Published: Wednesday, 15th June 2022

The Friends of the Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain are inviting local residents to attend a short wreath-laying ceremony at the fountain in Jephson Gardens this Sunday 19 June.

The ceremony will mark the 80th anniversary of the deaths in a Prague church of seven paratroopers fighting Nazi soldiers.

Taking place from 11am, the Friends will be joined by the Ambassadors of the Czech and Slovak embassies and other dignitaries including the Chair of Warwick District Council.

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 in World War II.

The Free Czechoslovak Army made their home in Leamington Spa during the Second World War following the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany.

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’, a daring mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, a German Nazi official who was considered the architect of the Holocaust.

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 by Warwick District Council’s Green Spaces team.

The Secretary of Friends of the Czechoslovak Memorial Fountain, Georgina Pavel commented:

“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.”

Councillor Mini Kaur Mangat, Chair of Warwick District Council, 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 on Sunday 19 June for a private ceremony following the wreath laying.

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