Armed Services Day

OUR fixture with Scunthorpe on Saturday is our annual partnership with, and homage to, the military men and women of whom we are so proud.

Before the game, we will hear the drums of HMS Drake volunteer band and see a silent arms’ drill. There will then be a pre-match parade of standards and a guard of honour through which the match-ball will be delivered by our principal guest today, WO1 (RSM) Matt Tomlinson, prior to the playing of the National Anthem.

Her Majesty’s Armed Forces have played for centuries, and continue to play, a notable part in our nation’s history and security. It is therefore no surprise that each year has some significance in our combined history and 2014 is no different as we commemorate the centenary of the start of the first world war and celebrate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.

Matt Tomlinson is unique amongst serving Royal Marines having been awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross – the second highest award after the Victoria Cross – and the Military Cross.

He was awarded his Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for actions in Iraq in 2004, when he was on secondment with the US Marine Corps. When his small craft came under fire on a river, Tomlinson created the element of surprise of advancing towards the enemy and attacking them. He then engaged the enemy in close-quarter fighting whilst his men encircled them. When his men were low on ammunition, he again provided cover fire so that the men could board the boats, finally calling in air support to strike the enemy.

His Military Cross was awarded in 2009 under more tragic circumstances, He was serving in a VIKING armoured vehicle convoy in Afghanistan when the vehicle in front was blown up by an improvised explosive device. Tomlinson rushed to the injured Marines in the burning vehicle and helped to rescue the injured driver. However, the gunner, Mne Jason Mackie, was already dead when he found him. Tomlinson continued to evacuate casualties and return Taliban enemy fire.

This most brave and gallant man said: “I do not hold these awards for individual efforts. I am just honoured to wear them as representation of my colleagues to whom I have been blessed to fight alongside.”

In welcoming Matt Tomlinson, we recognise the great work our serving personnel across all arms of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces undertake on behalf of us, often making the ultimate sacrifice. We also acknowledge the difficulties and challenges service families endure when their loved ones are detached on hazardous duty.

It is our privilege to be able to salute our Armed Services and dedicate today’s fixture to them.

A collection is being held on behalf of the Royal British Legion. Please give generously, if you can.