Penny Kirby has been appointed an MBE. Photo: Wasdale MRT

Penny Kirby has been appointed an MBE. Photo: Wasdale MRT

A leader of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team has been recognised in the New Year Honours.

Penny Kirby has been appointed an MBE in the 2024 awards.

As well as serving as one of four operational duty team leaders in the team, she is also an experienced handler with the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Association.

Her current dog Jess is the fifth Ms Kirby has trained and she and her animals have made many successful finds. She has more than 40 years’ service as a mountain rescue volunteer.

In December 1988 she and her search dog Ben were involved in the major search operation in the Scottish Borders following the Lockerbie air disaster in which 270 people died after a terrorist bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103. Ms Kirby spent almost a week in the area, searching for bodies of those who died in the attack.

Mountain rescue search dog handlers in the UK are all volunteer members of mountain rescue teams and Ms Kirby has participated in more than 1,200 of the Wasdale team’s callouts over the past 40 years. She and her dogs have also participated in numerous searches outside of her home area of Wasdale and Eskdale in the Lake District.

She also takes on a significant share of the leadership role in the Wasdale team. Her colleagues said she is a very committed, kind and empathic leader of the team and is truly humbled in receiving her MBE.

She said: “It is an immense honour to be receiving this award.

“I am very fortunate to be in a position to help people in an environment I love. It is a privilege to play a small part in my local mountain rescue team, Wasdale MRT, also the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Association, and the wider mountain rescue community.

“I value the fact that we are voluntary organisations and I am extremely proud of the service we provide. Mountain Rescue would not exist if it weren’t for the efforts of hundreds of colleagues and supporters across the country and I would like to thank them for their own time and commitment.”

Penny Kirby’s family, friends and colleagues in the Wasdale team, along with rescue colleagues across Cumbria and beyond said they wanted to pass on their congratulations and wish her
well in her continuing mountain rescue activities.

Also honoured was Rob Illman of the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team (Ashburton), who received the British Empire Medal for services to mountain rescue. Mr Illman has served with the team for 41 years.

He held the position of team leader for 17 years, planning numerous searches and also co-ordinating the rescuers’ response for major events such as the Ten Tors. He continues to be an active response member of the Dartmoor team.

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