A BBC drama documentary will retrace the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu rescue in the Upper Swansea Valley when a caver slipped and spent more than 50 hours underground.

On Saturday 6 November 2021, experienced caver George Linnane set out on what was to be a relatively short five hour caving expedition with his two friends, Melissa Bell and Mark Burkey.

They were exploring Ogof Fynnon Ddu, which is Britain’s deepest cave and the largest caving system in Wales, when disaster struck.

A rock collapse caused George to fall eight metres leaving him with multiple life-threatening injuries.

Over three days, teams of highly trained cave rescue volunteers, medics and doctors worked deep below the Brecon Beacons to save George Linnane’s life and in The Rescue: 54 Hours Under The Ground they tell their incredible story.

The fall would set in motion one of the longest and most extensive cave rescues in Britain’s history.

It took over 300 volunteers - called in from all over Wales and the rest of the UK, including the Peak District and Yorkshire – to help in the operation to stretcher-carry the severely injured caver to safety.

George’s injuries included a broken jaw, broken leg and chest injuries, as well as internal bleeding.

As the rescue progressed, hypothermia caused further complications and soon the rescue team were locked in a race against time, to get George out and into a hospital before he died.

A complicated rescue plan was needed to save him.

The National Wales: The stretcher operation to carry George to safety. Picture: South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue TeamThe stretcher operation to carry George to safety. Picture: South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team

It included a record-breaking stretcher carry through claustrophobic tunnels and an underground river, as well as lifting the stricken caver 18 meters vertically up a complex and narrow part of the cave.

The programme will featuring personal accounts from George, friends Mark and Melissa as well as spine chilling accounts from some of the key members of the cave rescue team, including rescue doctors and medics.

Also featured are incident controller Gary Evans (South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue) and Emma Porter (Secretary, British Cave Rescue Council), who previously had assisted during the Thai cave rescue of a junior football team in 2018.

Emma said, “This cave rescue will go down in history. The way people pulled together, for such a long period of time, in really difficult conditions over 54 hours made it a really special rescue.”


Looking back on his experience, George said, “I feel incredibly lucky to be alive, but I know what cavers are like.

"They were never going to let anything other than a good outcome come out of this. But just because it wasn’t surprising doesn’t mean that it wasn’t amazing.”

The drama documentary was filmed entirely in the Brecon Beacons and in the Ogof Fynnon Ddu cave system using cavers and cave rescuers many of whom worked to free George.

The rescue:54 Hours Underground will be shown on BBC1 on Monday, July 18 and 8pm.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.