Leamington's Czechoslovakian Memorial Fountain

19/07 Updated: 13/02 10:14

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Royal Leamington Spa, War Memorial's

Roll of Honour: 1939+

Czechoslovakian Memorial Fountain

Located in Jephson Gardens Leamington Spa is the Czech Memorial Fountain, the Memorial is made of stone and is in the shape of a parachute opening.

Around the bowel section are engraved the seven names of those Czech Free Forces who left Leamington and were parachuted back home to complete "Operation Anthropoid" in 1942.

Operation Anthropoid "Like a Man" was planned by the Czechoslovak Government in exile under President Benes was to be carried out by one of many allied sections within the Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up by Winston Churchill with the purpose to set "Europe Ablaze".

Anthropoid was the code name given for the assignation of the acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, Nazi Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, whose office was in Hradcany Castle, Prague.

Heydrich was one of the master minds behind the "Final Solution" to the Jewish question and believed by some to be the natural successor to Adolf Hitler.

Known by various names; "The Butcher of Prague" The Hangman of Prague" being just two, he was a Genocidal Fanatic, a Rabid Anti-Semitic and a pillar of the "New Order".

The two men originally chosen to be parachuted into the Czech lands to carry out the assignation were Josef Gabcik and Karel Svoboda, the date was fixed for early October 1941 but due to adverse weather conditions and during training at Aston House, near Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Karel Svoboda had injured himself and was replaced by Jan Kubis.

Gabcik and Kubis were both ranked the English equivalent in the British Army as Warrant Officers "Rotmistr" both decorated soldiers as well as being best friends.

They were both given cover names: Gabcik as Zdenek Vyskocil and Kubis as Otto Strnad, they were to be dropped along with five others who had different missions to complete they were codenamed Silver A, Sliver B, Zinc, Steel , Tin, etc.

At 22.02 hrs on the night of 28th December 1941 the group took off from RAF Tangmere in a four engine Halifax aircraft captained by Ronald Hockey, at 02.30 hrs the 29th the group was dropped by parachute near the small village of Nehvizdy unfortunately some 70 miles from their intended drop zone of Borek Aerodrome in Plzen due to navigation problems, the Halifax returned to Tangmere at 08.11hrs.

After being taken in by locals who kept them in a safe house, the majority of whom would later pay with their lives, Gabcik who sprained his ankle on landing and Kubis spent the following months monitoring Heydrich's movements.

During this period they were joined by another of the parachutists; Josef Valcik "Silver A" who was dropped the same night but for a different mission, and was on the run after being discovered by the Gestapo working as a waiter in a hotel called Veselka in Pardubice, he was recruited into the plan.

The plan was eventually formulated, each day Heydrick would travel by car from his Villa to his office a drive of some 12 miles, along the route there was a very severe hairpin bend between Kirchmeyer Street and Holesovice causing any cars to slow down and it was here that they would get their chance, also near by was a Tram stop where there presence wouldn't be seen as suspicious.

Valcik would act as look out; when the car was approaching he would give the signal by using a mirror to catch the sun, to Gabcik who would be waiting for the car armed.

On some occasions Heydrick would have a guard with him, this was overcome again by another signal: "hat on" if his guard was present, "hat off" if Heydrick and his Chauffeur were alone.

On the morning of 27th May 1942 the men met up on a beautiful sunny day in Prague with amongst others Adolf Opalka who was dropped as part of the "Out Distance" group who's job was to restore communications between London and the underground network, after a short "conflab" each man took his position and waited.

Eventually, nearly an hour later than normal Heydrick left his Villa, at 10.30 hrs Valcik gave the signal the car was approaching, as the car slowed down to 15 mph Gabcik pulled his modified Sten Gun out from beneath his overcoat, stepped forward off the curb and aimed at point blank range and pulled the trigger, nothing happened, the gun had jammed!

Heydrick instantly shouting to the driver to stop pulled out his pistol as Jan Kubis tossed a grenade towards the car missing the inside it exploded catching the back of the bodywork.

Heydrich jumped from the car only to suddenly slump clutching his back, a piece of shrapnel which had penetrated the back seat from the grenade explosion had hit him.

Jan Kubis who also had facial and chest injuries from the same explosion managed to get on his bike and made his escape firing his gun in the air as he rode off towards the Novak safe house in the Liben district.

Josef Gabcik at the same time threw down his jammed Sten gun and ran off towards the direction the car came from being chased by the driver Klein down a couple of streets now named: Gabcikova, Kubisova and Valcikova.

Heydrick was to survive his injuries until the morning of 4th June 1942 when he died in Hospital, Aged: 38.

From after the time of the attack the parachutists were on the run until the 30th May when they began to arrive at The Czechoslovak Orthodox Church, St Cyril until the 21st June, in total seven parachutists were hidden in the Church crypt.

The underground were making plans for the parachutists to escape, but out of those who had been dropped one was missing, Karel Curda who was part of the "Out Distance" group he had managed to escape and had hidden in his mother's barn near Trebon.

As the others in constant fear of being discovered as the Gestapo searched house to house for them were being supplied by the underground during which time with manic fervor there were many arrests and even more executions as the Germans vented their anger on Prague's population which was now a closed City.

On the morning of 16th June a man walked into the Petschek Palace, the HQ of Prague's Gestapo and announced that he had information about the parachutists, this man turned out to be a friend of the escaped parachutist Karel Curda, he named Gabcik and Kubis and where they were hiding.

At 04.30 in the morning of the 18th June 1942 the Germans had set up what we would now call a "Ring of Steel" around the Church, unknown at the time three of the parachutists had been on guard in the Church choir loft, they Jan Kubis, Adolf Opalka and Jaroslav Svarc kept crack SS troops at bay for two hours before Opalka and Svarc were dead and Jan Kubis mortally wounded slipped quietly into history shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile the four remaining parachutists hiding in the Crypt were defending their position against several attempts to dig them out including smoking the defenders out but they stood firm against all attempts which were met by the defiant cries of "We are Czechs, we will never surrender".

After searching the whole Church they discovered by pulling the carpets back a large marble slab in the floor in front of the Alter, this was used as a way of moving Coffins to the Crypt, the Germans blew it apart, the slab broke revealing a stone staircase in to the Crypt, knowing that their time had come four shots rang out from the Crypt.

All four defenders, Josef Gabcik, Josef Valcik, Jan Hruby and Josef Bublik had taken their own lives.

Those who are commemorated;

BUBLIK, Josef;

18th June 1942 "Bioscope"

GABCIK, Josef;

HRUBY, Jan;

18th June 1942 "Bioscope"

KUBIS, Jan;

18th June 1942 (Operation Anthropoid)

OPALKA, Adolf;

18th June 1942 "Sliver A" (Operation Anthropoid)

SVARC, Jaroslav;

18th June 1942 "Tin"

VALCIK, Josef;

18th June 1942 "Outdistance" (Operation Anthropoid)

At the rear of the Fountain there is mounted a plaque commemorating those named, underneath which are wooden crosses of those and their photographs.

"Should the reader take the time to look for and visit the Fountain, reflect on the story of those Commemorated on it, and never forget that even though they were not from our shores, they also gave their tomorrows"!

I would like to thank Mr John Martin, Author of: "The Mirror Caught The Sun" (Operation Anthropoid 1942), for his kindness and help, where on page 50 is a photograph of John next to our Fountain in Jephson Gardens.

* Kevin, the Fountain photograph sent was: S5036571*

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