Joe Townsend awarded Freedom of the Borough

EASTBOURNE war hero Joe Townsend has been given the Freedom of the Borough for his action on the frontline in Afghanistan.

The Royal Marine lost both legs when he stepped on a landmine in Helmand Province while on active duty two years ago.

His courage in rebuilding his life was recognised when he was made an Honorary Alderman and received the Freedom of the Borough at a special reception at Eastbourne Town Hall on Monday night.

The former Ratton schoolboy was nominated for the prestigious accolade – the highest honour a town can bestow upon one of its residents – by Conservative councillor Colin Belsey, who said the 22-year-old should be given the freedom in recognition of "his courage in the face of his injuries received while on active duty for his country" and the "example he had shown in adversity to young people within the borough and throughout the nation".

Councillor Belsey said, "Joe is a remarkable young man, who along with many others was willing to give his all for his country.

"It has cost him severely with the loss of his legs but this has not stopped him proudly wearing his uniform and wanting to carry on his military career. Eastbourne is proud of Joe and it is only right that we should honour him in such a way."

Joe, who joined the Marines in 2006, was serving with 40 Commando in Helmand when after five months on the frontline and, as he was leading his patrol back to their camp, trod on an anti-tank mine.

He was rushed to Camp Bastion and within hours was back in the UK at Selly Oak Hospital.

He has undergone countless operations since losing both legs and spent months in Selly Oak and Headley Court for rehabilitation and ongoing surgery.

Since being at Headley Court, he has learnt to drive, ski, water ski and enjoy various other sports. He has just returned from two weeks away ski-ing in Bavaria.

At Monday's reception, Joe said, "I feel honoured to be presented with this award.

"I am only one of many service personnel returning to the UK with similar life changing injuries but it is nice to see the hard work and determination we have to muster is recognised."

Nigel Waterson MP was also at the ceremony and said everybody was very proud of Joe.

"He is a genuine local hero," said Mr Waterson. "Few of us could imagine having such a positive attitude to such catastrophic injuries.

"But Joe has all along shown an amazingly positive attitude – a marvellous example to us all, but especially to young people."

As well as being awarded the Freedom of Eastbourne – a scroll and badge – Joe has also been awarded the Operation Herrick Campaign Medal.

The ceremony on Monday also marked the launch of the Eastbourne Book of Honour, to recognise and record the details of Eastbourne residents who have served their country in a theatre of war since World War II.