The celebrations during 2020, recalling the Czechoslovak forces arriving in Britain eighty years ago and the seventy fifth anniversary since the end of the war highlighted a vital missing link. Whilst the Czechoslovak military commemoration chain extends over the length and breadth of Great Britain, Edith Sedláková, who lost her life whilst a member of the Armed Forces has no formal military headstone. A plaque has been put on the civilian plot where Edith is buried, but this falls far short of being honoured in the same way as her brothers in arms.
The Memorial Association for Free Czechoslovak Veterans (MAFCSV) has worked with His Excellency Ambassador Libor Sečka and Defence Attaché Colonel Jiří Niedoba to commemorate her formally at the national monument, Brookwood. The project has been complex in reconciling British military protocols, extant since the war, with Czech military law drawn up in more recent times. The path was, however, cleared with the Ministry of Defence in Prague for a formal request to be made to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to place a Czechoslovak military headstone at the National Memorial in her honour.
The Association is now delighted to announce the application has been successful. The CWGC has provided this most historically important marker. As the only Czechoslovak woman to lose her life in the United Kingdom whilst in military service it honours her personally and will remind future generations that many Czech and Slovak women served in the British Armed Forces with courage and distinction.
A brief history of Edita illustrates her courage and sense of duty shown throughout her journey in life. Edita's story is here, together with a tribute by her nephew and the appreciation of the family in the UK & Czech Republic.
On Sunday 9 May, the MAFCSV held a special event at Brookwood Military Cemetery to remember VE Day and honour the Czechoslovak veterans who had fought during WWII with the Allies. The afternoon was blessed with excellent weather. Despite the recent storms both plots looked their best after some tidying.
H.E. the Czech Ambassador Libor Sečka, H.E. the Slovak Ambassador Róbert Ondrjcsák, the Czech Defence Attaché Colonel Jiří Niedoba and Slovak Defence Attaché Colonel Vladimír Stolárik came to pay their respects and lay wreaths at both the National Memorial in the CWGC Cemetery and at the civilian plot in Brookwood Cemetery. We were honoured to be joined by Brigadier-General Ingr Petr Čepelka who is Deputy Director of Force Development Division of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic and his wife Eva. During a ceremony the parties formally recognised the headstone created for Captain Karel Šeda, in Plot 28, which originally was to be revealed during our commemoration service in May 2020.
There were two other highlights. Firstly, the dedication of a new joint headstone to Edita Sedláková and her husband Zdeňek. Both had been serving military personnel when killed on the 5th October 1945 on a repatriation flight to Prague. At that time unfortunately, Edita had been buried with the other civilian casualties of the crash, whereas Zdenek has been buried with his comrades.
We were delighted to work with H.E. the Czech Ambassador Libor Sečka, the Czech Defence Attaché Colonel Jiří Niedoba, Mike Hermann (Edita’s nephew), and the CWGC to correct this oversight. The new stone was created by the CWGC in their workshops in France and Scott Cummings who is Horticulture Manager for the South East of England, was at the dedication ceremony to represent the Commission.
Everyone was pleased to welcome Edita’s family who joined the ceremony and laid flowers and wreaths on behalf of family in the UK and Czech Republic. (Edita's story is here.)
The second highlight was Dr George Scott presenting the Ambassadors and Defence Attachés with copies of his new book called ‘Plot 28; Tragedy and Triumph, Brookwood, 1940-1955’. A summary of the book, in which Edita and Zdeňeks story is also portrayed and a short film 'Plot 28' is shown on this page.
Thanks go to Mr Vladimir Andell who provided the red carnations that were placed on each individual Czechoslovak headstone, along with a wooden cross of remembrance given by the Czech and Slovak Embassies. Remembrance events would not be the same without them.
We look forward to welcoming you all back to our next event at Brookwood planned for this year on October 31st.
This is the book seen during Mikes video thank you on Edita's page.
"If the extraordinary events before and during the Second World War had not happened, then it is unlikely that the lives of our parents would ever have crossed.
They came from different countries and cultures, had different religions and their family backgrounds and circumstances were 'poles apart'."
This benign book cover statement is no preparation for the relentless tragedy and horror suffered by these families & their friends during the war years. The post-war sections include 'Honouring Edith & Zdeňek' which is the prequel to todays ceremonies.
'Plot 28' was presented by George Scott to the Ambassadors and their Defence Attaché's during their Brookwood visit.
Dr George Edward Scott was born in Prague in 1946. His mother endured the German occupation whilst his father served with distinction in the Czechoslovak Army abroad. The family fled to Great Britain in 1949 to escape the purges conducted against those who served in the West.
George has combined his skill as a historian and Chartered Surveyor to solve one of the greatest enigmas of Czechoslovak military history. For sixty six years since the memorial at Brookwood was completed in 1955 it has stubbornly remained a closed book as to its origins.
His research now reveals how the Imperial War Graves Commission, as it was known, became involved in the scheme and managed a network of relationships which eventually produced the architectural outcome that you see today. Despite emerging from an environment of persecution of the soldiers and airmen from Great Britain, 'Plot 28' explains how the tempestuous journey finally managed to produce a memorial which captured a highly symbolic spirit of Britishness in its design, as well as its construction background.
George Scott's evocative film of the war years and creation of the National Czechoslovakian Memorial at Plot 28 in the Brookwood Military Cemetery.
Look out for the image of Edita Sedláková shown within the archive footage.
Further nformation about George's book, available on request from MAFCSV by email (here) , is on Instagram here.