Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembrance Sunday - The Greatest Generation

While I was at the Natural History Museum in London I saw this plaque commemorating the buildings use during the war as a training centre for SOE - the Special Operations Executive. Founded on Churchill's order 'to set Europe ablaze'.  The organisation of previously unremarkable people who did remarkable things. There many stories of the courage shown by people from all walks of life, many of whom melted back into civilian life after the war, but for me Gabcik and Kubis exemplify the sacrifice made.

SOE operations in occupied Czechoslovakia came to a head in 1942 with the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, deputy to SS leader Heinrich Himmler and the governor of Bohemia and Moravia. 

Two Czech SOE agents who had trained in Britain, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, ambushed Heydrich as he drove through Prague in an open car. When Gabcik’s weapon failed to fire, Kubis threw a grenade which wounded Heydrich who climbed from the car to chase his would-be assassins on foot before collapsing from shock. Heydrich died from scepticemia a week later. 

In investigation ordered by Himmler incorrectly linked the SOE mission to the villages of Lidice and Lezaky. All adult male occupants were murdered and the villages burnt to the ground. Around 13,000 Czechoslovakians were imprisoned, deported or murdered as part of the Nazis’ revenge. MORE HERE

This action was later made into the amazing, and heartbreaking film Operation Daybreak 

In the face of all that assails us, spare a thought for those who did what they had to, purely because they had to. So that we too could have our chance to mould the world in our image. Today, if you have a moment, have a drink with me, the toast is Gabcik and Kubis.

"May you live in interesting times, and choose to be a part of them"

More soon
PS the wikipedia page has some interesting detail