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Bust of Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope by Franta Belsky

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File WORK 20/331 held at The National Archives gives us some background information on the bust in Trafalgar Square, London, of Admiral of the Fleet, Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope. This was the work of the Czech born sculptor Franta Belsky.

Files WORK 20/208, WORK 20/207, WORK 20/229 and WORK 20/286 covered the busts of Jellicoe and Beatty which were the works of Sir Charles Wheeler and William McMillan and the bust of Viscount Cunningham, as per photograph below, is positioned in the same part of the square alongside the Jellicoe and Beatty busts.

Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope

The file opens with a letter from the then Lord Jellicoe to the Right Honourable Peter Thorneycroft, M.P. dated 14th January 1964, advising that the First Sea Lord had suggested that a bust of Cunningham should be considered, this to be placed in Trafalgar Square. Jellicoe mentions the busts of his father and of Beatty and seeks Thorneycroft’s views and those of the Minister of Public Building and Works, and other Service Ministers, to whom the letter was copied.

The file contains the letters exchanged thereafter between the various parties involved.

We learn that Franta Belsky was the choice of a special committee set up to arrange Cunningham’s memorial, the Ministry of Defence (Royal Navy) Committee.

The file contains some black and white photographs of the unveiling ceremony, which took place on the 2nd April 1967 and was performed by the Duke of Edinburgh.

We learn that inside the bust there is a ½ pint Guinness bottle and a note written by Belsky. The Guinness was, it is reported, drunk by the sculptor and the architect, Eric Bedford.

Amongst Belsky’s other works are the trio of horses in Knightsbridge, London, called “Triga”, and the huge fountain in front of the Shell Building on the South Bank, also in London. He also produced the sculpture “The Joy Ride” for the town square in Stevenage, “Oracle” in Bristol, and “Totem” in the Arndale Centre in Manchester.

Belsky was also the sculptor of the bronze statue of Earl Mountbatten of Burma which stands on the Foreign Office Green in Horse Guards Road. This was unveiled on the 2nd November 1983 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

He was born in 1921 and died in 2000.