Two decades of hard work and dedication offered by a group of lifesavers has been recognised.

For 20 years, 24-hour continuous emergency cover has been provided by Thorncombe First Responders to the surrounding parish.

The group became the first rural Community First Responder (CFR) group in the UK when they launched in April 1998.

Despite the rain, the first responders were joined by representatives of Thorncombe Parish Council, Thorncombe Village Shop management committee and volunteers who gathered outside the community shop on Saturday for the unveiling of a plaque in their honour.

Commissioned by the parish council, the plaque was officially unveiled by Rosemary Walley, the originator of the First Responders scheme.

Over the past two decades the group has provided round-the-clock emergency care for those in need, attending thousands of incidents and saving many lives.

The 20-year anniversary was marked in April and honoured by the donation of a static defibrillator by South Western Ambulance Service (SWASFT).

The defibrillator was displayed alongside the new plaque at Thorncombe Community Shop which is also celebrating a milestone anniversary, having reached its 10th year.

CFRs are vital volunteers trained by SWASFT to attend certain types of emergency calls within the area they live 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.

Last year, the team received additional training to enable members to provide an en-hanced response when people have falls. Utilising the expertise of clinicians in the 999 control hub, the team is able to safely mobilise a patient and allow them to remain at home, helping to reduce the pressure on both SWASFT and the NHS as a whole.

In 2003, the Thorncombe group was given a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award for volun-tary services to the community. Former village postmaster Rosemary Walley, who set up the group, was awarded an MBE.

In 2016 they won the SWASFT CFR Dorset Group Award for showing outstanding commitment to their community.