Two of the youngest British divers who were involved in the dramatic rescue of 12 young footballers trapped in a flooded Thai cave have received their MBEs.
Corporal Connor Roe and Joshua Bratchley were part of the British cave diving team who helped successfully rescue the boys and their coach from the cave system in June last year.
They have now been honoured for their efforts at a royal ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, where Princess Anne presented them with their MBEs for services to cave diving overseas.
Mr Roe, of Axbridge, Somerset, was aged just 26 when he was called to help with the rescue efforts.
Speaking to PA news agency, he said: “I was at station five (during the operation), which was around a kilometre into the cave, and to get there several hundred metres of diving was required.
“Conditions were poor to say the least and visibility in the water was zero, everything was done by feel. Dealing with a casualty, a child in this situation, was a step-up again.”
Mr Roe, who is now 27 and serves in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, said he spoke with the Princess Royal about cave diving as he collected his MBE.
He said: “We discussed the challenges of cave diving, and perhaps people’s lack of interest in that sort of thing…
“It was very nice, she seemed very impressed with what we did.”
The footballers and their coach spent 18 days marooned within the Tham Luang cave system before specialist dive teams guided them out one by one.
The danger of the operation was highlighted when a former Thai navy diver died during the rescue mission from a lack of oxygen.
Mr Bratchley, from Anglesey, off the north west coast of Wales, said he had just celebrated his 27th birthday and was on holiday in the Italian Dolomite mountains when he was asked to help with the operation.
Much like Mr Roe, he was part of the British diving team tasked with “shuttling” the sedated children through the cave system.
Mr Bratchley, who is now 28, told PA news agency: “The conditions were absolutely pitch black, with zero visibility.
“It was kind of like a shuttle relay. There were four lead divers who stayed with the kids to give a consistency of care.
“Four people went the whole way and then were shuttled with others assisting, because there were various things that needed to be done like gas changes and reinjection of sedatives.
“The divers had to do the injections. None of us were trained and we had a five-minute crash course beforehand and to make sure we did it right.”
Mr Bratchley, who is a Met Office forecaster, said he had a “lovely” conversation with Anne during the investiture ceremony, adding that she had a “genuine interest” in his story.