UK unveils statue in honour of General Sikorski who died after his plane ‘mysteriously ‘crashed on July 4, 1943
In a tribute to Poland's wartime leader, General Władysław Sikorski, a striking lifelike statue is set to be unveiled today at the cemetery where he rests in Newark, Nottinghamshire, in the United Kingdom.
The unveiling is timed to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the tragic accident that abruptly claimed the life of Poland’s wartime leader in 1943.
Eighty years ago, on July 4, 1943, Władysław Sikorski's life was abruptly cut short when his plane crashed shortly after take-off from Gibraltar.
He had been inspecting the Polish Army in the Middle East when his plane stopped in Gibraltar on the way back to London.
Several seconds after taking off, the American B-24 Liberator hit the surface of the water.
The crash, which killed 16 individuals, including Sikorski's daughter Zofia Leśniowska, has since been shrouded in mystery, fueling intrigue and spawning numerous investigations and conspiracy theories.
While an official commission attributed the accident to a technical malfunction, persistent speculation has implicated both the Soviet Union and even the British intelligence community, suggesting a web of intrigue and hidden agendas.
A British-appointed commission looking into the accident's causes rejected the possibility of an assassination attempt and concluded that a technical error was to blame.
This remains the official cause of Sikorski’s death but theories that he was killed on someone’s orders emerged soon after the tragedy and have not abated to this day.
Many of the theories place the Soviets as the culprits. Sikorski had severed diplomatic relations with Moscow earlier in 1943 after the bodies of Polish officers had been discovered at Katyń by the Germans.
It has been speculated that Stalin wanted to remove Sikorski as he was an inconvenient thorn in Moscow’s relations with the Allies.
However, many believe that the British were involved in orchestrating the crash, with attention centering on the treacherous Cambridge Five spy ring.
In 1981, Winston Churchill’s grandson, Winston Spencer-Churchill, asked the British government whether World War II British secret service operatives Anthony Blunt and Kim Philby who worked with Soviet intelligence were in collusion and whether they orchestrated the crash that killed Sikorski.
Blunt and Philby were part of the Cambridge Five, made up of Cambridge University graduates, members of the Communist-minded British establishment, who spied for the USSR between 1930-60, causing irreparable damage to British interests.
In 1940, Blunt worked in a section that studied the communications of foreign embassies. He was among a small group of people with access to decrypted Enigma reports.
Philby, who was a senior MI6 officer, is known to have been in Spain at the time of the disaster.
The crash brought an untimely end to a remarkable life or service and sacrifice. He played a pivotal role in leading the Polish government-in-exile during World War II, tirelessly advocating for Poland's sovereignty and rallying international support for the Polish cause.
Prior to the war, Sikorski was a decorated military leader, known for his courageous defence of Poland during the Polish-Soviet War and his instrumental role in modernising the Polish Armed Forces.
The statue in Newark underlines the town’s strong connection to Poland. Polish squadrons were stationed at several airfields around the town and the cemetery is the resting place not just of Sikorski but also of around 200 Polish servicemen.
To honour Sikorski’s memory, Newark council commissioned local sculptor Andrew Lilley to design the lifelike statue.
Lilley already designed the statue of Irena Sendler, the Polish social worker who saved 2,500 children during the second WWII, which sits in the nearby Fountain Gardens.
He also designed a statue of Polish bard Jan Kochanowski, which is in the gardens of the family home of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife, in Stratford.
Lilley worked on the statue of General Władysław Sikorski for nine months.
The unveiling is taking place today at 3pm in front of invited guests representing the Polish and British Governments, as well as local dignitaries.
A flypast has been planned over the cemetery by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Hurricane at 3:30pm to honour the late general.
The Polish leader is now buried in the Hall of Kings in Kraków’s Wawel Cathedral, alongside Polish kings and other national heroes.