PETER Hyde has lost count of the many missions he has been involved with since joining Oldham Mountain Rescue Team 54 years ago.
But there is one call for assistance Peter hopes the Greenfield-based team never get asked to repeat.
The 79-year-old former BT engineer has served as team leader, chairman, treasurer, secretary and currently President since signing up in 1964.
He was deputy team leader at Christmas 1989 when OMRT members travelled to Scotland to help emergency services in the aftermath of the Pan Am plane brought down by a terrorist bomb as it flew over Lockerbie.
“The moor fires of the past couple of years were pretty tough on the team in terms of duration,” said Peter. “And the bad winters of 2009 and 2010 were challenging for us too.
“But Lockerbie was something else. Jim Duffy was our team leader at the time and we were in and around Kielder Forest and our brief was to bring back anything that wasn’t natural to the area.
“If they were human remains we were told ‘don’t move them, mark them, note the grid reference and report back’.
“It was an incredible challenge picking up minutiae; blue bits of plastic from the plane, passengers’ credit cards.
“On one occasion we found some soggy papers and took them to the police station in Bellingham.
“Another wedge of papers were found by another team. They were all in German and turned out to be part of the same report being carried in the briefcase of one of the passengers.
“As a result, they were able to identify this guy who was on the flight and where he was sat.”
Another team member, Dr Andrew Taylor, was actually down to be a witness at the trial in the Hague having found a piece of shirt back that was traced to one of the alleged bombers.”
Peter’s unbroken service to OMRT was recognised recently with a Greater Manchester Police Territorial Commander’s Commendation from Chief Superintendent Neil Evans, GMPs Regional Commander for Oldham, Tameside and Rochdale districts in front of the team at their Boarshurst Business Park HQ.
Last month he joined members at Gorton Monastery to receive the Queens Award for Voluntary Service from Warren J Smith Esq JP, Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester.
And on Friday, September 27, he will take his seat at the Rescue Team’s 55th anniversary dinner at the White Hart, Lydgate. It is a far cry from the group’s beginnings.
“We started off at the Baden Powell Centre on Glodwick Road as we were originally a scouts organisation,” explained Peter. “There were about 15-20 volunteers in those days; now we have 50.
“But we left in order to raise money to buy kit. Our headquarters then became Barn Street police station in Oldham for quite some time.
“We also stored equipment in the cells at the old Uppermill police station for a time.
“We stored our first vehicle in a ramshackle building on George Dew’s estate in Greenfield and of course we had our base at the Cross Keys where sadly a fire destroyed a lot of our records.
“However, it was still a big move and difficult decision to move to Boarshurst and another difficult decision to move to the latest unit.
“We have to raise money to pay the rent but we could not afford to lose it now,” added Peter, the only original member still serving.
“I have said a few times I ought to be retiring,” laughed Peter. But they keep saying ‘you can’t. There is always something to do’!”