A Memorial to Czechoslovak heroes of the Second World War


Fountain memorial commemorating the Czechoslovak airmen who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich © Ricky Yates

Fountain memorial commemorating the Czechoslovak airmen who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich © Ricky Yates

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.


Memorial plaque © Ricky Yates

Memorial plaque © Ricky Yates

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.

Czech & Slovak national symbols © Ricky Yates

Czech & Slovak national symbols © Ricky Yates

11 comments to A Memorial to Czechoslovak heroes of the Second World War

  • Russell Roe

    Hi Ricky, this is an interesting link to see between the Czech Republic and the UK and a nice way of showing the unity and shared values between the 2 countries; especially as we commemorate the WW1 anniversary. Interestingly, I heard Stephen Fry speak at the Hay on Wye festival, in which he spoke about Shakespeare and reserving/suspending judgement on his earlier writings. However, Fry referred, very oddly, to Czechoslovakia (without specifically emphasising its historical context) as I remember he said Germany before. I don’t know if this was him making a satirical point about judgement, but if it was he did it very well as I was shocked, for a moment, that someone of his ability and knowledge would refer to Czechoslovakia in that context.

    • Ricky

      Hi Russell – Yes, it is a most interesting link between the two countries. My nephew Tim first drew my attention to the memorial in a comment on an earlier post when I mentioned Czech Television’s coverage of the seventieth anniversary of the assassination of Heydrich http://rickyyates.com/appearing-on-czech-tv-again/

      With regard to Stephen Fry referring to Czechoslovakia without any reference to its historical context, I remain amazed at the number of Brits and Americans who still do this in speaking or writing to me. To be fair, when I point out that the country of which they speak, ceased to exist more than twenty years ago, they usually do apologise for their mistake. However, I’m never really sure whether it is just a slip of the tongue or historical and/or geographical ignorance.

      • It happened to me once in the USA, in 2007, at the Presbyterian Triennium (the huge youth event I went there for). A preacher who was introducing the international participants said “Czechoslovakia”. He was the only one who did that during my month in the USA, but as he did it in front of the thousands of people at the Triennium, it was a particularly frustrating mistake. 😛 Fortunately, right after that I had a chance to mention my country again, and I made sure to name it properly. 🙂

        There were, of course, many Czechoslovak (at that time) people in Britain during WW2, including the provisional government… Still, it’s very nice to see they are remembered in Britain as well. (Actually, I remember running into the existence of a British documentary about one of the Czech pilots, and someone commenting what a shame it was on Czech TV that it was a British TV that made a documentary like that… so I guess yes, they are remembered. 🙂

        • Ricky

          Oh dear Hana 🙁 But I’m very glad you had the opportunity to correct the mistake almost straight away.

          I was well aware of how many Czechoslovak citizens did flea to the UK at that time and the many who served with British forces. What I find so sad is that those self-same men & women were made to suffer so much by the post 1948 communist regime, who deemed them to have fought on the ‘wrong side’.

  • Thank goodness for brave people! May the name of these seven people live forever.

  • Tim Taylor

    Hi Ricky

    It was good to see you and I’m glad you have written this interesting blogpost.

    I omitted to point out to you that the small garden behind the fountain is the Lidice Memorial Garden. It was planted in 1967 on the twenty – fifth anniversary of the massacre of its inhabitants in revenge for the assassination of Heydrich.

    Best Wishes

    • Ricky

      Hi Tim – It was good to see you and thank you for the additional information regarding the Lidice Memorial Garden.

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  • A fascinating and informative post, Ricky. I knew the broad outline of the events leading up to Heydrich’s assassination, but not the details of the aftermath. What courage and dedication these young men showed and how many lives they saved at the cost of their own.

    • Ricky

      Thank you, Perpetua. Living here in the Czech Republic has resulted in a considerable detailed growth in my understanding of European history, particularly that of the nineteenth & twentieth centuries. It was the coverage two years ago, marking the seventieth anniversary of the Heydrich assassination, that first brought the full story of the bravery of these young men to my attention.