Two British servicemen who helped Prague Uprising honoured

Memorial plaque to William Grieg and Thomas Vokes

Among the ceremonies marking the 76th anniversary of the Prague Uprising on Wednesday, May 5, was the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to two British servicemen who participated in the uprising and whose daring deed saved many lives. The ceremony took place at a school building on Na Smetance street in Prague’s Vinohrady district, where the two British soldiers devised a ploy that brought about the surrender of a German unit which posed a grave danger to the resistance fighters at the Czechoslovak Radio building.

The voice of British serviceman William Greig, calling for help from the Czechoslovak Radio building where tough fighting was taking place in a revolt that sparked the Prague Uprising, has been played many times from the Czechoslovak Radio Archives. Yet until recently the story of William Greig and Thomas Vokes, two British soldiers who took part in the uprising was not well known.

Unveilling of memorial plaque to William Grieg and Thomas Vokes | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

Their story was brought to light last year by the British ambassador to Prague, Nick Archer, when he sought to find a British connection to the Prague Uprising. The two servicemen escaped from German captivity, crossed the border and with the help of a Czech family came to Prague just before the uprising started. In a special recording the British ambassador explains how the two of them brought about the surrender of a German unit operating from the building on Na Smetance street.

“One hundred and twenty-three members of the Waffen-SS were in this building here, attacking Czech resistance fighters who were at Czechoslovak Radio, just down the street. The Czechoslovaks were running out of ammunition and Vokes and Greig came up with a very brave idea. They would pretend to be the advance party of a contingent of British paratroopers and demand the surrender of the German unit here in the name of King George VI, threatening an air strike if it did not comply. The resistance liked it. First thing in the morning, Greig presented their ultimatum to the German commander. To their surprise and delight, later that morning they surrendered, handing over all his weapons and making a huge difference to the success of the Battle for Czechoslovak Radio.”

Memorial plaque to William Grieg and Thomas Vokes | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

The plaque to the two British servicemen –Sargent Thomas Vokes and Private William Greig –was unveiled by Deputy Ambassador Lucy Hughes, in the presence of Prague 2 officials and representatives of the Military History Institute in a mark of respect not just for the British servicemen who saved many lives by their brave deed, but all those who took part in the Prague Uprising.