Behind the New Year’s honours list are a host of heart-warming stories, as Britons are awarded for some of the most moving contributions to public life.

From the British divers who helped rescue a group of Thai boys trapped in a cave to medics who played a leading role in the aftermath of terror attacks, the list does not just remember celebrities.

Sky News takes a look at seven of those celebrated for their achievements this year.

:: Cave divers who saved trapped Thai boys

Divers make their way towards the trapped boys
Image: British divers helped rescue the trapped Thai boys and their coach

British divers who played a part in the daring operation to rescue 12 boys trapped in a cave complex in Thailand have been decorated for their actions.

The world held its breath as a multinational team of specialists helped guide each youngster and their coach out of the underground system.

Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, who were the first divers to reach the children, have been awarded the George Medal – the second highest civilian gallantry award.

Ex-pat Vern Unsworth, 63, who is suing Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk for labelling him a “paedo”, has been handed an MBE.

Joshua Bratchley and Lance Corporal Connor Roe received the same.

Christopher Jewell and Jason Mallinson, 50, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, have been given the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for exemplary acts of bravery.

:: Northern Ireland’s first female firefighter

Heather Smart, the first female firefighter in Northern Ireland. Pic: NIFRS
Image: Heather Smart was the first female firefighter in Northern Ireland. Pic: NIFRS

Heather Smart, Northern Ireland’s first female firefighter, has been given an MBE in the New Year’s honours.

She joined the service in 1991 and retired earlier this year.

Ms Smart is seen as a trailblazer who paved the way for the 62 women currently working as firefighters in Northern Ireland.

Alan Walmsley, interim chief fire officer, hailed her as a “passionate advocate and ambassador for female firefighters” who “helped change the culture of the organisation at that time”.

He called the award a “fitting recognition for her achievement as Northern Ireland’s first female firefighter”.

:: London and Manchester terror attack responders

NHS England has told 27 major trauma centres to prepare staff for a potential terrorist attack ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend
Image: Leading medics are recognised for their work after several terror attacks

Four leading medics have been recognised for their work in the aftermath of terror attacks in London and Manchester.

Dr Malik Ramadhan operated through the night on 12 victims of the London Bridge attack at the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel on 3 June 2017.

He was awarded an OBE for services to healthcare.

Paul Woodrow, operations director for the London Ambulance Service, also got an OBE for his role in organising care for victims of the attacks in London and the Grenfell Tower fire.

Colin Kelsey, who led the NHS response to the Manchester Arena suicide bombing, also received an OBE.

Receiving the same honour was Peter Boorman, who helped deal with the fallout from the two terror attacks, the Grenfell Tower fire, the Wannacry cyber-attack on the health service and the Croydon tram crash in 2016.

:: Father of a domestic violence victim

EMBARGOED TO 2230 FRIDAY DECEMBER 28....File photo dated 14/10/10 of John and Penny Clough outside Preston Crown Court after their daughter Jane's killer was jailed. Mr Clough has been made an MBE for services to victims of domestic abuse in the New Year Honours list. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday December 28, 2018.
Image: John Clough has been given an MBE

The father of a nurse brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend has been made an MBE for services to victims of domestic abuse.

John Clough and wife Penny, who was made an MBE in the 2013 New Year honours list, have thrown themselves into campaigning since the death of their daughter Jane in July 2010.

Mr Clough, of Barrowford, Lancashire, is an ambassador for the National Stalking Advocacy Service, which is calling for a national register of serial stalkers and domestic abusers.

The Cloughs also campaign for more refuge funding and are patrons of domestic abuse help service SafeNet.

Last year, it opened Jane’s Place, a refuge for those with complex needs such as mental health issues and drug or alcohol misuse.

:: Emmeline Pankhurst’s great-granddaughter

Sculptor Hazel Reeves (left) at the unveiling of her statue, with Emmeline Pankhurst's great granddaughter, Helen
Image: Dr Helen Pankhurst (right) is being honoured for services to gender equality

Dr Helen Pankhurst, a great-granddaughter of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, has been given a CBE for services to gender equality.

She is a senior adviser at CARE international, the international agency fighting global poverty.

2018 marks 100 years since women were able to vote for the first time in a general election.

Dr Pankhurst said earlier this year she “feels the need to keep campaigning because my name gives me a voice – when they hear it, people are more likely to listen”.

:: Welsh rocker fighting against cancer that has struck three times

Mike Peters of The Alarm performing a song before the gala screening of Vinyl, at the Empire Leicester Square in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 12, 2013. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Image: Mike Peters has faced a battle with cancer three times

Welsh rocker Mike Peters has been honoured for his charitable fight against the cancer which has transformed his life three times.

He has been given an MBE for services to charity having raised thousands to help the struggle against cancer, and wants to keep saving lives “one helping hand at a time”.

Peters founded rock band The Alarm in 1981, and had a successful career on stage, opening for the likes of Bob Dylan.

He first overcame cancer in 1996, before again suffering from the devastating disease after developing leukaemia in 2005. His wife Jules was then diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.

Peters founded the Love Hope Strength Foundation, which aims to raise money for cancer treatments through music events.

He thanked everyone who has supported him in the battle against cancer, saying: “My being awarded this MBE is all down to their collective brilliant efforts. This MBE really is for them.”

:: Businesswoman behind African childbirth charities

Entrepreneurs Erin Todd, Ann Gloag and Willie Haughey as RBS announced it is opening up its global headquarters in Edinburgh to key Scottish business organisations and entrepreneurs to encourage entrepreneurialism and promote economic growth.
Image: Ann Gloag is a businesswoman and philanthropist

A businesswoman and philanthropist who set up childbirth charities and helps with hospital ships has been made a dame in the honours list.

Ann Gloag, who is already an OBE, founded the Perth-based charity Freedom from Fistula, which provides free maternity care and surgery to women injured in childbirth.

The charity’s three main projects are in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Malawi.

The former nurse, from Perthshire, also founded Kenya Children’s Homes in 2002 and is involved with hospital ship charity Mercy Ships.

More from New Year Honours

“I am humbled and grateful to receive this honour,” she said.

“Never in my wildest dreams, growing up in a council house in Perth, did I think this would ever happen.”

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