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Campaign to name streets after borough war heroes

Solihull's outgoing mayor has launched a new campaign to name streets after three borough war heroes.

Ken Trueman, from Solihull, is one of three veterans who is having a road named after them in the borough
Ken Trueman, from Solihull, is one of three veterans who is having a road named after them in the borough

Solihull’s outgoing mayor has launched a new campaign to name streets after three borough war heroes.

Coun Joe Tildesley, said he hoped to change the council’s policy of only dedicating streets to those who had died.

“It’s one of the few things you can do to create a lasting legacy,” he said. “These men have unique, inspirational tales of courage which should be remembered.

“The council has a view that we should only name a road after someone once they are deceased. But I want to change that.”

These are the three heroes Coun Tildesley wants to honour.

Ken Trueman

Resistance fighter and flight navigator Ken Trueman escaped with his life when his Lancaster was shot down during a raid on a car plant in Brussels on August 13, 1944.

He went onto join a ‘rag tag’ group of resistance fighters.

“We were hit by four light anti-aircraft shells and dropped from 16,000ft to 6,000ft,” said Ken, who was just 21 and a married man when he joined the RAF in 1940. “The fourth hit the petrol tank and set the plane on fire. We grabbed our parachutes and bailed out.

“Unfortunately the pilot, Sgt Denis Barr, didn’t make it.

“He must have gone down the plane to see if everyone got away – he was that sort of man.”

Ken was discovered by a villager and taken into the resistance camp, deep in woodland.

“They were a rag tag lot, all young lads who had gone into the woods to avoid going into the labour camps and led by Chief Tom,” he said.

“We lived in the woods and relied on villagers for food. 

“We blew up two trains and cut down telegraph poles – anything to cause trouble to German communications.

“But we wouldn’t shoot at the Germans because they would take it out on the villagers.”

Ken, now 92, was rescued by American troops on December 10. He arrived home the day after his distraught wife, Sylvia, received her widow’s pension book.

The great-grandfather of eight, from Solihull, received a string of medals for his heroism – but said having a street named after him in Solihull would be the greatest honour of all.

“It would fantastic,” he said. “It’s important to remember – we don’t want another war like that again.”

Peter Zolty

Lancaster Bomber navigator Peter Zolty joined the RAF in 1940, and flew in 34 missions, taking part in bombing operations over Nazi-occupied Europe.

The missions included raids on a German U-boat base at La Rochelle and the Ruhr Valley, as well as the controversial bombing of Dresden.

“For almost 70 years I never spoke about the war, even with my family,” said the 91-year-old, from Blossomfield Road.

“I was one of seven in the crew.

“I’m the last one left.

“War broke out on a Sunday and the day before I had started work at Joseph Lucas Ltd. I joined the RAF the day after.

“I had always wanted to fly but it became obvious I wasn’t a born pilot so I became a navigator instead.

“We were part of the Dresden raid which caused a certain amount of controversy. Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course.

“We were very lucky, we were never hit by anybody.

“When we were flying, we built a mental cocoon within which we couldn’t be hurt, only other planes got hit.

“We were invulnerable.”

Peter left the air force in 1947 and returned to his job at Lucas.

The widower, a dad and grandad, received a string of medals for his service but said he would love to be remembered in a street name in Solihull.

Ken Wilkinson

Battle of Britain fighter pilot Ken Wilkinson, now 95, flew the Spitfire in the Battle of Britain.

He was 22 when he completed his training, joining 616 Squadron in August 1940.

One of “The Few”, he helped defend the country against the German Luftwaffe.

“It was hairy,” said the great-grandfather of four.

“It wasn’t what you would call a peaceful time.

“The Germans were trying to kill us – and we were trying to kill them.

“But it was an exciting time to be alive.”

Ken, who later became a quantity surveyor in Solihull, said he had fond memories of flying the Spitfire.

“It was always surprising you with the things it could do,” he said.

“It was a wonderful aircraft – an absolute cracker.

“When in combat it could do a steep turn, flying vertically with the whole aircraft juddering – it was never designed for that, but it could do it.

“The Germans would never admit to having been shot down by a Hurricane, but there was no shame for them in being shot down by a Spitfire.”

The former flying ace, from Berryfield Road, is one of just 30 surviving Battle of Britain pilots.

 

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