foPPA's first Patrons appointed

We are delighted to announce that Sir Robert Crawford CBE and Sir Christopher Lee CBE have kindly agreed to act as Patrons of the Friends of Popski's Private Army. Both have been keen supporters of foPPA's remembrance activities for many years, attending our inaugural meeting at the Special Forces Club in 2004, and we believe that their appointment will significantly enhance our fundraising profile for years to come.

Sir Robert was Director-General of the Imperial War Museum from 1995 to 2008, neatly capping his long interest in PPA at both ends of his tenure: in 1995 he oversaw the opening of the IWM's Secret War exhibition, where the rôles, achievements and equipment of WWII Special Forces are shown and explained, and many veterans of PPA were brought together for the first time in nearly 20 years, while in 2008 he unveiled the PPA Memorial in the Allied Special Forces Grove within the National Memorial Arboretum. Sir Robert's personal interest in PPA goes back to the age of 11 when Vladimir Peniakoff’s "Private Army" was the very first volume of military history he ever bought. He is a trustee of several military museums and also of the Gerry Holdsworth Special Forces Charitable Trust, grant provider to foPPA. "They were my boyhood heroes" Sir Robert said at the unveiling.

Sir Christopher's connection with PPA also started at an early age: he and foPPA Chairman John Campbell were at prep school together in London, where he was caned for hiding John's football boots in a coal bin (and again for fibbing about it). John also recalls Christopher's suggestion that they should be spies, perhaps unsurprising for a step-cousin of Ian Fleming. By 1943 Sir Christopher, of Italian nobility, was an RAF Intelligence Officer liaising with PPA, SAS and LRDG Special Forces about behind-the-lines operations in North Africa, Italy and the Balkans, as well as serving in SOE himself, but has said little since of his clandestine exploits. Post-war, as his long and exceptional film career took off, he was a frequent dining companion of Popski and his second wife Pamela. When invited to become Patron Sir Christopher said, with his inimitable bass resonance: "I would be honoured."

These appointments, initially for three years from 1 December 2011, will lend considerable reputational weight to foPPA's efforts, perhaps starting in 2012 with Operation Wixoe, our final main remembrance project. This is the proposal, already agreed in principle with church authorities in Italy and the UK, to transfer Popski's original commemorative marble plaque from the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare in Classe to St Leonard's Church in Wixoe, Suffolk, where Popski and Pamela are buried. Popski's plaque was replaced in 2004 by a similar one that now also commemorates the part that Italian Partisans played in the liberation of Ravenna in 1944.

Between them our new Patrons have considerable organisational and media experience, as well as a passion for military history in general and PPA in particular, and we look forward to being able to draw upon that over the next few years.

Roy Paterson
Secretary, foPPA

Copyright © 2011 foPPA
22 Dec 2011