War in the Ukraine and our response remind me of the work of Jack Catchpool to achieve peace in the run up to the Second World War.
Despite many of the difficulties he faced and criticisms that can be made of his approach to peace, which at times look like appeasement of the threat, I remain in awe of his optimism and cling to that as much as I can at this time.
Catchpool was familiar with Russia as its empire collapsed in the First World War and revolution. As part of an aid contingent, he worked in hospitals in Moscow and Armenia among refugees fleeing war and carried with him into his later life all that he learned during those terrible times, and especially in his work with youth hostels.
As the first national secretary for the Youth Hostels Association he was a great, and formative influence on the development of hostels in England and Wales. Later, as president of the international federation of youth hostels, he brought his determination to encouraging the youth hostel movement around the world.
He arranged, organised and led parties of young people to take part in the reconstruction of Europe, after the war, creating youth hostels as symbols of reignited hopes for peace of which he remained a firm believer. He saw in the comradeship of travel and adventures the way to achieve a better world.
I’m grateful to the Journal of the Friends Historical Society for its recent review of my biography of Jack Catchpool. You can read the review of “Youth Hostel Pioneer” here. The book is available on Amazon.
The image shows a hospital where Catchpool worked among refugees in south-east Russia.