Statue to honour town's Russian prince

A STATUE commemorating the life of a Russian-born prince who became an England rugby legend is set to be erected in Ipswich, it can be revealed today.Prince Alexander Obolensky, who is buried in Ipswich's war cemetery, became a national hero after he scored two tries for England in a vital match against New Zealand in 1936.

A STATUE commemorating the life of a Russian-born prince who became an England rugby legend is set to be erected in Ipswich, it can be revealed today.

Prince Alexander Obolensky, who is buried in Ipswich's war cemetery, became a national hero after he scored two tries for England in a vital match against New Zealand in 1936.

During the Second World War the prince was a pilot for the Royal Air Force but was killed when his Hurricane fighter plane crashed on take-off at RAF Martlesham Heath in 1940.

Today it emerged that a statue of the royal has been commissioned and it is expected to cost in the region of £50,000.

Fundraising is under way and Ipswich call-handling firm Call Connection, which is based in Cromwell Square, has revealed it is donating £20,000 to the project after being asked to become involved by Ipswich Borough Council chief executive James Hehir.

It is thought the statue, which is expected to show the prince in an athletic pose, will be put up in St Nicholas Street near Cromwell Square in the town centre within the next 12 months.

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Graeme Kalbraier, Call Connection's founder and manager director, said: “I was asked to get involved in this project because I have a passion for rugby.

“Prince Obolensky was a champion of rugby. He was quite an outstanding player.

“I think it's nice to have something like this in Ipswich. It's good for the town to have a number of different statues.

“We are delighted to be involved. We are a prominent company in the town centre and we are really pleased we are able to contribute to something like this.”

The council is expected to get the rest of the funding from other sources, although it is thought Call Connection is currently the only business donating money to the project.

Prince Obolensky, who was the Jonny Wilkinson of his day, is remembered in rugby history for his diagonal length of the field run for a try.

He was one of the star players in the match where England beat New Zealand for the first time.

He became a British citizen in 1936 after his family fled the revolution in his homeland 20 years previously.

In 2005 Mr Hehir, a lifelong rugby fan, said he had written to Sir Clive Woodward and Rugby Football Union for ideas about to honour the star.

What do you think of the idea for a statue of Prince Obolensky? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk