Divers who risked their lives to help rescue 12 young Thai footballers who were trapped in a flooded cave have said they feel “honoured” to be recognised at the Pride Of Britain Awards.
The group were presented with an Outstanding Bravery Award after they took food and supplies through the caves to the boys before bringing every child out to safety.
Diver John Volanthen told the Press Association the award was “unexpected” and stressed that many other people were involved in the rescue.
“We are the tip of a very large iceberg,” he said. “We’re the visible part but we are supported by the British Cave Rescue Council and everyone underneath.
“It wasn’t just us, we were part of an international team. We played our part but it was bigger than us.”
Fellow diver Connor Roe said his main memory of the rescue was “when everybody was out of the cave, all the rescue team, everybody involved was out of the cave safe”.
“It was as a job done,” he said. “It was an unfortunate incident and we were able to assist in a large team.”
Ella Chadwick, who was named Child Of Courage, said the ceremony was the best day of her life and added she was particularly looking forward to seeing Simon Cowell at the awards.
“He’s a nice judge and he is my friend,” she said.
The 11-year-old has raised £3,000 for the hospital where she has been treated for nephrotic syndrome, which has led to her undergoing 40 operations.
— Pride of Britain (@PrideOfBritain) October 29, 2018
She has also made hundreds of get well cards for other sick children.
Waving and posing on the red carpet, she said it was very exciting to be at the ceremony, adding: “This is time for me to celebrate. This is my best day ever in my life.”
David Beckham and the Prince of Wales are among the famous faces honouring individuals who have done extraordinary things at the annual awards, hosted by Carol Vorderman.
Other stars appearing on the red carpet included Holly Willoughby, Amanda Holden, Robbie Williams and wife Ayda, and Gemma Collins, who signed autographs for school children alongside Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Arriving at the ceremony with Sir Cliff Richard, Gloria Hunniford said it was always “a fabulous night” at the ceremony.
“What is really lovely for me is that people who wouldn’t ordinarily get an award or recognition get it,” she said.
Sir Cliff added: “These people have been doing things undercover for probably a decade or more and to reveal it I think is a fantastic thing.”
Both said the night was always emotional.
“I’m an emotional person anyway and I do yes, I’m happy to admit that I do weep,” said Sir Cliff, when asked if he ever shed a tear at the awards.
Cricketer Andrew Flintoff, who was recently announced as one of the new hosts of Top Gear, said the ceremony was “honouring people who actually deserve it”.
He added: “It’s great to see communities getting honoured and not just people off TV.”
Flintoff said he would have “tissues at the ready”, continuing: “The first time I came to this, I’m not a big cryer, I don’t cry, but after about 20 minutes I started getting tears in my eyes so I’m expecting a bit more of that tonight.”
Also being honoured at the awards is Joe Rowlands, 14, who was named as the Teenager Of Courage award winner after he went into freezing seas to drag his unconscious father to safety after they capsized on a kayaking trip.
The Special Recognition award has been given to Emma Picton-Jones, 29, who was left widowed when her partner Dan took his own life following a long struggle with depression. She founded a charitable trust to support people in rural communities with mental health issues and has raised £75,000 for the cause.
The 87-year-old Icolyn Smith, known as “Ma Smith”, moved to Britain from Jamaica in 1965 and has dedicated her life to helping the homeless with food and clothing at her soup kitchen, serving 45,000 meals to date. She has been named a Community Partner.
West Midlands Fire Service has been honoured with the Emergency Services Award for saving the life of driver Phil Ewins, who had been impaled on a 10ft pole in a crash. He was on the way to propose to his girlfriend when he crashed and has since celebrated his wedding with the team that saved him.
Omar Sharif has been celebrated with the Prince’s Trust Young Achiever award, having risen from a life embroiled with gangs in London, and the pain of being homeless, to running his own personal fitness business.
Max Johnson, 10, inspired politicians to change the law regarding organ donation. His need for a transplant prompted Theresa May to consider an opt-out system, rather than opt-in, to ensure a supply of life-saving organs.
Mrs May said: “When I read your inspirational story, I knew I had to act to change the organ donation rules.”
Edward Mills, eight, helped raise £30,000 with five sponsored climbs to help the fight against cancer. He was inspired to help his mother, who is suffering from terminal breast cancer. He has been named Fundraiser Of The Year.
Eddie O’Gorman, 83, founded a charity with his late wife in memory of their two children who died of cancer, and has so far raised £230 million to fight the disease.
Children Paul and Jean died within nine months of each other. Mr O’Gorman has been given a Lifetime Achievement award for his work for Children With Cancer.
The servicemen and women of the RAF have been honoured with a Special Recognition Award for their services.
The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB, will be shown on ITV on November 6 at 8pm.