MY two grandsons will be visiting over Easter. They love Swanage. I took the opportunity, therefore, to look at the children’s playground above the beach. What would it have to offer them?
I saw there a statue, cast in bronze, of a young man, holding a toddler close to his chest, hand in hand with a young boy, who looks up at him with a trusting expression.
I was curious as to who the young man was – who was he?
Some research soon told me – the statue was of a Swanage teacher, Trevor Chadwick, who had risked his life helping Jewish children escape death in Nazi concentration camps.
Trevor had worked with Sir Nicholas Winton to secure the evacuation of 669 youngsters from Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, just before the onset of war.
Although Nicholas Winton was knighted in 2003 for his work, Trevor’s bravery was forgotten until the unveiling of his statue here in Swanage in August 2022, the result of the sterling efforts of The Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust, supported by Swanage town councillors.
Nicholas Winton himself said that Trevor deserved more praise than him: “He did the more difficult and dangerous work after the Nazis invaded…dealing with the SS and Gestapo.”
The unveiling ceremony was, reportedly, a moving occasion. Researching it, what stays in my mind now are the words of Trevor’s grandson, Samuel Chadwick: “This isn’t just about unveiling a statue – this is about the British ethos of welcoming people from Ukraine and Syria to places here like in Swanage. It’s a reminder that refugees are a contemporary issue, not just historical.”
I thought of these words with sorrow when I heard the news of the events in Knowlsey. A baying mob torched a police van outside a Merseyside hotel. Terrified asylum seekers, cowering inside, heard the mob chanting ‘get them out’.
Our Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, herself the daughter of ‘economic migrants’, has described the arrival of immigrants as an ‘invasion’. Rishi Sunak, another child of ‘economic migrants’, talks of sending desperate souls who cross The Channel on leaky boats speedily to Rwanda.
An open letter was sent to the government by refugee organisations and charities, including Care4Calais, criticising ‘inflammatory language’ and policies which ‘demonise’ people seeking refuge in the United Kingdom.
Extremist organisations, such as Britain First and Patriotic Alternative, are planning – according to Hope Not Hate, a charitable trust dedicated to exposing extremism – further acts of violence against asylum seekers.
Dorset Stand Up to Racism, like Samuel Chadwick, says ‘refugees are welcome here’.
Accelerating climate change, war and civil strife will see millions more people driven from their homes. We should remember Samuel’s words, and the example set by his grandfather.
Perhaps we should feel uneasy when we think about what our MP is reported as saying after the unveiling ceremony: “Economic migrants…are coming across in their thousands. We should never shut the door to good causes, but we can’t just open our doors to everyone.”
Chair, Swanage & Rural Purbeck Labour Party