100-year-old Lancashire man who helped save Britain in WW2 is an 'unsung hero'

100-year-old Lancashire man who helped save Britain in WW2 is an 'unsung hero'
100-year-old Lancashire man who helped save Britain in WW2 is an 'unsung hero'

A local unsung hero just turned 100 and is being awarded for his work during the second world war and his contribution to lifechanging medical inventions.

William Holden, celebrated his milestone birthday at Grange Care Homes in Colne last weekend with his children and grandchildren and was presented with an honour plaque by his former employer Rolls Royce yesterday.

Glenda Moore of Grange Care Homes shared how excited she was to be able to honour William on his special day. She said: “His life is the most interesting story. He’s living history and we’re all made up to be celebrating it.

“He’s a quiet, lovely man and extremely clever – an unsung hero.”

Lancashire Telegraph: William Holden and two of his sons celebrating his 100th birthday
Lancashire Telegraph: William Holden and two of his sons celebrating his 100th birthday

William Holden and two of his sons celebrating his 100th birthday

Following the wonderful celebrations with Rolls Royce on Wednesday, August 3, his son Kevin Holden has shared William’s heroic life, detailing his achievements with the public.

William started working for Rover as a young engineer/draughtsman at their Barnoldswick factor in Lancashire during the early years of the second world war.

During his employment, in December 1942, Ernest Hives the Rolls Royce Managing Director and Stanley Hooker met with Maurice Wilkes of Rover at the Swan and Royal in Clitheroe - about ten miles from the Barnoldswick factory.

They signed an agreement on a serviette for Rolls Royce to take over the Barnoldswick factory with Rover taking the RR tank engine plant in Nottingham.

Lancashire Telegraph: Another photo of William at Grange Care Home
Lancashire Telegraph: Another photo of William at Grange Care Home

Another photo of William at Grange Care Home

Speaking on his father's impressive achievements early in William’s career, Kevin said: “He was asked to join the RR team because of his intelligence and engineering potential.

“He was the only young engineer requested to be transferred from Rover to the RR team forming with great urgency at RR Barnoldswick.”

With his meticulous attention to detail, he was given the task of detailing design.

Kevin added: “In those days, manufacturing consisted of giving someone a drawing and a block of metal and sending them away to produce something!”

As the jet engine development progressed, William proposed creating technical drawings for the improvement of the Merlin engine which contributed significantly to Britain’s success in WW2.

The drawings would instruct every aspect of the method of manufacture, from materials to machines, tools, speeds and feeds, and even the cutting fluid, in detail.

His son said: “This was something pretty revolutionary at the time.”

Post war, William rose to be Engineering Manager at RR and was later directly involved in the decision to locate RB211 development and build at RR Barnoldswick, having offices at both Barnoldswick and Derby.

Kevin shared that there’s one achievement of William’s, during the mid-sixties, that not a lot of people know about. He said: “My father worked on the first pair of titanium femoral prothesis, or hip joints as we know them.

“He had been requested to engineer, manufacture and introduce to manufacture the first ones. A huge point in medical history and quite an accomplishment.”

William retired in the mid-eighties as he introduced many new manufacturing innovations, including engine efficiency weight saving along the RB211 trail, which led to the success of the RB211 family.

“And the rest," said Kevin, "is history."