A COMMEMORATIVE wreath-laying ceremony and Spitfire fly past marked a poignant anniversary at the Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain in Jephson Gardens, Leamington on Sunday (June 19).
The moving event marked 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.
The Friends of the Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain organised the ceremony and were joined by the ambassadors of the Czech and Slovak embassies and current Czech veterans – who travelled to Leamington from the Czech Republic especially for the occasion – together with other dignitaries including chair of 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.
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.”