50th anniversary of Leamington's Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain commemorated - The Leamington Observer

50th anniversary of Leamington's Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain commemorated

Ian Hughes 30th Oct, 2018   0

THE 50th anniversary of the Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain in Jephson Gardens was commemorated at the weekend.

The Free Czechoslovak Army made their home in Leamington during the war following the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis.

The fountain was designed by John French and erected in 1968 in remembrance of all Czechoslovak soldiers, airmen and patriots who lost their lives in the Second World War.

More than 4,000 Free Czechoslovak Army soldiers were based in Leamington in the years after 1941. While staying in town, a small number were selected to be trained as paratroopers by the British special forces, and after rigorous training, were regularly parachuted back into Czechoslovakia to carry out sabotage missions and support resistance movements.

They included the daring Operation Anthropoid in 1942, which resulted in the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. Hitler’s right-hand man – known as the architect of the ‘Final Solution’ – was the only senior Nazi to be assassinated during the war.

The fountain, sculpted in the shape of a parachute, bears seven names including those of Jozef Gabcík and Jan Kubiš who participated in Operation Anthropoid.

The other five – Adolf Opálka, Josef Bublík, Josef Valcík, Jaroslav Švarc and Jan Hrubý – were Special Operations Agents caught up in the aftermath of Heydrich’s assassination. All seven died following a firefight with the SS in a church in Prague.

The fountain underwent a £25,000 restoration earlier this year thanks to funding from The Friends of the Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain, The Czech Ministry of Defence, Warwick District Council, Leamington Town Council, Czechoslovak House in London, Czech charity Reading Help, as well as a substantial donation from one of the last living veterans in the Leamington area.

It was also awarded grade II listed status by English Heritage this year, recognising it as a monument of historic importance.

A special remembrance service was held on Saturday to mark the fountain’s golden jubilee, attended by the deputy Czech ambassador Jan Brunner and the head of the consular section of the Slovak Embassy Ivan Zachar.

Together they laid red roses in remembrance of the Czechoslovak soldiers, airmen and patriots who lost their lives in the war. Red roses from Lidice, one of the Czechoslovak villages raised to the ground as a reprisal by Nazi Germany, have been planted next to the fountain.

Others attending the service included representatives from the town and district councils, The Friends of the Czechoslovak Fountain and MP Matt Western. Children from the Czech and Slovak Club in Birmingham sang a traditional Czechoslovakian song.

District neighbourhood spokeswoman Coun Moira-Ann Grainger said: “The Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain has been a presence in Jephson Gardens for 50 years, and I am pleased that the recent restoration work means that it will continue to stand as a fitting memorial of the bravery and courage of the Czechoslovak soldiers that lost their lives during World War II.”

A spokesman for the ‘Friends Of’ group added: “The unique history of the Czechoslovak soldiers and civilians that it honours has now been preserved for future generations.”


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