The Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust
The Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust has been established to bring long-overdue recognition to the inspirational work of Swanage school teacher, Trevor Chadwick, in the rescue of 669 children from Prague in 1939, both before and after the Czech capital was occupied by German forces on 15th March that year. This date was a turning point in the build-up to the Second World War, for Hitler’s takeover of Prague and the remaining Czech lands not allocated to Germany under the 1938 Munich Agreement finally persuaded the British and French governments that only force would be effective against further German expansion.
Trevor McKenzie Chadwick was born in Godalming, Surrey, on 22nd April 1907 to Arthur Chadwick and Muriel (nee Hill). He had two older siblings, Vivian and Cicely, and a younger one, Hugh. For the first few years of his life he lived at his father’s school – Forres Preparatory School for Boys, Ducks Hill, Ruislip, Middlesex. As a young adult, following colonial service in Nigeria he came to Swanage after the Forres School (now Purbeck View) was set up in Northbrook Road by his father in 1928. Trevor was resident there as a Latin teacher, living in ‘New Moorings’, latterly known as the Headmaster’s House. He was remembered at the School for his kindness, for arranging bus trips for townspeople to attend sporting events, and for organising parties for local disadvantaged children. He was well liked by the town’s fishermen and became a volunteer member of the Swanage Lifeboat crew, being a particular friend and drinking companion of Lifeboat coxwain Bob Brown at the ‘Black Swan’ in the High Street.
Trevor became a volunteer member of the Swanage Lifeboat crew
The unsung hero
In early 1939 Trevor Chadwick became one of a handful of mainly British volunteers seeking to organise the rescue of those 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. The group’s work was made possible by a 1938 Act of Parliament which permitted entry to the UK of refugee children under the age of 17, on condition that £50 per child was deposited by a sponsor to cover, in due course, a supposed return journey. All in the group remained virtually unknown until Nicholas Winton received belated recognition in Esther Rantzen’s landmark “That’s Life” BBC TV show in 1988. Many honours for him followed, including a knighthood in 2003. He had spent only a little time in Prague in the early weeks, thereafter switching to London to make the necessary arrangements at that end of the operation. Much to his credit he readily acknowledged that Trevor Chadwick was, as he said, “the real hero”. “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.” It was sensitive as well as dangerous work, especially interviewing parents and selecting the children, then obtaining forged passports and other documents as necessary. When asked why Chadwick, a fellow Briton, had received so little public acknowledgement for his vital role in what came to be known as the Kindertransport, Winton – who died in 2015 aged 106 – pointed out that “Chadwick died many years ago, while I’m still here.” By then all others in the rescue group were likewise long gone. They included Doreen Warriner, Beatrice Wellington, Nicholas Stopford, Bill Barazetti and Josephine Pike.
Trevor saved Gerda Mayer
Trevor Chadwick’s first visit to Prague in January 1939 was to bring two refugee boys to the school in Swanage. In the event he also brought a third child, a girl called Marietta Wolf-Ferrari, Geoffrey Phelps, a fellow teacher and had accompanied Trevor to Prague, offered for his family to sponsor Marietta, she first stayed with the Phelps family in Kent then at the School in Swanage. Having delivered the three children, he promptly returned to Prague to work for the rescue of many more child refugees, one of which was the Poet, Gerda Mayer. According to a 2010 book by his younger son William, he had thousands of potential refugees on his lists but, to his abiding regret, could only save some hundreds of them. It was Trevor Chadwick who often stood on the platform of Prague’s Wilson Station to see the refugee trains depart, where a statue of Sir Nicholas Winton, surrounded by grateful children, now stands. Unable to save the final full train of children who were about to start their journey from Prague when the borders were finally closed by the Germans – a tragedy which was to haunt him for the rest of his days – Trevor Chadwick returned to England that summer, initially to teaching in Swanage and, like his associates, rarely spoke of this time.
Gerda Mayer was accompanied by Trevor and stayed at his mother’s house before going on to boarding school.
Gerda Mayer's Memoirs
See an extract from Gerda Mayer’s memoirs about Trevor Chadwick
More than 370 of the 669 children saved have never been traced and do not know – or never knew – the full story behind their existence. It is estimated that alive today are many hundreds of descendants of the 669, all of whom owe their lives to Chadwick and that small group of rescuers.
In the following years Trevor Chadwick led something of a chequered life, which contrasted somewhat with his conservative, Christian family upbringing. Described by fellow teacher Guy Phelps as “Not the heroic type” and something of a “Black sheep”, at one point he joined the RAF, where he was first court-martialled and later promoted. Mrs Annie Bridger, of Swanage, whose father was Trevor’s cousin, says the family today is “Very proud” of his pre-War achievement. She recalls in her late teens spending time together with Trevor and his second wife Sigfrid – 28 years his junior – at their home in Oslo, Norway. Trevor was suffering from tuberculosis and had moved there to recuperate, saying that the clean, fresh air helped him. For a time he worked for the academic publisher Oslo University Press. “He had”, says Mrs Bridger, “a wonderful wit. I only discovered in the last few years what he had done.”
“The Purbeck Schindler”
Trevor Chadwick, lately described as “The Purbeck Schindler”, died aged 72 at 90 High Field Lane, Southampton, on 20th December 1979. He was buried in Godlingston Cemetery, Swanage, on 7th January 1980 in Plot B994, which is unconsecrated ground. Other members of the Chadwick family are buried nearby.
It is the purpose of the Memorial Trust to ensure that Trevor Chadwick is never forgotten and an appropriate, high quality memorial to him and his achievement is permanently displayed in a public place in his home town of Swanage. To that end a bronze statue is being commissioned at an estimated cost of £80,000, for which a public appeal is being launched. It is intended to locate the memorial on part of the recreation ground, overlooking the sea and close to the children’s play area which will be named accordingly. A tree commemorating Trevor Chadwick will also be planted at a suitable location. The Memorial Trust’s plans enjoy the full backing of Swanage Town Council, together with many people and organisations within the town.