General Sikorski statue to honour Polish Second World War leader's legacy approved by Newark Town Council
Plans to honour Poland's heroic wartime leader with a statue have been given the go ahead.
The statue of General Władysław Sikorski will be erected in Newark Cemetery where the Polish leader was buried while the world was still at war.
The Mayor of Newark, Laurence Goff spoke passionately about the history and significance of Sikorski and of what the statue would represent at a meeting of the town council where the statue was agreed.
He said: "General Sikorski is hugely important figure to the town, having been buried in our cemetery for 50 years.
"Next year will mark 80 years since his death and a statue such as this is fitting, not just of the man, but of his lasting legacy, and I believe it is important to honour, not just him, but all of his fallen countrymen."
The general himself officially opened the Polish War Graves Section at Newark, which is still immaculately-kept, in 1941, declaring: "If I was to die on foreign soil, here is where I will be buried — amongst Polish blood on Polish soil until Poland is free again."
Sikorski was duly buried there after he died in a plane crash on July 4, 1943, when a Liberator taking the general back to London from the inspection of the Polish Army in the Middle East nose-dived into the sea 16 seconds after taking off from Gibraltar.
He was repatriated to Poland in 1993 amid huge international attention following a service in Newark attended by the Duke of Edinburgh.
The plan is for the life-size bronze to be positioned in a salute so the General can look down and honour his men, in what is the largest Polish plot of any cemetery in Britain with 440 graves.
Sikorski's empty grave and a memorial cross remain to this day alongside other Polish presidents who ruled in exile and did not live to see the day when they could return to a free homeland.
Sikorski is now buried in the Hall of Kings in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, alongside Polish kings and other national heroes.
Newark Town Council unanimously voted to give the statue approval.
It was agreed its location apt as the General can once again be with the paratroopers, soldiers and airmen he would have commanded during the war.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had objected to the statue on policy grounds because the location is close to the graves of non-Polish Servicemen, so may not be appropriate.
However, although responsible for maintaining Commonwealth war graves, it recognised the location was not within its area of responsibility and therefore it could not legally prevent the statue's installation.
The statue will be created by sculptor Andrew Lilley. who also designed the statue of Irene Sendler — a Polish social worker who saved 2,500 children during the second world war — in the nearby Fountain Gardens.
Newark has a strong history and connection to Poland as free Polish squadrons were stationed at four airfields around the town as they made vital contributions toward the Allied war effort.
Many stayed behind after the war ended in 1945, adopting England as their home.
Every year, well-attended services of commemoration take place at the Polish and Commonwealth War Graves Section in the cemetery — Airbridge, which remembers the incredible effort of the RAF to support the 1944 Warsaw uprising, and All Souls' Day, a Ceremony of Homage and Remembrance, to those buried there and thousands like them who perished.