Join Our Club!

PUBLISHED: 10:17 06 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:30 20 February 2013

WILSAR group photo

WILSAR group photo

Ali Hollingbery, Publicity Officer for WILSAR (Wiltshire Lowland Search & Rescue), talks to Dee La Vardera

Ali Hollingbery, Publicity Officer for WILSAR (Wiltshire Lowland Search & Rescue), talks to Dee La Vardera

Tell us about the organisation.

Lowland Search and Rescue teams exist to search for missing vulnerable people such as those suffering from dementia, who are despondent, lost children or people who have had accidents while out walking or biking. WILSAR was one of the first established teams in the UK and primarily covers Wiltshire, although we regularly assist neighbouring county teams. We are a registered charity and we celebrated our 10th anniversary last year.

Who can join and where do you meet?

Anyone who is over 18, reasonably fit and active and can commit to the necessary time for training and call-outs. We meet fortnightly on Wednesday evenings, and monthly for a Sunday training exercise. We also fundraise and hold social events throughout the year. We never know when we are going to meet as all operational members are on call 24/7. Live shouts (emergency call-outs) can happen any time day or night although we dont expect everyone to be able to attend every shout. For an evening meeting we meet in Devizes or environs, but we train and attend shouts throughout the county.

How many members do you have, and what training do they undergo?

There are around 60 from across the county. Our youngest is in their early twenties and we have operational members who are well into their sixties. All of our operational members undertake initial training and have to pass a weekend-long course to qualify as a Search Technician to ensure that standards are maintained. In addition, there are opportunities to train as a team leader, first aider, navigator, tracker or search controller. We are also interested in people who would like to contribute in a non-operational capacity, whether this is for fundraising, grant applications, PR or other administrative duties.

What is the best thing about being a member of the organisation?

Its very rewarding to be able to help support families and communities at a time when there is a lot of distress for them. Aside from actually finding missing people, its great meeting like-minded people and working outdoors. There are also lots of opportunities to train and develop as an individual.

Do you have links with other groups?

Yes, we are members of the national body, the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue, plus we are affiliated to Mountain Rescue. We are called out by the Police and have a strong working relationship with them. We are in the process of setting up our own Dog Search Unit at WILSAR. We currently work closely with our neighbouring dog units in Hampshire, Berkshire and Dorset.

Is it all serious and demanding work?

Although we sometimes have to deal with difficult situations missing children and people who take their lives it has its lighter moments. One training session on basic navigation was in West Woods, near Marlborough. The team leader had been borrowing compasses from members of the team when she realised that they were totally lost. One of the compasses had been used in a school project and had become demagnetised, so gave incredibly random directions.
Also, on a recent live shout when the team was having a break, one of the dogs wandered over to the police camp, raided someones bag and ate all the ham sandwiches inside. The bag belonged to the Police Search and Rescue Advisor (or POLSAR), the most senior policeman on site... Luckily he loved dogs!

What is your next event that is open for potential new members?

We are likely to be recruiting again around September time. Keep an eye on our website,

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