Lasting tribute to 'Ford hero'

A factory worker who averted a deadly catastrophe has been commemorated for his bravery. Boiler operator Sidney Tillman was working in the power house at the Ford car factory in Dagenham when a steam return tube ruptured on July 3, 1951. Within seconds t

A factory worker who averted a deadly catastrophe has been commemorated for his bravery.

Boiler operator Sidney Tillman was working in the power house at the Ford car factory in Dagenham when a steam return tube ruptured on July 3, 1951.

Within seconds the power house was filled with fuel-ash, hot mud and blast furnace gas was blown in.

Flames, furnace gas and steam surrounded him as mud and scalding water rained down from a height of 70ft.


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Mr Tillman covered up his head and bravely operated his boiler until he had it under control, and averted certain disaster.

At the time he was praised for the courage and devotion to duty he displayed.

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Exactly 58 years later, Mr Tillman's grandchildren joined a ceremony on Friday at Ford, which saw the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to him.

Margaret Howlett, 62, his eldest granddaughter, who was three at the time of the accident, said: "We were all surprised to hear how heroic he had been to save the boiler.

"We all knew he had done it, but we thought he had just turned a switch or a valve, but it was a life and death situation. We were quite proud.

"The amount of devastation it would have caused - there would have been lives lost."

The part-time NatWest employee, who now lives in Hornchurch, Essex, said: "He was very, very quiet and very unassuming. He did not brag about it."

The plaque joins a mounted display of Mr Tillman's British Empire Medal (BEM) and the Daily Herald medal for Industrial Heroism, which he received for his courage.

Mr Tillman died in 1962, aged 62, and is the only known Ford employee to receive a BEM.

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