THE UK’s first ever Community First Responder group has been honoured at a ceremony to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

A new defibrillator and plaque were unveiled outside the Thorncombe community shop on Saturday, and a wet weather forecast didn’t dampen the mood.

Thorncombe First Responders became the first rural Community First Responder (CFR) group in the UK when they launched in April 1998.

Anne Johnson-Rooks, chairman of the Thorncombe Community Shop Management Committee, said: “Despite the rain, representatives from the parish council, first responders, village shop committee and volunteers gathered outside on October 6.

“The parish council commissioned a plaque to honour the First Responders’ 20 years of continual 24-hour service since their inauguration as the first such group in the country.

“After being welcomed to the shop, Mr Dick Arnold, chairman of Thorncombe Parish Council, invited Mrs Rosemary Walley, the originator of the First Responders scheme, to unveil the plaque.”

CFRs are vital volunteers who are trained by SWASFT to attend certain types of emergency calls within the area they live 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.

The 20-year anniversary was also celebrated earlier in April and honoured by the donation of a static defibrillator by South West Ambulance Service.

Anne added: “This defibrillator and plaque are to be found at Thorncombe Community Shop, which is soon to celebrate its 10th year anniversary.

Dick Arnold said: “The council is pleased to provide a permanent recognition of the fact that this life-saving service had its origin in Thorncombe.”