“THE key thing for us to remember,” said Adrian Sawyer, “is that finding a missing person isn’t going to change the world - but it will change someone’s world.

“I think that’s probably my biggest motivation to be missing family parties or not having much of a social life outside of search and rescue!”

Some of those who heard that Wiltshire Search and Rescue was to be the Old Town Festival’s official charity partner may have been unsure of its role.

The organisation was founded in 2000, one of many across the country established during the period.

Adrian said: “Everyone’s heard of Mountain Rescue or the RNLI or – potentially – Cave Rescue. Everyone’s got a pretty good idea of what they do.

“Quite often we’ll get people coming up to us and saying, ‘There are no mountains in Wiltshire – why do you exist?’

“We’ve got exactly the same aims and objectives as those similar organisations. We’re there to find vulnerable missing people and remove them to a place of safety.

“We can only be called out by one of the statutory emergency services – fire, police, ambulance, Coastguard – or potentially one or another of what we call Category One Responders. Maybe Wiltshire Council or Great Western Hospital.

“We’re 100 percent voluntary but that doesn’t stop us from being 100 per cent professional as well.

“In the same way that you ring 999 and speak to the Coastguard but they send out an RNLI lifeboat, we have the ability to put a lot of trained boots on the ground very rapidly indeed.

“I don’t think anyone is unaware of the pressure that the police are under. They don’t have the ability to conjure 25 spare officers out of thin air on an hour’s notice, but that’s something we can do if there’s a high-risk missing person.

“The more rapidly we can find them the more likely it’s going to be a successful outcome.

“We’ve got statistics for missing persons to give us the best idea of where to concentrate our resources, and they very clearly show the longer we take to find someone who’s missing, the more likely they’ll turn up deceased.

“So what we try and do is hit the ground hard and early to try and get a successful outcome in the first few hours if we can.”

The charity, which is called out about once a week, relies entirely on donations. The funds raised cover everything from basic supplies such as fuel for vehicles to stretchers and radios - the latter are encrypted to prevent sensitive information from making its way to public airwaves.

Inquiries from potential volunteers are welcome.

“It takes six months to qualify as a search technician. We have to meet national standards that are recognised by the National Police Search Centre.

“Over 15 days we cover topics like basic medical skills, navigation, communications, scene preservation - a reasonable number of homicides start out as a missing persons case.

“We’re trained, if we’re the first people to come across a scene, to preserve it as best we can; to set up cordons until the first police officer arrives and can take over.”

Cases range from lost children to people suffering mental anguish who vanish in circumstances which prompt fear for their lives.

Earlier this year, with much of the county blanketed in snow and the Marlborough area especially badly affected, Wiltshire Search and Rescue arranged with other search and rescue organisations for a fleet of four-wheel drive vehicles to ferry medical staff who would otherwise have been unable to reach patients.

Adrian joined in 2011, aged 19, and was elected to the chair in 2016. An outdoor enthusiast since childhood, he saw a poster in the changing room of a supply shop.

“When I first started, I wanted to work with a group of highly motivated, professional individuals.

“I guess I’ve got a bit of an advantage – my degree is in Rescue and Emergency Management, from the University of Plymouth, so I’ve spent a few years studying how to do this properly.”

Any person or organisation wishing to help Wiltshire Search and Rescue can find out more by visiting www.wilsar.org.uk or the organisation’s Facebook presence.