British diver: We are not heroes after Thai cave rescue

The boys at a hospital in Chiang Rai province on 11 July

A British diver who led efforts to rescue a trapped boys soccer team in Thailand returned to the United Kingdom on Thursday.

Rescuers pulled off the miraculous life-saving mission despite daunting odds over the course of three dramatic days, successfully completing the operation on Tuesday when the last four boys and their coach were removed from the cave.

Thailand cave diving hero Dr Richard Harris (second left) pictured with MEDSTAR Andrew Pearce (left), wife Fiona (second right) and West Australian diver Craig Challen (right).

Said the SEAL Navy commander: "It was hard but we had to keep fighting". Those handprints were among the first signs of where the boys were, what they had done to escape the floods, and what dangers rescuers would face in their mission to save the boys and their coach.

"We're just very happy that the boys are out and safe", he said.

"I knew that we had a good team, with good support from the Thai authorities, the caving community and rescue organisations, so we had the best we could do to make a plan work".

"Local climbing and rope access workers rigged the dry cave section for that part of the rescue and scoured the bush for more entrances to the cave".

The Philippines on Friday joined the global community in rejoicing with Thailand after the daring rescue of 12 members of a boys soccer team and their coach in a flooded cave complex in the northern part of the country.

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John Volanthen said he's just relieved the boys are all alive, and praised the collective effort of the worldwide contingent of rescuers.

"What we do is very calculating".

"We're not heroes", he told the BBC after arriving back in London.

"We were very relieved that they were all alive but I think at that point we realised the enormity of the situation and that's perhaps why it took a while to get them all out".

Meanwhile, thousands of people have joined the call for Dr Harris and Dr Challen to be presented with the Cross of Valour, Australia's highest civilian bravery award with a change.org petition taking more than 33,000 signatures. That won't happen or we'll give them hell.

Dr Harris is home to be with his family after his 88-year-old father tragically died just hours after the successful completion of the rescue. "Be good people, be a force for good for your country", Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of Thailand's navy SEALS unit, said in a message to the boys before boarding a flight from Chiang Rai.

The Thai Navy SEALs received their own heroes' welcome back at base.

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