Pauline Richards relaxes on a team training weekend socialising with her second family. Photo: Dartmoor SRT Ashburton

Pauline Richards relaxes on a team training weekend socialising with her second family. Photo: Dartmoor SRT Ashburton

A rescue team has paid tribute to a long-serving member who died while on duty.

Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton formed a guard of honour at the funeral of Pauline Richards.

The 67-year-old collapsed while providing safety cover for the young participants on the Ten Tors challenge. She died on 13 May after a sudden and unexpected illness, the team said. She had been a member for almost 30 years.

Her funeral took place in Torbay this week.

A team spokesperson said: “We are indebted to all those who assisted us in getting Pauline from our remote position on the high moor to hospital in Plymouth.

“We would like to thank the Army, Royal Navy, Devon 4X4 and Dartmoor national park rangers, all of whom made it possible for us to achieve this so swiftly.

“Pauline was one of our most sociable members who spoke to everyone from the newest trainee to the longest-serving member. She always had a kind word for those who needed one, and freely helped anyone who asked for her assistance. As a woman who had succeeded in gaining respect in a predominately male world, she made a point of supporting the many other women who have followed her since.”

Team members would remember her fondness for a cigarette, the spokesperson said.

“Pauline was a dedicated and enthusiastic smoker at a time before, and after, it was disapproved of.

“She smoked creatively in the foulest weather and in the most unlikely situations. For a period of time she had a small waterproof plastic container she could fit two cigarettes and a lighter into that she hung around her neck on a bit of string.

“The sight of her lighting up while standing in waist-deep water, waiting for something to happen, is an image of her that captures a bit of her character – resourceful, practical, bold, and just a little bit bloody-minded.

Team members form a guard of honour at the funeral. Photo: Dartmoor SRT Ashburton

Team members form a guard of honour at the funeral. Photo: Dartmoor SRT Ashburton

“She had a devilish sense of humour that could gently torment the unwary. Sometimes the only clue for an increasingly perplexed trainee that she was standing on the small navigation target was her quiet chuckling.

“This was only matched by an unerring talent for sniffing out fresh coffee. Her ability to appear at just the right time must have taken years to perfect.

“We take comfort in knowing that when she fell ill, she was with friends and on Dartmoor, a place she loved. Although we didn’t know it at the time, a few us were also lucky enough to have been with her the evening before doing what she liked most, sharing stories and having a laugh over a drink or two.

“None of us realise quite how much we’ll miss someone until they’re gone. Pauline was always there, an ever-present part of our team. We are going to miss her commitment, humour and friendship more than we can say.”

Pauline Richards is survived by her son James and daughter Liz, and by the members of her other family, Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Ashburton.

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