8th Dec, 2016

Solihull road to be named after heroic WWII pilot who hid from Germans in forest

Solihull Editorial 3rd Mar, 2016 Updated: 21st Oct, 2016

A WAR hero whose plane was shot down, leaving him stranded and hiding from Germans in a Belgian forest, living on rotten potatoes, is having a Solihull road named after him.

Ken Trueman, who passed away last month at the age of 93, was a flight navigator with the 640 Squadron during World War Two.

Following a campaign by the borough’s former mayor Joe Tildsley the go-ahead has now been given for a road to be named in the war veteran’s honour.

Mr Trueman’s son Joey spoke to the Observer about the stories his parents told him.

He said his father never really spoke about his time in the war until about 1981/82 when his mother Syliva started to look into it.

Between June 5, 1943 and August 12, 1944 Ken flew in 28 raids – 21 of which were at night.

He worked with the same six men who flew most of their raids in the Moles Croft Maggie.

One night the team was landing the plane after coming back from a raid and ended up crashing it when one of the back wheels got caught in some telegraph wires.

This meant they had to use a different plane – a four-engine Halifax bomber – which had a different type of navigation system which ended up being the reason the Germans were able to locate the plane and put a search light on it.

Ken’s plane was shot down just after a raid which saw them bombing the Opel tank factory in Russelsheim – they were hit by four shells, one of which hit the fuel tank.

The plane dropped from 19,000 feet to 6,000 which is when the crew reached the Belgian border and bailed out.

Pilot Dennis Barr had gone back to help rear gunner Flight Sergeant B Orrick.

The pair both died in the wreckage.

Ken’s wife Sylvia was sent a telegram informing her Ken was missing in action, presumed dead.

But actually he had landed in the forest just south of Ciney with the rest of his crew.

Two of his crew were captured and spent the remainder of the war in German prisoner of war camps.

But Ken was found by the Maquis – a group of Belgian resistance fighters who were hiding in the woods from the Germans.

Ken spent a month helping the Maquis by disrupting the German’s communications by doing things like cutting down telegraph poles.

They never shot at the Germans however because the soldiers would have taken it out on the villagers.

Ken was liberated by some American soldiers and arrived home at the beginning of October.

“My mother said he just turned up on the doorstep one day and she barely recognised him because he had lost so much weight,” Joey added.

Ken went onto become a navigation instructor at the RAF before he left the army in 1945.

He and his wife returned to Germany in 1982/83 and visited the same cafe where he used to sit and have breakfast.

While he was there Ken asked the cafe workers if they knew someone called Chief Tom – who was the leader of the Maquis.

What happened next was a bolt from the blue.

A limousine pulled up outside the cafe and a ‘rather scary looking man’ got out of it.

He walked into the cafe and he and Ken instantly recognised each other – it was Chief Tom.

The reunited friends spent an emotional time catching up and reminiscing.

Joey said his father knew about the a road being named after him before he died and he was ‘over the moon’ about it.

Ken’s funeral, which will be attended by the Royal British Legion and Royal Air Force Association, will take place on Friday, March 11 at Solihull’s Robin Hood Crematorium.