Salford Quays founder Ben Wallsworth awarded freedom of the city

Ben Wallsworth Image copyright Salford Council
Image caption Ben Wallsworth is a former mayor of Salford

A 99-year-old war hero whose vision led to the creation of Salford Quays has been awarded the freedom of the city.

Ben Wallsworth MBE was presented with the award in a special council meeting.

Mr Wallsworth, who represented the Blackfriars, Weaste and Langworthy wards as a councillor for 44 years, was also Salford's mayor from 2002-3.

Incumbent mayor Paul Dennett described the veteran as a "living legend", adding: "I hope we continue to do your legacy proud."

Mr Wallsworth, who was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in World War Two, chaired the planning committee when the council used a derelict land grant to buy part of the former docks for £1m in 1983.

The site was transformed within 10 years, with private and public investment in the area totalling about £280m.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The former soldier disobeyed orders and did not discard his gun in the retreat to Dunkirk during World War Two

It paved the way for the creation of MediaCityUK home of the BBC's northern headquarters.

Ordsall-born Mr Wallsworth spent his 20th birthday on the beaches of Dunkirk as nearly 200,000 British troops waited to be evacuated from the advancing German forces.

He refused to abandon his gun as instructed during the retreat to Dunkirk, and used it to defend his unit from aerial attacks when they were trapped on the beaches for three days and nights.

He also took the gun aboard the ship, which rescued them when the vessel was attacked by German planes.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ben Wallsworth oversaw the transformation of Salford Quays

Speaking of his achievements as a local politician, Mr Wallsworth said: "I was instrumental in The Quays. I would think the area has more workers in it now than we would have had when they were docks."

Council colleagues have paid tribute to Mr Wallsworth.

Councillor Bill Hinds described him as a man of "wisdom, intellect and a great sage," the Local Democracy Reporting Service wrote.

Derek Antrobus added: "I hope that when I'm 99 I still want to change the world in the same way that Ben has and still wants to do."

Other recipients of the freedom of the city include film director Mike Leigh and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs.

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