A VOLUNTEER who has spent decades saving lives received a prestigious royal accolade.

Sophie Walters was one of five award winners presented with a British Empire Medal during a special ceremony in Newbury.

The mum, along with her two children was invited to the Arlington Arts Centre so she could receive the medal from Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire James Puxley.

She has volunteered for the Reading Samaritans for 26 years eventually becoming branch leader for the charity.

The 52-year-old said: "It was lovely. I must say I was somewhat overwhelmed by the amazing things that some of my fellow medal winners had achieved.

"The Lord Lieutenant called all the medal winners forward and presented us with our medal.

"It's difficult to be proud when I work with so many people who have done far more than me and haven't had their efforts recognised.

"It's difficult to get someone nominated, I've tried to nominate them before."

She said the charity, which is run by a team of 150 volunteers received 35,000 calls in the past year.

"It's harder and harder to get people to volunteer these days," she continued.

"We are desperate for more volunteers but it's such a rewarding thing to be involved in."

The Caversham volunteer collected her award alongside Ian May form Earley who got his medal for services to higher education.

He worked at the University of Reading for 25 years eventually becoming head of building maintenance.

He has been a school governor for 21 years and is currently chairman of the Maiden Erlegh Trust.

He has been a scout for more than two decades and is County Safety in Scouting Coordinator for Berkshire Scouts County Executive.

Alongside the medal winners Lord Lieutenant certificates were also handed out to members of the public and reservists who have missed out on the royal honours lists.

Captain Amarjit Singh Gill MBE, received the certificate in recognition of his long and distinguished military Career both as a Regular Soldier, a Reservist, and his work with the Army Cadet Force.

Captain Gill (Gilly) from Reading has served in the military for 47 years.

As a member of 7th Battalion the RIFLES based at Brock Barracks in Reading, Gilly served in Iraq as the training and operations officer in 2006, he also joined the Berkshire Army Cadet Force in 1992 and has just retired.

As Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme Assessor, during his tenure 73 cadets were awarded the Gold, 149 the Silver and 198 the Bronze, and he also trained 63 assessors.

He said: "I am honoured at being given this award by the Lord Lieutenant, and to be recognised in this way by the County of Berkshire."

Captain Carl Duncan Holmes also received a Meritorious Service Award.

Captain Holmes who lives in Woodley is the second in command of C Company Berkshire Army Cadet Force, responsible for six Cadet Detachments within Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell and Arborfield.

Carl said: "I have been with the Cadets for 17 years, 10 of which were spent helping and instructing whilst I was still a serving soldier.

"I am surprised and humbled, the award should not be just for me but the whole of the Cadet team."

Carl is an Avionics Lecturer and teaches in Wiltshire.

The Lord Lieutenant also appointed new Lord Lieutenant Cadets who excelled in their sections.

They will escort him when they meet members of the royal family in Berkshire.

The Lord Lieutenant said: "It has been a fascinating evening and I have been most impressed to hear about all the achievements of all the award recipients."