A TEAM of British divers - including several from Somerset - have been decorated for their part in the dramatic rescue of a boys' football team stranded in a cave in Thailand.

The divers were among those named in the New Year Honours List, alongside a host of worthy Somerset names.

Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, who were the first divers to reach the children, have been awarded the George Medal, the second highest civilian gallantry award, announced alongside the New Year Honours list.

Expat Vern Unsworth has been made an MBE.

Joshua Bratchley was made an MBE, as was Lance Corporal Connor Roe, who hails from Axbridge, while Christopher Jewell, from Cheddar, and Jason Mallinson have been given the Queen's Gallantry Medal for exemplary acts of bravery.

Reacting to the announcement, 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 from Cheddar, who is the diving officer of the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC), praised the "amazing support" they received during and after the rescue.

"People from all over the country and the world have reached out to us to offer congratulations and express their gratitude," the 36-year-old said.

"Behind every one of the cave divers being honoured is a supporting cast of family, friends, rescue volunteers and employers.

"The support and help from all these people made it possible for us to complete a successful rescue.

"I've been really touched by the way everyone has responded. Not only the caving and diving communities, which have rallied around us, but also the support and assistance we've had from our employers and work colleagues.

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

Elite divers Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen both had experience of previous cave rescues, with Mr Stanton involved in the rescue of trapped British soldiers from a cave in Mexico in 2004.

The pair are members of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue team.

L/Cpl Roe, who is in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers, attached to 21 Signal Regiment, has been caving for more than eight years and cave diving since 2012.

Mr Mallinson, 50, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, dived with Mr Jewell in 2013 to explore the Sistema Huautla in Mexico - known as the deepest cave in the western hemisphere.

Mr Bratchley, 27, who is a Met Office meteorologist based at RAF Valley in Anglesey, Wales, used to work for Devon Cave Rescue Organisation.

He said: "It is incredible to be recognised in such a way and all of us on the team are extremely appreciative of all the support that we have received from family, friends, cavers, divers, colleagues and strangers alike.

"We'd like to sincerely thank everyone who helped us in any capacity and make it clear that such a rescue could never work otherwise - the diving was just the tip of a very large iceberg."

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

The 12 boys, aged 11 to 16 and members of the local Wild Boars youth football team, had cycled with their coach to the cave to explore when monsoon rains began.

Their parents reported them missing and a major search ensued until Mr Stanton, a firefighter in his 50s from Coventry, and Mr Volanthen, an IT consultant in his 40s and based in Bristol, became the first rescuers to reach the boys and their football coach on July 3.

They still faced the treacherous task of getting the team safely out of the flooded cave and the persistent threat of bad weather heightened the tension in a drama that gripped the world for more than two weeks.

Seven Royal Thai Navy Seals and a medic joined the boys in the cave and the youngsters were given diving lessons as authorities continued to weigh up the two options - wait for conditions to improve or bring the boys out as soon as possible.

Both were fraught with danger and a stark reminder of the risk came when a former navy Seal aiding the rescue effort died from a lack of oxygen during his mission.

With further flooding expected and oxygen running low, the boys had to be guided through nearly a mile of flooded caverns and tight passages.

The joy that greeted the emergence of the last of the team on July 10 rippled around the world.

Elsewhere in the county, there were a number of Honours announced.

Among them were chair of governors at Bridgwater & Taunton College, Derek Randall, and Minehead community stalwart, Jean Humber.

Here are some other Somerset names on the list:

  • Derek Ian Randall. Chair of Governors, Bridgwater and Taunton College. For services to Further Education. (Bridgwater, Somerset) - MBE
  • Jean Anne Humber. For services to the community in West Somerset. (Minehead, Somerset) - BEM
  • Lorraine Margaret Heath. Chief executive officer, Uffculme Academy Trust. For services to Education. (Taunton, Somerset) - OBE
  • Elaine Koerner. Foster Carer, Somerset County Council. For services to Fostering. (Yeovil, Somerset) - MBE
  • Leroy Rosenior. Vice president, Show Racism The Red Card. For services to Tackling Discrimination in Sport. (Portishead, Somerset) - MBE
  • Detective Constable Jonathan Hook. Avon and Somerset Constabulary. - QPM (Queen's Police Medal)
  • Rachel Dawn Pounds. Head of Operations, Emergency Health Unit, Save the Children. For Humanitarian services. (Bath, Somerset) - OBE
  • Professor William John Armitage. Emeritus Professor, University of Bristol and director, Bristol Tissue Bank. For services to Corneal Transplantation. (Wells, Somerset) - OBE
  • Francis Edmund Burroughes. For services to the community in Lufton Somerset. (Somerset) - BEM
  • Constable Adrian Mark Secker. Avon and Somerset Constabulary. For services to Policing and the community in Bath. (Bath, Somerset) - BEM