Editor’s comments: Ideal solution after gesture went awry

PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 October 2018

Freeborne Gardens in Elm Park which was misspelt by the council.

Freeborne Gardens in Elm Park which was misspelt by the council.


It’s unfortunate that way back in the 1960s a well-meaning gesture to honour a Battle of Britain hero, went a little awry.

But at least Havering Council, having been made aware of the error, is taking action to pay its own tribute.

It seems John Freeborn was a decorated Spitfire pilot stationed at Hornchurch. He completed more flying hours than any other during the Battle of Britain.

To honour his heroism and his contribution during the Second World War, it was decided in the 1960s to name a road in Elm Park after him.

What no one noticed – or did and kept quite about – was that what should have been Freeborn Gardens was spelt Freeborne Gardens.

Fast forward 50 years and John Freeborn’s great niece moved to the borough, spotted a road name remarkably similar to her own and investigated. She discovered the history and pointed out to the council the spelling error.

Rather than make everyone living in Freeborne Gardens change their address, the council came up with the best solution – a plaque which will read:

“This road was named after Wing Commander John Freeborn who was based at RAF Hornchurch during the Second World War in recognition of his service to this country.”

It will be unveiled in a short ceremony at 2pm on Thursday, October 25 attended by Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas.

And so the name of John Freeborn will live on. A suitable legacy in a borough with a proud military history.

And in another story of fighting spirit this week, well done to the staff at Sainsbury’s Local, Suttons Lane, who – faced with a robber armed with a gun and a craft knife – tackled him and held him until police arrived.

Last week William O’Reilly was jailed for 10 years. And Det Con Shona Wilkinson of the Flying Squad paid tribute to the “immense bravery in tackling O’Reilly during what must have been a terrifying ordeal”.

I can only echo her comments.

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