Video & Gallery: Statue unveiled in memory of rugby great

AROUND 150 people have turned out in Ipswich today for the unveiling of a bronze statue to remember England rugby legend Prince Alexander Obolensky.

Craig Robinson

AROUND 150 people have turned out in Ipswich today for the unveiling of a bronze statue to remember England rugby legend Prince Alexander Obolensky.

The Russian �migr� became a hero in 1936 when at the age of 19 he scored two tries on his international debut in England's first victory over New Zealand's All Blacks.

In 1939, he joined the RAF but died a year later, aged 24, when his Hurricane fighter crash-landed at Martlesham Heath airfield.


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He is buried in Ipswich and today a �50,000 bronze memorial was unveiled by his niece, Princess Alexandra Obolensky, in Cromwell Square, just off St Nicholas Street.

She said: “The sculpture is a fantastic piece of art. It is a testament to my uncle but it's also a memorable beacon to all those who aspire to achieve. My uncle achieved a great deal in his short life.

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“It's a beautiful piece. Ipswich now has something that's a little bit unique and I think in this day and age it's important for towns to have something a little bit different.

“A lot of Russians come here and I think it will form pride of place on the Russian trail - a lot of tourists may come here as well.”

A large crowd formed on Cromwell Square for the unveiling, which was attended by a number of Russian dignitaries, Rugby Football Union officials and former members of the RAF.

The statue was created by Harry Gray and has been paid for by several private backers including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

Mr Gray said he spent one year working on the project in his studio in Cambridge and one month on site.

“I've been so close to it that it's been difficult to make a judgement on what I think about the statue,” he said. “It's nice to finally hear other people's opinions.

“I'm shocked at the amount of interest that it's generated. I had two Russian film crews from Moscow visit the workshop the other day.”

The idea for a statue was the brainchild of Ipswich Borough Council chief executive James Hehir, chairman of the Prince Obolensky Memorial Project.

He said: “I think this is a fantastic day. It's great to see so many international people here and very touching to also see so many people who were part of Prince Obolensky's life.

“I think the statue will become a central feature of Ipswich very quickly. It couldn't be better placed.”

Prince Obolensky and his family had fled Russia at the time of the revolution in 1917 and settled in Muswell Hill, north London.

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