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Royal Marines to get Freedom of Birmingham

Royal Marine Reserve to become 16th armed forces unit to get Freedom of the City because of close ties with Birmingham

The world famous Royal Marines are set to be given the Freedom of the City of Birmingham in honour of their heroic deeds and close ties with the city.

The Royal Marines Reserve has had a Birmingham detachment since 1957 and is currently based at HMS Forward in Bordesley Green.

And next week council bosses are set to approve the Royal Marines as the 16th armed forces unit to be given the freedom "to march with drums beating, bands playing, colours flying and bayonets fixed".

The ceremony is likely to take place in 2018 which is the 100th anniversary of the Victoria Cross being awarded to Birmingham-born marine Sergeant Norman Finch.

The Freedom of the City is awarded only to armed forces units with a close association to Birmingham, either based here or with a large number of serving Brummies.

City armed forces ambassador Coun Mike Sharpe said: "This is a long time overdue and something they richly deserve.

"We have long-term links with the marines, including brave Brummies who have been awarded the Victoria and George Crosses. It's something we can all be very proud of."

A report to councillors added that the detachment regularly took part in events such as Remembrance Day and Armed Forces Day commemorations in the city as well as working with charities and community groups.

It said: "The Royal Marines have extremely strong ties with Birmingham, from Birmingham born Sergeant Norman Finch, awarded the Victoria Cross in 1918 after the raid on Zeebrugge, through to Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher being awarded the George Cross after his tour in Afghanistan in 2008.

"Matthew Croucher is a member of the Birmingham Detachment of Royal Marines Reserve, as was Marine Jonathan Crookes, the first Royal Marine reservist to be killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010."

Notable Birmingham Marines:

  • Sergeant Norman Finch (1890-1966): served from 1908-1929. Awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the Battle of Zeebrugge, Belgium in 1918.
Norman Finch, winner of the Victoria Cross
Norman Finch, winner of the Victoria Cross

He was in command of guns on the HMS Vindictive and kept heavy fire going under heavy bombardment.

Two shells made a direct hit on his position, leaving him severely wounded, but he literally stuck to his guns and, despite being battered and exposed, carried on.

  • Lance Corporal Matt Croucher: Awarded the George Cross for his bravery during service in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2008
Lance Corporal Matt Croucher with the George Cross he received for his work in Afghanistan
Lance Corporal Matt Croucher with the George Cross he received for his work in Afghanistan

Moving at night he felt a trip-wire and realised he had triggered a grenade. He threw himself backwards, rucksack first, on to it and tucked his legs up.

The blast threw him "some distance" but due to his rucksack and body armour he suffered only a nose bleed, perforated ear drums and some disorientation.

His action protected three comrades from the worst effects of the explosion.

  • Marine Jonathan Crookes - killed while clearing path for medics to treat wounded comrades
Marine Jonathan Crookes
Marine Jonathan Crookes

He joined the Birmingham Detachment in 2005 and was awarded the Commando Dagger for being the best recruit in training.

He volunteered for service in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009. But his third deployment to Forward Operating Base Sabit Qadam in 2010 ended with tragedy when he was killed in a blast.

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