The Slovenia Times

UK and Slovenia celebrate their friendship

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec (first from the left), UK Ambassador Tiffany Sadler, President Nataša Pirc Musar and Črnomelj Mayor Andrej Kavšek at a ceremony marking UK-Slovenia Friendship Day. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

A village in south-eastern Slovenia where a British bomber crashed in 1945 and the surviving crew members were rescued by the locals hosted the annual ceremony to mark UK-Slovenia Friendship Day.

Addressing the ceremony in Gornji Suhor, President Nataša Pirc Musar and UK Ambassador to Slovenia Tiffany Sadler stressed the importance of the "priceless" friendship between the two nations which was born in the hardest of times.

Pirc Musar, Sadler and Črnomelj Mayor Andrej Kavšek touched on the war in Ukraine in their speeches, noting that alliances like the ones forged during the Second World War were also important today.

UK-Slovenia Friendship Day is an important reminder that this friendship should be preserved and strengthened, the officials said. Kavšek wished for King Charles III to attend one of the annual ceremonies in the future.

Speaking in Slovenian, Sadler said for her UK-Slovenia Friendship Day was one of the most important days of the year and a reminder of centuries of friendship, alliances and the strength of human spirit.

Pirc Musar said the memory of the time when priceless bonds were formed should be preserved. She pointed to the war in Ukraine and the importance of cooperation within NATO. She wished that all nations could live in peace, especially Ukraine.

The president and the ambassador also laid wreaths at the memorial plaque, unveiled in 2018, that commemorates the nine members of the crew of the downed bomber.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator VI bomber of the Royal Air Force (RAF) crashed in the area on 31 March 1945 after which a part of the crew were rescued by locals and Partisans.

The US-made heavy bomber and its nine-member crew were a part of the Allied attack on airports, railway hubs, factories and other infrastructure in Graz, Austria. It was severely damaged by German anti-aircraft fire, and the aircraft was finished off somewhere above Celje as a German fighter hit it in the fuel tank.

As the aircraft turned into a flying torch, only enough time was left for four crew members to parachute themselves before the plane crashed in Gornji Suhor, damaging a house and coming to a stop in a field. Four airmen died on the spot and one in a Partisan hospital later.

The four surviving crew members were taken to safety by the local Partisans and were flown back to their base two days later. The five who died received a Catholic funeral in a nearby village.

The first UK-Slovenia Friendship Day was celebrated in Gornji Suhor in May 2019 with former President Borut Pahor and Prince Edward as the keynote speakers.

UK-Slovenia Friendship Day was also marked at the Cerklje ob Krki airbase with a performance by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, and a flyover of British Pilatus PC-9M aircraft. Defence Minister Marjan Šarec and Ambassador Sadler attended the event.


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