Derby Lidice Week, Darley Park Rally, and the Flight Lieutenants – 1943

Derby Lidice Week received prominent Czech citizens, including Minister of State and Acting Foreign Minister, Dr Hubert Ripka, as well as units of the Czech Armed Forces. Many events had been arranged, but the principal one and finale was a mass rally in Darley Park on Sunday, September 12th, 1943, to be preceded by a parade and march-past in the marketplace by British, American, and Czech soldiers, the Civil Defence Corps, the National Fire Service, and pre-Service organisations.

Speakers in the park were to include dignitaries of the Allied nations and representatives of the Lidice Shall Live campaign: Dr Barnett Stross; Dr Ripka; Mr P. J. Noel-Baker MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport; M. Alexej Shiborin, First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy; M. C. Burnay, representative of the Fighting French Headquarters; and Alderman George Jones, Secretary of the Midland Miners. Again, the meeting was supported by Flight Lieutenants Josef Horák and Josef Stříbrný. The demonstration officially began at 3.30pm with the Czech Army Choir and Band performing traditional music from 3pm.

On the evening of Monday, the 13th of September, the Derby Telegraph reported on Sunday’s rally:

“British American, Czech and the Free French armies were represented on the platform at a mass meeting in Darley Park, under the auspices of the Derby ‘’Lidice Shall Live” Committee. Speakers included representatives of the Czecho-Slovak Government and of the Soviet Embassy, Mr P. J. Noel-Baker (Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport), and Dr B. Stross. In addition, one of the only two men of Lidice believed to be alive told an audience of several thousand people yesterday afternoon that when the little Czecho-Slovakian mining village comes to be rebuilt, he hopes that Derby will be represented at the laying of the foundation stone.”

Darley Park, Derby, Venue For A Lidice Shall Live Rally As Part Of Derby Lidice Week
Darley Park, Derby, was the venue for a Lidice Shall Live rally

It was a large crowd that thronged Derby marketplace as the Mayor of Derby, Alderman Hind, took the salute at a march past by units of the British, American, and Czech Forces, Home Guard and Civil Defence crews, and pre-Service organisations. According to press reports, the parade included about 1,000 participants. Hundreds of people followed the procession to Darley Park, where the Czechoslovak Army band played. The mayor, as chairman of the city’s Lidice Shall Live board, greeted the speakers and opened the event. First of all, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport, Mr Noel-Baker recounted the story of Lidice, before adding:

“We are here to swear that the name of Lidice shall live forever and be famous in every continent as the happiest village in the freest republic in the world. The aim of this meeting is to fulfil the splendid conception of Dr Stross and raise a fund by which Lidice shall be rebuilt to become one of the finest mining villages in the world. Stone by stone the church shall be rebuilt, children shall forget what is now being taught to them, and there shall be erected an institute of mining research in saving miners’ lives at the rate of 100 for everyone that Hitler took from Lidice a year ago.

We shall punish the criminals who slaughtered Lidice and shall wipe away the weakness, corruption, and blind folly that brought the Czech nation down at Munich in 1938; we shall destroy aggression and build a world in which so great a people as the Czechs can live in peace and safety.”

Mr Alexej Shiborin, representing the Soviet Embassy, said that the recent successes in Russia and in Italy would give greater morale to the conquered countries. In summing up, he said, “Much had been done to achieve final victory, but the enemy still possessed great strength with which to delay the hour of his final collapse. It was necessary to open a second front in Europe, which would compel the Germans to withdraw 60 or 80 divisions from the Eastern front and thus help to restore independence to the oppressed people of the continent.”

Dr Stross then spoke. He appealed to people to distinguish between Nazis and Germans. He argued that while it was natural to feel that the whole German nation was at fault for the horrors of the war, the Allies’ philosophy should be more along the lines of

“If the pupil commits murder, hang the schoolmaster… “We were going to hang the schoolmaster soon!” he said.

The next speaker was the Lidice survivor, referred to as Flt/Lt. “X” in the press, but in all likelihood, this was Josef Horák, who was now serving as a flight lieutenant in the 311th Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron of the Royal Air Force. In fairly good English, “Flt/Lt. ‘X’” thanked the Derby Lidice Shall Live Committee for its effort and assured it that his people would be happy to know that they had such valuable friends in Britain. Referring to the RAF, he stated how glad he was to be able to serve in one of the finest services in the world, which gave him and his friends in the Czechoslovakian Air Force an opportunity to help defeat the Huns.

“We like it,” he went on, “and when the bombs go down you can always hear us say, ‘For my parents, my sister, my country, and all who suffer.’ We are all waiting for the day when Germany will get a heavy toll for all she has done, not only to the small village of Lidice but to thousands of others.”

In the absence of Dr Hubert Ripka (Minister of State), Mr J. Kraus, a fellow minister representing the Czech Government-in-exile, expressed thanks to the people of Derby on behalf of his people. Speaking of the future, Mr Kraus said that Germany as a whole could not be exonerated. This did not mean that it should be destroyed or excluded from human society, but it did suggest that the German nation must bear the consequences of its guilt and give an effective and tangible expression of its will to renounce Nazism forever.

The final meeting of the Derby Lidice Shall Live committee took place on Friday, the 8th of October. It announced a total of £1,466 raised by the Lidice Week and associated activities. Expenses amounting to £202 left a net sum of £1,264, and it was decided to send £1,000 to the Czech Office in London at once, with the balance remaining in the hands of the treasurer until all the donations were received. The account was to be closed as soon after October 31st as possible.

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