Winged lion to commemorate the home return of Czechoslovak airmen and women

Alice Štysová

Five years after its unveiling by Sir Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson, the Winged Lion at Klarov was the scene of a multi-national commemorative ceremony attended by defence leaders and distinguished guests from the Czech political, cultural, business and community sectors.

The ceremony has taken place on the 14th August 2019 which is the date when the Czechoslovak aircrews returned from United Kingdom to Ruzyne, Prague in 1945.

Altogether 2,508 Czech and Slovak airmen and airwomen served with the Royal Air Force during World War Two. The Winged Lion was designed and built by the British community in Prague as a tribute to these flyers’ heroism during the seemingly hopeless years when Britain stood alone against Hitler.

Winged Lion receives 1,000,000 CZK enhancement

The Winged Lion has proved a popular landmark among Czechs and visitors alike, with over 60,000 stopping by to pay their respects every year. For this reason the British community in Prague, with strong support from Czech political and business dignitaries, has raised a further 1m CZK to enable the memorial to be extended and enhanced. As of today, the Winged Lion Memorial has received donations of over 6.25 million CZK (250,000 Euro).

The new works include paving around the plinth, the provision of benches and the engraving of information panels placed on the pediment.

The Czech Defence Association (AOBP) has responded to the Winged Lion’s success with a plan to extend the site with benches, information panels, squadron badges and paving. Chapman Taylor have donated their services as designers.The principal sponsors of this project are Bell, Mr Roger Dunlop, Modřanskýháj,Flow East, Sellier&Bellot, Omnipol, CZUB, ERA, VB, CSG, AURA, Tesco, Quittner, Swordfish, Discovery Group, PRAMACOM, MEOPTA, Mr Robert Neale and Mr Petr Karel. The organiser is Mr Euan Edworthy, the instigator of the Winged Lion in 2013, in tandem with Major-General Bohuslav Dvorak, former Deputy Chief of the General Staff.

Wreath-laying and commemorative event

The commemorative event on the 14th August began with the laying of wreaths at 1400 hrs. The speeches wereled by veterans and military and political dignitaries. Then a performance by the children of Gen Perina’s School and a prayer from H.E. Dominik Cardinal Duka O.P., after which Last Post was played. The formal event concluded with the singing of the Czech, Slovak and British national anthems.

A reception,under the auspices of H.E. Dominik Cardinal Duka O.P., followed at the Archbishop’s Palace, at which commemorative medals were presented.

‘Lest we forget…’

Major GeneralPetr Hromek,CZE AF Com says: ‘After 80 years it would be easy for the sacrifice and bravery of the Czechs and Slovaks who fought for Europe’s freedom to fade into history. The Winged Lion memorial will make sure that their names and deeds will live forever’.

Tomas Lom, veteran from the 311th bomber squadron says: ‘I was lucky enough to survive the War and enjoy a long and happy life afterwards. Many of my comrades were not so lucky. It gladdens my heart that their patriotism and service are recognised by this fine memorial. I think they would be pleased’.

Major-General (ret.) Bohuslav Dvorak says: ‘Our RAF friends are kind enough to say that the contribution of the Czech and Slovak airmen during World War Two was out of all proportion to their numbers. They were fighting with the last free country for the freedom of their own country. We should all be proud of what they did. I would like to say how grateful we are to all the British ex-pats and Czech companies who have dug deep into their pockets to make the Winged Lion memorial a reality’.

Euan Edworthy says: ‘Speaking on behalf of the Appeal Fund, the Winged Lion means a lot to us. It’s a visible symbol of what can happen when countries stand together against tyranny. Judging by the numbers of visitors, it means a lot to other people too. I’d like to pay tribute to the help and support we have received from so many individuals and corporations, and in particular to the wholehearted enthusiasm of the Czech defence establishment‘.

Enquiries:Miroslav Dvorak or +420 774 800 040