The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection
'Thomas' mountain rescue stretcher. Green canvas, tied round a metal frame with rope. The stretcher is bolted onto two wooden runners with metal struts at each corner and wooden struts at the sides. Canvas strap with metal buckles for tying round casualty
metal, canvas, wood
220(l) x 62(w) x 28(h) cms.
In 1933 the Rucksack Club and the Fell and Rock Club joined forces to form the 'Joint Stretcher Committee' to try to develop a stretcher suitable for use in the mountains. Casualties had been evacuated from battle fields for centuries with little more than a piece of canvas between two wooden poles (a litter), but with the popularity of climbing and mountaineering on the increase, the need for a more purposeful stretcher was felt. The Joint Committee got to work and adapted the following criteria in their quest for the ideal device.
b)quite exceptional strength and rigidity under varied strains;
c)provision for the loaded weight to be shared by more than the usual two bearers;
d)provision to allow the bearers to walk in file on the level and to advance on a steep slope;
e)portability (i.e. it should be possible to take the empty stretcher apart in case of need);
f)means to hold the patient in position with the least discomfort when being lowered down a vertical face;
g)means to keep his body from contact with the rock under such circumstances.
Quite remarkably, for a committee, the work was complete by the Easter of 1934 and 'A Stretcher' was born. At that point the name of Eustace Thomas was not mentioned except as a member of the committee, though subsequently 'A Stretcher' became known as the 'Thomas Stretcher' and we assume this was because he was the main designer. 'The Thomas' went on to an illustrious career being used by rescue teams throughout the UK for decades and at least one team in the Lake District still uses one in 2010.
The one we have came from Torridon Mountain Rescue Team.
Tantalisingly the Joint Stretcher Committee considered/incorporated several other stretchers in 1934 i.e.
Furley ordinary and telescopic pattern;
Dr and Mrs Wakefield's Stretcher;
Universal Stretcher Sheet;
Swiss Army Mountain Stretcher (as used and recommended by the Swiss Alpine Club Central Committee);
Fell and Rock design of 1931.
We wonder what happened to all of them!
Spectrum : UK Museum documentation standard, V.3.1 2007