THE FRIENDS of the Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain in Leamington are inviting residents to join them for a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony at the fountain in Jephson Gardens on Sunday (June 19).
It will mark the 80th anniversary of the deaths in a Prague church of seven paratroopers during a daring mission to assassinate high ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich who was considered the architect of the Holocaust.
Taking place from 11am, the Friends will be joined by the ambassadors of the Czech and Slovak embassies, together with other dignitaries including chair Warwick District Council Mini Kaur Mangat.
Erected in 1968 by Czechoslovak veterans, the memorial fountain was designed by John French in tribute to all Czechoslovak soldiers, airmen and patriots who lost their lives during the Second World War.
The Free Czechoslovak Army made their home in Leamington during the war following the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis.
Sculpted in the shape of a parachute, the fountain honours the brave paratroopers who were based in the town.
Of the seven names engraved on the fountain, two of them – Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš participated in ‘Operation Anthropoid’, to kill Heydrich.
The remaining five – Adolf Opálka, Josef Bublík, Josef Valčík, 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 on 18 June 1942.
Red roses donated from Lidice, one of the Czechoslovak villages raised to the ground as a reprisal by Nazi Germany, have been planted adjacent to the fountain.
The Secretary of Friends of the Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain, Georgina Pavel, said: “The Czechoslovak veterans (in exile) called the fountain “Freedom Fountain”, and I see it as a message to us, ‘freedom is not for free’.
“They were meeting by the fountain every year to remember their friends – paratroopers, and other soldiers, pilots and patriots who lost their lives while fighting fascist aggression. We, family members and friends, are following in their footsteps remembering all their sacrifices.
“This year we will be joined by the current Czech veterans who travelled to Leamington Spa from the Czech Republic especially for this important 80th anniversary of operation Anthropoid.”
Coun Mangat added: “The Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain has been a presence in Jephson Gardens for over 50 years, and continues to stand as a fitting memorial of the bravery and courage of the Czechoslovak soldiers who lost their lives during World War II.
“I am honoured to join the Friends and other dignitaries on Sunday to lay a wreath and remember them.”
Weather permitting, the Friends have also arranged for a Spitfire fly past over Jephson Gardens at approximately 11.25am.
The Glasshouse in Jephson Gardens will be closed for the day for a private ceremony following the wreath laying.