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Freedom of the Borough

Wirral Council is set to bestow Freedom of the Borough on the Head of the Italian Consular Office based in Birkenhead and an American World War Two fighter pilot who died during World War Two.

An Extraordinary meeting of the Council will be asked to bestow the highest honour the Council can grant in recognition of their service to the people of Wirral.

The honours are for:

  • Dr Nunzia Bertali who has been Head of the Italian Consular Office, based just off Hamilton Square in Birkenhead, for more than 20 years. As Honorary Consul the role receives no payment and is self-funded, providing consular support across the North West and promoting the Italian language and culture.
  • USAAF Second Lieutenant Jay Frederick Simpson who died flying his burning plane away from homes in Saughall Massie on 9 January, 1944 aged just 27. He is reported to have been test flying a Republic Thunderbolt P-47 which had taken off from Burtonwood and flew out to sea and on his return over Hoylake he reported that the plane was on fire. Eyewitnesses at the time said that they believed the pilot steered away from residential areas before his plane crashed in a field close to the Arrowbrook.

Dr Bertali was nominated for the award by former council leader Phil Davies.

In the nomination he said: “Although Dr Bertali is of Italian origin now British citizen, I can think of few people who have demonstrated their love and affection for the Borough and its population than Dr Bertali. She never misses an opportunity to promote the Borough to businesses and other stakeholders.”

In addition to her consular work Dr Bertali has supported the teaching of Italian and Italian culture in Wirral schools and of the Council’s Euro Wirral initiative in the 1990s and early 2000s. She also played a key role in the borough’s twinning link with the Italian province of Latina. These achievements were highlighted in a letter supporting her nomination from former Council Chief Executive Steve Maddox, who added: “Nunzia Bertali has performed outstanding service for the Borough and would be a worthy recipient of this highly prestigious award.”

Lieutenant Simpson was put forward to receive the award posthumously by Cllr Chris Blakeley, who has contacted the pilot’s grandson and great-grandchildren who all live in Montana, USA. 

Freedom of the Borough does not grant the title holder any privileges and nor can they be paid an allowance. However, it does maintain a symbolic connection with the Council and it is hoped that those who are awarded this honour will support the Office of the Civic Mayor at civic events and functions.

The two nominations were considered in detail by the Members of the Freedom Panel which considers applications and agreed to recommend to the Council that both nominees should receive the Freedom of the Borough.

Mayor of Wirral, Cllr Tony Smith, said: “The Freedom of the Borough is the highest honour the Council can give, and is a mark of distinction upon the person whom the Council wishes to honour.”

Councillors will be asked to award the Freedom of the Borough at a special meeting of Wirral Council in Wallasey Town Hall on Monday October 14.  

Full details of the nominations can be found on the Council website here.