In an emotional ceremony in Swanage, a statue of Trevor Chadwick, a local teacher and lifeboat volunteer who rescued 669 children from Prague in early 1939 from German occupation, was unveiled by his grandson, Samuel.
Among the 200 invited guests and local residents, were recent Ukrainian refugees and the descendents of children saved by the Kindertransport that brought them to the UK.
The ceremony was begun by chair of the Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust John Corben, as children played in the Chadwick Playground close by
Two and a half years in the planning
The bronze statue that has been two and a half years in the planning, was created by local sculptor Moira Purver and has been positioned next to the children’s playpark, now called the Chadwick Playground, on the Recreation Ground near the seafront.
Trevor moved to Swanage in 1928 when his father set up Forres School in Northbrook Road, now Purbeck View school. He worked there as a Latin teacher and was also a volunteer member of the Swanage Lifeboat crew.
Handful of mainly British volunteers
In early 1939, Trevor Chadwick became one of a handful of mainly British volunteers who rescued children in Prague most threatened by an impending German occupation. The majority were Jewish but others were the sons or daughters of Czech and Slovak anti-Nazis.
He originally went to Prague to bring back two refugee boys to the school. In the event, he also took another child, who became the poet Gerda Mayer. Trevor delivered the three children, then returned to Prague to work for the rescue of further refugees.
Most of the volunteers who risked their lives, which also included Doreen Warriner who is credited with helping thousands escape persecution in Czechoslovakia, have gone virtually unacknowledged other than Nicholas Winton, who was knighted in 2003.
The Chadwick Playground that the new statue overlooks
“He deserves all praise”
During his lifetime, Nicholas Winton readily acknowledged Trevor Chadwick’s bravery. He said:
“My associate Trevor Chadwick was in a much trickier situation. He did the more difficult and dangerous work after the Nazis invaded… he deserves all praise.
“He managed things at the Prague end, organising the children and the trains, and dealing with the SS and Gestapo.”
Hours of work went into the intricate details of the statue
Successful beyond any expectations
The ceremony was begun by chair of the Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust John Corben, who then introduced a number of speakers including local councillor Bill Trite.
Bill is credited with discovering Trevor Chadwick’s heroic deeds and was the first to suggest he should be honoured in Swanage.
Councillor Bill Trite, who is also a member of the trust’s committee said:
“Today has been successful beyond any expectations and we’ve done it because it’s important not to forget people like Trevor Chadwick and what he did.
“It’s good that we have been able to remember him in this way in Swanage, which is a very community spirited town. This is relevant to any age – yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
Councillor Bill Trite who was one of the first to find out about Trevor Chadwick and what he did
Invited guests included the Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster (left) and the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Angus Campbell (centre)
Czech ambassador to the UK sent a message
Others who spoke were The Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster, the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Angus Campbell and Association of Jewish Refugees trustee Danny Kalman.
There was also a recorded message from the Czech ambassador to the UK Maria Chatardova, who promised to visit Swanage and the statue as soon as she could.
Prayers of dedication were said by Reverend Tony Higgins and Rabbi Maurice Michaels.
John Corben (left) shakes the hand of Samuel Chadwick, Trevor’s grandson (right)
“Refugees are a contemporary issue not just historical”
The statue that had been suitably wrapped in RNLI flags, was unveiled by one of Trevor Chadwick’s grandsons, Samuel, helped by John Corben.
Speaking before the ceremony, Samuel Chadwick said:
“This isn’t just about unveiling a statue – this is about the British ethos of welcoming people from Ukraine and Syria to places like here in Swanage.
“It’s a reminder that refugees are a contemporary issue not just historical. For me this isn’t just about Trevor, but also his team – Nicholas Winton and Doreen Warriner – and the values of today.”
“He risked his life”
Invited guests included the chair of Dorset Council Val Pothecary and MP for Dorset South Richard Drax.
Speaking after the event, Richard Drax said:
“Trevor Chadwick is a special breed of unsung hero – In this case, he risked his life – the Nazis were ruthless and for this man to do what he did – bring back three children and then return for more – was extraordinary.
“As was said in the ceremony – war brings out the best and the worst. I was a soldier for a while and when you go to these places you want to help – yes, you go to fight but 99.9 percent of the time you go to help. I think Trevor Chadwick saw a need and answered the call.”
Guests included the chair of Dorset Council Val Pothecary (third from right) and MP for Dorset South Richard Drax (second from right)
“We can’t just open our doors to everyone”
So does he believe the UK Government does enough to help those in need in other countries now? Richard Drax said:
“If you look at the statistics, then yes. During World War Two there was a much smaller number of people coming to Britain. I’m not saying there isn’t a need today but economic migrants are pushing our infrastructure to the limit – they’re coming across in their thousands. There aren’t even enough homes for British people.
“I believe that the wealthy West should invest in the Third World, not give money, but teach them to look after themselves. We should never shut the door to good causes but we can’t just open our doors to everyone.”
The sculptor Moira Purver with the finished work of art
Moira in her studio with the clay model which was created to make the mould
“I’ve been surprised at how emotional it’s been”
The creation of the statue has been a labour of love for more than two years for the sculptor Moira Purver, who lives in Langton Matravers. She said:
“This is a much more intimate sculpture than most public statues and I’ve been surprised at how emotional it’s been today. Trevor is such an extraordinary man with so much love for people and especially children.
“There’s so much negative news at the moment that I’d like children to know that there are people who will care and look out for them for no personal gain.
“This is the end of my work but it’s the beginning for the community – it’s as if he has been allowed out for all to see!”
The baby in Trevor Chadwick’s arms was modelled on Willow, the young girl being held by her mother. She’s pictured here with her brother Rowan , however the model for the little boy was, fittingly, the son of Swanage Lifeboat Station’s current coxswain
Moira says that she hasn’t currently got a plan for another sculpture but added:
“Whatever I do, it will have to be special enough for me to have an emotional connection – like that of Trevor and his extraordinary story.”
Watch the unveiling
Watch the full ceremony
At the end of the ceremony, the band played in Swanage Bandstand