieved to see the Royal Navy helicopter arriving, as I was initially told that the air ambulance from Dunoon Hospital was in Aberdeen and would be unavailable for more than three hours. “At the time I was so worried about Max. I was also a bit surprised to see Royal Navy on the side of the helicopter, as I was unaware they provided such an invaluable service. “I can only say that without the professionalism and support provided by the very kind members of the Royal Navy search and rescue crew and accompanying doctors, things might have turned out very differently.” Thankfully young Max has made a full recovery and is now back at home with his mum and dad, blissfully unaware of his dramatic rescue.

The men and women of HMS Gannet serve on the frontline, albeit that it is one within the UK, covering an enormous area of the west of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland, which spans some 98,000 square miles – more than 12 times the size of Wales. They save countless lives every year, from the remote locations of Scotland’s mountains, costal reaches and highways, providing specialist medical evacuation capability from Scotland’s Hebridean islands. For some of the aircrew who have returned from serving in Afghanistan, whether with the Royal Navy, Royal Marines or on exchange with the other services, it is an ideal environment to maintain skills used in an operational theatre, while for others the terrain offers an excellent training ground in advance of deployment. The sometimes extreme weather, harsh mountainous terrain and skills involved in not only operating the aircraft and equipment, but also in conducting rescues and saving lives within a hostile environment, combines to make it an exceptional preparation ground for serving alongside their forces colleagues in the skies of Afghanistan.

Photographs by L(Phot) Will Haigh


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