STOURBRIDGE hero Frank Foley, dubbed the “British Schindler”, was today given a posthumous Royal honour when Prince William unveiled a lasting memorial to the late spy in Mary Stevens Park.

The Duke of Cambridge officially unveiled a new £40,000 bronze statue of former Stourbridge resident Major Foley, who helped ten thousand Jews to flee the Holocaust.

Stourbridge News:

His Royal Highness was guest of honour at the launch event which was also attended by members of Major Foley’s family, Dudley North MP Ian Austin (pictured below) - one of the driving forces behind the £40,000 project – Stourbridge MP Margot James and a host of dignitaries.

Stourbridge News:

Major Foley, a British secret intelligence service officer, worked undercover as a passport control officer in pre-war Nazi Berlin where he provided thousands of Jews with the papers they needed to escape Germany by bending the rules when stamping passports or issuing visas.

He also hid Jews in his own home and even went into Sachsenhausen concentration camp with visas to enable prisoners to leave.

On retirement, he lived in Eveson Road in Norton, close to Mary Stevens Park, until his death in 1958.

The new life-sized statue of the unassuming hero, by Midlands' artist Andy de Comyn, depicts the late spy sitting on a park bench dressed in a 1930s suit, feeding a bird - symbolising freedom and the people he helped, with a briefcase to hint at his MI6 work.

Ian Austin MP, who worked with the Holocaust Educational Trust to have a lasting memorial to Major Foley created after George Osborne as Chancellor gave £40,000 to fund the project, said the statue was a “wonderful tribute to a great British hero” and it was a “huge honour” to have Prince William unveil it.

Mr Austin added: “Ten thousand people – and many thousands more of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – owe their lives to Frank Foley who took great personal risks to save Jewish people from the Holocaust before retiring in complete anonymity to Stourbridge.”

He said he hopes the statue will help people to learn how Frank Foley refused to stand by when people were being persecuted because of their race or religion and he added: “His life and his courage show us that we all have a responsibility to stand up against intolerance and racism."

Stourbridge News:

Hundreds of people had lined Queen's Drive in the park for a chance to see the Duke of Cambridge attend the official unveiling - and Councillor Heather Rogers, chairman of the Friends of Mary Stevens Park, said: "I don't think we've had such a high-profile event in the park since the Queen and Prince Philip visited in 1957."

Stourbridge News:

Stourbridge MP Margot James said she was "delighted to be able to welcome the Duke of Cambridge to Stourbridge as guest of honour" and she added: “The statue, close to where Major Foley lived after the Second World War, is a fitting tribute to his heroic actions, and I know people from all around the area will visit and sit with him, to reflect and to learn about his life.

“My thanks again go to Ian Austin MP, who has done an amazing job and campaigned tirelessly for the statue, and to former Chancellor George Osborne, for agreeing to fund the project.”

Borough artist Steve Field, who created the initial designs for the project, was chuffed with the finished memorial and said: "It’s lovely. What’s nice about it is it looks like it’s always been there.”

Artist Andy de Comyn, who brought the statue to life, said he was "thrilled" to have the Duke of Cambridge unveil his work and he added: “It’s been surreal. Sometimes unveilings are very low key. To have this was fantastic.

"Prince William seemed to be very informed. I never expected to get this kind of reception. It’s really good for Frank.”

He he confessed: “When you work on a project like this you get attached to it – it almost seems like Uncle Frank now."

Stourbridge News:

Major Foley's descendants told of their delight at seeing the project come to fruition.

Stephen Higgs, great nephew of the late spy (pictured above), said: “It’s been a wonderful day.

"We’ve been so honoured and proud that his Royal Highness has come to perform the unveiling."

He said Major Foley would be "quite amazed at what's happened here today".

Stourbridge News:

Mr Higgs (pictured right - chatting to HRH above) described the statue as “absolutely lovely” and added: “We’ve got exactly what we wanted. It isn’t somebody way up on a plinth – it’s somebody you can sit down beside and almost talk to.”

Although he gleaned “bits” about Frank Foley’s life growing up - he added: “It’s down to Michael Smith (author of Frank Foley: The Spy Who Saved Ten Thousand Jews) – and what started him going was the release of classified documents in the early 1990s.”

Stourbridge News:

Michael Smith, author and historian who brought Major Foley's story to prominence (pictured above), said he was "extremely grateful to all of those who have made it possible for HRH Duke of Cambridge to unveil this statue of Foley which will remind people of his unstinting work in saving tens of thousands of innocent Jews from certain death".

He added: “At a time when anti-semitism is once more on the rise across central Europe and even in the UK, it is a fitting reminder of the impact one man can have by taking a stand against evil.

"Few people have the same opportunity, but we should all surely stand together now against the resurgence of such prejudice.”