A statue has been unveiled in the English seaside town of Swanage of a British war hero compared with Oskar Schindler for his efforts to save hundreds of children destined for Nazi concentration camps.
Trevor Chadwick, dubbed the ‘Purbeck Schindler’ in reference to him being from the Purbeck region of Dorset, helped Sir Nicholas Winton rescue 669 youngsters from Czechoslovakia ahead of World War Two and now has a bronze statue erected in his hometown of Swanage, Dorset, in his honour.
Mr Chadwick, a schoolteacher, died in 1979 and his brave actions were not revealed until the 1990s. He first got involved in the kindertransport in 1938 when he went to Prague to save two Jewish refugees so they could be educated in Swanage. He was so moved by what he saw he returned to save others.
Like the later, better-known Nicholas Winton, Chadwick began trying to bring out hundreds of Jewish children from Czechoslovakia, working with the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, selecting children for the Kindertransport and organising their departure. His first operation was an evacuation by a 20-seat aeroplane from Prague. Later evacuation were usually by train. Chadwick accompanied the children to the Prague rail station. Together with six others, he organised a total of eight trains from Prague.
In early June 1939, Chadwick saw off a final trainload of 123 children and left Czechoslovakia. Winton later wrote: “Chadwick did the more difficult and dangerous work after the Nazis invaded… he deserves all praise.”
Local sculptor Moira Purver’s work has been erected onto a base next to Swanage’s bandstand and aptly located next to a children’s play area following a fundraising effort by the Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust, which raised £80,000 needed for the memorial.
Moira said, “When I was asked to do it I read several books about Trevor Chadwick and thought ‘this has to happen because he was such an amazing man. He was incredibly brave and warm and this helped put the children at ease. I wanted to capture the powerful connection between him and the children. It is a huge relief to see the statue in one piece after such a long process.”
“It stands atop a plinth of Purbeck stone besides a refurbished play area, which has been renamed after him. It felt right to have him close to the children – it just fits together perfectly”.
The Association of Jewish Refugees’ head of education Alex Maws said: “The child refugees who owed their lives to actions of Trevor Chadwick never got to thank him in person, which is why the Association of Jewish Refugees is so pleased to support this important new memorial.
“We hope it will not only serve to educate about an important historical episode, but also inspire future generations to consider the ways in which ordinary people can make a difference in the world.”
Though Sir Nicholas was knighted in March 2003, he said Mr Chadwick, who stayed in Prague to organise the evacuations, had been the real hero.
In addition to the statue, a children’s playground has been named after him and a blue plaque in his name has been approved at the town’s railway station.
At a ceremony on Bank Holiday Monday for the unveiling of statue by local sculptor Moira Purver, about 300 guests were present in brilliant sunshine, together with the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell, the High Sheriff of Dorset, Sibyl Fine King, Richard Drax MP and Val Pothecary, chairman of Dorset Council. There were also dedications from Rabbi Maurice Michaels and Reverend Tony Higgins, who is also a former lifeboat crew member.
An unveiling ceremony was attended by Trevor’s grandchildren as well as Nick Winton, the son of the late Sir Nicholas Winton.
Trevor’s son, Charles Chadwick, 90, said: “I am delighted that he has been publicly recognised after so long.
“This recognition is a matter of some pride for our family.
“For many years I didn’t know what my father did. He never spoke about it. I think that after the war there was a reluctance to be reminded of what happened.”
Nick Winton praised Trevor Chadwick’s bravery.
He said: “My father became the symbol of Britain’s kindertransport programme.
“But his view was that didn’t do anything heroic and that there was a team of people like Trevor Chadwick who put themselves at far greater risk by staying in Czechoslovakia to deal with the Gestapo.
“At the time my father had returned to London to organise fundraising and logistics.
“He would have been delighted to know that at long last there was something to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of Trevor Chadwick.
“It is a fitting tribute and I think it is essential that people have a record of the extraordinary contribution made by ordinary people like Trevor Chadwick to help others in need.”