Thai cave diver John Volanthen awarded George Medal by Queen

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John Volanthen and the QueenImage source, BCA
Image caption,
Mr Volanthen was honoured in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace

A cave diver who helped to rescue 12 Thai footballers and their coach has been awarded the George Medal by the Queen for showing "great courage".

Diver John Volanthen and his colleague Richard Stanton were the first to find the stranded team, which led to their eventual rescue last year.

Mr Volanthen, 47, said he was "highly honoured" to receive the award.

He said: "The biggest reward I could have was knowing all the children survived."

Mr Volanthen, from Long Ashton, near Bristol said: "We knew we'd find the children, but we didn't expect to find them alive. We saw the amount of rainfall and the type of flooding and it seemed unlikely anyone would survive."

As well as being the first to make contact with the stranded footballers, Mr Volanthen also rescued three of the boys himself.

He was part of a team of four divers who guided the sedated footballers through the cave system on their way out.

'Comedy version'

Since the football team was rescued, work has started on a number of films portraying the rescue.

"It's been suggested Rowan Atkinson could play me, and I quite like that idea," he said.

"There could be a comedy version somewhere along the line."

Who is John Volanthen?

The 47-year-old diver is no stranger to rescues as part of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team. In 2010 he was part of a team which attempted to rescue a trapped diver in France, who was later found dead.

For his work in that rescue, he received a Royal Humane Society medal at Buckingham Palace in 2012.

Mr Volanethen grew up in Brighton, and his love of caving began as a scout. He is a cub leader for the Long Ashton branch, near his current home of Bristol.

He was also recently awarded the Bronze Cross, the scouting organisation's highest honour, for his role in the Thai cave rescue.

Outside of his work he runs marathons and ultramarathons, once joking that he only does it "so he can eat more biscuits".

What is the George Medal?

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The George Medal was introduced by King George VI in 1940, as a way to recognise brave civilian acts that were carried out away from enemy forces, and has been awarded more than 2,000 times.

It is the second highest civilian honour after the George Cross.

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.