Members of the CRO carry a casualty across moorland

Members of the CRO carry a casualty across moorland

A member of the royal family will visit the world’s oldest operational cave rescue team.

The Duke of Kent will tomorrow meet members of the Cave Rescue Organisation which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary.

The duke will join celebrations at the organisation’s base at Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales national park. The volunteer team carries out rescues both in the area’s limestone caves and potholes and above ground on the fells in the West of the national park.

There are only three such rescue teams in the UK, all of them in the Dales, which perform both cave and mountain rescue.

The CRO was formed as caving grew in popularity in the 1930s, having grown from early scientific ventures into the underground labyrinths in the Victorian age. In 1934, a protracted rescue of a Moor and Fell Club caver who had broken a leg in Gingling Hole on Fountains Fell sparked a meeting of local clubs at Settle. Members of the North Cavern and Fell Club were in the area and organised a rescue lasting 26 hours. It became evident a more structured approach to cave rescue was needed.

One of the team's rescue vehicles on the slopes of Pen-y-ghent

One of the team's rescue vehicles on the slopes of Pen-y-ghent

The Central Rescue Corps became operational in February 1935, using equipment that cost £12, and later changed its name to the Cave Rescue Organisation, establishing its base at Clapham, 9km (5½ miles) to the North-West.

The Clapham headquarters recently underwent a £130,000 extension and refurbishment and is the base for the CRO’s 80 volunteer rescuers, with an operational team of 52 with a further 36 in a support role.

Since its establishment in 1935, the organisation has attended more than 2,250 incidents involving 3,320 people – the youngest at five months and the oldest aged 87. Last year, they turned out a record 88 times, 59 of which were for fellwalkers; 15 cavers; five climbers; six animals, and three other incidents – the CRO also helps police in civil searches for, for instance missing vulnerable people.

Team members haul a casualty in a stretcher

Team members haul a casualty in a stretcher

All its volunteers are experienced cavers, climbers and walkers who are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many members have more than 25 years of service with some over 40 years and one member more than 50 years continuous service. The team includes the granddaughter of one of rescuers who was actually on the rescue in 1934, which was the catalyst for the CRO to be formed.

One of the largest jobs the organisation has undertaken was the two-week search on the Scottish borders following the Lockerbie plane bombing.

The CRO will also be opening its doors to the public at an open day, which will also feature a rescue race on the river, equipment demonstrations, a barbecue and media show. Dent Brewery has also produced a special Rescewe beer which will go on sale across the area and generate a donation for the rescuers with every pint sold.

The extension to the base will also be officially opened at 1pm on the open day, Saturday 5 June.

CRO chairman Jack Pickup said “The open day is intended as a thank you to all of the team, their families, the local community and all who support our work. Everyone is welcome to come along and join in the fun and become a Friend of CRO.

“It would be great to see previous CRO members and anyone who has been rescued by the team. Please come along with your rescue stories and any press cuttings and photographs.”

The organisation is also running a Three Peaks Walk fundraiser on 7 August. Details of the events are on the CRO website.

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