Statue to be unveiled in June 2018 in Mary Stevens Park, Stourbridge
Midlands artist Andy de Comyn has started work on the full size statue of Frank Foley after being selected produce the tribute to the spy dubbed the British Schindler.
Major Foley was a British spy working undercover as Passport Control Officer in pre-war Nazi Berlin where he provided thousands of Jews with the documents they needed to escape Germany by bending the rules when stamping passports or issuing visas. He also hid Jews in his own home and even went into Sachsenhausen concentration camp with visas to enable prisoners to leave. He settled in Stourbridge when he retired and lived at Eveson Road in Norton, close to Mary Stevens Park where the statue will be located, until his death in 1958.
Dudley North MP Ian Austin spearheaded the campaign for a permanent tribute, persuading the then Chancellor George Osborne to provide £40,000 to cover the costs.
Mr De Comyn was selected by a panel made up of Stourbridge MP Margot James, representatives of Frank Foley’s family, the Holocaust Educational Trust who have supported the project, historian and journalist Michael Smith who wrote “Frank Foley: The Spy Who Saved Ten Thousand Jews” that brought Foley to prominence, local councillors and residents. The project and commission is being organised by Steve Field, Dudley Council’s Public Artist.
Andy de Comyn’s model (photos attached) depicts Foley quietly seated on a park bench, just as he might have in Berlin in the 1930s: he is feeding a bird, which symbolises freedom and the people he helped, and a briefcase at his side hints at his MI6 work. The statue will be placed in the beautiful and tranquil Upper Terrace of the Mary Stevens Park Tea Garden, and the statue can be viewed at a distance both through a fine Topiary Arch, and also through one of the pedestrian gates to the main park. Visitors will be able to sit next to Major Foley and reflect on his heroism.
Andy de Comyn’s previous work includes several sculptural memorials at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, including the Memorial to the Shot at Dawn and the Memorial to the ATS; he also created the powerful Rugeley Miners Memorial. He trained in figurative sculpture at Stafford Polytechnic under Stuart Osborne RA, and at Birmingham School of Art under Robert Crutchley, and will cast the clay version of the statue into permanent bronze at a local Birmingham foundry.
The statue is expected to become part of a Foley Trail that will encompass the fine stone plaque carved by Malcolm Sier in 2004 at the Park entrance that also commemorates Foley, and the Memorial Tree planted by the War Memorial in 2016, as well as his grave in the local cemetery, and Eveson Road where he lived modestly in retirement with his wife.
Ian Austin MP said:
“I am absolutely delighted that work has started and that the statue should be ready next Summer so people can learn about him and our country’s role in fighting for freedom, democracy and tolerance against Nazi Germany.
“Frank Foley refused to stand by when people were being persecuted because of their race and religion and his heroism helped saved ten thousand people from the Holocaust.
“When other European countries were sending Jews to concentration camps, Britain provided a safe haven for tens of thousands of refugees. I think this period defines what it means to be British – our unique response to the Holocaust and role in the War gives us the right to claim a particular attachment to the values of democracy, equality, freedom, fairness and tolerance.”
Margot James MP said:
"I am so pleased that by next summer we will have a statue of Major Frank Foley in Stourbridge, close to where he lived after the Second World War.
“The statue is a fitting tribute to Major Foley’s heroic actions, and I know that people from all around the area will visit and sit with him, to reflect and to learn about his life.
“My thanks go to Ian Austin, who has campaigned tirelessly, and to former Chancellor George Osborne, for agreeing to fund this project”
On behalf of the Foley family, Frank Foley’s great-nephew, Stephen Higgs said:
"I am delighted that a statue of Frank Foley has been commissioned and we are all truly grateful to Ian Austin MP and everyone else who has worked so hard to bring this about.
“We look forward to seeing the statue in place in the Park, so that all who visit it have the chance to get to know Frank Foley's story and to learn from his example."
Andy de Comyn said:
"I am absolutely honoured to be given the opportunity to celebrate the life of such a remarkable man whose compassion saved so many lives."
Michael Smith, author of "Frank Foley: The Spy Who Saved Ten Thousand Jews", said:
"Andy de Comyn's quiet park bench will provide a wonderful place for anyone to sit and contemplate the effect Foley had on the world.
“The bare figures show that Foley saved tens of thousands of Jews, but they do not do justice to his legacy. The vast majority of people he saved had children and then grand-children, and then great-grandchildren who will of course over time have children of their own. How many people are now alive because of the quiet humanity of this one man?"
The campaign was supported by the Holocaust Educational Trust who helped organise the event. Chief executive, Karen Pollock MBE, said:
“Frank Foley’s courageous actions saved 10, 000 Jewish people from almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis – he is an example to all of us about the importance of standing up to be counted even in the most difficult of circumstances.
“As we educate the next generation about the darkness and destruction of the Holocaust, we are fortunate to be able to point to the few who risked their own lives to save others. We are delighted and proud to support this special initiative bringing attention to an extraordinary man.”