Thai cave rescue divers, Twiggy, Monty Python's Palin on UK honours list

British divers John Volanthen and Richard William Stanton seen with Thai rescue personnel at the Tham Luang cave area at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park, on July 3, 2018.
PHOTO: AFP

A team of British divers who helped save a junior football team stranded in a flooded cave in Thailand were awarded in Britain's traditional New Year Honours alongside former supermodel Twiggy and Monty Python's Michael Palin.

The seven underwater specialists involved in the remarkable rescue were also joined on the prestigious annual achievement list -- announced on Friday -- by Hollywood filmmaker Christopher Nolan, Jim Carter from "Downton Abbey", best-selling author Philip Pullman and leading Brexiteer lawmaker John Redwood.

Four of the divers were given awards for exceptional bravery while the three others were made Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Richard Stanton and John Volanthen -- the first of the divers to reach the 12 stricken children and their coach -- were awarded the George Medal, the country's second highest civilian gallantry award.

Thai cave rescue: How each boy is extracted in complex process

  • The 10-km long Tham Luang cave, which has been described as a labyrinth, sits near the Thai border with Myanmar.
  • Rescue divers began operations on Sunday (July 8) to extract the 12 boys and their football coach from the massive Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
  • Here's how the 12 boys might dive and walk out of the complex cave network. (Graphic Not drawn to scale)
  • The boys are located more than 4km from the mouth of the cave. Most of the boys don't know how to swim.
  • According to experts, divers required three hours to reach the boys from the mouth of the cave, Reuters reported. The boys' ordeal is expected to last 3 or more hours.
  • This undated handout photo taken recently and released by the Royal Thai Navy on July 7, 2018 shows a Thai Navy diver in the cave during rescue operations.
  • The boys will have to first dive for 400m before reaching Pattaya Beach, a chamber more than 4km from the cave's entrance. Then, they have to dive for another 130m before walking and climbing along a 400m-long dry area.
  • The first, nearly 1km-long section from where the boys have been huddling in darkness is believed to be the most difficult, requiring a long dive and crawling through mud and debris, with some crevices barely wide enough for a person.
  • The 5-km escape route cuts through dark, flooded and narrow passageways, as this still from a video circulating online shows.
  • How each boy will be tethered to the 2 adult rescue divers. Once past the first stretch, the boys' escape route forks east at a T-junction, and they must scrabble over some diverse terrain including giant boulders, sand and slippery rocks with sudden cliff-like drops and further submerged passageways.
  • The biggest crisis spot is a 38-cm-wide crevice close to the T-junction, known as Sam Yaek Junction.
  • The biggest crisis spot is a 38-cm-wide crevice close to the T-junction, known as Sam Yaek Junction.
  • "The hole is really small, I have to take off my air tank to crawl through it," a 25-year-old Thai Navy Seal told Reuters before the rescue attempt. "As I do, I feel the edges of the hole on both my back and chest."
  • Rescue divers will have to remove their scuba tanks and roll them along while guiding the boys through. After that though, the tunnels widen, the waters subside, and walking is even possible.
  • There are several 'choke points' in the complex cave network. After the dreaded T-junction, the rest of the journey is expected to be relatively safe as they will have reached a forward operating base inside the cave.
  • Ambulances wait at the mouth of the cave to whisk the boys away to hospital when they emerge.
  • Divers resuming the rescue mission on Monday (July 9).
  • Police and military personnel use umbrellas to cover around a stretcher near a helicopter and an ambulance at a military airport in Chiang Rai on July 9, 2018.
  • Rescuers venturing into the cave in a photo released on July 7 by the Thai Royal Navy.
  • The high-risk operation at the Tham Luang caves paused overnight on Sunday (July 8) as rescuers recovered and oxygen tanks were replenished along the route.
  • Torchlight only affords visibility up to three feet in the murky waters.
  • A nearby hospital ready to receive the boys after they are rescued.

Stanton had already been made an MBE in 2012 for his rescue services.

Fellow divers Christopher Jewell and Jason Mallinson receive the Queen's Gallantry Medal, while Joshua Bratchley, Connor Roe and Vernon Unsworth were decorated with MBEs.

"For me, after saving the boys, this is the icing on the cake," said Unsworth, who has also risen in fame after suing Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk for labelling him a "pedo guy".

"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," he added.

'It makes me giggle'

Sixties it-girl Lesley Lawson, better known as Twiggy, was once again on the front-pages of the national newspapers on Saturday after it was announced she would receive a damehood for services to fashion following a decades-spanning career modelling, singing and acting.

The 69-year-old told Britain's Press Association that the recognition was "wonderful, but it makes me giggle".

"The hardest thing has been keeping it a secret," she said.

Acclaimed director Nolan, an Oscar nominee this year for "Dunkirk" -- as well as in 2011 for "Inception" and in 2002 for "Memento" -- gets a CBE for services to film.

After graduating from low-budget independent movies, he has directed some of the biggest blockbusters ever made -- including several "Batman" films -- and become renowned for his technical and narrative daring.

Pullman, the creator of the hugely successful "His Dark Materials" trilogy, receives a knighthood for services to literature.

The 72-year-old said he was "very surprised and honoured" by the acknowledgement.

Brexiteer wins knighthood

Palin, 75, becomes the first of Monty Python's revered comedy cast to receive a knighthood.

The veteran actor, who has reinvented himself as a travel documentary maker and writer in later life, gets a knighthood for his international contributions to travel, culture and geography.

He said news of the accolade had yet to sink in. "I don't think it will be until I see the envelopes addressing me as Sir Michael Palin," he added.

Meanwhile, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union in March after decades of membership, John Redwood -- one of parliament's most prominent eurosceptics -- was made a knight.

The veteran Conservative lawmaker -- a vocal opponent of Prime Minister Theresa May's draft Brexit deal, set to be voted on in mid-January -- was among three MPs awarded knighthoods.

There had been speculation this year's honours could be deployed to try to win support for May's plan -- but it appears unlikely with Redwood.

Earlier this week he published a blog outlining "eight things wrong with the withdrawal agreement".

In sport, England football manager Gareth Southgate was awarded an OBE, while captain Harry Kane received an MBE following the team's memorable run to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia.

Kane tweeted that he was "very passionate about our country and very patriotic so to get an MBE makes me immensely proud."

Former England cricket captain Alistair Cook will receive a knighthood, putting the cap on a remarkable year in which he retired as the country's top Test run scorer, hitting an emotional century in his farewell match.

Overall, 1,148 recipients were named in Queen Elizabeth II's 2019 New Year Honours List.