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Members who break down in the Highlands will now once again be met by the welcome sight of a ‘Highland Patrol’. The AA is bringing back the iconic name in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year at the request of local patrols, almost 60 years after it was first introduced.
The Highland Patrol name disappeared in 1992, when the AA universally adopted new vehicle livery and patrol uniforms as part of its renowned '4th emergency service' branding.
As well as bearing the Highland Patrol name on their vehicles, the team has been trained in 4x4 driving, and is equipped with a specially adapted Land Rover Defender to assist in extreme weather.
"It was the idea of the local patrols to bring back the Highland Patrol name and it seemed only fitting to do so in the Jubilee year," AA Highland Patrol Kenny Fraser commented. "Although times have moved on, we still like to uphold the values of wearing the uniform and giving the best possible service to our members."
The Highland Patrol force – described at the time as ‘the troopers of the north’ – was formed on 1 June 1953 to cope with increasing tourist traffic in the north of Scotland, operating mainly beyond the Caledonian Canal. The job was arduous in winter, as blizzards blocked roads and stranded vehicles, making the Land Rover the ideal vehicle for the AA.
The patrols’ abilities were tested, requiring them to be hardy and resourceful, as they worked in remote areas covering some of the highest classified roads in the UK. Attending isolated breakdowns often demanded imaginative, improvised repairs.
Braving the snow in 1958
AA members phoning for assistance from an AA telephone box would be put through to the Inverness ‘Road Service Centre’ (a control room in a large static caravan at Millburn, Inverness) who would relay instructions to a patrol.
The work of the early Highland Patrols was not confined to assisting motorists. The AA’s pioneering two-way short-wave radio system provided a vital communication link for remote Highland communities during the harsh winters, and many a crofter welcomed a patrol carrying food parcels as their first contact with the outside world after days of heavy snow.
(24 October 2013)