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Blog | Life saving volunteer honoured for bravery
06/08/2021 By Aaron Wappler

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Back in November 2020, Keith Millar, Assistant Group Scout Leader at Methlick, Assistant Explorer Leader at Daviot Oldmeldrum, and the Deputy District Commissioner for Gordon District was hillwalking on Ben Nevis.  It was there that Keith had to put his “skills for life” into practice in difficult conditions near the summit of the UK’s highest mountain. Keith is a keen hillwalker and whilst on his solo backpacking trip, his 1st aid skills and all the other training that Scouts had taught him were put to use.  
 
Keith came across a small group of people near the summit of Ben Nevis, one of whom had been injured from a 2-metre fall. Keith calmly advised the group what to do, firstly by contacting emergency services and giving them their detailed location (grid reference and height). Keith next applied first aid by checking that there were no other injuries and assisted in gently moving the casualty to a slightly more sheltered location out of the elements. 
 
Hypothermia was a great concern at this height (circa 1100m) and being above the snowline with biting winds, he knew time was of the essence.  Keith forfeited his jacket to the casualty, as he knew it could be a long wait for the mountain rescue to get to their position.  He descended back down the mountain to his campsite for more equipment, and here he heard the helicopter arrive, which sped up the whole rescue mission.  The rescue team were delivered by the helicopter, and he took them to the casualty. Afterwards, Keith proceeded to help get the remaining members of the party off the mountain.  Whilst helping that group off the hill, he managed to prevent another group heading for the summit and running into difficulties.  
 
After the incident was over, Keith returned to his tent on the mountainside and got a well-earned and quiet nights’ rest, before continuing on with his own adventures the following day.
 
Keith received a message the following day from one people with the original party, reading: “Thank you for your invaluable help, knowledge and advice today (& your jacket!). Thank you so much for your calm demeanour, particularly while stating all the facts".
 
After hearing about Keith’s actions, a number of volunteers nominated Keith for an award and through a rigorous process, Keith was honoured recently with one of the highest awards for acts of Gallantry, the Silver Cross. 
 
One of the nominations reads:“In recognition of their calm demeanour, practical skills and decisive action to support a group of walkers trying to descend Ben Nevis when one of them was injured after a fall.  By providing initial first aid, invaluable advice, facilitating call-out of mountain rescue and ensuring equipment and people got to the right location, they saved multiple lives in difficult conditions.  A truly inspirational leader!”
 
It was recently presented to him by NEScouts Regional Commissioner Dougie Simmers, with the award being exclusively reserved for acts of bravery in the face of danger where life has been at considerable risk.
 
Keith said: “I’m really honoured and delighted to receive this special award, which was a huge surprise. The rescue was just another part of a really enjoyable and exciting solo three-day expedition, in challenging conditions, on “The Ben”. I certainly never expected an award for doing something that is natural - to help people in their time of need. 
 
Scouting has always been, and still is, a massive part of my life and the historical and ongoing training in emergency aid and navigation in particular helped throughout. I highly recommend Scouting for adults as you get the opportunity to learn and play at the same time, while helping the young people take part in a safe environment but pushing them to their limit. Mountaineering is fun and Scouting is fun so what a great combination.
 
I am also a member of the British Red Cross and a SAS Wildcat Cardiac Responder so concern and empathy for the victims of the accident make dealing with the stress easier as I’m used to it. I am just so pleased that everyone was safe in the end as it could have ended badly.”
 
As part of his award, Keith will join other award winners, and Queen Scouts at the annual ceremony at Windsor Castle when current COVID restrictions allow.
 
Dougie Simmers commented: “Keith’s training and experience as a leader made him stand out above the rest in this situation.  His calm demeanour, being prepared for all eventualities and practical skills enabled the rescue team to arrive via helicopter rather than walking in, saving at least 3 hours in the rescue time, time which in turn saved at least two lives that day. He is a truly inspirational leader and it shows his character in the face of adversity, Scouts prepares people with not only the skills for life to handle these situations but the values that stick with someone throughout their life."
 
All Scouting members, both young people and adult volunteers, learn skills for life. From first aid to navigation, it’s all part of our balanced programme, tailored to the age ranges across our sections that we offer members.  You never know when it will be put to use.  
 
Scouting currently is as relevant today as it’s ever been, and has helped so many through the current pandemic.  We are always on the lookout for the next truly inspirational leader – is this you?  If you are interested in signing up as a volunteer get in touch at www.scouts.org.uk/join