Cleveland RAYNET Group
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Exercise Moorland was a Cleveland Police event to test their Special Operations Squad (SOS). They were briefed at Cleveland Police HQ. They were given a situation and told to deal with it. The exercise directors would introduce many problems to prevent the smooth running of the event. It would start at noon and end at 20:00 hrs so that the event would take place in both daylight and darkness.
To save time under exercise conditions, the SOS didn't know that Cleveland RAYNET Group was sitting in their canteen. Most of the SOS had probably not heard of RAYNET and didn't suspect that they would become reliant on volunteers for the exercise.
Like most police departments, the Special Operations Squad were more used to working in towns and villages.
The scenario was that three children were missing from their homes in Guisborough. They had been missing for some time. Their parents said that their children often played in Guisborough Woods and it was common for them to walk in the Roseberry Topping area and for a few miles around. Photographs of the children were available and could be copied and issued to all searchers. It was guessed that the children would probably all be together as they had all been reported missing on the same day and as they often played together, but it wasn't certain.
In theory, normal police patrols would be looking for the children around Guisborough town. Unusually, the SOS had been given the job of looking for the missing children in the country area.
In an HQ office, the exercise directors discussed the problem with the officer in charge of the SOS. They agreed a search area. The obvious method was to call out Cleveland Search & Rescue Team as that would be standard procedure. They wouldn't be available. In fact every Search & Rescue Team in the entire country would be unavailable.
Manpower assistance would be needed from many other police departments to cover so many square miles. Very little was available. The SOS could have the help of a few dog handlers and the mounted section, but must remember that although horses can cover a lot of ground quite quickly, they can't be used in the country in darkness as it is too dangerous. By sheer luck, a few dog handlers with nothing to do were waiting in the car park outside. By even more luck, the mounted section were also in the car park with their horses waiting in their mobile horse boxes.
The SOS decided to establish a Forward Control point at the car park in Newton-Under-Roseberry. Instructions were issued for maps of the area to be copied for issue to all personnel involved in the search before they left Police HQ. Vehicles, food, drink, rucksacks, torches and compasses were also ordered to be made available.
The area to be covered was divided into sections. The horses would be allocated to the open flat areas. Other personnel would cover all remaining sections on foot: hills and forests. Each search team would have an SOS sergeant in charge.
At this point, the exercise directors pulled the rug from beneath the feet of the officer in charge of the SOS. If you are going to organise this search from your Forward Control, how are you going to co-ordinate it? What if more information appears? What if conditions change? The reply was obvious. We'll use our radios. But they have gone faulty. It was working when I came into this office! Well it isn't now. We'll borrow some from CID or Traffic. Theirs have gone faulty. In fact every police radio within 100 miles has gone faulty. What are you going to do?
The SOS decided to telephone the Control Room and ask what facilities were available for distant communications if all police radios died. After checking the communications plans, the reply wasn't very heartening. There is a voluntary group of Radio Amateurs called RAYNET. They have radios which can cover reasonable distances. You can't use the radios yourselves. You tell the RAYNET operator your message and he transmits it.
The SOS asked the exercise directors if he was expected to ask RAYNET to provide communications for this exercise. If so, he would get the Control Room to call them out. He was told that by magic, they had just been called out and were waiting in the canteen.
The SOS officer went to the canteen. He told the RAYNET Controller the task and asked what RAYNET facilities and personnel were available. A plan was developed to have a RAYNET station at the Forward Control, plus one or two RAYNET people on foot with each search team and a couple of RAYNET cars spare for other duties if needed.
Photographs of the missing "children" were issued, complete with details of names, ages and possible clothing. These kids were REALLY ugly and looked very mature for their ages of 11 or 13 years. All three were policemen. We then assumed that the search wasn't just theoretical. There really would be three people out on the moors to be found.
All police officers would carry their own radios but were not allowed to turn them on during the exercise unless there was an urgent situation. They had to use RAYNET for all comms. on the event.
With nothing else to organise at Police HQ, we all went to establish the Forward Control beneath the 1,000 ft hill called Roseberry Topping.
At the car park, it soon filled up with many police vehicles. Drinks and self-heating meals were issued. The latter can be lethal if you start them working while they are in your pocket as they get extremely hot in seconds. They are typically tinned soup or stew. You pull a tab to start the exothermic chemical reaction. The base of the tin gets very hot and heats the edible contents of the tin, so it's best put it down on a rock until the heat dissipates, to prevent burned fingers.
RAYNET Control was established in a car and assistance obtained to erect a mast and aerial. RAYNET walkers met up with their SOS or Mounted Police search teams. Some were transported to be inserted into the search area at other locations.
It became obvious that to save time, teams were being directed to relevant areas. With the limited manpower available, it would otherwise have taken a few days for a complete search.
As darkness approached, the mounted section were allowed to use police radios for safety, as horses had fallen in the rough terrain, even though it was generally flat.
One male "child" was found sitting on a rock, eating police stew. Another male "child" was found in the forest, alive and well. The female "child" was found murdered in the woods.
The police people were a lot fitter than the RAYNET people. After hearing a cry for help, an SOS sergeant decided that the main search team would jog up the moorland track on the outskirts of the forest while the dog handler and Alsation would go on a straight line through the forest with non-existent paths and on an incline of 45 degrees.
One RAYNET operator went with the dog handler. The other went with the main team. The dog reached the "child" first with little bother. The dog handler was second and severely out of breath. The RAYNET operator was third and collapsed in a heap, believing that he would never be able to breathe again. The main team arrived a long time afterwards.
As darkness descended, one team was walking from Hanging Stone Wood towards Guisborough Woods. Some used headlamps and some had hand torches. Near Highcliffe Farm, the RAYNET Group Controller felt a cold wet nose on his leg. Looking down, he saw that Donna had found him. She belonged to a RAYNET operator who was somewhere on the exercise. Donna wasn't on duty officially. She was a SARDA (Search & Rescue Dog Association) trained dog. When working, her job was to find people. She had become bored with not being allowed to work, so had gone for a walk by herself to find people.
A call on the radio confirmed that Donna's owner was half a mile away in the forest. Donna was told that she was very clever for finding somebody, but that she had to go back where she came from. Donna gave a grumpy look and went away into the darkness.
An edited radio traffic log of the exercise can be seen here.
"When we were sitting at the table in the police HQ and that policeman came towards us, I was sure he'd found out about those apples I pinched when I was a kid."
"One of the police officers kindly assisted us getting the mast and aerial up at the Forward Control. Unfortunately, he walked away thinking it was up when it wasn't. It fell over very quickly and the straight mast formed itself into a right-angled bend while the right-angled bits on the actual aerial formed themselves into straight bits. I bodged it and the aerial seemed to work reasonably well."
"After setting off towards Roseberry Topping, a plaintive cry for help was heard from the control-station-to-be who had discovered the folly of erecting large VHF aerials without the benefit of co-ax cable. I fearlessly rushed back to retrieve the cable from my car boot."
"That SOS section were quite fit. They ran up one particular hill while I sat on a rock for a rest half way up thinking that I would soon be dead. I sat on another rock at the top wishing that I was dead."
"... By this time, the rest of the section were some miles away from us and must have been using some advanced method of searching involving Turbos..."
"A lot of time was spent on all-stations messages that were not relevant to all stations. All spelling mistakes in this report are the fault of Vaux Beers Ltd."
"The dog searched quite a large area and found some poachers who soon decided to be on their way."
"I was impressed with the self-heating "Hot-Packs" we were given as provisions. Some of my section eventually found out how to make them work."
"It seemed that an instruction came through that mounted officers could use their radios on channel 7. This was difficult as they were nowhere in sight and all tuned to channel 40."
"As I reached the section, one of the horses slipped and slithered quite badly on a steep muddy slope. The horse went over completely, jettisoning its rider. After a few tense moments it was ascertained that both were in satisfactory condition with only bruised egos. The horse looked sheepish. After many amusing comments, we continued...."
"A short time after the rain started, the police's paper maps were only suitable for making papier mache models. After having walked a mile or two in the wrong direction, we established where we were and where we should have been going. We agreed that this was an improvement."
"We then were called by our esteemed section leader and requested to follow them as they would need the dog (for food?)"
"When we found the body (tailor's dummy), the dogs thought it would be a good game to dismember it and hide all the bits. I don't think that they had read the script."
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Page updated on 09 January 2017