THE Head of the Italian Consular Office in Birkenhead and an American World War Two fighter pilot who died during World War Two have been nominated for Wirral's highest civic honour.

Councillors will be asked to bestow Freedom of the Borough in recognition of their service to the people of Wirral on Dr Nunzia Bertali and the late Lieutenant Jay Frederick Simpson.

Dr Nunzia Bertali 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 died flying his burning plane away from homes in Saughall Massie on January 9, 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.

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 greatgrandchildren who all live in Montana, America.

Cllr Blakeley said: "Having nominated Lieutenant Simpson to posthumously receive the Freedom of the Borough, I have now traced his grandson, Pastor Jay Simpson who lives in Pryor, Montana and his eldest great grandchildren, Lachelle and James Simpson who both live in Billings, Montana.

"Lieutenant Simpson’s family will be watching the Council meeting on October 14 via webcast as we vote to award Lieutenant Simpson the Freedom of the Borough of Wirral and a representative from the US Embassy has also been invited to attend.

"While Second Lieutenant Jay Frederick Simpson has been remembered locally and in his home town of Gillett Wisconsin, and is remembered on Armistice Day every year, given his reported heroic action in flying his stricken plane away from densely populated areas and therefore helping save human life I believe he would be a worthy recipient, albeit posthumously of the Freedom of the Borough of Wirral."

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 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."