Thomas Stretcher

Last updated

The Thomas Stretcher is a British mountain rescue stretcher designed by in the 1930s by a climbing club committee formed to investigate the construction of a stretcher specifically for carrying injured climbers over rough ground.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Mountain rescue search and rescue activities that occur in a mountainous environment

Mountain rescue refers to search and rescue activities that occur in a mountainous environment, although the term is sometimes also used to apply to search and rescue in other wilderness environments. This tends to include mountains with technical rope access issues, snow, avalanches, ice, crevasses, glaciers, alpine environments and high altitudes. The difficult and remote nature of the terrain in which mountain rescue often occurs has resulted in the development of a number of specific pieces of equipment and techniques. Helicopters are often used to quickly extract casualties, and search dogs may be deployed to find a casualty.

Climbing club

Climbing, or alpine, clubs form to promote and preserve the climbing way of life, including rock climbing, ice climbing, alpinism & ski mountaineering.



A Stretcher Committee was formed by the Rucksack Club after a prominent member had severe fall whilst rock climbing. The member was badly injured and had to be transported from the climb on a makeshift stretcher formed from a farm gate in much discomfort, [1] with his leg being later amputated in hospital.

The Rucksack Club was founded in Manchester in 1902 and has a current membership of well over 400 men and women. According to the Rules, "The purpose of the Club is to encourage mountaineering, climbing and hill walking and bring together all those who are interested in these pursuits."

Rock climbing sport in which participants climb up, down or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, down or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Professional rock climbing competitions have the objectives of either completing the route in the quickest possible time or attaining the farthest point on an increasingly difficult route.

The Joint Stretcher Committee was formed in 1933 [1] when the Rucksack Club Stretcher Committee merged with the similar venture of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. Their requirements [2] were:

Fell & Rock Climbing Club

The Fell & Rock Climbing Club of the English Lake District is the senior climbing club covering the English Lake District. It was founded in 1906–1907 and, amongst its other activities, publishes the rock climbing guides to the area. It owns many of the early climbing photographs taken by George & Ashley Abraham, who were founding members.

  1. minimum weight.
  2. quite exceptional strength and rigidity under varied strains.
  3. provision for the loaded weight to be shared by more than the usual two bearers.
  4. provision to allow the bearers to walk in file on the level and to advance in line on a steep slope.
  5. portability (i.e. it should be possible to take the empty stretcher apart in case of need).
  6. means to hold the patient in position with the least discomfort even when being lowered down a vertical face.
  7. means to keep his body from contact with the rock under such circumstances.


By Easter 1934 [1] the Committee had the preliminary design of 'A Stretcher', later to become known as the Thomas Stretcher after one of the committee members Eustace Thomas, as well as recommendations of first aid and survival equipment to accompany it. The equipment could be packed into two rucksacks.

Easter Major Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus

Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

First aid Emergency first response medical treatment

First aid is the first and immediate assistance given to any person suffering from either a minor or serious illness or injury, with care provided to preserve life, prevent the condition from worsening, or to promote recovery. It includes initial intervention in a serious condition prior to professional medical help being available, such as performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while waiting for an ambulance, as well as the complete treatment of minor conditions, such as applying a plaster to a cut. First aid is generally performed by someone with basic medical training. Mental health first aid is an extension of the concept of first aid to cover mental health, while psychological first aid is used as early treatment of people at risk for developing PTSD.

The basic design of the stretcher was a lightweight aluminium frame supporting a canvas bed. Extendible handles at each corner folded so that the stretcher to be used on narrow paths, and wooden skis kept the casualty clear of the ground and allowed sledging on mud or snow.

Aluminium Chemical element with atomic number 13

Aluminium is a chemical element with the symbol Al and atomic number 13. It is a silvery-white, soft, non-magnetic and ductile metal in the boron group. By mass, aluminium makes up about 8% of the Earth's crust; it is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon and the most abundant metal in the crust, though it is less common in the mantle below. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite. Aluminium metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals.

Canvas Extremely heavy-duty plain-woven fabric

Canvas is an extremely durable plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required, as well as in such fashion objects as handbags, electronic device cases, and shoes. It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface, typically stretched across a wooden frame.


Sledding, sledging or sleighing is a winter sport typically carried out in a prone or seated position on a vehicle generically known as a sled, a sledge (British), or a sleigh. It is the basis of three Olympic sports: luge, skeleton and bobsledding. When practised on sand, it is known as a form of sandboarding.


The Thomas Stretcher was one of the most widely used [3] Mountain Rescue stretcher in the UK until the early 1970s, when it was superseded by the Bell Stretcher.

Modified Thomas Stretchers are still in regular use by at least one English Mountain Rescue Team. [4]

Related Research Articles

Carabiner shackle with a spring-loaded gate

A carabiner or karabiner is a specialized type of shackle, a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate used to quickly and reversibly connect components, most notably in safety-critical systems. The word is a shortened form of Karabinerhaken, a German phrase for a "spring hook" used by a carbine rifleman, or carabinier, to attach items to a belt or bandolier.

Mountaineering Sport of mountain climbing

Mountaineering is the set of activities that involves ascending mountains. Mountaineering-related activities include traditional outdoor climbing, hiking, skiing, and traversing via ferratas. Indoor climbing, sport climbing and bouldering are also considered mountaineering by some.

Backpack bag carried on ones back

A backpack—also called knapsack, rucksack, rucksac, pack, sackpack, or backsack—is, in its simplest frameless form, a cloth sack carried on one's back and secured with two straps that go over the shoulders, but it can have an external frame, internal frame, and there are bodypacks.

Climbing harness item of climbing equipment that secures a person to a rope or an anchor point

A climbing harness is an item of climbing equipment for rock-climbing, abseiling, or other activities requiring the use of ropes to provide access or safety such as industrial rope access, working at heights, etc. A harness secures a person to a rope or an anchor point.

Ice axe

An ice axe is a multi-purpose hiking and climbing tool used by mountaineers both in the ascent and descent of routes that involve frozen conditions with snow and/or ice. An ice axe can be held and employed in a number of different ways, depending on the terrain encountered. In its simplest role, the ice axe is used like a walking stick in the uphill hand, the mountaineer holding the head in the center. It can also be buried pick down, the rope tied around the shaft to form a secure anchor on which to bring up a second climber, or buried vertically to form a stomp belay. The adze is used to cut footsteps, as well as scoop/bucket seats in the hillside and trenches to bury an ice axe belay. The long-handled alpenstock was a predecessor to the modern ice axe.

Glossary of climbing terms Wikimedia list article

This page describes terms and jargon related to climbing and mountaineering.

Abseiling Rope-controlled descent of a vertical surface

Abseiling, also known as rappelling from French rappeler, 'to recall' or 'to pull through'), is a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope.

Stretcher equipment for moving patients in need of medical care

A stretcher, litter, or pram is an apparatus used for moving patients who require medical care. A basic type must be carried by two or more people. A wheeled stretcher is often equipped with variable height frames, wheels, tracks, or skids. In American English, a wheeled stretcher is referred to as a gurney.

British Mountaineering Council

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) is the national representative body for England and Wales that exists to protect the freedoms and promote the interests of climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, including ski-mountaineers. The BMC are also recognised by government as the national governing body for competition climbing.

Piton metal tool used in rock climbing

In climbing, a piton is a metal spike that is driven into a crack or seam in the climbing surface with a climbing hammer, and which acts as an anchor to either protect the climber against the consequences of a fall or to assist progress in aid climbing. Pitons are equipped with an eye hole or a ring to which a carabiner is attached; the carabiner can then be directly or indirectly attached to a climbing rope.

The Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) is Scotland's second oldest mountaineering club. Founded in 1889, in Glasgow, the private club, with about 400 members, publishes guidebooks and runs a list of Munroists.

Ascender (climbing) jumar

An ascender is a device used for directly ascending a rope, or for facilitating protection with a fixed rope when climbing on very steep mountain terrain.

Christopher John Laycock was a British lawyer, the founder of one of Singapore's earliest law firms, Laycock and Ong.

Cornwall Search and Rescue Team was set up in 2003 to provide inland search and rescue cover for the county of Cornwall, United Kingdom. As Cornwall has large areas of moorland this is an important part of the work.

The Mount Everest Committee was a body formed by the Alpine Club and the Royal Geographical Society to co-ordinate and finance the 1921 British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition to Mount Everest and all subsequent British expeditions to climb the mountain until 1947. It was then renamed the Joint Himalayan Committee; this latter committee organised and financed the successful first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953.

Alfred Sefton Pigott was a leading British rock climber of the 1920s and 1930s.

Rescue toboggan rescue sled

A rescue toboggan, also known as a rescue sled, akia, or emergency rescue sledge, is a carrier for transporting a person or goods on snowy or icy surfaces. It is commonly used by mountain rescue teams in winter, to evacuate an injured skier or snowboarder. There are related designs for use on water to carry accident victims or emergency equipment.

Herbert Hartley

Herbert Kent Hartley (1908–1986) was an industrial chemist who pioneered the use of polyurethane in the UK, for which he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Plastics and Rubber Institute. He also devised an adhesive for the sticky bomb in World War 2. He was a keen climber and helped to organise the sport in the UK, founding the Manchester University Mountaineering Club, serving as the secretary of the Mountain Rescue Committee and president of the Rucksack Club.


  1. 1 2 3 Peter Bell. "A short history of stretchers" (PDF) (PDF). Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  2. "The Scottish Mountain Heritage Object Collection" . Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  3. N.F. Kirkman (15 January 1966). "Mountain Accidents and Mountain Rescue in Great Britain". British Medical Journal. 1 (5480): 162–4. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.5480.162. PMC   1843344 . PMID   5901577.
  4. "Keswick Mountain Rescue Team Equipment" . Retrieved 8 March 2012.