Key members of the Thai cave rescue team have been quite rightly recognised in the New Year Honours List, collecting a host of richly deserved medals for their part in the dramatic extraction of the Wild Boars football team and their coach from the Tham Luang cave system in July.
Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, the two divers who initially found the lost boys, receive the illustrious George Medal, while Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewell will be presented with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Josh Bratchley, Lance Corporal Connor Roe and Vernon Unsworth were made MBEs.
While many in the dive industry and elsewhere had argued that they all deserved to be given a knighthood, in actual fact, some of the medals that have been allocated are much rarer and prestigious. The George Medal is the second-highest gallantry award, sitting just below the Victoria Cross, and is the highest that can be awarded to civilians, while the Queen’s Gallantry Medal recognises ‘exemplary acts of bravery’.
However, as we’ve now come to expect, the cave divers were very humble in the face of the news. John Volanthen acknowledged that he appreciated his award, but that the most-important thing was that the boys were rescued, saying ‘I don’t think anyone could ask for any greater honour than being able to be a part of the team that returned the Wild Boars to their families’.
Chris Jewell – who will be on stage at the GO Diving show in February – said ‘behind every one of the cave divers being honoured is a supporting cast of family, friends, rescue volunteers and employers’.
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