British leadership in the field of cave diving came to prominence this year as they played a lead role in rescuing the Thai children trapped in an underground cave complex. Many have worked and dived in and around the Somerset hills and the cave complexes under them. In the New Year’s Honours list cave divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton set a world record for the greatest depth achieved in a British cave, cave diving 76 m (249 ft) at Wookey Hole in Somerset in 2004. They received a George Medal for their role in the Thai rescue.

Local Christopher Jewell of Cheddar was given the Queen’s Gallantry Medal, his citation reads “Jewell was one of four core recovery divers in the team, who worked over the next three days to extract the sedated boys from Chamber 9, where they were stranded, back to chamber 3 where they were handed over to a military medical team. He was responsible for bringing out three of the boys. During Jewell’s final rescue trip, he lost his grip on the dive line and spent four minutes adrift with one of the young boys before finding his way to safety. The rescue was completed successfully on 11 July.

Congratulations to them and to the following Somerset residents whose service and achievements were also recognised in the Honours List.

Elaine Koerner from Yeovil received an MBE for “services to fostering”. Bland words which hardly do her justice. Elaine, with husband Ian, have been fostering for 37 years. In those years they have fostered children of all ages and two years ago they started fostering young people who have been separated from their families and are seeking asylum in the UK. She reckons they have now fostered in excess of 100 children but the MBE is specifically for her work fostering children from the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) programme. Elaine explains “My husband and I have fostered for many years. We’ve looked after all sorts of children, of all ages and backgrounds. We got a phone call from Children’s Social Care one day two years ago to say they had a young man aged 17 called Yassin who had come from Sudan and needed a home. We said ‘yes of course’, as we would for any young person. He came that evening. house, the 66-year-old often has more than three children in her Yeovil home.

Living in a four bedroomed house she often has three children in her care at any one time.

Jean Anne Humber is awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in West Somerset. Jean has been a longstanding member of Withycombe Parish Council and a former chair of the council. However she is also a local member of and fundraiser for Amnesty International and played a prominent role in the West Somerset Car Scheme Partnership, providing transport for people living in isolated communities.

Dr Francis Edmund Burroughes also gets a British Empire Medal for services to the community in Lufton, Yeovil. Across a long career he has been both a school teacher and company director. Which did not stop him from being a church organist for over 50 years, a keen flower arranger, and a conductor of numerous choral societies, operatic societies, and musical groups. A popular public speaker he can be regularly heard at local W.I., Rotary & Round Tables and U3A meetings.

Derek Ian Randall. Chair of Governors, Bridgwater and Taunton College receives an MBE for services to Further Education. (Bridgwater, Somerset) while Taunton’s Lorraine Margaret Heath, Chief executive officer, Uffculme Academy Trust receives an OBE for services to Education.

Professor William John Armitage is Emeritus Professor, University of Bristol and director of the Bristol Tissue Bank. He lives in Wells and receives an OBE for services to Corneal Transplantation. The Bristol Tissue Bank oversees the Bristol Heart Valve Bank and the Bristol Eye Bank, one of the largest eye banks in Europe. These two tissue banks supply corneas and heart valves for use in patients throughout the UK. A recognised leader in the field of cryobiology and preservation of cells and tissues for transplantation he has published numerous papers in peer review journals

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