Birmingham bestows special honour on the Royal Marines

The Royal Marines proudly marched through the streets of Birmingham with their ‘Drums beating, Colours flying and Bayonets fixed’, after receiving the Freedom of the City from the Lord Mayor.

Birmingham bestows special honour on the Royal MarinesLarge crowds, who braved the winter’s chill to applaud and cheer the Royal Marines, witnessed an impressive display of military tradition that brought the streets around Victoria Square to a standstill.

The Right Worshipful Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Anne Underwood, conferred the honour of ‘Freedom of Entry into the City upon the Corps of Royal Marines’ to Major General Charlie Stickland OBE, Commandant General of the Royal Marines, before a Royal Marines Guard of 48 ‘Rank and File’ exercised the privilege of marching through the City streets.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Anne Underwood said, “The City is very proud to honour the Royal Marines and recognise their very strong links to Birmingham by bestowing upon the Corps the Freedom of the City.”

The City’s connections with the Royal Marines are particularly strong, dating back over a hundred years. During the daring Zeebrugge Raid of World War 1, Birmingham born Sergeant Norman Finch of the Royal Marines Artillery was awarded the Victoria Cross on 23 April 1918 for his bravery, manning machine guns on board HMS Vindictive. 

It is a real privilege for the Royal Marines to be given the Freedom of the City of Birmingham. This honour, the city’s highest, demonstrates the strong and enduring relationship between the Royal Marines and Birmingham

Major General Charlie Stickland OBE, Commandant General of the Royal Marines

Additionally in 2008 Lance Corporal Matt Croucher, a member of the Royal Marines Reserve Birmingham detachment was awarded the George Cross for an unselfish act whilst on patrol in Afghanistan.

Without regard for his own safety, he threw himself on top of a grenade, using only his body, protected by body armour and rucksack to absorb the explosion, saving his life and his comrades. 

Birmingham bestows special honour on the Royal Marines

Joining the Guard were Reservists (RMR) from the Birmingham detachment based at HMS Forward as well as others from RMR Mersey, in Liverpool. Royal Marines Cadets from Units around the West Midlands and Royal Marines Association members also paraded, representing the ‘Corps Family’, which boasts strong community connections to the Royal Marines. 

“It is a real privilege for the Royal Marines to be given the Freedom of the City of Birmingham. This honour, the City’s highest, demonstrates the strong and enduring relationship between the Royal Marines and Birmingham,” said Major General Charlie Stickland.

“I would like to thank the City of Birmingham and the City Council for bestowing the Freedom of the City of Birmingham on the Royal Marines, granting us the privilege to march through the city with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed.  It truly is a special honour.”

The Royal Marines Reserves have had a Birmingham detachment based in the City since 1957, currently based at HMS Forward in Bordesley Green.

The Royal Marines are the 16th Armed Forces Unit granted the Freedom of Birmingham. The tradition dates from when fortress walls were necessary to protect a City’s inhabitants from outlaw bands and attacks from feudal lords.

Bodies of armed men were refused entry unless the citizens were confident that they meant no harm. The granting of permission for a formed body of armed men to enter became a mark of trust and confidence held by a City’s citizens.

To be granted freedom of a City is the greatest honour that can be bestowed on a formed Unit of the Armed Forces.