Obituary:Jack Baines

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The Independent Online
Many aircrew, and many more climbers and walkers, have reason to be grateful for that historical oddity, the RAF Mountain Rescue Service. From modest beginnings, it set the pattern for mountain rescue work generally, and now, 54 years later, is still the benchmark by which other rescue services are judged world-wide. Brave, sometimes anarchic, and often the despair of senior command, it has in its time produced - or attracted - many remarkable men. One such was Jack Baines, a prominent team leader in the service's middle years and one of the reasons for its excellence.

Joining the Royal Air Force in 1956, in the unexciting sounding trade of General Fitter, Ground Equipment, Baines soon gravitated, with his love of the hills, to a station housing one of the RAF's mountain rescue teams, and by 1963 had qualified as a team leader.

One of his earliest operations was in 1960 when the RAF Leuchars team searched near Ossian's Cave in Glen Coe for the fallen and terribly injured Michael Powell, who was recovered after 24 hours. Ten years later Baines lead RAF Valley's search in snow, hail and 90 mph winds, for Martin Britnell and Gordon Robinson, who had fallen 800 feet on Parsley-fern Gully in Cwm Glas Mawr on Snowdon. During this search the bodies of two climbers not reported missing were found under the snow. In the intervening years, between countless other searches and rescues, Baines had investigated, as a member of the RAF Kinloss team, a crashed Soviet Sputnik on the Ardgay moors; and when team leader at RAF Kai Tak, had been instrumental in ensuring a smooth takeover of the mountain rescue function in Hong Kong by the Civil Aid Services as the Air Force pulled out.

Baines's climbing started in his teens, exploring Langdale. Posted initially to Germany by the RAF, he practised with the German Alpine Club in a local quarry. As a sergeant he was sent to RAF Kai Tak, where he climbed the sea-cliffs and went to New Guinea to climb a new route on Carstenz Pyramid.

Retiring after 22 years as a flight sergeant in 1978, Baines opened a mountaineering bookshop, Anglesey Books. Later he became a dynamic partner in the mountaineering publisher The Ernest Press, which in two successive years won the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature.

Jack Baines had a good NCO's twin virtues of insistence on the highest standards and support for his team. In 1993, on the service's 50th anniversary, he helped form the RAF Mountain Rescue Association.

Frank Card

John (Jack) Baines, mountain rescuer and mountaineer: born Preston 1938; BEM 1979; married 1963 Patricia Macpherson (three daughters); died Bangor 13 May 1996.

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