Thai cave rescue: British divers receive gallantry awards

Vernon Unsworth, who mapped cave system and is suing Elon Musk, receives MBE

British divers who helped to rescue the members of a youth football team lost deep inside a cave complex in Thailand are among those recognised in gallantry awards released alongside the New Year honours list.

Richard Stanton, 56, a former firefighter, and John Volanthen, 47, an IT consultant, have been awarded the George medal, the second-highest civilian gallantry award.

They were the first divers to reach the 12 boys and their coach, who were trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex for 18 days.

As the rescue became a race against time ahead of impending monsoon rains, they conducted reconnaissance dives upstream through flooded passages against strong currents and in poor visibility to locate the team marooned on a ledge above the water about 2.5 miles (4km) inside the complex.

Over the following days, both men participated in a number of dives to take supplies to the boys. “Each trip was carried out in exceedingly difficult physical conditions, with a high degree of personal risk,” the citations read. One Thai navy seal died during the attempt.

Two other divers involved in the rescue, Chris Jewell, 36, and Jason Mallinson, 50, receive Queen’s gallantry medals. Jewell, of the British Cave Rescue Council, said: “Behind every one of the cave divers being honoured is a supporting cast of family, friends, rescue volunteers and employers.”

Three other British divers, Joshua Bratchley, 27, an RAF meteorologist, Connor Roe, 26, a British army officer, and Vernon Unsworth, 63, who mapped the cave system, each receive an MBE. Unsworth said that after saving the boys, the honour “is the icing on the cake”.

Unsworth is suing Elon Musk for defamation after the tech billionaire called him a “pedo guy” on Twitter. Musk apologised, deleted the tweet, but then made several accusations without evidence.

The schoolboy Joe Rowlands, 14, is awarded the Queen’s commendation for bravery after rescuing his father, Paul, from drowning when their kayak capsized off Anglesey. Joe managed to drag his unconscious father to rocks and performed resuscitation until help arrived.

The two were picked up by a lifeboat two and a half hours later, with the coastguard believing they would not have survived another half hour. Both had severe hypothermia.

Seven firefighters from Hertfordshire fire brigade who rescued 35 elderly residents from a fire at a care home in Cheshunt are awarded the Queen’s gallantry medal. Five of the residents were centenarians, one was blind and 29 were immobile. Evacuation was not an option because the fire tore through the roof void. The firefighters “had to use their own bodies as shields to protect casualties as the flaming debris fell. Every firefighter repeatedly re-entered the care home, with little regard for their own safety, knowing that had they not, the loss of life would have been catastrophic,” the citation reads.

Those recognised are the firefighters Wayne Ansell, Simon Best, Ricky Davis, Christopher Meadows, Radoslaw Przemyslaw Pejk and Simon Waddington, and the crew commander, Daniel Cooper.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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