Warrant Officer First Class Marine Matt Tomlinson has been granted the honour of Freeman of Street, Somerset, his hometown – the first ever honorary freeman of the area.
Hundreds of Street residents turned out to cheer and wave flags as the parish council conferred the distinction to recognise his operational awards – the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and Military Cross and achievements over the years within the Royal Marine Corps.
Before the formal presentation ceremony on October 16 at which he received the scroll of the freedom of the village of Street from parish council leader, Bryan Beha, there was a parade along the High Street for Warrant Officer Tomlinson in which he and his family travelled in a 1916 La France open-topped car with well-wishers lining the streets and a marching band leading the way. WO Tomlinson was joined for the day by his proud family Harvey (7 yrs), wife Sharon, daughter Ellis (14yrs) and Daniel Brian (5yrs)..
WO Tomlinson, 43, based at 1 Assault Squadron Royal Marines in HM Naval Base Devonport, said: “The day was fantastic, a real honour to be granted the status in a town where I grew up from the age of two until I joined the Corps..About 300 people lined the high street to witness the event. And the same amount attended the ceremony at Elmhurst School in Street. At the school a presentation was delivered by the school’s year five children about my life in Street and my career in the Corps.
“The parish councillor read portions of my citations for the CGC and the MC. It really was a great day and an opportunity to thank the people of Street for their support to myself and the wider armed forces. A collection was also made for the RN/RM Charities which raised approx £400.00.”
In May this year, Warrant Officer Tomlinson was awarded the Military Cross by Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The award is one of the highest honours for bravery in the country.
The award was for a tour of duty in Helmand Province in Afghanistan when, as a member of 3 Commando Brigade, Warrant Officer Tomlinson braved grenades and gunfire to rescue an injured soldier and retrieve the body of another comrade killed in an explosion. He had also been awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for a mission in Iraq in 2006, after his actions under fire saved the lives of the 16-strong US Marine Corps assault force he was commanding.
He was raised in Street where he still lives with his wife and three children, and was nominated for the village Freemanship by local resident Rose Stuckey. This was willingly endorsed by the parish council as a recognition of his outstanding bravery.
Councillor Beha, said: “We all enjoy our freedom here, but we are all aware that freedom isn’t free – it is bought for us by the people who are willing to fight for it.”
The pupils’ presentation said: “He told us that he is not a hero, but people think he is because he risked his own life to save others. He told us that his heroes are his wife, and the younger Marines.”
In his acceptance speech, WO Tomlinson paid tribute to 40 Commando, who recently returned to their barracks in Taunton, after losing 14 of their ranks: “I ask that you join me in welcoming them home, and that you remember everything they’ve done, remember their injured and never forget the fallen,” he said.
Thanking his family for their support he also paid tribute to two colleagues – including one of his friends, who had fallen in battle on his third tour in Afghanistan: “Thank you all, each and every one of you for this honour. Thank you Street, for all of the memories that have kept me going through tough times and memories I have called on when I’ve been in the middle of action to keep me strong and keep me going. Thank you all for being here – your support is appreciated – and believe me, it is felt by us all.”