LOUIS, 1st EARL MOUNTBATTEN OF BURMA
1983: The Statue - A National Memorial
Following Mountbatten's assassination in 1979, calls for a statue to honour him gained growing support. In July 1981, the then Prime Minister - The Rt Hon. (Lady) Margaret Thatcher, later Baroness Thatcher (1925-2013) launched a Statue Appeal Fund to raise funds for a permanent memorial. Other sponsors included - The Rt Hon. Michael Foot (1913-2010), then Leader of HM Opposition (Leader of the Labour Party); The Rt Hon. (Sir) David Steel, later Lord Steel of Aikwood (b.1938), then Leader of the Liberal Party; Admiral of the Fleet Sir Caspar John (1903-1984), a former Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and former First Sea Lord; Field Marshal Sir John Harding, 1st Lord Harding of Petherton (1896-1989), a former Chief of the Imperial General Staff and former Governor of Cyprus; Marshal of the RAF Sir Dermot Boyle (1904-1993), a former Chief of the Air Staff; Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, Lord Trevelyan (1905-1985), a former distinguished Ambassador and author of "The India We Left"; and Sir Solomon 'Solly' Zuckerman, Lord Zuckerman (1904-1993), a former Chief Government Scientific Adviser.
ABOVE & BELOW:
Queen Elizabeth II unveiling
the Mountbatten statue,
behind her are (left to right) -
The Rt Hon. (Lady)
later Baroness Thatcher,
the Prime Minister and Patricia,
2nd Countess Mountbatten
The Trustees of the Fund (who included The Rt Hon. Michael Heseltine, later Lord Heseltine (b.1933), then Secretary of State for Defence) established a competition in 1982 to decide upon a sculptor, to be chosen from a panel chaired by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Terence Lewin, Lord Lewin (1920-1999), a former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff. Other members of the panel included Mountbatten's daughters - Patricia and Pamela, and they subsequently chose Czech born Franta Belsky (1921-2000), who took nearly 2 years to complete the project.
Belsky's bronze statue, which is 9ft 5" high and weighs nearly a ton, depicts Mountbatten in the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet wearing the breast stat of the Most Noble Order of the Garter star and the neck insignia of the Order of Merit, holding binoculars in right hand. The cost of the statue and the Portland stone pyramid step base (which cost £100,000) was largely financed by individuals, organisations and associations with a link to Mountbatten. The statue was cast by Jack Crofton from the Meridian Bronze Foundry in Peckham Rye, South London (where the bronze statue of former Prime Minister - The Rt Hon Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) by Ivor Robert-Jones (1913-1996) was cast in 1973 for Parliament Square, London). The Portland stone pyramid step base was designed by Charles Pollard, and the contractors for the entire project were Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd. A hidden secret within the sculpture is a jam jar placed within the left leg of the statue - as a time capsule documenting the two years Belsky spent creating the statue. Inside includes an account of the £35,000 he was awarded for the work, a newspaper cutting and a collection of uncirculated coins.
The Mountbatten statue was placed on Foreign Office Green (now called Mountbatten Green) in Westminster, London, at the rear of the Foreign Office and No.10 Downing Street, overlooking Horse Guards Parade towards the Old Admiralty Building (where his father once presided) and was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) on 2nd November 1983. The ceremony was attended by nearly every member of the British Royal Family and amongst the 1,500 guests included Admiral of the Fleet King Olav V of Norway (1903-1991), relatives from various European Royal Families, former Prime Ministers, members of Mountbatten's family and representatives from all of HM Armed Forces and many of the Military Associations Mountbatten was connected to throughout his distinguished military service.
ABOVE & RIGHT:
Franta Belsky's statue of
near Horse Guards Parade, London
Queen Elizabeth II arriving at the Mountbatten statue unveiling.
She was met by The Rt Hon. (Lady) Margaret Thatcher,
later Baroness Thatcher, the Prime Minister and (behind)
Patricia, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma
During the unveiling ceremony, Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) said - "We all speculate on what it is that makes greatness in a man or woman... Why was it that the moment Lord Mountbatten came thought he door, he seemed to fill the room? It was first and foremost the vitality and force of his personality, combined with an astonishing range of abilities. He could be farsighted with enormous breadth of vision and yet he could also concentrate on the minutest detail of any problem - a perfectionist who always mastered his subject. Add to this unfailing courage, immense charm and a never flagging determination to get his way, and you have a truly formidable character. Above all he was a natural leader who managed to convey to those who worked with him his sense of enthusiasm and dedication... But above all, Dickie delighted in being a family man and he was always ready to help any member of the family."
The Prime Minister - The Rt Hon. (Lady) Margaret Thatcher, later Baroness Thatcher (1925-2013) said - "Lord Mountbatten died at the hands of wicked men but his work lives on... He was one of the great men of our time who had a unique place in twentieth century history." The service concluded with a dedication performed by The Rt Rev & Rt Hon. Gerald Ellison (1910-1992), The Bishop of London, who had been a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) chaplain during World War II. Following the unveiling ceremony the invited guests went to the Banqueting House, Whitehall for a reception. Three days later ‘The Times’ published a letter from the author and broadcaster (Sir) Ludovic Kennedy (1919-2009) in which he said the statue was - "…impressive but flawed... but on what occasion would one have expected to meet him [Mountbatten] wearing binoculars, aiguillettes, the Order of Merit and the Order of the Garter, all at the same time?" Clearly Kennedy did not know Mountbatten well - he was soon corrected!
The plaster maquette of
statue of Mountbatten
sold by Sotheby's in 2021
Franta Belsky's statue of Mountbatten today
on Mountbatten Green, Horse Guards Parade, London
In 2001, due to its close proximity to No.10 Downing Street, Mountbatten Green was ringed with railings, making public access prohibited (sadly) for security reasons. In 2021, Sotheby's auctioned a considerable amount of furniture, paintings and other objet d'art from the estate of Patricia, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma (1924-2017). One item in the auction was a 72cms plaster maquette of the Belsky statue of Mountbatten. It was sold for over £3,000.
MAY HE REST IN PEACE
AND HIS MEMORY LIVE FOREVER