Pivka marks Slovenian-British Alliance

7.May 2024

The Park of Military History received two precious historical artifacts with a brief ceremony on May 5th. These include a sword presented to the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe from 1994 to 1998, General Sir Jeremy Mackenzie, in gratitude for his assistance to the Slovenian Army in approaching the NATO alliance. The sword was gifted by the Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Army, Major General Albin Gutman. Additionally, the park received a regimental kilt of the British Army in the ‘Mackenzie’ tartan pattern, originally worn by the Seaforth Highlanders and later by the Queen’s Own Highlanders. The sword was presented to the Park of Military History for museum purposes on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the NATO alliance and the 20th anniversary of Slovenia’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by Dr. Aleš Musar, the husband of the President of the Republic of Slovenia. Dr. Musar acquired the sword some time ago and decided to donate it to the Military History Park, while the kilt was gifted to the Park by the British Embassy on the double anniversary of the NATO alliance. The event, attended by donors Dr. Aleš Musar and Her Excellency Tiffany Sadler, the British Ambassador to Slovenia, also saw the presence of the Mayor of the Municipality of Pivka, Robert Smrdelj, an advisor in the cabinet of the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Slovenia, and the President of the Association of Slovenian Officers, Major General Dobran Božič, as well as the British Defense Attaché, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Day. Adding a Scottish touch to the ceremony, musician Byron Stirton from the Scottish Royal Fourth Battalion military orchestra performed on bagpipes.

In the late afternoon, a memorial ceremony followed the anniversary of the crash of the Spitfire MH980 airplane near the village of Suhorje in the Brkini region. These days mark the 79th anniversary since the British Spitfire MH980 aircraft tragically crashed near the village of Suhorje, on the edge of the Brkini region. This incident resulted in the untimely loss of the life of a young pilot, Sergeant Edmund Ramsbotham of the British Royal Air Force, just before the end of the war.

The 21-year-old pilot was a member of the 249th Squadron of the RAF, one of the most renowned fighter units of the British Royal Air Force. At the end of April 1945, when the majority of Europe had already been liberated, the squadron assisted Yugoslav partisans in the final battles by attacking German transports on roads and railways. Sergeant Ramsbotham took off with the Spitfire MH980 aircraft from Canne airfield in Italy on April 29, 1945, refueling at Prkos airfield near Zadar, then flying to Trieste in search of enemy units. On the return journey, he attacked an enemy truck with ammunition during a low-level flight, but the aircraft was hit by the explosion of the truck, causing it to crash near Suhorje shortly afterward. The body of the young English pilot was decently buried by the villagers in the local cemetery. Soon after the war, his remains were exhumed by British military authorities and reburied at the military cemetery in Belgrade, where he rests to this day.

The memory of this tragic event in Suhorje has never completely faded. In 2021, at the initiative of the villagers of Suhorje, the Military History Park erected a monument at the crash site, bearing witness to the sacrifice of the young RAF sergeant, for both the locals and visitors. The monument was created by the academic sculptor Jurij Smole.

Every spring, around the anniversary of the crash, the Park, in collaboration with the British Embassy in Slovenia and the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Slovenia, organizes a memorial ceremony at the event site. This year, as part of the ceremony, British Ambassador to Slovenia Her Excellency Tiffany Sadler and the advisor in the cabinet of the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Slovenia and President of the Association of Slovenian Officers, Major General Dobran Božič, paid tribute to the deceased pilot and the fallen aircraft by laying a wreath at the monument near the village of Suhorje.