A cave rescue expert was invited to Buckingham Palace last week in recognition of his role in a story which gripped the world this summer.
Prince William met with print-worker Peter Dell, 62, and cave rescue colleagues from across the country on Tuesday, October 16.
The event was held to thank all those who had contributed to the incredible operation which saved 12 young Thai footballers and their coach when they were trapped in a flooded cave in June.
Peter, from Darley Dale, said: “I was quite surprised to get an invite and a bit apprehensive but the prince was really nice. He spoke with everyone personally and thoroughly about our roles in the rescue. He told me that he had been caving once, and wasn’t sure he could ever do it again.”
As the equipment officer for Derbyshire Cave Rescue, based in Buxton, Peter’s role in the story was brief but crucial.
He said: “I think I’d heard the story on the news when it first broke, but didn’t think too much more of it.
“Then I got a call out of the blue from the British Cave Rescue Council, asking to borrow some of our equipment.”
Derbyshire has one of the largest volunteer rescue teams in the country, so it also has one of the largest stocks of spare gear - used on an average seven incidents a year.
Peter said: “They needed dive bottle switches and the specialist radios we use to contact teams underground. I rushed out of work and up to Buxton to get it all together.
“Then the police transported it down to Heathrow where the rescue team was getting on a flight that night. It was the very first load of equipment to arrive on the ground.”
He added: “The cave rescue community is quite small, so I knew a few of the guys involved but, after that, I was watching the drama unfold in the media with everyone else.”
The dive bottle switches allowed for the 100-plus divers on site to swap oxygen bottles during the three-mile journey through the cave, while the radios helped to keep contact with the trapped boys.
Peter said: “We only ever got three phones back. The other is still sat in the cave, probably water-logged and dead.”
Peter and rescue colleagues were also invited to meet the Thai ambassador on Monday, October 22.