During my recent visit to the UK, I met up with my nephew Tim in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, so we could have lunch together. Before our lunch, Tim took me on a short walking tour through Jephson Gardens, an attractive park in the town centre, in order to show me this memorial fountain commemorating the seven Czechoslovak airmen responsible for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, one of the most senior figures in the Nazi Third Reich.
In January 1942, Heydrich chaired the infamous Wannsee Conference, which set out plans for the enslavement and murder of 8 million European Jews. The Slavs, according to Heydrich’s plans, would have been next. At the time of his assassination, Heydrich was the acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, the present-day Czech Republic.
The seven Czechoslovak airmen were based just outside Leamington Spa and were parachuted into their homeland by the RAF, in a covert action called ‘Operation Anthropoid’. Seventy-two years ago on 27th May 1942, two of the seven carried out the assassination, though not everything went to plan as is explained in this BBC News report marking the seventieth anniversary of the event in 2012. As the report also explains, sadly all seven also lost their lives.
The memorial fountain is in the shape of a parachute around the edge of which the names of the seven are inscribed. The water dripping of the edges of the structure is meant to illustrate the strings of a parachute. Behind the fountain is this commemorative plaque.
On the base of the fountain is a double tailed rampant lion, the Czech national symbol, and superimposed on it is a shield with a double cross, the Slovak national symbol. I am most grateful to Tim for showing me this fascinating link between Warwickshire, the county of my birth, and the Czech Republic, the country where it has been my privilege to live for the past nearly six years.