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Free Czechoslovak Army Memorial Fountain

List Entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

Name: Free Czechoslovak Army Memorial Fountain

List entry Number: 1458016

Location

Jephson Gardens, Newbold Terrace, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 4ER

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Warwickshire

District: Warwick

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Royal Leamington Spa

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II

Date first listed: 24-Jul-2018

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Building

A memorial fountain commemorating the Free Czechoslovak Army, which was based in Leamington Spa during the Second World War, and in particular those who died following Operation Anthropoid; designed by John French, and erected in 1968.

Reasons for Designation

The memorial fountain to the Free Czechoslovak Army, erected in 1968 in Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest: * the memorial commemorates the Free Czechoslovak Army of the Second World War, made up of over 4000 servicemen who had been brought together in the United Kingdom after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. It marks in particular Operation Anthropoid, when seven servicemen from the FCA assassinated SS Obergruppenfuehrer Reynhard Heydrich.

Architectural interest: * it takes the form of a fountain based on the design of a parachute, which is a fitting tribute to the parachutists of the FCA.

Group value: * with the Grade-II listed Jephson Memorial, a classical temple to the memory of a local medic, which stands just to the east; and with Jephson Gardens, a municipal space within the Spa Gardens, included on the Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II, which provides the setting for both memorials.

History

The Free Czechoslovak Army memorial fountain was erected in 1968 to commemorate the actions during the Second World War of the more than 4,000 members of the Free Czechoslovak Army (FCA) who were based in Leamington Spa in the years after 1941, following the invasion of their homelands. The memorial commemorates in particular the Czech and Slovak parachutists who took part in Operation Anthropoid, a dangerous and daring undercover mission during which officers of the FCA, who had been trained by the British Special Operations Executive in England and Scotland, were parachuted in to occupied Czechoslovakia, where in Prague they successfully executed a plan, which had been developed at their Leamington headquarters, to assassinate SS Obergruppenfuehrer Reynhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler’s deputy in the SS, military governor of the region, and one of the architects of the Holocaust. While lodging with the Czechoslovakian underground in the city for several weeks, the men of the FCA worked out the details of their assassination attempt. On the morning of 27 May 1942, Heydrich’s car was ambushed as it slowed to negotiate a sharp bend, and Sgt Josef Gabcík tried to open fire with a Sten gun, which jammed. Sgt Jan Kubiš, who was acting as backup, threw one of two modified anti-tank grenades he was holding at the open car, where it exploded, seriously injuring Heydrich, who died of the resulting septicaemia on 4 June 1942.

After a fierce fire fight, the two Czechoslovak soldiers managed to make an escape, and were taken into hiding in a series of safe houses by the Czechoslovak underground organisation, Jindra. Eventually Gabcík and Kubiš found themselves sheltered in the crypt of Prague’s Church of SS Cyril and Methodius, together with two colleagues from the FCA who had been involved in their plot, and three members of the FCA who had been parachuted into the area on previous missions. Their location was betrayed by a fellow Czechoslovak paratrooper, and on 18 June 1942 the church was surrounded by up to 800 SS and Gestapo troops. The seven men bravely held off their attackers for several hours, as long as their ammunition lasted, but all died either by enemy fire, or by their own hands when the cause was finally lost.

These seven men of the Free Czechoslovak Army – Jan Kubiš, Adolf Opálka, Josef Bublík, Josef Gabcík, Josef Valcik, Jaroslav Svarc and Jan Hruby – are named on the memorial fountain in Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa. The memorial was commissioned in the 1960s by the Association of Czechoslovak Legionnaires. It was designed by John French, lecturer in sculpture at the School of Art in the Mid-Warwickshire College of Further Education in Leamington Spa, and made by craftspeople at Hornton Stone Quarries in Edgehill, where the stone was obtained. Specialist carving was carried out by Ron Robbins. The memorial was set up in Jephson Gardens in Leamington, a riverside public park laid out in the C19 and remodelled in the early years of the C20. The fountain, which is accompanied by a cast bronze memorial plaque, was unveiled on 26 October 1968 by General Liska, former commander of the Czechoslovak Army.

Details

A memorial fountain commemorating the Free Czechoslovak Army, which was based in Leamington Spa during the Second World War, and in particular those who died following Operation Anthropoid; designed by John French, and erected in 1968.

MATERIALS Hornton stone.

DESCRIPTION The memorial takes the form of a fountain, with a wide, shallow, seven-lobed bowl standing on seven clustered piers, representing the seven men commemorated. The piers carry a carved rampant lion, the contemporary symbol of the then Czechoslovakia. From the centre of the bowl rises a water feature in the shape of an open parachute, with water emerging at the apex, and running down the ‘seams’ of the parachute into each of the lobes of the bowl below. The running streams of water resemble the cords of the parachute. This feature carries the names of those commemorated, one on each section. The water runs out of the lobes of the bowl via carved channels, and falls into a shallow, circular pool at the foot of the stem, which is fashioned in roughly-hewn stone. The pool is lined in Hornton stone paving with brick sides, and blue brick capping. The pool is surrounded by granite setts laid in concentric circles. Alongside the fountain is a bronze memorial plaque, about 0.9m x 0.75m, set on a block of rough granite. The plaque reads: IN TRIBUTE/ TO ALL/ CZECHOSLOVAK SOLDIERS, AIRMEN AND PATRIOTS/ WHO FELL IN WORLD WAR II./ FROM ROYAL LEAMINGTON SPA, IN 1941,/ VOLUNTEERS FROM FREE CZECHOSLOVAK FORCES/ STATIONED IN THE TOWN, WERE PARACHUTED INTO/ THEIR HOMELAND TO RID IT OF THE TYRANT/ "PROTECTOR" S.S. GENERAL HEYDRICH. TWO OF/ THEM - JAN KUBIŠ AND JOSEF GABCÍK -/ ACCOMPLISHED THEIR MISSION IN MAY 1942./ THEY AND THEIR COMPANIONS LAID DOWN THEIR/ LIVES/ FOR FREEDOM.

Selected Sources

Websites
Alan Griffin: The Free Czechoslovak Army, Leamington History Group, 17 April 2013, accessed 13.06.2018 from http://www.leamingtonhistory.co.uk/the-free-czech-army/
Imperial War Museum War Memorials Register: Czechoslovak Parachutists – WW2, accessed 13.06.2018 from https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/19509
War Memorials Online Database, Free Czech [sic] Army War Memorial WMO205254 , accessed 13.06.2018 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/205254/
Other
Czech memorial is taking shape, in Coventry Evening Telegraph, Thursday 10 October 1968, p 22

National Grid Reference: SP3205365656

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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End of official listing