Hundreds of Street residents turned out to cheer and wave flags as the parish council conferred the distinction to recognise WO1 Tomlinson’s operational awards - the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) and Military Cross (MC) - and his achievements over the years within the Royal Marine Corps.
Before the formal presentation ceremony 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 in which WO1 Tomlinson 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.
WO1 Tomlinson was joined for the day by his proud family: wife Sharon, daughter Ellis, aged 14, and sons Daniel Brian, aged five, and Harvey, aged seven.
WO1 Tomlinson, from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, based at 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 [Royal Navy/Royal Marines] charities which raised approximately £400.
In May this year WO1 Tomlinson was awarded the MC by Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace - 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, WO1 Tomlinson braved grenades and gunfire to rescue an injured soldier and retrieve the body of another comrade killed in an explosion.
He was also awarded the CGC 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.
WO1 Tomlinson 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 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 at Elmhurst School, as part of their 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, WO1 Tomlinson paid tribute to 40 Commando Royal Marines, 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 of 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.