A FULL sized statue of Frank Foley - the spy who was dubbed the British Schindler for helping to save thousands of Jews during the Holocaust - is to be unveiled in Mary Stevens Park in June 2018.

Midlands artist Andy de Comyn has now started work on the commemorative statue after being selected by a panel comprising Stourbridge MP Margot James, representatives of Frank Foley’s family, the Holocaust Educational Trust and historian and journalist Michael Smith - author of “Frank Foley: The Spy Who Saved Ten Thousand Jews”.

The Norton park was deemed a fitting place for a lasting tribute to former British spy Major Foley who retired to Stourbridge after his heroics in pre-war Berlin where he worked undercover as a passport control officer - providing thousands of Jews with the documents they needed to escape Germany.

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

On retiring, he settled in Eveson Road, Norton, close to the park, and he lived there until his death in 1958.

Dudley North MP Ian Austin spearheaded the campaign for a permanent tribute, persuading then Chancellor George Osborne to provide £40,000 to cover the costs, and he said: "I am absolutely delighted work has started and that the statue should be ready next summer so people can learn about him and our country’s role in fighting for freedom, democracy and tolerance against Nazi Germany.

“Frank Foley refused to stand by when people were being persecuted because of their race and religion and his heroism helped saved ten thousand people from the Holocaust.

“When other European countries were sending Jews to concentration camps, Britain provided a safe haven for tens of thousands of refugees."

Andy de Comyn’s model depicts Foley quietly seated on a park bench, as he might have in Berlin in the 1930s, feeding a bird, which symbolises freedom and the people he helped, with a briefcase at his side hinting at his MI6 work.

The bronze statue will be sited in the picturesque and tranquil upper terrace of the park's tea garden and visitors will be able to sit next to it and reflect on Major Foley's heroism.

His great-nephew Stephen Higgs said he was "delighted" the statue has been commissioned and he added: "We are all truly grateful to Ian Austin MP and everyone else who has worked so hard to bring this about.

“We look forward to seeing the statue in place in the park, so that all who visit it have the chance to get to know Frank Foley's story and to learn from his example."

Mr De Comyn, whose work includes several memorials at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, said: "I am absolutely honoured to be given the opportunity to celebrate the life of such a remarkable man whose compassion saved so many lives."

Margot James MP said: “The statue is a fitting tribute to Major Foley’s 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 go to Ian Austin, who has campaigned tirelessly, and to former Chancellor George Osborne, for agreeing to fund this project."

Michael Smith, who wrote the book - "Frank Foley: The Spy Who Saved Ten Thousand Jews", said: "Andy de Comyn's quiet park bench will provide a wonderful place for anyone to sit and contemplate the effect Foley had on the world.

“The bare figures show Foley saved tens of thousands of Jews, but they do not do justice to his legacy. The vast majority of people he saved had children and then grand-children, and then great-grandchildren who will of course over time have children of their own. How many people are now alive because of the quiet humanity of this one man?"

The project has been organised and commissioned by Dudley's public artist Steve Field and the statue is expected to become part of a Foley trail that will also feature the commemorative plaque carved by Malcolm Sier in 2004 at the park entrance, a memorial tree planted by the cenotaph in 2016, Foley's grave, and Eveson Road where he lived modestly in retirement with his wife.