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Lt Cdr Rob Suckling, Gannet Flight
Lt Cdr Rob Suckling heading off towards the climbers
SAR Sea King at the base of the mountain


Published: 03 Mar 2015

A Search and Rescue (SAR) Observer from HMS Gannet in South West Scotland is to receive the Queens Commendation for Bravery (QCB), after playing a crucial role in a rescue near Glencoe in the West Highlands in March 2014.


Lieutenant Commander Robin Suckling was a member of the duty SAR crew, who were scrambled to search for two stranded climbers who had spent the night on Buachaille Etive Mor (BEM) after being caught out in icy 60 mph winds. The crew launched and routed in poor weather with low cloud, rain and strong winds to the scene. On arrival they conducted a short search, obtained an updated position from the Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) and quickly located them at 3,350ft on the summit of BEM. In storm force and unpredictable winds, the crew attempted a landing in the vicinity of the climbers but had to abandon the approach due to gusty winds.


Despite the severe turbulence and the precarious surface of the summit, a safe landing site was established about 100 metres from the climbers. The Sea King’s position meant that it could at any time be blown into the air or start slipping on the hard icy surface.


The climbers were not willing to walk to the aircraft so Lt Cdr Suckling volunteered to leave the relative safety of the aircraft and go to their assistance, despite the considerable risk of avalanche.  Getting close enough to shout to the climbers above the howling of the wind, he got them to don their own crampons and after several minutes of persuasion, they finally moved towards him. He then escorted them slowly and meticulously back to the aircraft, supporting the second man who had an injured leg.


“I battled my way across the icy summit to the casualties, at one point I had to sit down on the snow for fear of being blown over on the exposed ridge,” said Lt Cdr Rob Suckling. “Once I managed to check that they were OK, I then had to persuade them to come with me to the Sea King. I got them safely on board the aircraft and I’d say they were pretty relieved to see us”.  


The Sea King then transited carefully down the mountain to deliver them into the care and safe hands of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team at the bottom, before returning back to base atPrestwick.


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