New Year Honours 2019: Cave divers honoured for Thai rescue

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British cave divers John Volanthen (l) and Richard William Stanton (r)Image source, LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
Cave divers John Volanthen (left) and Richard Stanton (right) have been honoured

Divers who helped save 12 schoolboys and their football coach from a flooded cave in Thailand have been recognised in the New Year Honours.

John Volanthen, from Bristol, and Richard Stanton, from Coventry, were both awarded the George Medal.

Vern Unsworth, 63, has been appointed MBE, alongside Joshua Bratchley and L/Cpl Connor Roe, 26, from Scotland.

Christopher Jewell, from Cheddar, and Jason Mallinson, from Huddersfield, received the Queen's Gallantry Medal.

The British divers answered a call by Thai authorities to join a major search after the group disappeared in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, in Chiang Rai province, on 23 June.

Aged between 11 and 16, the boys entered the caves and became marooned in the dark until Mr Stanton, 56, and Mr Volanthen, 46, reached them on 3 July.

Mr Volanthen was the first voice the boys heard after nine days trapped in the underground network in Chiang Rai province.

Icing on the cake

He said: "Whilst this award is obviously much appreciated and well received, I don't think anyone could ask for any greater honour than being asked to be part of the team that returned the Wild Boars [football team] to their families."

Mr Unsworth said: "This was a team effort and I'm very honoured to have been recognised, particularly as you don't engage in a major rescue expecting this outcome.

"For me, after saving the boys, this is the icing on the cake."

Mr Jewell added: "I really appreciate the recognition our team is receiving with these honours and thanks to everyone that nominated us."

What is the George Medal?

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The award was created in September 1940 during the reign of King George VI, initially to reward acts of civilian courage and bravery during the Blitz.

Since then it has been awarded more than 2,000 times, and some military personnel have received it for "gallant conduct that is not in the face of the enemy".

Posthumous recipients of the medal include PC Keith Palmer, who was fatally stabbed outside the Houses of Parliament in March 2017 during the Westminster terror attack.