Czech ambassador unveils restored Arisaig memorial

The week before Remembrance Sunday, Czech ambassador to the UK, Marie Chatardová, unveiled a restored memorial to Czechoslovak soldiers who trained there under the direction of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War.

The memorial, which was placed on the site in 2009, has so far contained 71 names of SOE trained men who died while on duty.

Thanks also to a collection from Czech compatriots and the families and friends of these soldiers, it has now been restored and updated with four new stones now with the 188 names of those who survived the war.

The names were researched and added by military historian Eduard Stehlík and Martin Matějíček, and the honorary consul of the Czech Republic in Edinburgh, Mrs Veronika Macleod, then played a crucial role in securing the new memorial.

Between 1941 and 1943, over 259 Czechoslovak paratroopers underwent special military training in rugged landscape around Arisaig.

Their role was to be deployed in occupied territories and conduct covert operations to subvert the Nazi regime. Their prospects of surviving the action were slim, and many of them did not live to see the end of the war.

They died in combat, in Gestapo torture chambers, on gallows, or in concentration camps. The most famous operation of Czechoslovak soldiers trained by the SOE was Operation Anthropoid, which led to the assassination of the acting Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich.

One of those involved with hosting the ambassador’s visit, Henrik Chart, said the ceremony had been a complete success.

‘We had a break in the weather with glorious sunshine. The afternoon commenced with an introduction by Veronika MacLeod, the Honorary Consul for the Czech Republic in Scotland,’ Mr Chart told the Lochaber Times.

‘This was followed by an excellent rendition of ‘Scotland the Brave’ by local piper, Allan MacKenzie, and a speech by Ms Chatardová.

‘The eminent Czech historian, Eduard Stehlik, gave a speech which included information on the erection of the four new stones and the significance of remembering the 188 young men named.

‘There were then a series of wreaths laid by those mentioned and local dignitaries. The piper concluded by playing Abide with me, which was very moving.

‘Various local people were then thanked for their help with maintaining the monument and for the installation of the new information board, dedicated to the Czechs who trained in the Arisaig area.

‘The group also paid a visit to the Land, Sea and Island Centre and saw the exhibits relating to the Czech agents before adjourning to the Old Library for lunch. ‘



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