Memorial to Czechoslovak airmen who fought with RAF in WWII unveiled in Prague and Bratislava

Ceremony for Winged Lion Memorial attended by dignitaries including Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP

PRAGUE, June 18, /PRNewswire/ -- The 2,500 Czech and Slovak airmen who fought with the British Royal Air Force to free Europe from Nazi tyranny were honoured today – nearly 70 years after the end of the war – by the unveiling of a striking memorial, the ‘Winged Lion’, at Klarov Park in central Prague.

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The ‘Winged Lion’, donated by the ex-patriot British community in the Czech Republic, was unveiled by the Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames, a British MP and former defence minister who is the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime leader. At a ceremony attended by Czech and foreign dignitaries, as well as many members of the public, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames paid tribute to the selfless devotion of the Czech and Slovak airmen who escaped from their occupied homeland and risked their lives in the fight to free Europe.

"Their country had been invaded by ruthless conquerors. Dissent was met with death. Yet they managed to escape and join the aerial battle against Nazi Germany, which was decisive. These young men were the best of the best," said Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames.

The British Embassy in Prague, which gave its full backing to the project, organised a traditional performance by the RAF band and Spitfire flypast to celebrate the occasion of the unveiling. "We thought the Memorial and accompanying ceremony was an excellent way to demonstrate our country’s appreciation of the bravery of these airmen in WWII and to underline the strong kindred spirit which has united the Czech and Slovak Republics with Great Britain since 1989," said Colonel Andrew Shepherd, Defence Attaché at the British Embassy.

A similar ceremony will take place on 18th June, in the Slovak capital of Bratislava for the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to honour the airmen. This memorial is sited at the entrance of the main retail building on the public square of the Eurovea Shopping Centre. Euan Edworthy, the initiator of the project that saw Kc3.3 million (€120,000) raised in little over a month, spoke on behalf of the ex-pat community at the unveiling ceremony in Prague: "We Brits have enjoyed centuries of freedom: free speech, free association, free thought. Czechs and Slovaks were entitled to the same freedoms until 1938 and were then denied them for a further 48 years."

"Our Winged Lion is a tribute to the Czechoslovaks who simply wouldn’t allow themselves to be oppressed. Many paid for their beliefs with their lives. We should not forget the debt that we free Europeans owe to these warriors who paid with ‘blood, sweat, tears and toil’ for the liberty which is our birth right today. Freedom cannot be taken for granted," he said.