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T. Corder Catchpool Collected Papers


Held at: Swarthmore College Peace Collection [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore 19081-1399

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Thomas Corder Pettifor Catchpool (15 July 1883, Leicester, England -- 16 September 1952, Monte Rosa, Switzerland) was before World War I an engineer and, after it, a relief worker, secretary for the Friends International Centre in Berlin, and peace worker. Educated in schools in Leicester and later at Sidcot Friends' School in Winscombe, Somerset, and at Bootham School in York, he apprenticed and worked as an engineer until World War I. He served in the Friends Ambulance Unit for 18 months, but, in May, 1916, when the Compulsory Military Service Act was passed, he resigned from the F.A.U. in protest. Refusing any alternative service, Catchpool served slightly more than two years in prison, during which his health was somewhat undermined. In 1918, he published On Two Fronts: Letters of a Conscientious Objector, a memoir about his experiences in the war and in prison. After his release in April 1919, he went to Berlin to perform reconciliation work with the Friends War Victims Relief Committee. There, Catchpool met his wife-to-be, Gwen Southall, who had nursed him from pneumonia. In 1931, the entire family--now with four children--moved to Berlin where the Friends Service Council had invited him to serve as the secretary of the Quaker Centre there. Soon the center was absorbed into the Friends International Centre, representing the German Society of Friends and the Service Councils of British and American Friends. Catchpool believed his tasks should include extending advice and relief to pacifists and to those experiencing persecution and political difficulties.

With Hitler's coming into power, Catchpool's assistance to those adversely affected by his regime--including Jews and French civilians--came under suspicion by the Gestapo. In 1933 his house was searched and he was arrested, interrogated and released. After a year, the Gestapo dropped its case against him. In 1936, the term of service at the Friends International Centre over, Catchpool's family returned to England to live in Hampstead, near London. The Catchpool home was open to visitors, especially Germans, and Corder traveled often to the continent, working as an interpreter for English peace efforts and as a relief worker for Germans in Czechoslovakia and Lithuania. He continued his efforts in reconciliation even after the war began in Sept. 1939. During the war he supported conscientious objectors and volunteered for hospital duty; in 1941 he became involved with the creation of the Bombing Restriction Committee and the Peace Pledge Union.

In 1946, Catchpool was finally able to return for a time to Germany to visit friends and to perform relief work. In 1947, he and his wife Gwen were invited by the Friends Relief Service to run the Rest Home at Bad Pyrmont in Germany. Later, in 1950 and 1951, in the midst of extensive travels, they represented the British Friends Service Committee in Berlin, now surrounded by the Russian zone. Corder Catchpool never ceased his activities in various peace societies. In 1952, Catchpool died as a result of a fall while mountain-climbing in Switzerland.

In 1957, Corder Catchpool's wife, Gwen, sent a selection of his papers to her friend, Mary G. Cary, Curator of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection for the use of researchers and students interested in conscientious objection and reconciliation.

The biographical materials in this collection consist of a number of originals and copies of official documents and newspaper clippings relating to Catchpool's court martial in 1917 for refusing military service and his arrest by the Nazis in 1933.

The correspondence contains a number of originals and carbon copies of letters written to and by Catchpool that highlight his interests and concerns (for example, a 1935 letter discussing the impartial inspection of conditions in German prisons, and 1937 and 1938 letters regarding Catchpool's work on behalf of destitute Sudeten Germans and German prisoners in Lithuania).

The collection includes approximately 20 manuscript articles and reports; many are memoirs and timely social observations, like the 23-page article"Adventures in International Understanding: Central Europe," written in 1946, and the "Report from Berlin" of 1951.

The folder of published writings contains a selection of pamphlets by Catchpool, one from 1926 on "La Kvakerismo," translated into Esperanto. There are also many shorter pieces collected from journals, such as the historical article written after the war "Forgotten Germany," and letters to the editor, such as "The Effects of Bombing" from 1943. Such prolific and varied written work reveals Catchpool's stature as a respected peace journalist and commentator.

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these papers.

Gift of Gwen Catchpool, 1957 (accessions 57-7 and 57-19)

For the catalog record for this collection, and to find materials on similar topics, search the library's online catalog.

Processed by Anne M. Yoder, Archivist; checklist created by Joseph Mathews, May 2004; this finding aid created by Eleanor Fulvio, August 2010.

Swarthmore College Peace Collection
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Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
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Collection Inventory

Biographical information: C.O. status and court martial, 1916-1918.
Box 1
Biographical information: Arrest by the Nazis, 1933 (April).
Box 1
Biographical information: Memorials and tributes.
Box 1
Correspondence, 1914-1919, 1925.
Box 1
Scope and Contents


Correspondence: re: German political prisoners, 1933-1938.
Box 1
Correspondence, 1931, 1933-1937.
Box 1
Correspondence, 1938-1939.
Box 1
Correspondence, 1940-1952, undated.
Box 1
MS articles and reports, 1919-1952.
Box 1
Writings: Published.
Box 1
Box 1

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