“For King and Country fought and died — Gardeners and Men !”

April 15, 2014


Tillers of the soil they were — just gardeners then,

In faith the day’s work doing as the day’s work came,

Peaceful art in peace pursuing — not seeking fame —

When through the Empire rang the Empire’s call for men!

Gardeners they were, finding in fragile flowers delight,

Lore in frail leaves, and charm even in wayside weeds.

Who, in their wildest dreams, ne’er rose to do brave deeds,

Defending righteous cause against relentless Might!


The wide world gave her flowers for them — the mountains high,

The valleys low, and classic hills all fringed with snow

Where fires by sunset kindled light the alpen-glow.

O ! Fate implacable ! — to see those hills and die !


The war god rose refreshed — Gardeners and Soldiers then!

Who, that slumbering Peace might wake, dared, with manhood’s zeal,

To make Life’s sacrifice to Love’s supreme appeal.

For King and Country fought and died — Gardeners and Men !


written by H. H. T

probably Harry H. Thompson, editor of the journal,   The Gardener,  who left Kew in 1899.

reprinted from the Kew Guild Journal, 1915. http://www.kewguild.org.uk/media/pdfs/v3s23p265-39.pdf

A timely  posting for it is National Gardens Week 14 – 20 April 2014 in the year of the First World War centenary http://www.1914.org

This was one of the poems that featured in my recent talk on zoos and botanic gardens in wartime as part of the garden and landscape history at the IHR University of London on 27 March 2014. Some of HHT’s phrases – “finding in fragile flowers delight” – have a faint echo of Gloucester poet Ivor Gurney (1890- 1937) that I have admired and studied for many years, now slowly finding his proper recognition as an artist and musician.  This poem as tribute or epitaph  is growing on me as I uncover how it reflects the lives and attitudes of a generation of lost gardeners of Kew (and the brief opportunities the war provided for women), a period beautifully illustrated by Lynn Parker and Kiri Ross-Jones’ new photographic history of Kew Gardens. You can read brief biographies of each of the 37 Kew casualties of WW1 on previous blog posts.

There are more IHR garden history talks in London coming up in May and Autumn, see http://www.history.ac.uk/events/seminars/121.

I also look forward to returning to Kew Gardens to do another wartime zoo and botanic garden talk in November 2014 as part of their soon-to-be announced autumn programme of talks on http://www.kew.org/kmis.

37 Kew  staff lost  from 150 staff and old Kewites on active service in WW1 seems a disproprortionately large number but again Kew staff  are under threat of 125 staff posts at risk of redundancy, leading naturalists and garden writers from David Attenborough and James Wong to champion the role of Kew Gardens in the modern world. I hope that a solution can be found as it cast a shadow over my day meeting staff there. After visiting the Kew Gardens war memorial and the storm damaged and now vanished Verdun Oak , I met up with James Wearn, hard at work on Kew’s wartime centenary commemorations and look forward to posting more about this throughout the year. Floreat Kew!

Lost Ecologists of the First World War

March 4, 2014

“Not only did the war bring to an end foreign excursions, but it ruptured the often close links with German scholars. It meant an inevitable dislocation of plans and careers …”

The British Ecological Society published a history on its 75th anniversary,  75 Years in Ecology: The British Ecological Society  by John Sheail (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987) that gives a few hints on how the First World War affected the lives and work of British and European ecologists.

Many of its founder British members covered sections of Britain from Cambridge to Scotland, Southern Ireland and Cornwall, Devon and the South in the company of German and European colleagues as part of the grandly titled International Phytogeographical Excursion around Britain in 1911.

On the eve of World War 1 at the end of the Edwardian period, British and European ecologists were pioneers of a discipline still in its early stages. The British Ecological Society had only formed in 1913 and is still going strong, having just celebrated its centenary – see also its Wikipedia entry.

The Cambridge University Botany School had mounted an ecological and botanic expedition to Provence and the fringes of the Mediterranean Alps when news of the Sarajevo assassination broke in June 1914. Two of that expedition were to die in the trenches of France and Flanders over the next 5 years.

Donald Macpherson 1886-1917

Only one of the two casualties was directly named in Shaeil’s book. The unnamed one was possibly Donald Macpherson (b. 1886) who “died in a French military hospital in 1917″ (p.59). He had worked with William G. Smith, a colleague at the Edinburgh and East of Scotland Agricultural College (now the Scottish Rural University College) on Moor matgrass or nard grass (Nardus stricta) and the vegetation of the Moorfoot Hills. Smith went on publish the survey results as W.G. Smith, “The Distribution of Nardus stricta in relation to peat” in the Journal of Ecology, 6: 1-13, 1918.

Smith also wrote an obituary of MacPherson. After EDinburgh OTC and a Commission in the Scottish Horse, 2nd  Lieutenant D. MacPherson  transferred to the Royal Field Artillery in 1917 and was wounded in the back on his first action on the Menin Road. His CWGC record states that he  died on 11th November 1917 aged 31 years at Leith, probably in the Leith War Hospital (rather than France) and is buried in its associated Edinburgh (Warriston) Cemetery.

According to Smith, he abandoned field mapping as part of a Board of Agriculture survey begun in 1912, “the claims of the survey had to give place to a greater call, one which MacPherson felt strongly from the beginning of the war …” Smith described him as “ever pleasant. Best of all were the opportunities of joining him in the field. It was something of a task to keep up with the long striding place of a very tall companion.”

Captain Alfred Stanley Marsh (1892-1916)

The other ‘bright scholar’ was Captain Alfred Stanley Marsh (born 1892) of Crewkerne who was, according to the BES 75th Anniversary Book, “shot through the heart by a sniper’s bullet in the trenches of Armentieres in 1916″ (p.41). He was the son of William Warren Marsh, a relieving officer and E. M. Marsh, of Blacknell, Crewkerne, Somerset.

In Sheail’s book he is called ‘Albert’  Stanley Marsh. Marsh’s  posthumous work was published by British ecologist and psychologist Arthur Tansley in 1917, who had been unfit for military service and worked as a clerk in munitions. Marsh’s experiments on competitve species of Bedstraw were finished by Tansley and published under Tansley’s name in 1917 as “On Competition between Galium saxatile and Galium sylvestre on different types of soil.” Journal of Ecology 5, 173-9, 1917. Tansley also wrote an obituary of Marsh in 1916, as Albert or Alfred Stanley Marsh, New Phytologist journal, 20, 132-6, 1916. S.R.Price also wrote an obituary on Captain A.S. Marsh in the Journal of Ecology 4, 119-120, 1916.

Based on his salt marsh and sand dune surveys and mappping work in summer 1913, Marsh was the author in 1915 of “The Maritime Ecology of Holme next the Sea, Norfolk” in the Journal of Ecology, 3: 63-73, 1915. His map reading and landscape survey  skills were to prove highly useful  as an infantry officer in wartime.

There is more about Captain Alfred Stanley Marsh of the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, killed and buried in Armentieres on 5 January 1916 on the Somerset Remembers website with obituaries, a unit photograph and sections from the 8th Battalion war diary  5 January 1916 which reads:

That day Capt. Marsh was killed by a sniper about 3 P.M. at the junction of Trenches 69 & 70.

and the CWGC website entry for him.

Ecologist A.S. Marsh lies to the left rear of the block of back to back Allied headstones in Cite Bonjean Militray Cemetery, Armentieres, France. Image CWGC website

Ecologist A.S. Marsh lies to the left rear of the block of back to back Allied headstones in Cite Bonjean Militray Cemetery, Armentieres, France. Image CWGC website

The town and cemetery where Marsh is buried have an interesting, almost symbolic history. Armentieres is a town in Northern France, on the Belgian frontier. The town was occupied by the 4th Division on 17 October 1914 (giving rise to the soldiers’ marching song “Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parlay Vous?”). It remained within the Allied lines until its evacuation ahead of the German advance on 10 April 1918, recovered again in 3 October 1918.
Plot IX of Cite Bonjean Militray Cemetery, Armentieres,  where Marsh is buried (Plot IX, row D headstone 79) was begun in October 1914 and continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units until April 1918. Plots V, VI, VII and X were then used by the Germans. Although the cemetery now contains 2,145 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, more than 500 German graves remain in the cemetery even after 455 German graves were re-interred or concentrated elsewhere in 1925.

So A.S. Marsh lies appropriately in a cemetery where Germans and Allied soldiers rest close together, united again in death as in life, except during a war which was greatly disruptive of international scholarship, especially among for scientists or naturalists forced onto opposing sides. John Sheail notes (p.41) in his 75th Anniversary history of the BES that:

“Not only did the war bring to an end foreign excursions, but it ruptured the often close links with German scholars. It meant an inevitable dislocation of plans and careers …”

This paragraph could stand as an epitaph for so many scientific and cultural groups including the botanists and zoologists, gardeners, zoo and botanic garden staff that I have been researching for the World War Zoo Gardens project.

Sydney Edward Brock (1883 – 1918)

Another one of the “deaths and dislocations caused by the First World War”  noted by Sheail (p. 84) was ecologist and bird watcher Sydney Edward Brock (1883 – 1918), a Scottish farmer and naturalist.

Crop of the unit photograph of Captain S.E. Brock, Royal Scots MC (Image source:  Evening Dispatch - December 3rd 1915, via http://www.ww1daleboys.com/2nd10thcyclistbatt.htm website.

Crop of the unit photograph of Captain S.E. Brock, Royal Scots MC (Image source: Evening Dispatch – December 3rd 1915, via http://www.ww1daleboys.com/2nd10thcyclistbatt.htm website.

“Farmer, Naturalist and Soldier” Sydney Brock was a Captain, 10th Cyclist Battalion, Royal Scots, MC (Military Cross) who died of wounds on Armistice Day 11 November 1918 in a UK military hospital and is buried in Kirkliston Burial Ground, Lothian, Scotland. He was the son of tenant farmer (of the Hopetoun House estates) James Easton Brock (d. 1903) and Harriet Brock of Overton Farm, Kirkliston, Linlithgowshire and left a sister Florence and brother Dr. Arthur John Brock M.D. to whom his medals were sent. His WW1 medal record card suggests that he entered France on active service on 21 May 1918. He also has a CWGC website record. He does not appaer to have been listed on the British Ecological Society membership list but is mentioned in Shaeil’s book.

Sydney Brock’s Obituary in British Birds:
For most of the material of the present notice we are indebted to an appreciative sketch by Mr. W. Evans in the Scottish Naturalist, 1919, pp. 27-8. Sydney Edward Brock, Captain 10th Battalion Royal Scots, was descended from a west Lothian family and was born on October 6th, 1883, at Overton, near Kirkliston. He was educated at Kirkliston and Edinburgh, and about 1904 succeeded his father as tenant of the farm where he was born. There is reason to believe that he had in his mind the preparation of a Fauna of Linlithgowshire, where the greater part of his life was spent.

Although chiefly interested in bird-life he had acquired considerable knowledge of some of the lesser worked groups of insects, and of late years had devoted special attention to ecological problems. Most of his contributions to science appeared in the Annals of Scottish Natural History from 1906 onward, but he also wrote for the Zoologist, and the volume for 1910 contains some original observations on the fledging periods of birds (p. 117), and a very careful paper on “The Willow-Wrens of a Lothian Wood ” (pp. 401-417).

His most important contribution to British Birds was a thoughtful and suggestive paper on “Ecological Relations of Bird-Distribution” in British Birds, VIII., pp. 30-44, [1914]. There was every reason to expect much good work in the future from such a careful and good observer, but with the outbreak of the war came a break in his activities in this field.

While on active service in France [Brock] made notes on the bird-life of the Peronne district, which are still [1919] in MS., but on October 16th, 1918, he was severely wounded in action at Courtrai, and died in a military hospital at Aberdeen, from the effects of his wounds, on November 11th, the day on which hostilities ceased. His early death is a serious loss to British ornithology, especially in the department of Ecology and the study of the fauna of the Scottish lowlands. F.C.R.J.”

Brock’s second paper “Bird-associations in Scotland” was published posthumously in 1921 in Scottish Naturalists 11-21 and 49-58.

Brock is pictured centre mid row, a tall man, in 1915 with his fellow officers of the 2nd / 10th Cyclist Battalion, Royal Scots. He appears to have already enlisted by 1914, as a Territorial soldier for an S.E. Brock was gazetted a Lieutenant  in the 8th Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) on 24.12.1902 (London Gazette, p. 8846, 23 Dec 1902).

Brock appears to have served for two years in defence of the UK:

“After the sanction of the War Office for the raising of second-line units was received, Lieut.-Colonel E. Peterkin, V.D., raised the 2/10th Royal Scots by the 24th September 1914, after a recruiting campaign of less than a week. The battalion was accordingly mobilised at Bathgate on the 13th October, 1914 but it was not till the 11th January 1915 that uniforms and the necessary military equipment began to arrive. With Berwick as their centre, the 2/10th Royal Scots, a cyclist battalion, became responsible for a share in the defence of the East coast, and from May 1916 furnished drafts for overseas service. The battalion went into camp at Coldingham in June 1916, and its chief thrills were caused by air raids and by reports of hostile landings …” from p. 739, Chapter 39, History of the 2/10th Royal Scots by Major John Ewing MC

By 1916, on the Armadale website, it quotes that 90% of this Territorial Force were serving overseas with other units such as Brock with the 12th Battalion,Royal Scots.

The Supplement to the London Gazette 4 October 1919 gives details of Brock’s gallantry award of the Military Cross:

Captain Sydney Edward Brock, 10th Bn., R. Scots. T.F. (attd. 12 Bn.).
For most conspicuous gallantry at the bridgehead at Cuerne on 17th Oct., 1918. He led part of his company over the bridge,under very heavy enemy fire, in an entirely exposed position, displaying great coolness and disregard of danger, and setting a most inspiring example to his men.

A family gravestone at Kirkliston can be seen online at the Brock genealogy website and the churchyard on Find A Grave website. There is more about the Brock family (some of whom emigrated) and Kirkliston area

Sheail notes that ecologists and botanists lamented the lack of use of their skills made by the authorities during the First World War, a situation slightly different in WW2, which has its own interesting section Part 3 which begins  (p 121 “Anniversaries are necessarily arbitrary affairs” in Sheail’s excellent book (out of print copies available on Amazon, Abe Books etc). Arthur Tansley notes the period in British ecology following the First World War as one of “quiescence”, after the energetic formation of the Society in 1913, despite the birth of techniques such as aerial photography for surveying and vegetation mapping.

There is more about soldier naturalists in Richard Van Emden’s Tommy’s Ark: Soldiers and their Animals in the Great War which we previously  reveiwed / blog posted about in 2012.

World War Zoo Gardens workshops for schools at Newquay Zoo

January 29, 2014

Preparing our World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

Preparing our World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

We’ve been busy recently at Newquay Zoo setting up for some primary school workshops about wartime life and what happened in zoos in WW2.

Mark Norris in costume as the zoo's ARP Instructor and volunteer Ken our zoo 'Home Guard' delivering a World War Zoo Gardens schools workshop, Newquay Zoo (Photo: Lorraine Reid / Newquay Zoo)

Mark Norris in costume as the zoo’s ARP Instructor and volunteer Ken our zoo ‘Home Guard’ delivering a World War Zoo Gardens schools workshop, Newquay Zoo (Photo: Lorraine Reid / Newquay Zoo)

Schools visit Newquay Zoo from upcountry and around the county. One recent local school who usually go to a local museum visited to find out the answer to an unusual question. The children asked their teacher – “What happened to animals during the war?” so a trip to Newquay Zoo was the answer. Others book in as the start or finish of their wartime history classroom topic or alongside their more traditional animal studies of rainforest or habitats.

Our wartime zoo trail is quickly set up for visiting schoolchildren around the zoo, a trail that’s been shared with visitors around Armistice weekends and wartime garden weekends.

One of our temporary World War Zoo Gardens trail boards set up for schools workshops, World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

One of our temporary World War Zoo Gardens trail boards around the zoo set up for schools workshops, World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

Display case of wartime memorabilia, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo
Our display case in the Tropical House houses a changing topical collection of wartime Home Front items from civilian and zoo life. There’s an Eye-Spy list to encourage students to look out for and identify some of the more unusual items. They generate interesting history questions: What are they? Who used them and what were they used for?

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy in our display case  for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

Some of my favourites are the handmade items like toy wooden Spitfires or puzzle games from scrap materials, our contribution featured in the BBC digital online museum accompanying the BBC’s “A History of The World in a Hundred Objects”.

Hanging up uniform for the World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

Hanging up uniform for the World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

The biggest effort is in unpacking and repacking our stored wartime artifacts. These range from large items like heavy wartime civil defence uniform jackets and land girl overcoats to smaller items like steel helmets that are interesting for students to try on and feel the weight. It’s not advisable to try on the different gas masks though, if they still have the filter sections intact or attached. Many of these are everyday wartime items that zoo keepers, their families or zoo visitors would have carried and been very familiar with.

Land Army, Fire and Civil Defence Greatcoats and uniforms hung ready for a schools workshop, World War Zoo Gardens

Land Army, Fire and Civil Defence Greatcoats and uniforms hung ready for a schools workshop, World War Zoo Gardens

Putting our workshop materials out, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

Putting our workshop materials out, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

It takes a while to pin up wartime posters and unpack ‘evacuee’ suitcases but the end result looks good so well worth the effort. Alongside our original Newquay War Weapons Week poster design by evacuee Benenden schoolgirls,  the other wartime posters (” weapons on the wall”) are battered old reproduction examples from the Imperial War Museum shop 

' Evacuee' suitcases with original handmade wartime toys, ARP advice and blue WAAF silks!  World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo (Picture: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

‘ Evacuee’ suitcases with original handmade wartime toys, ARP advice and blue WAAF silks! World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo (Picture: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

Different topics such as the outbreak of war and closure of places of entertainment like zoos, preparing and repairing the zoo from air raid damage, feeding the animals when they had no ration books and coping with the call up and casualties of staff are covered through enlarged photographs, newspaper headlines, adverts and posters from our collection to illustrate our talk or answer questions.

Through telling the story of how we are researching wartime zoos and showing the students many of these original source materials, we’re showing them an idea of the process of how history is written and researched, an important skill for future historians.

Rationing and Dig For Victory gardening items being laid out for our World War Zoo Gardens schools workshop, Newquay Zoo  (Photo: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

Rationing and Dig For Victory gardening items being laid out for our World War Zoo Gardens schools workshop, Newquay Zoo
(Photo: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

The tiniest items on display are original artefacts like shrapnel and incendiary bomb tail fins that did such damage to zoo and botanic garden glass roofs and hay stores. These small items, along with the bewildering variety of wartime cap badges and buttons, often survive as part of a wartime schoolboy’s souvenir collection of relics.

"What did you Do in the War, Granny?" is partly answered by these poster reproductions on the wall. World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

“What did you Do in the War, Granny?” is partly answered by these poster reproductions on the wall. World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

This schoolboy collecting bug often puzzles the female students – “what did girls do during the war?” they ask. This question we partly answer with a range of items from land girl greatcoats, women’s magazines, cookery books, knitted dolls and some highly desirable items such as WAAF issue silk stockings and bloomers. Most of the students know how stockings were faked using gravy browning, coffee and eyeliner pencils for the seams. Our other precious silk item, of course of animal origin, is a pilot’s silk escape map of S.E. Asian jungle islands where many of our  endangered animals come from today.

Getting into costume and character as a Zoo ARP instructor dress uniform and scratchy battledress trousers - Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project schools workshop, Newquay Zoo

Getting into costume and character as a Zoo ARP instructor dress uniform and scratchy battledress trousers – Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project schools workshop, Newquay Zoo

We try to cover all the senses such as the weight and roughness of uniforms, sandbags and helmets. Smell is not so easy to represent – what did wartime Britain smell like? – but we visit our recreated wartime allotment near the Lion House to harvest (in season) some fresh animal food and herbs.

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Taste is a tricky sense to safely build into a workshop, what with modern concerns over food allergies (did they exist during rationing?) However our fabulous Cafe Lemur staff help introduce workshops in the quieter times of the year by cooking up batches of fresh and reasonably edible potato biscuits (recipe below) for students to try, taken from some wartime recipe sheets we have for visitors to take away. It’s always interesting to watch the facial expressions of students as they risk the first bite. Only a few aren’t eaten!

Primary history source material -  Keeper Billett of Whipsnade Zoo ZSL in tin hat and gas mask pictured in the shortlived 'Animal And Zoo magazine', November 1939 (magazine / photo from the World War Zoo archive, Newquay Zoo)

Primary history source material – Keeper Billett of Whipsnade Zoo ZSL in tin hat and gas mask pictured in the shortlived ‘Animal And Zoo magazine’, November 1939 (magazine / photo from the World War Zoo archive, Newquay Zoo)

Sound is an important part of the workshop ranging from learning the meaning of the sharp blasts of my ARP whistle to the different sound of air raid sirens – warning and all clear – keyed in from sound effects, as the real hand-cranked sirens are deafening in small spaces and we don’t want to accidentally evacuate the zoo. The gas warning rattle, beloved of football crowds in the past, is a popular and noisy thing to try at the workshop’s end.

Wartime fire fighting equipment - stirrup pump, canvas bucket, AFS 'tin hat' (section 34) and service respirator. Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Wartime fire fighting equipment – stirrup pump, canvas bucket, AFS ‘tin hat’ (section 34) and service respirator. Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Apart from looking at the display and trying on some of the headgear, another popular activity at the end of a workshop is a quick demonstration outside of ‘fire bomb drill’ that older children and zoo families would have learnt on firewatch or fire guard duty using our battered leaky but still working original stirrup pumps. Young arms soon tire from pumping these and thankfully there’s no fire involved but it’s a chance to soak your friends! Many gardeners made use of civil defence ‘war surplus’ stirrup pumps after the war as handy garden sprayers.

If we’re in luck, one of our older zoo volunteers pops in to answer questions about wartime childhood and even bring in their original ration books and identity cards. Sometimes our volunteers and our staff (including me!) dress up as characters using original and replica uniforms showing jobs that zoo staff would have done, often  after  a day’s work ranging from Fire Watch, Fire Service, Air Raid Precautions or Home Guard. There are a few of my family photographs of air raid shelters, harvest and garden work and stories from my evacuee parents that I retell in the talk too!

Paper pot maker in the wartime zoo garden, Newquay Zoo, 2010

Paper pot maker in the wartime zoo garden, Newquay Zoo, 2010

In summer we finish off our wartime zoo schools workshops with  making of newspaper pots and potting up of sunflower seeds (good source of animal food in wartime and very wildlife friendly today) for students to take home.  It’s good to hear from children and teachers that school gardens are thriving again as part of  Growing Schools Gardens, one practical follow-up to the ‘Dig For Victory’ history topic and zoo visit. There is an excellent RHS / IWM Dig For Victory schools pack available online as a pdf   It’s good to see this growing area of the  Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto and network, something  which we’re proudly part of at Newquay Zoo as an accredited or quality learning venue since 2009.

Now that World War Two  is staying in modified form in the new ‘Gove’ 2014 primary school history national curriculum, we look forward to running many more schools WW2 workshops about this remarkable period in zoo and botanic garden history. I’m sure many teachers have enjoyed teaching the old Home Front primary history curriculum elements  and will adapt elements from units like the evacuees.

Each workshop throws up interesting new questions to answer or investigate. “What happened in zoos and associated botanic gardens in World War 1?” is one recent question we’ve been asked and are looking at, ahead of the 1914 centenary. We’ve already blogposted about the war memorials at Kew Gardens and London Zoo – see previous posts. 

The next big job is editing some of our research and collection of wartime diaries or letters into a resource pack, something we’re working on throughout 2014.  Some of our North-East wartime farmer’s diaries are on loan to Beamish museum for their new Wartime Farm.

We also run similar history sessions for secondary schools at Newquay Zoo and our sister Zoo Paignton Zoo in Devon. Herbert Whitley’s Paignton Zoo was operational in wartime as a camp site for D-Day US troops and had some strange wartime tales. Paignton also  hosted evacuee staff and animals from the bombed and blitzed Chessington Zoo.

You can find out more about the World War Zoo Gardens project, schools workshops and local offsite talks and our contact details on our schools webpage


Wartime Savoury Potato Biscuit recipe – cooked up  on World War Zoo Gardens workshop days 

* N.B. Leave out cheese if you have dairy allergy, the pepper is enough to make the taste ‘interesting’.

Adapted from the original Recipe from Potatoes: Ministry of Food wartime leaflet No. 17 

Makes about 24 approx 3 inch biscuits


2  ounces margarine

3  ounces plain flour

3 ounces cooked mashed potato

6 tablespoons grated cheese*

1.5 teaspoons table salt

Pinch of cayenne or black pepper

Cooking instructions

1. Rub margarine into flour

2. Add potato, salt, pepper (and cheese if using*)

3. Work to a stiff dough

4. Roll out thinly and cut into shapes

5. Bake in a moderate oven, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remembering “Muck’s Mauler”: Liberator US Navy Air Crash, Watergate bay, Newquay, Cornwall28 December 1943

December 17, 2013

Muck's Mauler  Liberator crash relics on display, on loan from Douglas Knight, Newquay Zoo wartime weekend  May 2010

Muck’s Mauler Liberator crash relics on display, on loan from Douglas Knight, Newquay Zoo wartime weekend May 2010

During World War Two, Britain as an island was heavily dependent (as we are today) on supplies, fuel and food coming in by ship.

Despite the home grown efforts of “Dig for Victory Garden” allotments behind homes, in parks and  even zoo gardens, this  made Britain’s ports and shipping vulnerable  to attack and blockade by the German air force and U-boats.

Watching  out for enemy submarines and protecting these convoys was the job not just of the Royal Navy but also many British and American coastal patrol aircraft from airfields along the coast such as St Eval or St. Mawgan, near Newquay in Cornwall. Convoys of food and fuel arrived safely but at considerable cost in the loss of men, ships and aircraft.

The occasional remnants of one such casualty from Christmas 1943 can still be glimpsed on the beach a few miles down the coast from where the World War Zoo Gardens project and its allotment garden is based at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall.

At 2.02 a.m. on December 28th 1943 a United States Navy PB4Y1 Liberator “Muck’s Mauler” Liberator - designated ‘war-weary’ - took off from RAF St Mawgan with nine crew members and four passengers aboard. It is believed the plane got into difficulties shortly after take-off and tried to turn back to base when it came down and crashed into rocks. All 13 service personnel aboard the aircraft were killed. Five other unnamed US Navy personnel rescuers drowned trying to save the crew, rappelling down the cliffs and into the night sea in vain to save them.

The crew of Muck’s Mauler –
Rance A. Thomas
Louis T. Perkins Jr
Paul M. Lawthian
Norman Teraut
Edwin H. Rogers
Thomas J. Zock
Edward G. Forkel
Harry Jetter
Charles Minella.

Passengers onboard
Ensign Robert L. Scott
Harold Rossenberg
Harold C. Nylund
Paul Brow.

Edwin H Rogers was born in August 1915 at Williams Station, near Columbia, Houston Co, Alabama. Rogers served in the United States Navy and “Ferried war weary bombers and crew from England to Bermuda during World War II”.

The crew's Fort Scott Cemetery memorial stone from the Find a Grave website.

The crew’s Fort Scott Cemetery memorial stone from the Find a Grave website.

There is a memorial stone plaque on the Find a Grave website http://image1.findagrave.com/photos/2010/147/660073_127509938445.jpg for Edward G Forkel, Harold C Nylund – 1943 and some others in some of the crew reburied in Fort Scott Military Cemetery, Kansas in the USA, listing names and airforce ranks where they were reinterred in 1949.

The day after the accident, 14-year-old Douglas Knight cycled to the scene with his brother Alec and found a number of relics in the sand which were put on display at Newquay Zoo’s World War Zoo Gardens project wartime weekend in May 2010. Douglas arranged to replace and rededicate the plaque on the cliffs where the plane hit. According to Douglas’ address at the memorial service:

“The Liberator … was on its way back to the States, it had done approx. 558 flying hours on the original engines and then would be replaced with a more modified version. I was only 14 years old when my brother Alec and I myself heard about the tragedy. We cycled out to Whipsiderry and walked across the beaches to the scene of the accident. I can still remember that before we came around Lion Rock, there was a terrible stench in the air. We now know that the plane was flying to the States and that there were thousands of gallons of aviation fuel when it crashed and caught fire.

The scene that met our eyes as we came around Lion Rock I will never forget. The cliff was all burnt and the beach was covered with wreckage. There were RAF lorries taking away the engines and other large parts of the wreckage. The bodies of the air crew and those drowned in a rescue attempt were taken away before we arrived.

For several years after this accident whenever we walked across this part of the beach we still found bits of the wreckage.”

Engine section and other relics from the crashed Muck's Mauler on display at Newquay Zoo's wartime weekend in May 2010, loaned by Douglas Knight

Engine section and other relics from the crashed Muck’s Mauler on display at Newquay Zoo’s wartime weekend in May 2010, loaned by Douglas Knight

Wreckage still turns up on the beach crash site after heavy seas. Douglas Knight worked with air historian  Martin Alexander  who has been researching the crash for many years to confirm the names. They arranged for a plaque and dedication ceremony  to mark the place on the cliffs and you can read  Media coverage of the plaque dedication ceremony.

Douglas lent some of these relics, parts of an engine, bullets and instrument gauges, the glass amazingly uncracked to one of our World War Zoo Gardens wartime display events in 2010, a solemn reminder of the human cost of keeping our wartime supply chain safe.

Investigating the crash, the American air force eventually requested greater air sea rescue services in the form of high speed motor launches to be reinforced locally, working out of ports such as Padstow to back up existing lifeboat crews.

Liberator crews like “Muck’s Mauler” were tasked to watch for and sink German submarines or U-Boats which were a threat to Britain’s food supplies and war materials being shipped to Britain. The crew of ‘Muck’s Mauler’ appear to have served at RAF St Eval as well as Dunkeswell airfield in Devon,  then a ‘ferry crew’  landed to refuel and crashed just after takeoff.

Without the protection from these aircrews and the bravery of the Merchant Navy, Royal and US  and Navy crews in shipping convoys, Britain would have struggled to feed its rationed people and carry on preparing for the invasion of Europe on D-Day June 1944 in which the people, coast and country of Cornwall and Devon played such a part.

I will post further related photographs as I come across them in 2014. A beautiful scale model of ‘Muck’s Mauler’ can be seen at http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/43365-pb4y-1-navy-liberators-academy-172/ on the http://www.britmodeller website.

Not just zoo animals get adopted, even wartime allotments get Christmas presents …

December 14, 2013

oxfam unwrapped ecardChristmas is often a challenge to find the right gift, which is why we do lots of Christmas experience gifts and animal adoptions at Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo. Many zoos do this gift scheme – you can find your local BIAZA zoo in Britian and Ireland on the BIAZA website.

Animal adoptions were one innovative wartime solution to shortage of funding to feed the animals especially when zoos closed at the outbreak of war for weeks or sometimes months in 1939. Both Chester Zoo and London Zoo claim to have first set this up in 1939/40, a scheme which was picked up by other zoos and has never stopped.

Our wartime allotment has just received another Christmas card this year again in 2013 – by email! It was a lively Oxfam Unwrapped allotment gift e-card with a little Christmas message: “This Xmas gift of an allotment is one way of linking the allotment and project work of the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo with what is happening in troubled parts of the world today.” Maybe a new Oxfam  allotment in Afghanistan is our first informal twin.

It is very appropriate twinning as Oxfam itself was born out of a humanitarian response to wartime famine in Greece in the 1940s. You can find out more about the allotment gifts at Oxfam’s  website http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped/gardeners/plant-an-allotment-ou7026ag

As the Oxfam e-card went on to say - “More budding UK gardeners are discovering the joys of growing their own. But for many poor women and men an allotment isn’t just a way of saving on the weekly shop, it’s how they feed their families and earn a bit extra to buy other essentials. And this gift will supply the tools, seeds and training to create working allotments that will produce a lot more.”

I was really pleased to hear that “As part of this project in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, Oxfam is helping women to establish kitchen gardens on their land to supplement their income and their family’s diet. Oxfam provides the training and distributes the seeds for the women to grow a variety of vegetables and crops. The extra produce that the family cannot eat is sold at local markets.”

Shirin Gul is one gardener who has been reaping the benefits after Oxfam distributed seeds in her village: “It’s very expensive to buy vegetables here in the mountains. I am lucky as I have a plot of land. Our family has always grown vegetables on this plot – but the Oxfam seeds mean the amount and variety of vegetables that I grow has increased. It used to just be potatoes, onions and egg-plants but now I have tomatoes, beans, squash, lettuce, cucumber – oh, everything.”

Zeinab, from the nearby village of Sah Dasht, is also a lady with green fingers. Her garden is full of produce. There are beans, potatoes, okra and tomatoes all ready to be picked. “I had never really done much farming before though I did grow potatoes but Oxfam gave me some training to help me grow the maximum amount of vegetables.”

I’m very pleased that one  Oxfam project area is Afghanistan. Each year at Newquay Zoo’s Christmas carol service (which ran for almost 20 years until this year),  the retiring collection was usually for our conservation projects at the zoo and overseas, some of them in former war-afflicted areas like Vietnam. Ten years or more ago in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001/2, I can remember asking visitors for contributions to the global zoo effort to support the recovery of  Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan which had suffered under the Taliban. There also can’t be many of us who don’t know a service family with relatives who have served there in the last ten years or are spending a wartime christmas away from home on active service.

In the next few days I will be posting about the 70th anniversary of the Mucks Mauler Liberator US aircraft crash on he Newquay coast on 28 December 1943. Relics of the plane were exhibited at Newquay Zoo’s wartime displays in the past.

It will soon be time to plan the spring planting to provide a small amount of fresh food for our zoo animals as they did in wartime. It’s time to flick through plant catalogues and plan planting schemes. You can also read through previous Wartime Christmas blog posts on this website.

2014 will be a busy year with the start of the commemoration of the Great or First World War http://www.1914.org We will continue posting about zoos, botanic gardens and allotment gardening in the First World War throughout the year.

I wish all a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year 2014  to our blog readers, zoo visitors, zoo staff, their animals and gardeners everywhere.

Remembering lost wartime staff of ZSL London Zoo in WW1

November 4, 2013

NOVEMBER 2013:  Remembrance Sunday, poppies and Armistice Day

Updating our post (March 2014) “LOST IN THE GARDEN OF THE SONS OF TIME” from November 2010/11

At London Zoo, at memorials and churches all over Britain and Europe, people will stop and gather, think and reflect on the extraordinary, almost incomprehensible loss of life in wartime which affected so many walks of life including zoos and botanic gardens.


Frustratingly few war memorial or roll of honour records for zoos survive in a publicly accessible form. I have been researching the wartime effects on a few typical British zoos operational in the First World War and what that generation learnt in preparation for surviving the Second world war (when our wartime dig for victory garden project at Newquay Zoo is set). The few staff casualty records I have found so far must stand in for a whole generation and zoos across the world.

Spare a thought for the keepers and zoo staff remembered on the ZSL war memorial at London Zoo. 12 names are listed from the staff  out of 54 or more (some accounts say 90) who served in the forces or munitions work in the First World War out of a staff of 150.

Names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010

Names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010

Poppies are laid by ZSL staff and union members each Remembrance Sunday at the ZSL War Memorial, a Portland Stone memorial designed  by architect John James Joass in 1919, based on a medieval Lanterne des Morts memorial  to the dead at La Souterraine,  Creuse Valley, France. The memorial was moved from the main gate area in 1952 after the 1939-45 names were added and is now near to the Three Island Pond area. New metal panel engravings of the 12 staff names have been prepared in time to mark the http://www.1914.org centenary to replace the original ones (pictured here), as they were almost illegible in places.

Autumn colours behind the ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, November 2010 (Photo: Kate Oliver, ZSL Education)

Autumn colours behind the ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, November 2010 (Photo: Kate Oliver, ZSL Education)

Reading the names means these men are not forgotten.

Researching and reading a few of these background stories puts a more personal face on the scale of the losses, especially in the First World War, adding to what is on the www.cwgc.org site.  Many thanks to Kate Oliver at ZSL who photographed the very well polished brass name plates.

ZSL London Zoo is working on an exhibition about these men and ‘The Zoo’ in WW1 to mark the 1914-18 centenary.

ZSL London Zoo war memorial

 The Zoological Society of London

In memory of employees who were killed on active service in the Great War 1914-1919

Casualties are listed on the plaque in order of date of death and /or using the plaque details.

29.9.1915 Henry D Munro 4 Middlesex Regt   ZSL Keeper

The unnamed “Keeper with The King Penguin”.

On the CWGC site and UK Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919 database (1921), ZSL Keeper Henry or Harry Munro is registered as born in the St. Pancras Middlesex area and enlisting in the Army in Camden Town, Middlesex (the area near Regent’s Park Zoo).

Quite old in military terms, he appears to have volunteered or enlisted most likely in the early months of the war in Autumn / Winter 1914; conscription was only introduced in 1916. Munro served as Private G/2197 with the local regiment, 4th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own).

Henry (Albert) Munro served in France and Flanders from 3rd January 1915 and was killed aged 39 in action on 29th September 1915. He has no known grave, being remembered on panel 49-51 amongst the 54,000 Commonwealth casualties of 1914 to 1917 on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Flanders, Belgium. His death occurred a few days after September 25th saw the British first use of poison gas during the Battle of Loos after the first German use in April. The Battle of Loos took place alongside the French and Allied offensive in Artois and Champagne, followed the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April to May 5th 1915 onwards).

 The Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

The Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

Henry Munro served from 31 August 1914 to 5 January 1915 in Britain, and then with the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) from the 6th January 1915 in France until his death on 29th September 1915 (Military History Sheet, Army Service Papers (“Burnt Documents”). This early service gained him the 1915 star, along with the standard Victory and British medal.

‘Harry’ Munro is listed in Golden Days, an old book of London Zoo photographs (ZSL image C-38771X?) as being involved in “the army, airships and anti-submarine patrols”. Nothing more appears on his service papers about this air and sea activity. I have little more information on this intriguing entry at present but the London Zoo typed staff lists of men of active service list him as ‘missing’ well into their 1917 Daily Occurence Book records. Many of the identifications of staff in the photographs in Golden Days will be from the memory of long retired staff.

Harry Munro is pictured with a King penguin but is listed on his staff record card as a keeper of sea lions. Intriguingly, several London Zoo histories list secret and unsuccessful attempts made early in the war to track submarines using trained seals or sealions. Airships were also used for U-boat spotting. I wonder if and how Harry was involved?

On the Mary Evans Picture blog “London Zoo at War” there features an interesting reprinted picture from the Mary Evans archive: “In March 1915, The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News featured this picture, showing a zookeeper in khaki, returning to his place of work while on leave to visit the seals, and to feed them some fish in what would be a rather charming publicity photograph.” This soldier, according to Adrian Taylor at ZSL, working on their WW1 centenary exhibition, is George Graves, one of Munro’s keeper colleagues in khaki who survived the war and returned to work at London Zoo.

Henry Munro was born in Clerkenwell, in 1876, not far from Regent’s Park zoo (London 1891 census RG12/377) and may have worked initially as a Farrier / Smith, aged 15. His family of father William J Munro, a Southwark born Printer aged 42 and mother Eliza aged 43 (born Clerkenwell) were living in 3 Lucey Road, (Bermondsey, St James, Southwark?)

Private Henry or Harry Munro was 39 when he died, married with children. He had married (Ada) Florence Edge on 20th November 1899. They had three children, born or registered in Camden Town near the zoo) by the time he was killed on active service. Hilda was 13 (born 29th March 1901), Albert Charles was 9 (born 5th June 1906) and Elsie, 7 (born 17 August 1908), all living at 113 Huddleston Road, Tufnell Park to the north of the zoo in London in 1915. Interestingly, maps list Regent’s Park as having a barracks on Albany street (A4201).

William Bodman is listed on the Loos Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Loos Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

18.03.1916  William Bodman 6th Btn, East Kent Regt, Private ZSL Helper.       

Helpers were the most junior in the keeper ranks, new or younger staff who had not attained full keeper rank.

Private L/7736 William Bodman 6th Btn, East Kent Regt (Buffs) ZSL Helper, aged 29 (born c. 1887)is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, panel 15 to 19, having no known grave, one of over 20,000 men recorded on this memorial to the missing in this area.

Currently no Army Service or Pension records have so far been found but his medal records show that in addition to the standard Victory and British war medal he earned a 1914 star, entering service / theatre of war 7th September 1914. Born in Clerkenwell (Middlesex, London ), William was normally resident in St. John’s Wood (Middlesex, London) not far from Regent’s Park. He enlisted in Stratford, (Essex, London) and may well have been a former soldier or Territorial Army to have entered overseas service so quickly.

Conscription, Lord Derby and Knowsley

In March 1916, conscription came into force in Britain. The first Military Service Bill was passed in Britain on January 25th , introducing conscription for single men between 18 to 41 with effect from March. On May 16th, the Second Military Service Bill was passed in Britain, extending conscription to married men over 18 to 41; this age range was later extended.

Previously volunteering in 1914 and 1915 had brought enough recruits. From 1915, Lord Derby’s scheme encouraged men to ‘attest’ their willingness to serve when the appropriate time came. Several of the London Zoo staff have these Derby Scheme papers in their National Archives entries. Lord Derby was part of the Stanley family, the owners of Knowsley Hall, home to a famous Victorian menagerie painted by Edward Lear as old as London Zoo itself. Knowsley has run the Knowsley Safari Park on its estate since 1971. Lord Derby encouraged his gardens staff to enlist and set up the Derby Scheme, becoming Secretary of State for War from 1916-18. But that is another story for a different blog post.

10.07.1916  Albert A Dermott  13th Btn. Rifle Brigade, Rifleman ZSL Messenger

Rifleman S/4504 Albert Arthur Dermott, 13th Btn. Rifle Brigade, (The Prince Consort’s Own) ZSL Messenger, aged 22, was killed on the Somme and has no known grave, being listed on the Thiepval Memorial.

Dermott is listed amongst the 72,000 names on the strangely shaped Thiepval memorial to the missing dead who have no known grave of the Somme battles of 1916-18. The memorial by Lutyens which sits high on a hill overlooking the killing fields of France is nicknamed by some the ‘elephant’, with its howdah or passengers on a zoo elephant ride.

Several ZSL staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Several ZSL staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

According to CWGC records, Albert Arthur Dermott was the son of Frederick John Dermott and (Margaret) Rachel Frances Dermott (nee Creswell) of 2 Queen’s Road, Dalston, Middlesex, London. After his mother Rachel’s death, Dermott’s father Frederick remarried a Louisa Archer.

Albert was born in Islington, Middlesex, London on 25th April 1894 and was resident and enlisted in Marylebone, Middlesex. According to his medal records, he entered service overseas on 29 July 1915 (earning a 1915 star) and was killed just under a year later. He would have been only just past 22 years old when he was killed in action.

Dermott is listed on the Thiepval project database The following biographical information was researched by Ken and Pam Linge for Dermott’s database entry, culled from Census information – Dermott was the youngest of five children. His siblings were Rachel Margaret Dermott (b.1883), Alice Louisa Dermott (b. 1885), Frederick John Dermott (b.1887), Edith Dermott (b. 1891). The young Albert was educated at Shap Street School, Hackney from 9th September 1901.

15.9.1916        Arthur G Whybrow      2547, 19 Bn. County of London Regt , ZSL Helper.

Whybrow joined up on 4 September 1914 and went to France on 8th March 1915. He was killed during the Somme battles, probably in the clearance of High Wood by 47 (London) Division, 15 September 1916.

Born around 1891, Arthur Whybrow worked first as a Domestic Gardener (like his father John) before joining London Zoo as a keeper (noted on his marriage certificate in July 1913). He married Daisy Sutliff and they had a child, Winifred Daisy Whybrow born 1913/14. Daisy remarried after Arthur’s death, a Mr Goodard in mid 1919.

Whybrow is one of the 101 men identified in an individual grave 1A.A.10. at London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval. High Wood was fiercely fought over during the Battle of the Somme until cleared by 47th (London) Division on 15 September 1916 when Whybrow was killed. The original ‘London’ Cemetery at High Wood was begun when 47 men of the 47th Division were buried in a large shell hole on 18 and 21 September 1916. Other burials were added later, mainly of officers and men of the 47th Division who died like Arthur Whybrow on 15 September 1916.

Whybrow's grave lies in a short row (I think) just behind the Special white central memorial stone near the entrance, London Cemetery , Longueval.  Image: cwgc.org website

Whybrow’s grave lies in a short row (I think) just behind the Special white central memorial stone near the entrance, London Cemetery , Longueval. Image: cwgc.org website

At the Armistice Whybrow’s cemetery contained 101 graves. The cemetery was then greatly enlarged when remains were brought in from the surrounding battlefields, but the original battlefield cemetery where Whybrow is buried is preserved intact within the larger cemetery, now know as the London Cemetery and Extension. The cemetery, one of five in the immediate vicinity of Longueval which together contain more than 15,000 graves, is the third largest cemetery on the Somme with 3,873 First World War burials, 3,114 of them unidentified.

The flat landscape and scale of the Somme cemeteries around Longueval can clearly be seen here. Image: London Cemetery, Longueval cwgc.org website

The flat landscape and scale of the Somme cemeteries around Longueval can clearly be seen here. Image: London Cemetery, Longueval cwgc.org website

Listed on CWGC website as the son of John and Louisa Whybrow, of Hampstead, London and husband of Daisy Goodard (formerly Whybrow), of 193, Junction Rd., Highgate, London.

05.10.1916      Gerald P Patterson       19 County of London Regt     ZSL Helper

The 19 County of London Regiment may be an error or his first regiment. This is likely to be 43689 Private Gerald Phillips Patterson of the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was killed on 5th October 1916 during the Somme fighting. He is buried in an individual grave XI. C. 4. in Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, Somme, France.

The life of his battalion during the Somme battles is well set out in the Somme school visit site http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?app=core&module=attach&section=attach&attach_id=2956

It is likely that Patterson went into action with the Norfolks on the 1st of July 1916, the first day of the Somme as part of the 18th (Eastern) Division as part of K2, Kitchener’s 2nd Army Group of New Army volunteers. Patterson was most likely killed during the attack and capture of the Schwaben Redoubt on the 5th October 1916. The next day his battalion went back for rest out of the line.

Many of Patterson’s 8th Norfolk battalion who were killed and whose bodies or graves were not found are remembered on the nearby Thiepval Memorial, alongside other ZSL staff like Albert Dermott.

ZSL Helper G.P. Patterson's grave lies amongst those to the  right of the Cross of Sacrifice, Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, Somme. Image: cwgc.org website

ZSL Helper G.P. Patterson’s grave lies amongst those to the right of the Cross of Sacrifice, Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, Somme. Image: cwgc.org website

Patterson is listed on the ZSL memorial plaque as 19th County of London Regiment; along with several other ZSL staff he enlisted locally in Camden Town, Middlesex, close to the London Zoo. Later he must have transferred to his County regiment the Norfolks as he was born in Great Yarmouth like his parents and siblings. His father was a school attendance officer and Patterson was the youngest of 7 brothers and sisters, all born in Great Yarmouth. On leaving school, the 1911 census lists him as an Auctioneer’s Articled Pupil, before becoming a ZSL Helper (a junior or trainee keeper rank).

There are now 1,268 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the Connaught cemetery. The vast majority of the burials are those of officers and men who died in the summer and autumn of 1916 battles of the Somme. Half of the burials are unidentified, many brought in from smaller cemeteries around the Somme battlefields area.

23.10.1916      William Dexter  Kings Royal Rifles, Rifleman    ZSL Keeper 

Rifleman S/19841 William Dexter was a married keeper enlisted in the 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade, who died on or around 23 October 1916 aged 31. Dexter is buried in an individual grave XVIII. J. 5. at Bienvillers Cemetery, near Arras,and the Ancre, France.

Dexter is buried in the rows of graves to the left of the Cross of Sacrifice at Bienvillers Military Cemetery. Image www.cwgc.org

Dexter is buried in the rows of graves to the left of the Cross of Sacrifice at Bienvillers Military Cemetery. Image http://www.cwgc.org

According to his granddaughter Nova Jones whom I met at London Zoo in March 2014, William Dexter came from a zoo family of several generations. The daughter of William’s daughter Dora, Nova has found in time for ZSL’s wartime centenary exhibition a photograph of William Dexter in uniform with Rifles cap badge and is currently confirming which Rifles regiment he served in.

William Dexter was listed on his Army Medical Form as a “Keeper at Zoo”, 5 foot 5 ½ inches, Physical development ‘Good’. His father Robert Dexter had been employed at the zoo from the 1860s onwards. After working as a labourer and painter, William obtained employment ‘as worth keeping’ in 1908, rising to Junior Keeper of Ostriches in 1913 before joining up. The 31-year-old father of four children, enlisted in the Rifle Brigade in December 1915.

After barely one month serving in France he was listed as “Missing – accepted as having died on or since 23 October 1916”. Although war service and pension records are difficult sometimes to decipher, “A portion of boot” was seemingly all that was left, along with posthumous medals and a pension, for official recognition and return by the authorities of Keeper Dexter to his wife and four children.

It is quite rare amongst the photographs in zoo archives such as ZSL London Zoo to find the name of the staff alongside the animal pictured. A photo exists in the ZSL archives of Keeper William Dexter with an Ostrich cart giving rides in 1913, pictured in John Edwards’ book of London Zoo in Old Photographs, now in a new larger 2nd edition.

Later in the ZSL photo archive, his own son Edward William appears as ‘Reptile Keeper Dexter’ in a 1930s photograph. Private William Dexter’s son, ‘Ted’ was born in 1914, the year that the First World War broke out. According to his garnddaughter, after serving in Civil Defence, training men as stretcher bearers at a St. Pancras ARP depot, he served in the Royal Fusiliers fighting in Italy in World War Two. After the war he became Head Reptile Keeper, only to die trying to save two contractors from a carbon dioxide filled pit at the zoo in a tragic accident at the zoo in December 1960. A posthumous award of gallantry was added to the other Dexter family medals.

According to Soldiers Died in the Great War listing, William Dexter was born and resident in Regent’s Park. According to his WW1 Descriptive Report on Enlistment (Army Service Papers / Army Pension records, Burnt Documents), William Dexter married Sarah Elizabeth Dexter (nee Snuggs) in South Hampstead on 9th September 1909. They had four children born in St. Pancras by the time William was killed in October 1916: Ena Mary, 6 (born 2nd October 1910), Dora Florence, aged 4 (born 20th March 1912), the future zoo keeper Edward William, aged 2 (born 12 February 1914) and Joan Elsie, aged 1 (born 5th October 1915).

CWGC listing: Son of Robert and Mary Ann Dexter; husband of Sarah Elizabeth Dexter, of 12, Manley St., Regent’s Park, London.

09.04.1917      Robert Jones            9 Royal Fusiliers       ZSL Gardener

There are two current possibilities for this name,awaiting research:

Private GS/60595 Robert Jones, 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers was born in Islington or Highgate, Middlesex around 1881 and was married to Bertha Lewin of Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon around 1905 / 1906 in Camden / Highgate. He was formerly listed as 23358 6 Middlesex Regiment, having enlisted in Harringay and been resident in Highgate. On the 1901 census he is listed as a Gardener (not domestic) and in 1911 as a Nursery Gardener. On the CWGC website he is listed as the husband of Bertha Jones of 22 Caxton Street, Little Bowden, Market Harborough. This Robert Jones died of wounds on 7 April 1917 (two days different from the ZSL dates on the war memorial plaque) and is buried in Faubourg D’Amiens cemetery in Arras.

The other possibility with the same date as the ZSL war memorial plaque is 472712, 1st / 12th Btn. London Regiment (The Rangers), aged 31 buried in Individual grave A2 ,  Gouy-en Artois Cemetery, killed or died of wounds on the first day of the Battle of Arras 1917. The CWGC lists him as the brother of Mrs. Clara Shafer, of 37, Cornwallis Rd., Walthamstow, London. He was born in 1886 in Grays, Essex and enlisted in Plaistow. He appears on the 1911 census not to have been a gardener but a coal porter in a gas works.

This coal porter seems less likely to be the ‘Robert Jones ZSL gardener’ but without surviving service or pension papers for either one that I have found so far, even his ZSL staff record cards give few clues as to which one is the ZSL Gardener. Both deserve to be remembered.

472712 Private Robert Jones' gravestone  is just behind the Cross of Sacrifice in this picture of the tiny Gouy en Artois Cemetery near Arras.  Image: cwgc.org

472712 Private Robert Jones’ gravestone is just behind the Cross of Sacrifice in this picture of the tiny Gouy en Artois Cemetery near Arras. Image: cwgc.org

Gouy-en-Artois where one Robert Jones is buried is a village 15 kilometres south-west of Arras. The cemetery extension was made in April 1917 at the time of the Allied advance from Arras. It contains 44 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.

ZSL librarian H G J Peavot is remembered  on the Arras Memorial  (Image: CWGC website)

ZSL librarian H G J Peavot is remembered on the Arras Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

21.4.1917        Henry George Jesse Peavot      Honourable Artillery   Co       ZSL Librarian  

B Co. 1st Btn, aged 35.  Killed during Battle of Arras period, No known grave, listed on Arras Memorial. Married.

Henry George Jesse Peavot, a 35 year old ZSL Librarian  served in B Company, 1st Battalion, Honourable Artillery Company and  died on  21st April 1917. He has no known grave and his name is listed amongst the 35,000 missing men listed on the Arras Memorial alone.

Like many of these zoo staff, Peavot was married; his widow Maud or Maude Pravot as far as I can discover never remarried and lived to mourn his loss for almost seven decades until 1985. They had one child. Previously a ZSL typist, Maude kept in touch with ZSL for many years, a file of personal correspondence in the ZSL Archive appears to continue from 1917 to about 1932 and is likely to be pension related. The legacy of absence and injury from both world wars is still ongoing or at least within our working and living memory, in families and professions such as zoo keeping across Europe.

A former colleague of Peavot from the ZSL Library, Edwin Ephraim Riseley was also killed a few months later in August 1917, commemorated at the Linnean Society Library where he worked after leaving London Zoo – see our Linnean Society Roll of Honour blog post.

ZSL gardener Albert Staniford would no doubt in life have appreciated the efforts of the Commonwealth War Graves gardeners in this beautifully maintained cemetery where he lies buried, Maroc Cemetery, Grenay, France. Image: cwgc.org website

ZSL gardener Albert Staniford would no doubt in life have appreciated the efforts of the Commonwealth War Graves gardeners in this beautifully maintained cemetery where he lies buried, Maroc Cemetery, Grenay, France. Image: cwgc.org website

23.9.1917        Albert Staniford            Royal Field / Garrison Artillery  ZSL Gardener 

174234 216 Siege Battery. RGA   Individual grave, Maroc British cemetery, Grenay, France.  Period of Third Battle of Ypres / Passchendaele, July to November 1917.

French and German burials lie amidst the British graves, Maroc Cemetery, Grenay, France. Image: cwgc.org.uk

French and German burials lie amidst the British graves, Maroc Cemetery, Grenay, France. Image: cwgc.org.uk

ZSL gardener Albert Staniford was born in 1893 in the Regent’s Park area, the son of Annie and Alfred, who was also a gardener. His medal record card states that he served in both the Royal Field Artillery as 17692 and 216 Siege Battery,Royal Garrison Artillery as 174234 Gunner Staniford. He embarked for France on 31 August 1915, entitling him to a 1915 star, alongside the Victory and British War Medals. He served in France for two years before his death in September 1917, only three months after his marriage in London on June 6 1917 to Esther Amelia Barrs (b. 1896).

Staniford is buried in Maroc British Cemetery which is located in the village of Grenay, about 15 kilometres south-east of Bethune. During the greater part of the war it was a front-line cemetery used by fighting units and field ambulances. Plot II was begun in April 1917 by the 46th (North Midland) Division. Maroc British Cemetery now contains 1,379 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War.

03.10.1917      William Perkins      Royal Garrison Artillery     ZSL Keeper

115806, Bombardier, 233rd Siege Battery. Born in 1878 in Lifton in Devon to a gardener / labourer father Thomas and Cornish mother Emma Jane. Listed as a keeper on his wedding certificate, he married Lucy Elizabeth MacGregor in London in 23 August 1914 and lived in Eton Street, NW London (near other keepers).

ZSL Keeper William Perkins is buried in Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery , Ypres, Belgium. Image: cwgc.org website

ZSL Keeper William Perkins is buried in Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery , Ypres, Belgium. Image: cwgc.org website

Perkins is buried in an individual plot, Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery, Belgium. This appropriately named cemetery for an artillery soldier occupies a site at a road junction where three batteries of Belgian artillery were positioned in 1915. The cemetery was begun by the 8th Division in June 1917 after the Battle of Messines and it was used until October 1918, largely for burials from a dressing station in a cottage near by. Almost half of the graves are of casualties who belonged, or were attached, to artillery units. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

19.1.1918      ?Alfred L? Day                2 Rifle Brigade                          ZSL Helper

Currently a bit of a mystery! The most likely casualty appears at first to be Alfred Lomas Day, S/20305 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade, killed 29 November 1917 and buried at individual grave 1841, Rethel French National Cemetery, Ardennes, France. Rethel was in German hands from the early days of the First World War until 6 November 1918. Rethel French National Cemetery contains the graves of almost 3,000 French soldiers. The Commonwealth Plot, in the east part of the cemetery, contains 110 graves. The French National Cemetery also contains Russian and Rumanian graves. 19.1.1918 may be a wrong date transcribed on a well polished brass plate.

Searching through the ZSL staff records cards, there is mention of an R. Day or Richard Day who died as a POW in German Hands on 19 January 1918. I have not yet located service records for this R.Day. On electoral rolls, he lived in the same road as an Alfred Lomas Day. Maybe the two men have become confused, A Day looking a little like R Day in the handwritten staff listing in the Daily Occurences Book. Maybe thy re one and the same man. Again,another one for further research.

10.9.1918        Charles William Dare  County of London Regiment              ZSL Helper,

245116, London Regt (Royal Fusiliers),  remembered on the Vis-en-Artois memorial having no known grave.

Charles Dare has no known grave and is remembered on the Vis-en-Artois memorial.  Image: www.cwgc.org

Charles Dare has no known grave and is remembered on the Vis-en-Artois memorial.
Image: http://www.cwgc.org

This Memorial bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave. Britain lost more men in 1918 than it did in the whole of the Second World War.

10.9.1918        Charles William Dare    County of London Regt             ZSL  Helper,

originally enlisted as 2965 or 610564  19th London Regiment, he served also as Private 245116,  2nd (City of London) Battalion  (Royal Fusiliers). He  was killed on active service,  aged 20 and is listed on the  Vis-en-Artois memorial, one of 9580 killed in this area in the “Advance to Victory”  having no known grave.

Charles Dare was killed during period of the 100 days of the  “Advance to Victory”  (August to November / Armistice  1918). August 8th marked the beginning of the Battle of Amiens was known as the ‘Black Day’ of the German Army; on the 15th, British troops crossed the Ancre river and on the 30th, the Somme river. Advances carried on throughout September. The Armistice came two months after Charles Dare’s  death on the 11th November 1918.

Charles Dare was born and lived in St. Pancras between April and June 1898 and enlisted in Camden Town. He had an older sister, Lilian E Dare, two years older, also born in St. Pancras. His father Charles J Dare was a distiller’s clerk from Hereford, aged 38 in 1901 living at 16 Eton Street, St. Pancras parish / borough (London 1901 census RG 13/133). His mother Mary A Dare, 37,  was born in Lugwardine,  Hereford.

A Helper in ZSL staff terms is a junior or trainee member of staff before they become a Junior then Senior Keeper.

Interestingly ZSL keeper William Dexter lived nearby at 9 Eton Street, Regent’s Park on enlistment. Many of the staff lived nearby each other and the Zoo on the same roads in Camden and surrounding areas. By the time his pension was awarded to his widow, Mrs. Dexter had moved to 12 Manley Street, Regent’s Park with William’s parents and his four children.



ZSL war memorial verse from James Elroy Flecker, “Burial In England”

Upadte on research March 2014

I have previously written about the WW2 casualties from London Zoo and Whipsnade on a separate blog post.

Throughout the WW1 centenary 2014 – 2019, I will be researching their backgrounds through the census, National Archives, military service records and ZSL London Zoo archive staff records. I have spoken to relatives engaged in family history research into some of these men such as William Dexter and Henry Peavot, along with former London Zoo keepers like Les Bird, who has visited many of the ZSL graves. There are still many questions to be answered.

There are in all possibility sadly many more names to add to the known wartime casualty lists from zoos, botanic gardens and aquariums worldwide as our World War Zoo gardens research project continues. I would be interested to hear of any more names or memorials you know of. I am  very interested in hearing from anyone who has further information about these men or of other wartime zoo, aquarium or botanic garden related gravestones or rolls of honour.

So buy a poppy (there’s usually a box in the Newquay Zoo office or shop if you’re visiting) and spare a thought for these men and their families on Remembrance Sunday, and also for the many people not listed who were affected by their war service, men and women not just from  Britain but all over the world.

2009 first autumn of the garden project. Afternoon autumn light on the poppies, plants and sandbags of the wartime zoo keeper’s garden at Newquay Zoo

And then enjoy the noisy peace of the zoo gardens or wherever you find yourself …

Lost Fellows: The Linnean Society Roll of Honour 1914 – 1918

September 11, 2013

E.E. Riseley , Librarian to the Linnean Society killed in the First World War (taken from a Frontispiece in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society  1915-1919)

E.E. Riseley , Librarian to the Linnean Society killed in the First World War
(taken from a Frontispiece in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society 1915-1919)

The Linnean Society of London is the world’s oldest active biological society founded in 1788.

Printed in the Proceedings of The Linnean Society for 1918/9 is a short roll of honour listing eight fellows or employees who died in the First World War. Amongst them Geoffrey Watkins Smith, is described as “one of the most brilliant of the younger generation of Zoologists” (proceedings, 1916-17, page 64-65). These volumes with short obituary tributes can now be read freely online .

As part of the World War Zoo Gardens project and WW1 Centenary  I have been researching what happened to the staff of zoos, botanic gardens and aquariums worldwide in both world wars, along with associated groups such as zoologists, naturalists and botanists.

The eight FLS / Linnean Society casualties are remembered below:

1. Wilfrid Omer Cooper
Born 1895, he was killed in 26 September 1916. He had been involved with the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, studying isopods. Elected to the Linnean Society only in Spring 1915, he was still a private G/40113 in the 12 Battalion Regiment, Middlesex Regiment when he died aged 21. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme battles.

Linnean Society fellows  with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Wilfrid Omer Cooper has  no known grave, so is  remembered on the Thiepval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

He is listed on the CWGC website as the son of the late John Omer Cooper (died 1912) and Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Thompson Cooper, 6 Queensland Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth. On the listing for Soldiers Died in The Great War (SDGW) he is listed as born at Boscombe, Bournemouth, Hants and resident at Bournemouth. He enlisted at High Beech, Loughton and was originally listed as formerly B/23290 Royal Fusiliers.

In 1911 census he and his brother Joseph Omer Cooper were both schoolboys living with their 89-year-old father (a retired auctioneer, surveyor and estate agent, born in Reading, Berkshire 1822-1912) and 53-year-old mother Mary (born Willenhall, Staffordshire, 1858-1944) at 50 Westley Road, Boscombe. Two other children had not survived infancy. His brother Joseph served from 1914-19 in Britain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).

He may be the author of several books including The Fishing Village and other writings (Literary and Scientific) posthumously published in Bournemouth by H.G.Commin 1917, the author one Wilfrid Omer-Cooper.

2. Ernest Lee
Born in Stanley Cross End, Yorkshire on 11 April 1886, Lee was killed in Flanders in 1915.
Son of a colliery expert, Ernest Lee was educated at the Burnley Technical Institute, before moving to the Royal College of Science where he studied the ‘morphology of leaf fall’. He worked as a Demonstrator and Assistant Lecturer in Botany, Birkbeck College, London. Elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in June 1911, by 1913 he had moved to the Department of Agricultural Botany, University of Leeds. Here he joined the OTC Officer Training Corps in September 1914 (see links below).

A newspaper picture of Ernest Lee  can be found on the Western Front Association web pages in an article on the Leeds University OTC .

Ernest Lee married a Fellow Linnean, Miss Helen Stuart Chambers FLS in November 1914, when he was already listed as ‘Officer in HM Forces’ on his wedding certificate. The daughter of a colliery manager, Helen was listed in 1911 as a lecturer at Royal Holloway College, London. No doubt Helen with her colliery family background could have had fascinating conversations with fellow Linnean Marie Stopes, then a botanist and talking at the Linnean Society on the plant composition of coal, rather than on Married Love.

Ernest Lee's  grave lies in the rows to the right of the cross of sacrifice at Artillery Wood Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. (Image www.cwgc.org)

Ernest Lee’s grave lies in the rows to the right of the cross of sacrifice at Artillery Wood Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. (Image http://www.cwgc.org)

Ernest Lee was quickly gazetted a Second Lieutenant into the 4th Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment. After training as a Machine Gun officer, he became a Lieutenant and survived three months at the Front before dying on 11 July 1915. He is buried at III D 12, Artillery Wood Cemetery, Ypres, Flanders.

3. Cuthbert St. John Nevill
Born in 1889, Nevill was killed on 18 April 1918. The eldest son of a stockbroker Sir Walter Nevill, Highbury New Park, London, he was educated at Eastbourne and Uppingham. He worked as a member of the Stock Exchange and joined the City based HAC Honourable Artillery Company with whom he served in Egypt and Aden in 1915, thus being eligible at his wife’s post-war request for a 1914-15 star alongside his British War and Victory medals.

Transferred as a Second Lieutenant to the C Battery, 251st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery and commissioned in 13 April 1916, he served with the RFA in France until his death in service on 18 April 1918. He is buried at III A 1, Chocques Military Cemetery, where many of the burials are related to the No. 1 CCS Casualty Clearing Station.

Chocques Military Cemetery  (Image: www.cwgc.org)

Chocques Military Cemetery
(Image: http://www.cwgc.org)

A photograph of Cuthbert St. John Nevill in uniform can be seen at his Find a Grave website page 

In 1918, Cuthbert married Miss Eunice May Le Bas (1890 – 1979) of Guernsey. Widowed within the early months of her first marriage, she remarried another officer (possibly wounded as awarded a Silver War Badge), J.C. Oakley-Beuttler Lieutenant in the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry (1888 – 1940) in November 1919.

4. Edwin Ephraim Riseley

A beaten copper plaque in Latin in the Linnean Society Library in London recorded the death in action of E.E.Riseley, Librarian, Linnean Society 1914-1917.

The plaque is back on display as a tribute to Riseley anhet he Linnean fallen after a period in storage during building work restoration. http://www.linnean.org/The-Society/This+Month/January+2014 Riseley’s workplace, the Linnean Society Library can be glimpsed on the Linnean Society website page photos.

Riseley's plaque and photo from the Proceedings of the Linnean Society.

Riseley’s plaque and photo from the Proceedings of the Linnean Society.

Born in Abbots Ripton (Huntingdon) on 15 February 1889, Riseley had formerly been a library clerk at ZSL London Zoo, joining as a school leaver before gaining promotion in 1914 to library work at the Linnean Society. Shortly after he arrived, the war gave him unexpected promotion when its German born librarian August Wilhelm Keppel was dismissed from office, dying shortly afterwards in London on Christmas Eve 1915.

 The Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

The Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

Riseley enlisted in the 9th Battalion Rifle Brigade on 8th December 1916 and embarked for France on 15 June 1917. Rifleman S/21693, 3rd Battalion, Rifle Brigade was killed by a shell explosion aged 27 on 1st August 1917. He is remembered on panel 46-48 & 50 of the Ypres Menin Gate memorial arches, amongst many other names with no known grave on this memorial to the missing of the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917.

The CWGC records note him as the only son of Ephraim Riseley (1862-1944, a gentleman’s servant) and Elizabeth Riseley of 20 Burnfoot Avenue, Fulham, London. He was also mourned by two sisters, Mary and May according to Edwin’s surviving WW1 service records.

On the back of a list of other dangerously ill hospital casualties telegraphed to relatives is scrawled a list of his possessions, amongst them an English dictionary, notebook, photos, wallet and coins. Hopefully these were returned as requested to his family.

On the army casualty form he is listed under occupation as group 37 (librarian) and on the 1911 census as ‘Library Clerk ZSL’ for the  Zoological Society of London. ZSL London Zoo also lost its librarian H.G.J. Peavot a few months earlier  21st April 1917 during the Battle of Arras in the First World War (see previous blog posts). Riseley and Peavot most likely knew each other and worked together.

The interesting inscription on Riseley’s memorial plaque reads in Latin:

In Memoriam Edwini Ephraimi

nati a.d. XV Kal. Mart. A.D. 1889:

Huius bibliothecae per annos 1914-1917 custodis:

quo tempore omnibus consensu officio studiose diligenterque perfecto Sociis se commendavit:

vitam summa spe pare dictum inter arma,

pro patria profudit nano aetatis suae vicesimo nono Kal.Au A.D. 1917.

riseley FLS plaque crop 2

Which translates as -

In memory of Edwin Ephraim Riseley
Born on the 15th February 1889,
in charge of this library from 1914 to 1917
during which period by universal consent
he endeared himself to the Fellows [of the Linnean Society]
by the energetic and able discharge of his duties;
he had laid down for his country a life of high promise
on the 1st August 1917 in the 29th year of his age.

This is a warm tribute to a colleague although it is hard to read this now without its echoes in Wilfred Owen’s famous poem “Dulce et Decorum est” about the distance between the realities of trench warfare, gassed soldiers and the high-flown language of memorials. Owen’s poem ends ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patri mori’ – a Latin quote which translates roughly as ‘a sweet and fitting thing it is to die for one’s native land’.

5. Sir Marc Armand Ruffer, Kt.
Born in 1859, Ruffer died on 27 August 1917 when the ship Arcadian was sunk in the Mediterranean en route to Egypt where he was involved in health and quarantine work. He had been involved in Red Cross work in Greece.
Arcadian is pictured and described on the Roll of Honour website: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Ships/SSArcadian.html

6. Geoffrey Watkins Smith
A Captain in the 13th Battalion Rifle Brigade, Geoffrey Watkins Smith died on 10 July 1916 is buried in grave III J 27, Pozieres British Cemetery, Ovillers la Boisselle. CWGC lists him as the son of Horace and Susan Eleanor Penelope Smith, of Beckenham, Kent.

Geoffrey Watkins Smith is buried in Pozieres British Cemetery. (Image: www.cwgc.org.uk)

Geoffrey Watkins Smith is buried in Pozieres British Cemetery. (Image: http://www.cwgc.org.uk)

A Fellow of New College Oxford, Watkins Smith wrote several books including Primitive Animals and A Naturalist In Tasmania. Whilst mostly concerned with freshwater crabs and crayfish, his name is still mentioned on websites today in connection with the (now extinct?) Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger. Smith is credited with introducing into the scientific literature mistaken stories of its vampire, blood-sucking attacks on sheep that he had misheard from local shepherds. Some suggest they were pulling his leg.

7. Sidney Miles Toppin MC 
Born on 12 June 1875 (or 1878) in Clonmel in Ireland, he was the younger son of Major General J.M. Toppin, Royal Irish Regiment. After education at Clifton College and Gonville and Caius College Cambridge where he studied for a medical degree, he was offered a Commission in the Royal Artillery from 1900. He served in India (Chitral), mountain batteries in Afghanistan, Burma and Egypt. He served with the 151st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.

S.M. Toppin lies buried in this cemetery, an atmospheric photo showing only a  few of the 9901 WW1  graves at Lijssenthoek Cemetery, Belgium. (Image www.cwgc.org)

S.M. Toppin lies buried in this cemetery, an atmospheric photo showing only a few of the 9901 WW1 graves at Lijssenthoek Cemetery, Belgium. (Image http://www.cwgc.org)

On a visit home in 1914, he married Viva before serving in Ireland and France during the early days of the war. He was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the MC Military Cross at Loos. He was killed aged 39 near Ypres on 24 September 1917, leaving a widow and infant daughter. Major S.M. Toppin  is buried in  grave XXIV. G. 6, Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Flanders, Belgium (a cemetery linked to Casualty Clearing Stations close to the front but out of the range of German Artillery).

He is listed on the CWGC website as the son of Major-General James Morris Toppin and Mrs. J. Toppin, of Blacklands Park, Wilts; he was the husband of Viva Toppin, of Rose Bank, Sandown, Isle of Wight.

His brother Captain Harry Stanley Toppin 1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers  was killed aged 40 on the Aisne, 14 September 1914 and is remembered amongst 3739 names on the La Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial to the Missing of the 1914 battles. The CWGC website lists a more extensive biography than his brother receives:

Mentioned in Despatches. Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (France). Son of the late Maj. Gen. Toppin (Royal Irish Regt.) and of Mrs. Jane Toppin, of Westminster Cottage, Branksome Park, Bournemouth and Blacklands Park, Calne, Wilts. Served in the Egyptian Campaign (1898) and the South African War (Mentioned in Despatches). Was French Interpreter. Took full Diploma R.G.S. for Survey Work. Employed by the Uganda Government (1904-8). Chief Commissioner of a party of British Officers representing Peru in demarcation of Boundary between Peru and Bolivia, 1912.

Sidney’s  herbarium specimens including Impatiens were bequeathed to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. The listing for Sidney Miles Toppin (1878-1917) on the Irish botanist section of R. Lloyd Praeger, W.Tempest, Dundalgan Press, Dundalk, 1949 available online  “S. M. Toppin … collected plants in Chitral and Burma and a paper of his on ” Balsams of Chitral” was published in the Kew Bulletin, 1920. Dunn named Impatiens Toppinii after him”. (Sources: Britten & Boulger, Biog ed. 2, 302). This Impatiens Toppinii appears now to be a disputed name.

There are several scanned examples online at the JStor Global plants section website  of these herbarium sheets and accompanying letters from his mother Janie Toppin to contacts at Kew on behalf of both H.S. Toppin (who collected specimens in Peru) and S.M. Toppin who collected mostly in Myanmar (Burma).

8. Edward John Woodhouse

Born in 1885, Woodhouse died of wounds on 18 December 1917 in France. He graduated in Trinity College Cambridge in 1906 (MA, 1911) before working as an Economic Botanist to the Governor of Bengal in India and working on field pests whilst Principal of the Agricultural College Sabour, Bihar and Orissa. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in June 1909.

By 1914 he was a Captain in the Bihar Light Horse and joined the Indian Army Reserve of Officers. By February 1915 he was attached to another cavalry regiment as signalling officer, acting adjutant and squadron commander, probably the 38th King George’s Own Central India Horse.

Woodhouse is buried at Tincourt New British Cemetery.

Woodhouse is buried at Tincourt New British Cemetery.

He is buried at III G 6, Tincourt New British Cemetery, Tincourt, France, linked to nearby Casualty Clearing Stations. Woodhouse died of wounds on 18 December 1917. There is a small plot of 15 Indian cavalrymen and some other Indian Army officers in the same cemetery.

In the Presidential Address for 1918, Proceedings of the Linnean Society, Nevill and Woodhouse are noted as two more young Linneans having “laid down lives of much promise in our defence.”

This could be an epitaph for all the lost Fellows of the Linnean Society.

Australian postscript

The Linnean Society of New South Wales Australia also published a Roll of Honour of serving members.

Two were killed – H. Stephens (6 listed amongst Australian forces on the CWGC website) and  D. B. Fry.

D.B. Fry is buried to the right of the cross of sacrifice in Beaumetz Crossraods cemetery. (Image: www.cwgc.org)

D.B. Fry is buried to the right of the cross of sacrifice in Beaumetz Crossroads cemetery. (Image: http://www.cwgc.org)

Private Dene Barrett Fry, 4992, 3rd Battalion Australian Infantry AIF died on 9th April 1917 and is buried in plot E5, Beaumetz Cross Roads Cemetery, Beaumetz-les-Cambrai, France. This cemetery which contains around 50 other Australian AIF casualties was begun by fighting units in March 1917. Fry is listed on the CWGC website as the son of Arthur and Caroline F. Fry of Denegully, Northcote Road, Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia.

There is a short tribute to him in the Proceedings of The Linnean Society of New South Wales, 1920 (Volume XLV):

One of our promising junior members killed in action in France 4 April 1917, aged 23, was the first of our Soldier-members to fall. He was a rising young biologist of great promise, elected a member in 1913. his training began at the Australian Museum as a cadet in 1908 where he remained until 1914. When the war broke out, he was a student at the University and a Demonstrator in Zoology, but he gave up his university work in order to enlist , joining the Army Medical Corps in May 1915.
After two voyages in a hospital ship, he transferred to the Infantry, qualifying for the post of Lieutenant. But as there was no vacancy available, he left for the Front with reinforcements as Sergeant. After some time spent at Salisbury Plains, his regiment was sent to France where he took part in several engagements.

His last contribution to science was a paper printed in the 1916 proceedings, as well as ten other notes or papers about reptiles or amphibians published in journals before his death.

“Such is the Price of Empire”: The Lost Gardeners of Kew in the First World War

July 19, 2013

Somme poppies, Schwaben Redoubt area of the First World War battlefields in France taken on my first trenches tour,  1992 (Copyright: Mark Norris)

Somme poppies, Schwaben Redoubt area of the First World War battlefields in France taken on my first trenches tour, 1992 (Copyright: Mark Norris)

If I had the chance to name a rose, one of my choices would be “Walter Henry Morland“. The reason?

For a war where flowers have become  so symbolic from  Flanders or Somme poppies to the Roses Of Picardy, it is not surprising to find the answer in a garden.

Tucked away in a corner of Kew Gardens  inside the Temple of Arethusa  is the war memorial of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. On it are listed 37 names of the Kew Gardens staff and also of Old Kewites who died on active service in the 1914-18 war including Walter Henry Morland.To misquote Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier poem of that war, there are many  a “corner of a foreign field that is forever England” (and Scotland, Canada …)

A stylised poppy forms the new logo for the First World War Centenary events at www.1914.org

RBG Kew's war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew  (Image copyright :  Kew website)

RBG Kew’s war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew
(Image copyright : Kew website)

Recently all the surviving issues of the Kew Guild Journal since 1893 have been scanned and made available free online, so that people can trace the exploits of Old Kewites, as past staff and students are known wherever they may be in the world.

I came across the Kew Guild Journal online whilst researching the effects of wartime on zoos and their associated botanic gardens. Using the ‘additional information’ keyword search function (botanist, gardener etc) on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, I came across Private Walter Henry Morland, “on staff at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh as a Rose Specialist” his CWGC listing said. This small detail may have been chosen by his widow Annie or grieving parents. This soon led to me finding a link to the basic list of names on Rootschat of the 37 Kew staff lost in the Great War.

Looking at this list as part of the World War Zoo Gardens project is an interesting parallel to the few war memorials to zoo staff such as London Zoo that I have uncovered and posted about, investigating   how the war affected different zoos and other related institutions. There is an equally interesting list on the memorial at the Natural History Museum in London, which I will blog post about in future.

Some botanic gardens like Birmingham added a zoological collection to enhance their interest and finances. Kew Gardens had its own exotic animal collection in Edwaradian times, mainly exotic birds such as storks in 1890, apparently first breeding in this country at Kew in 1902.   The first pelican was presented to Kew in 1896, the same year as the first women gardeners who would expand in numbers during the First World War. Penguins were presented by former Kew staff from the Falklands in 1899. Two  pairs of grey squirrels  were presented as exotic rarities (later to be regretted) by the Duke of Bedford, patron of London Zoo.

The "Zoological proclivities" that Ray Desmond notes of the animal collections at Kew and other Botanic Gardens in Victorian and Edwardian times survive still at Birmingham Botanic Gardens in their old and new aviaries (sign photographed by Mark Norris, 2011)

The “Zoological proclivities” that Ray Desmond notes of the animal collections at Kew and other Botanic Gardens in Victorian and Edwardian times survive still at Birmingham Botanic Gardens in their old and new aviaries (sign photographed by Mark Norris, 2011)


I’ve previously posted about Birmingham Botanic Gardens which survived both wars with its plant and animal collections intact. The exotic birds are still there.  You can trace through the individually scanned articles in the Kew Guild Journal online the movements of former staff like Private Albert Wright who moved to Kew from Birmingham Botanic Gardens in May 1912 as Assistant 1st Class and returned there to Birmingham by 1915. Private Albert Wright is the last named of Kew’s casualties on the memorial and one of the last to die from his war injuries, on 25 February 1919.

The bronze memorial plaque inside the Temple of Arethusa was erected at Kew on 25 May 1921, designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, a noted Scottish architect who designed several other war memorials. There is a good photograph of the plaque and temple building on the Geograph website by David Hawgood.

The 37 names are recorded in the 4th issue for 1921 of the Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Gardens, Kew) which mentions:

“some of whom left Kew direct to join the Forces, whilst others returned home from abroad or joined up in their adopted countries … The men belonged to all ranks from the scientific to the labourer staff, but the percentage of the advanced Student Gardener is singularly heavy. Of this class, ten were Subforemen; all joined the Colours but five only lived to return.”

I hope this enriched list that follows (developed from the first list by helpful Rootschatters) is a useful first step for researchers and family historians. I will continue to add further details as available. Best of all, it should encourage you to visit the riches of the Kew Guild Journal online.

Lawrence Binyon’s poem For The Fallen , familiar from many Remembrance services (and written on North Cornish cliffs not far from where I work), reminds us appropriately for gardeners working hard outdoors by the rhythm of daylight and season: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning / we shall remember them…”

Appropriately for gardeners, I have included photographs of each casualty’s cemetery gardens from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to show the range of landscape and planting chosen for each locality. Kew Gardens staff helped advise the Imperial (later Commonwealth) War Graves Commission on suitable planting and other Kew staff worked as Grave Registration Unit (GRU) Officers to record and organise the growing number of burials and cemeteries as the war went on.

Whilst news is given in the Kew Guild Journal about some other European members of the Kew Guild, little is recorded of the past German and Austrian gardeners who trained at Kew until after the First World War when a note of reconciliation is attempted in some obituary notices.

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew wartime casualties 1914-1919

1. Charles Henry Anderson, Albert Medal, 29 November 1916
Lance (or Lance Corporal) Charles Henry Anderson died on 29/11/1916 aged 26, Service no. 2326, 1st/14th Bn. London Regiment (London Scottish). His medal record card states that in addition to the standard Victory and British war medals, he was also awarded the Albert Medal (citation below). Anderson is buried amongst 253 WW1 Commonwealth soldier burials at Grave Reference II. K. 3, St. Venant Communal Cemetery in France. From 1915 to 1917 this cemetery was linked to British and Indian forces Casualty Clearing Stations in the area. In the Kew Guild Journal staff records he is listed around 1914/15 as a ‘Present Kewite’ (still employed actually at Kew) as a ‘Gardener’.

Charles Anderson's grave lies here within St. Venant Cemetery (CWGC Copyright image)

Charles Anderson’s grave lies here within St. Venant Cemetery (CWGC Copyright image)

Additional Information on the CWGC website mentions that he was the “Son of Charles and Lizzie Anderson, of The Nest, North Stoke, Oxon.” This snippet of information is enough to start tapping into extensive family trees and other genealogical information on websites like ancestry.co.uk. Like his father Charles (b. 1856), Charles Henry was born in North Stoke, Oxfordshire. His mother Lizzie Bradshaw was born in Bensington, Oxfordshire in 1868. Anderson’s father was listed as a (domestic) Gardener on the 1891 census, so clearly something of family trade, his father later by 1916 being listed as a bailiff at Spinnys, North Stoke. His 1917 Kew Guild Journal obituary lists him as born on North Stoke on 19 October 1890.

Family research reveals that Charles left several surviving sisters to mourn his loss and those of many young men of his generation. Florence M. Anderson (born 18 Dec 1886, died 1971, Oxford) was a domestic sewing maid / servant at 25 Palace Gate, Kensington (1911 census) and married a William J Fulbrook. His other sisters and brothers were Dora Mary (b. 1895), Bertie George Glover (b. ?), Lily Olive (b. 1893), Lizzie Anderson (b.1888, died 1946, Swindon) who appropriately married a Mr. Gardner.

The citation for his Albert Medal reads: Extract from “The London Gazette,” No. 30156, dated 29th June, 1917, -

” The King has been graciously pleased to award the Decoration of the Albert Medal of the First Class in recognition of the gallantry of Lce. Cpl. Charles Henry Anderson, late of the 1st/14th Bn. of the London Regt., who lost his life in France in November last in saving the lives of others. On the 28th Nov., 1916, Lce. Cpl. Anderson was in a hut in France with eleven other men when, accidentally, the safety pin was withdrawn from a bomb.

In the semi-darkness he shouted a warning to the men, rushed to the door, and endeavoured to open it so as to throw the bomb into a field. Failing to do this, when he judged that the five seconds during which the fuse was timed to burn had elapsed, he held the bomb as close to his body as possible with both hands in order to screen the other men in the hut. Anderson himself and one other man were mortally wounded by the explosion, and five men were injured. The remaining five escaped unhurt. Anderson sacrificed his life to save his comrades.”

2. Arthur Edwin Baggs, 1st March 1917
Private Arthur Edwin Baggs, service number 129662, 72nd Battalion Canadian Infantry (Canadian Seaforth Highlanders), died on 1st March 1917, aged 28. He is recorded on the Vimy Memorial to the 60,000 Canadians who died in the First World War. Baggs appears to be one of 11,000 Canadians who have no known grave. Many of them died in the fight for Vimy Ridge during the Battle of Arras the month after Baggs died. Arthur was the son of Edwin and Louisa Mary Baggs, of 3605, Knight Road, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He entred Kew in 1909. Listed as an Old Kewite on active service, Baggs returned to Canada when he left Kew in April 1911.

Vimy Memorial  (Image: CWGC website)

Vimy Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

3. Charles Frederick Ball, 13 September 1915
Private Charles Frederick Ball, service number 16445, 7th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers (Pals Battalion), died on 13/09/1915, aged 36.

C.F. Ball, Dublin Fusiliers, killed at Gallipolli, pictured in The Garden obituary, October 16  1915.

C.F. Ball, Dublin Fusiliers, killed at Gallipolli, pictured in The Garden obituary, October 16 1915.

“A delightful companion, unassuming, sincere and a most lovable man…” quoted from a short and touching obituary and portrait was also published in The Garden (October 16, 1915, p.514) by his friend and fellow soldier , the editor Herbert Cowley (who had been invalided out of the army)

Ball is buried at Grave Reference II. A. 8, Lala Baba Cemetery, Turkey. This cemetery was created from smaller burial grounds after the Armistice on a low hill between the southern side of Suvla Bay and a salt lake. The hill was taken in the fierce fighting of August 1915 during the Gallipolli campaign against the Turks, a doomed amphibious landing which was the brainchild of Winston Churchill.

Lala Baba cemetery, Turkey. Image copyright CWGC

Lala Baba cemetery, Turkey. Image copyright CWGC

Charles was the son of the late Alfred and Mary Ball, of Loughborough and husband of Alice A. Ball, of 15, Percy Place, Dublin, whom he married in Dublin on December 16, 1914. This was one of many such wartime marriages mentioned in the Wedding Bells section of the Kew Guild Journal. Ball had left Kew in August 1903 to work as Assistant and later Foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens Glasnevin in Dublin. He was also editor of Irish Gardening and a friend and fellow travelling companion to Bulgaria with  Kew collegue and Alpine plant enthusiast Herbert Cowley, injured in the First World World War (see previous Blog post on Cowley).

A Life Member of the Kew Guild, there is a lengthy tribute to Charles Ball in the Kew Guild Journal including a final sighting of him just before he died, sheltering behind a rock under fire, digging away at ‘weeds’ with his bayonet to send back home seeds to his botanic garden colleagues. From the tone of the account, this seemingly strange behaviour had happened several times! His obituary notes that:

” Even while on active service in Gallipoli his love of collecting persisted, and numerous seedlings are
growing on at Glasnevin from seeds he sent home, gathered in the vicinity of Suvla Bay.”

Oak seeds were sent back by a Kew officer from Gallipoli for cultivation at Kew (see W.H. Morland’s entry). Later entries in the Kew Guild Journal 1921 are from Old Kewites who had travelled across this area, noting as botanists and gardeners would, what native plants were found there, soil types and climate along with the planting by the then Imperial War Graves Commission (now CWGC). Kew staff and Old Kewites were involved for many years as horticultural advisors to the Commission.

A cultivar of the South American shrub Escallonia is named ‘C.F. Ball’ in his memory, a beautiful shrub with dark green leaves and bright red flowers, excellent for bees. It is available from many nurseries.

This is pictured along with his medal; cards on the Flower of the Dublin Fusiliers message board.

4. John Charles Beswick, 22 or 28 April 1917.
2nd Lt. John Charles Beswick, 11th battalion, Royal Lancaster Regiment (Kings Own) died 22 April 1917. He is buried in plot VII.A.2 at Cambrai East Military Cemetery, Northern France.

Cambrai was in German hands for much of the war and Plot VII contains the graves of Commonwealth prisoners, relecting the fact that Beswick died as a prisoner of war. His Kew Guild Journal 1918 obituary lists his death of wounds in a German Field Hospital at Cambrai on April 28, 1917. Not far away, fellow Kewite George Douglas is remembered on another Cambrai memorial to those with no known grave.

Born on 5 October 1888, Beswick was on the Kew staff in 1913, having entered Kew as a sub-foreman in the Temperate House, Kew, September 1912. He enlisted in 1915, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps, then transferring to the Artists Rifles with whom he embarked for France. He was given his officer commission into the Royal Lancaster Regiment.

He was previously at Fota Island, Queenstown in Ireland, where his father William Beswick was Head Gardener to Lord Barrymore. I last visited Fota about 15 years ago to see Fota Wildlife Park at Cork in Ireland. This is alongside the arboretum and the gardens where Beswick worked. The gardens then felt a little neglected, but the grounds showed a glimpse of past splendour. I ate almost rottingly  ripe  windfall medlars for the first time in what must have been an orchard or productive gardens. It is now run by the Office of Public Works whilst the old Fota House of the Smith-Barry family has recently been renovated by the Irish Heritage Trust and is open to the public (www.fotahouse.com).

A book on Fota’s restored gardens and their history has recently been published. According to an article in The Irish Examiner paper website:http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/profiles/the-secret-gardens-195831.html

“[Charlie Beswick] studied botany in Kew Gardens in London before enlisting with the King’s Own Lancashire Regiment, his two older brothers, William Jr and Arthur, already in service. Among the letters home from the front is the last one Charlie sent as he was about to lead his platoon into action. ‘With God’s help [I] shall return safely,’ he wrote, in a more hurried version of the script of his childhood schoolbooks. ‘… if not, I shall do my duty to the best of my ability.’ Trying to drag a wounded comrade to safety, he was shot and died in a German field hospital in 1917.”

More can be found in the book Aspects of Fota: Stories from the Garden, by Jennifer McCrea and Laura Murtagh, available from Fota House.

5. Charles Hubert Brown, March 26 1918
Private Charles Hubert Brown, Royal Garrison Artillery (and Royal Sussex Regiment) died on the same day as a fellow Kew Gardener and gunner, James William Clark (see below).

Brown entered Kew from the gardens of Court Close, Eckington in September 1914, possibly as result of vacancies created by enlistment of Kew men. He had been rejected as medically unfit for the army owing to heart trouble. He tried to enlist twice more whilst at Kew, finally succeeding at the end of 1916. He died in hospital in France on the 26 March, 1918 as a result of shrapnel wounds to the head, according to his Kew Guild Journal 1919 obituary.

In the Kew Guild Journal it mentions “we had no further news of his movements” – so maybe this is why his regiment varies in listings. Charles Hubert Brown, 290133, 11th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment died on 26 March 1918 and is buried in plot VII.AA. Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension.

Gunner Brown lies in the graves to the left of the cross at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension. (Image: CWGC website)

Gunner Brown lies in the graves to the left of the cross at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension. (Image: CWGC website)

Brown died in hospital just as this hospital and cmetery were being evacuated. The CWGC history of the small cemetery and the larger extension where Brown is buried says that Field ambulances used the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery for127 Commonwealth burials from September 1915 to August 1916, and again during the German advance of March 1918.  The XV Corps Main Dressing Station was formed at Dernancourt in August 1916, when the adjoining Communal Cemetery Extension was opened.  The 3rd Casualty Clearing Station came in March 1918 but on 26 March (when Brown died), Dernancourt was evacuated ahead of the German advance. The cemetry extension remained in German hands until the village was recaptured on 9 August 1918 by the 12th Division and the 33rd American Division.

6. John Mackenzie Campbell, 14 July 1915
Private John Mackenzie Campbell, 204th Canadian Beavers Battalion

He died and is buried in Toronto, Canada in 1915. His 1917 Kew Guild Journal obituary lists him as dying of sunstroke whilst training in Canada where he worked for the Toronto Parks Department. He was born into a family of ten children of Mr. Roderick Campbell of Ardross, Lanarkshire.

7. James William Clark, 26 March 1918
Gunner James William Clark, RMA/1656(S), Royal Marine Artillery, Howitzer Brigade, died 26 March 1918, aged 26. He is buried at Grave Reference VI. D. 8, Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery, Arras. He joined the Royal Marine Artillery in January 1916.

Clark is listed as the son of James William and Elizabeth Clark, of The Gardens, Torre Abbey, Torquay where James also worked before Kew amongst a number of Torquay posts at Braddon’s Hill Nursery and Normount Gardens. He was born on August 24, 1891. Clark entered Kew in January 1913,working as a seed collector in the Kew Arboretum before working as Sub-Foreman Decorative Indoors at the end of 1914.

Faubourg Cemetery and the Arras Memorial.  Image copyright CWGC website

Faubourg Cemetery and the Arras Memorial.
Image copyright CWGC website

The Commonwealth section of the Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery was used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918. The cemetery was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields and from two smaller cemeteries in the vicinity. The cemetery contains over 2,650 Commonwealth burials including Gunner Clark..

It is pictured next to the Arras Memorial (where other Kew casualties are remembered) which commemorates almost 35,000 British and Commonwealth servicemen who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918 and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and in the chaotic fighting and German breakthroughs of the spring of 1918, when Clark was killed.

Gunner Clark and Gunner Brown of the Kew staff died or was killed on the same day in March, during the same battle and not far from my Great-Uncle J.W.Ansell of the 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment. Unlike Gunner Clark, Private Ansell has no known grave and is recorded on the nearby Pozieres Memorial. Gunner Clark and Gunner Brown, like my uncle, are likely to be some of the many troops from reserve areas or far behind the lines who found themselves hastily flung into the March 1918 battle when British frontlines were isolated, overrun and penetrated many miles deep by an unexpected German attack.

8. Sydney George Cobbold, 3 October 1916.

Sergeant Sydney George Cobbold, S/12906, 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died on the 3rd October 1916, aged 28. His 1917 Kew Guild Journal obituary lists from his letters back to Kew that he had enlisted in the Rifle Brigade by June 1915 and shortly after November 1915 embarked for France.

Le Fermont Cemetery, CWGC  (Image copyright CWGC website)

Le Fermont Cemetery, CWGC (Image copyright CWGC website)

He is buried at Grave Reference II. B. 7, Le Fermont Military Cemetery, Rivière, a front line cemetery of 80 burials begun by the 55th (West Lancashire) Division in March 1916 and closed in March 1917. Sidney was the son of Maurice and Anna Cobbold, of Woolpit, Suffolk where he was born. It was his ‘Birtle’ relative who posted the initial Kew Gardens list of WW1 dead on Rootschat that greatly helped my research. Cobbold was at Kew from 1906-1908.

9. Harry or Henry Sydney Cockcroft, 11 December 1919
Lance Corporal Harry Sydney Cockcroft P/14540, Corps of Military Police Home Command.
Cockcroft is listed on the Kew Memorial as ‘Military Foot Police’. Elsewhere he is listed as Royal Fusiliers. He is listed as a Present Kewite in 1914/15 under the section “Gangers, labourers and boys”.

He died of sickness, aged 35 on 11 December 1919. Several spellings of his name including Sidney exist.
In the Kew Guild Journal 1920, p.482, the article on the War Memorial mentions that “Two additional names have to be added to the Tablet. Pte. Albert Wright and L.Cpl. Sidney Cockcroft.”

Several Kew staff are buried in Richmond Cemetery, not so far from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.  (Image: CWGC website)

Several Kew staff are buried in Richmond Cemetery, not so far from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
(Image: CWGC website)

The son of Mr. & Mrs. Anne Cockcroft of Wathamstow, and husband of Mrs. Mabel Cockcroft of 84(?the) Green, Kew. He is buried in Richmond Cemetery and commemorated on the Richmond War Memorial, Surrey.

10. Private Ernest Richard Collins, Middlesex Regiment
Listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. If this is a correct transcription of his name, I have discovered a Lance Corporal 493195 County of London Battalion (Princess Louise’s Kensington Battalion), London Regiment, also listed as 13th Kensington Battalion and possibly 4073, 8th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment. He is listed on the Brentford Memorial (see the Roll of Honour website). He married Amy Washington in 1905 and Amy Collins is later listed as living at 58, Brook Road, Brentford, Middlesex. He is listed as the son of Daniel and Mary Collins, Tavistock, Devon.

St. Vaast Cemetery  (Image: CWGC website)

St. Vaast Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

Collins was killed in action on 17 February 1917 and is buried in Grave IV.D.6 of St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L’Avoue.

11. Sidney George Comer, September 22 1918
Private Sidney George Comer, Machine Gun Corps and Tank Corps, USA

This Kew man had gone out to work in the USA in February 1914 after working at Kew from February 1911 as Sub-foreman in the Propagating Pits at Kew. He is listed as a boarder at 1 Gloucester Road, Kew in the 1911 census, alongside two other young gardeners, Joseph Sharps of Ness, Chester and Edward Plummer Heim of Purton, Wilts. All three young gardeners grandly signed their 1911 census returns as “Gardener, Royal Gardens, Kew“.

Sidney Comer was born in February 1889. His father J.C.Comer was a wheelwright on the Killerton Estate, Exeter, Devon. His Kew Guild Journal obituary of 1919 notes that he was “one of 6 sons … all serving in the forces”. Although many Comers are listed as casualties on the CWGC.org site, I have thankfully not so far found any other of his brothers listed as killed.

Comer died of pneumonia on September 22, 1918 whilst in training at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, after enlisting in the US army once America entered the war in 1917. Many serving troops died during the Spanish Flu / Influenza epidemics which swept around the world in the chaos at the end of the war.

As well as service at Killerton, Comer had also worked before going to Kew at Boconnoc near Lostwithiel, home today to a famous spring garden festival each April by the Cornwall Gardens Association. Married in 1916, his wife predeceased him in June 1918, probably in America.

12. John Dear (Junior), died 31 March 1919
Sergt John Dear, East Surrey Regiment

John Dear, Junior was listed amongst the “Constables and porters” on the Kew staff in 1914. In the 1911 Census he is listed as a ‘Herbarium Porter, Royal Gardens, Kew’. His father John Dear (Senior) was a ‘Garden Labourer (Ganger)’ at Royal Gardens, Kew in 1891 to 1911. The 1915 Kew Guild Journal, page 195 mentions that “a number of the Constables and Porters who have rejoined the colours are Non-Commissioned Officers acting as Instructors in the New Army”. John Dear himself appears to have served in the 3rd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment (time expired), according to his surviving Service papers.

Born in 1887, Sergeant John Dear 4440 enlisted in Richmond in the 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment (the local regiment for many Kew staff) on 28 September 1914, was quickly promoted and went to France on 31 August 1915. Sergeant Dear was wounded (possibly ‘GSW gun shot wound right arm’, fairly illegible entry) and sent home to Britain around 9 April 1916 after 221 days service in France. He was discharged from St. George’s Hospital (Staines) hospital on 19 Oct 1916 “permanently unfit … given £1 and a suit of plain clothes”.

He was finally discharged by the army (‘character – very good’) in 8 November 1916, presumably due to his wounds. Along with an Army pension (entry partly illegible but finishes 18 shillings weekly for life). John Dear was also issued with a War Badge No. 81696 and Certificate No. 2067, presumably to help him avoid the white feather. I cannot find him listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, as he was discharged as wounded and no longer fit for service. As he died after the war as a civilian, buried in Richmond (see pictures on the International Find a Grave website http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=57172409&PIpi=45438317) he may not have been recorded as a war grave.

John Dear was married on 18 April 1912 in Richmond to Ethel Warry (born Notting Hill, 3 June 1889 and died September 19176, Hounslow) and they had one son, Ernest John in Chiswick (born 28 January 1913, died November 2003 in Ealing, Middlesex). By the early 1920s, Mrs Ethel Dear was signing for receipt of his medals (the trio of the 1914-15 Star, Victory and British War Medal), living in 27 Cambridge Road, Chiswick, Middlesex. She received a 11s 4d weekly rate pension as a a war widow from November 1919. What he died from is not yet clear to me. I cannot currently find a Kew Guild Journal obituary for him. Another possible relation is Kew Gardens storekeeper, George Dear, employed at Kew from 1884.

The Census lists John Dear living at 2 York Villas, Kew in 1911 with his father, his mother Annie Elizabeth Dear (nee Gregory, b. 1860 in Rotherham) and five sisters and brothers – Emma (b. around 1892), Mabel (b. 1896), George William (b.1898), Alfred Edward (b. 1899) and Herbert (b.1902). Three other children did not survive childhood.

Sergeant John Dear’s three brothers survived the war. His wife Ethel’s younger brothers Albert Charles Warry and Samuel James Warry did not, both being killed in the fighting in March and September 1918. They are listed on the CWGC website.

13. Charles Leopold Digoy, 28 September 1917

Captain Charles Leopold Digoy, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and Russian Cross of St Ann. 14th French Infantry Brigade.

Born 18 February 1890, Digoy served in the French Army and was killed at the battle of Morourvilliers, Champagne on 28 April 1917. Wounded early in the war on 24 December 1914 and decorated several times during his three years service, Digoy was a high achieving student at the Versailles National School of Horticulture 1906 – 1909 before transferring to Kew from May 1912 until August 1914 when he joined the French Army, writing to the Kew Curator: “our military service is the most troublesome but also the most sacred of a Frenchman’s duties”. A letter about his war service is published in the 1917 journal and his obituary in the 1918 Kew Guild Journal.

An oak frrm the French battlefields at Verdun was planted near the Kew Gardens War Memorial from seeds harvested in 1917 by the Mayor of Verdun to be sold for the Red Cross. Three such Paece trees were planted at Kew on Peace Day July 1919 or 1920.

14. John Divers, 9 October 1916

Rifleman John Divers, service number 7056, 1st / 9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria Rifles) and also County of London Cyclists, died on 9th October 1916 when his patrol into No Man’s Land towards the German trenches was wiped out. For a time he was “missing, believed killed” and an officer wrote to his father that they had not been “able to thoroughly search the ground” for his body.

As a result Divers has no known grave and is one of two Kew Gardens casualties (with H.M. Woolley) listed amongst the missing of the Somme Battles on the Thiepval Memorial at Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 C. John Divers is listed amongst over 72,000 men from the UK and South Africa who died in the Somme area before March 1918 and who have no known grave. An excellent Thiepval database exists to put faces to names and add to the publicaly available knowledge about these 72,000 men.

Several Kew staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Several Kew staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

At the end of September, Thiepval village was finally captured from the Germans, one of the original objectives of the disastrous first day of the Battle of The Somme on 1st July, 1916. Attacks north and east continued throughout October when John Divers was killed and into 18th November in increasingly difficult winter weather. Over 90% of those commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial died like John Divers between July and November 1916.

Having visited this Thiepval memorial, it is  like many of the other memorials to the missing such as the Ypres Menin Gate, quite overwhelming to scan the panels conataining  thousands of carved names.

Born 7 August 1891 at Redhill in Surrey, he was the only son of a gardener and amateur botanist Mr Jos. Jas. Divers. From a well known family of gardeners, Divers worked with his uncle W.H. Divers VMH at Belvoir Castle, Grantham before joining Kew, March 1912, quickly becoming a Sub-foreman, Herbaceous and Alpine Dept. He was killed on the same day as fellow Kewite H.M. Woolley. (Thanks to his relatives for some of this background family / genealogical information).

15. George Douglas, 20 November 1917
Serjeant or Sergeant George Douglas, Tank Corps is buried at Cambrai Memorial, Louverval in France, a memorial to the missing or those with no known graves from the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917. He died on 20 November 1917, aged 40. He served as Serjeant, 93045 with E Battalion, Royal Tank Corps having originally been with the 2/3 or 23rd Scottish Horse. Other websites such as the Tankmen of Cambrai website have him listed as a Corporal, with much more fascinating information about the early Tank Corps crew and this battle.

George Douglas is remembered on the Cambrai Louverval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

George Douglas is remembered on the Cambrai Louverval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Of the 35 Mark IV British tanks which went ino action crushing wire and supporting Scottish troops of the Highland Brigade in the attack on the German occupied village of Flesquieres, 28 tanks were put out of action by enemy fire or had broken down by the end of the first day, the 20th of November. 29 were killed and 31 tank crew missing including Sergeant Douglas, 64 others were wounded.

In the 1914 Kew Guild Journal he is listed as an Old Kewite, having entered Kew in November 1899 from Lowther Castle Penrith. He went with fellow young Kewite James G. Duncan (who entered Kew 1900 from Glenart Castle, Co. Wicklow) as Assistants in the Municipal Garden, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Kew Guild Journal (1901) notes that Duncan and Douglas have both joined the Town Guard in South Africa during the Boer War on the British side.

He enlisted again in WW1 in Edinburgh into the Scottish Horse before joining the Tank Corps. He was born in Selkirk around 1877, the son of Mr & Mrs James and Agnes Douglas of 15 Green Terrace, Selkirk and husband of Lydia E. Douglas (nee Chaplin) of 13 West Mayfield, Edinburgh.

According to a post on the Scottish War Memorials Trust website, George Douglas was one of four brothers from the same family to die in the First World War. The others were Gunner T. Douglas, 776624, 310 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery killed on 15 April 1917, HAC Cemetery, Ecoust St. Main, France; Private John Sanderson Jardin Douglas, 10225 2nd Battalion, KOSB, died aged 25 on 13 October 1914, Le Touret Memorial; Sergeant J H Douglas, S/1774, 3rd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, died 17 October 1918 and buried in Selkirk (Shawfield) Cemetery.

16. Arnold Duley, 14 March 1918
Lance Corporal Arnold Edmund Duley, M.M., 7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Duley died as a  Prisoner of War on 14 March 1918 aged 33 in hospital at Tournai in Belgium, probably from being “badly fed and probably had to work in a weak state” by the Germans . Food parcels from the Kew Guild through the POW fund probably never reached him in time, his Kew Guild Journal obituary in 1919 laments. He is buried in Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension, plot IG1.

An unlucky POW, Duley  lies amongst graves in this Tournai cemetery in Belgium. (Image: CWGC website)

An unlucky POW, Duley lies amongst graves in this Tournai cemetery in Belgium.
(Image: CWGC website)

A “rather short young man of quiet disposition”, Duley returned from his Head Gardener post to HSH Prince George of Russia at Haraks, Yalta, Crimea (1911 – 1914) to serve with his county regiment, the 9th Somerset Light Infantry, gaining the Military Medal. Duley was at Kew from 1906 to 1908, then served in the Cardiff Parks Department. Arnold  is listed on CWGC as the son of George E and Elizabeth Duley, High Path, Wellington, Somerset (hence his county regiment).

17. Gordon Farries, 20 April 1918.

Private Gordon Farries, S/11973, 11th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, died on 20th April, 1918, aged 27.

The fifth to fall of the ten Kew Sub-Foremen who joined the Army, he was at Kew from February 1913 after working at Veitch’s Nursery at Feltham. He originally joined the Royal Army Medical Corps but later transferred to a Scottish regiment. His Kew Guild Journal 1919 obituary notes that he was killed on the night of April 20-21 1918 whilst reinforcing another platoon.

Reported missing, his body was later found by men of a London Regiment fighting over the same ground.Farries is buried at Grave Reference III. G. 4, Feuchy Chapel British Cemetery, Wancourt.

Once missing, Farries is now buried at Feuchy Chapel Cemetery. (Image: CWGC website)

Once missing, Farries is now buried at Feuchy Chapel Cemetery. (Image: CWGC website)

Linked to the history of Farries’ missing body,  this cemetery itself has an interesting story (on the CWGC website) of how the same ground was won and lost, captured and recaptured several times in the last two years of the war.

Wancourt village was captured by the Allies on 12 April 1917 after very heavy fighting, lost to the Germans in the chaos of March 1918, and retaken by the Canadian Corps on the following 26 August 1918. The cemetery was begun by the VI Corps Burial Officer in May 1917, used at intervals until March 1918, and again in August and September 1918. At the Armistice, it contained 249 graves, all in the present Plot I.

Farries is buried in Plot III (3) suggesting his grave was transferred there later. The cemetery was enlarged after November 1918 when 834 graves (mainly of April and May 1917) were brought in from the battlefields of Fampoux, Roeux, Monchy and Wancourt, and from a few smaller burial grounds. There are now 1,103 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War in this cemetery. 578 of the burials are unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Gordon Farries is listed as the son of ex-Baillie Thomas Charlton Farries and L. J. Farries, of 2, Gordon St., Dumfries.

18. James Garnett, 3rd August 1917
Private James Garnett, service number 11380, 2nd Battalion, the Wiltshire Regiment died on the 3rd August 1917, aged 28. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 53 of the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate),  one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient.

Garnett is listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. He is listed as the son of Mrs. Fanny Garnett, of 6, Manor Grove, Richmond, Surrey.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. The Memorial now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men from 1914 – 1917 whose graves are not known. The memorial was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, who also designed the Cross of Sacrifice in each CWGC cemetery worldwide above 40 casualties.  It was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.

During the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became bogged down against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November 1917 with the capture of Passchendaele.

Kew staff Garnett and Giles have no known grave and are remembered on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

Kew staff Garnett and Giles have no known grave and are remembered on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

19. John Giles, 23rd April 1915
CSM Company Sergeant Major John Giles ,20277, 10th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Canadian Victoria Fusiliers), died 23rd April 1915, aged 26. He was killed by a shell on active service in France on July 17, 1917.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 24 – 28 – 30, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. He is listed as the son of Joseph Giles, of “Woodville,” Crowthorne, Berks, England and husband of Amy Giles, of Suite 24, Edge Block, 1211,1st West, Calgary, Alberta. He left a 7 year old son, Roy Giles.

John Giles entered Kew in November 1903 after service at Windsor Castle when Queen Victoria was alive. By 1905 he was Sub-foreman of the Orchid Department. He went to Shanghai municipal gardens in China then Vancouver and Victoria in Canada from 1912, hence his Regiment. he was variously a Private and Staff Sergeant as required in different Canadian regiments.

20. Joseph Hayhurst, 7 September 1918
Private Joseph Hayhurst, G/31695, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment, formerly 24251, KOSB King’s Own Scottish Borderers (Border Regiment), died 7 September 1918, aged 33. He is buried at the Unicorn Cemetery, Vendhuile, Aisne, France.

Unicorn Cemetery  (Image: CWGC website)

Unicorn Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

Born at Clayton Le Moors, Lancashire on 4 April 1885 to Joseph (senior) a general labourer (1901 census) and mother Ann. Joseph was listed in the 1901 census as Nursery Gardener Assistant aged 15. His brothers and sisters were cotton weavers. Aged 25 in the 1911 Census, he was living as a boarder in 55a Moscow Road, Bayswater whilst working as a “Gardener Public” for HM Office of Works. Joseph Hayhurst enlisted at Windermere, Lancashire. He is listed on the CWGC website as the husband of Mrs. B. Hayhurst, Ebenezer Terrace, Billington, Whalley, Blackburn.

A postwar Kew Guild Journal 1921, p.43 “In Memoriam” section records that the deaths “of W. Humphris and Mr J. Hayhurst of the Border Regiment … are recorded in the war but we have been unable to obtain any particulars”.

21. Frederick Honey, 17 April 1917
Sergeant Frederick Honey, G/20245, 8th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment or the Buffs (East Kent) Regiment, died 17 April 1917, aged 28. He is buried at Grave Reference I. K. 16, Chocques Military Cemetery. This was located next to No.1 Casualty Clearing Station for casualties from the Bethune area. He is listed as the son of Mr. and Mrs. T. Honey, of 64, Alexandra Rd., Richmond; husband of Ellen May Honey, of 17, Darell Rd., Richmond, Surrey.

Chocques Cemetery (Image: CWGC website)

Chocques Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

He is mentioned in a list of “Gangers, labourers and boys” in Kew’s 1914 staff list and as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour.

22. John Knowles Jackson, 1st June 1916
Ordinary Seaman John Knowles Jackson, J/47092, HMS Fortune, Royal Navy, died 1st June 1916, aged 22. He is one of nine naval burials (four named) from the 1916 Battle Of Jutland buried at Farsund Cemetery, Norway. He is listed as the son of Thomas and Ann Jane Jackson. He was born at Lytham, Lancashire on December 4, 1893.

Jackson arrived at Kew to work in the Temperate House in August 1914 from Lytham Hall, Lancashire and left to join the Navy in March 1915. He served on several ships – Diadem, Argonaut and Hecla – before joining the destroyer HMS Fortune which was sunk in the Battle of Jutland.

23. William Lorimer Joyce, 2nd October 1917
Private William Lorimer Joyce, 26741, 4th Battalion, South Wales Borderers, died on 2nd October 1917, aged 32. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 16 and 62 of the Basra Memorial, in modern day Iraq. The memorial lists more than 40,500 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the operations in Mesopotamia from the Autumn of 1914 to the end of August 1921 and whose graves are not known. Another Kew casualty, W. Humphris,  not listed on the war memorail is recorded on the Basra Memorial (see end of post).

Born on 22 May 1885, heis listed as the son of William and Jane Joyce, of “Llanfrynach”, Holmes Rd., Hereford (Brecon). He enlisted in Wales on his return from Canada where he worked after training at Kew from March 1908 to Spring 1910. Joyce died as a Turkish Prisoner of War at Seideghan in Turkey after being captured during the fighting in Mesopotamia on April 30, 1917.

24. Henry James Longhurst, 25th September 1915
Private / Rileman Henry James Longhurst, R/7519, 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, died on 25th September 1915. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 101 and 102, Loos Memorial.

Loos Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Loos Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

Born on February 3 1892, Longhurst is noted in his Kew Guild Journal obituary 1915/16 as “the first of our young gardeners to give his life for his country in this war” alongside W.H. Morland, another early Kew casualty. He entered Kew on July 1913. He enlisted on November 21, 1914 and was killed in action “somewhere in France“.

25. Percy Martin, Royal Engineers, 6th March 1919?
I can find no Kew Guild Journal obituary for Percy Martin so far so will keep researching this casualty. A possible match is Pioneer Percy  Martin, 128485, “H” Special Company, Royal Engineers, died on 6th March 1919, aged 32. He is buried Grave Reference F. 1000, Richmond Cemetery, Surrey. He is listed as the son of Charles Edward Martin and husband of Louisa Martin, of 10, Princes Rd., Richmond. Percy Martin is also listed on the Richmond War Memorial.

Less likely to be: Sapper Percy Charles Martin, 1471, 1st / 2nd (Kent) Field Company, died 8th August 1915, age 30. This Percy Martin is buried at Grave Reference D. XII. 4, Pieta Military Cemetery. He is listed as the son of Henry and Margaret Martin, of 1, Providence St., Ashford, Kent.

26. Arthur John Meads, 1st December 1917
Rifleman Arthur John Meads, 551182, D Company, 2nd /16th London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), died 1st December 1917, aged 27. He is buried at Grave Reference H. 24, Ramleh War Cemetery, Palestine/ Israel. Ramleh (now Ramla) was occupied by the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade on 1 November 1917. The cemetery was begun by medical units linked to the Field Ambulances and Casualty Clearing Stations posted at Ramleh and Lydda from December 1917 onwards. Meads died there of abdominal wounds in a Field Ambulance station around the time this cemetery and hospitals were established.

Ramleh Cemetery  (Image: CWGC website)

Ramleh Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

His Kew Guild Journal 1918 obituary lists him as Sub-Foreman of the Palm House. He enlisted in January 1915 and went to France on June 1916. He was wounded on Salonika in 1916/17, before moving to Palestine in 1917. He served with three other Kew colleagues in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles. His death date is recorded as 1st December 1917 during the Second Battle of Gaza, of wounds received on November 26th 1917.

Born on 22 February 1890, he is listed as the son of John and Kate Meads, of Swallow St., Iver, Bucks and husband of Margaret Annie Meads, of Strood Villa, Broad Oak, Newnham-on-Severn, Glos.

27. Walter Henry Morland, May 7th 1915
Private 2092 Walter Henry Morland, Royal Scots.

His CWGC entry lists him as “on staff at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh as a Rose Specialist“. Also trained at Kew, he is recorded on the RBG Edinburgh war memorial (amongst 20 staff who died) and the one at Kew Gardens.

It was the accidental discovery of Morland’s name whilst searching the CWGC website for ‘botanic gardens’ on the keyword search links that eventually led me to the brief Rootschat listing of the 37 Kew names and the Kew Guild Journal online site. In some future blog post I will trace more about Morland’s comrades amongst the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh’s twenty WW1 casualties.

Some family history searches flesh out the life of this Rose Specialist. Morland was born in Maidstone in 1881, worked at George Bunyard’s Nursery there and the Cambridge Botanic Garden before joining Kew between 1905-07. On the 1881 and 1891 census his father William was listed as a Carrier’s Carman, his uncle Walter a bricklayer’s labourer.

By 1901 Walter Henry Morland is working as a Domestic Gardener, staying as a 20 year old single boarder at 3 Heathfield Cottages, Bletchingdon, Oxfordshire. This may have been linked to work at the local Mansion Heathfield House, next property listed on the Census return, home of one Charles Stratton and family, “living on own means” and employing a number of servants. Morland also worked at Thomas Rochford & Sons and Hyde Park before joining Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden in 1909, working on the Rock Garden section when war broke out.

The April 1911 Census in Scotland (available via the Scotland’s People website) lists Morland as living a short walk and a few streets away from the botanic garden at 11 Rintoul Place, Edinburgh along with his wife of two years, Annie. They had no children at that time.

Married in 1909, Morland enlisted on August 31 1914 in the 5th Battalion Royal Scots (Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles) at Edinburgh. He was killed during the Dardanelles campaign against the Turks, surviving the landings on April 25th 1915 but dying during “an assault on a wood below Krythia on May 7th. For three weeks no traces of him could be found, and it was supposed he had been taken prisoner; then his chums, during an advance, found his body.”

Helles Memorial to the missing of the Gallipoli campaign, Dardanelles, Turkey.  (Image: CWGC website)

Helles Memorial to the missing of the Gallipoli campaign, Dardanelles, Turkey.
(Image: CWGC website)

Morland has no known grave and is remembered on panel 26-30 of the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli in Turkey.

In the Arboretum Nursery there are several young plants of Quercus Aegilops grown from acorns sent home by an officer from Gallipoli. Perhaps it will be possible to plant one of these also in the vicinity, especially as it is in Gallipoli that the first two of our members to lose their lives,Messrs. C. F. Ball and W. H. Morland, lie buried.

Along with other early 1915 casualties, the Kew Guild Journal 1916 notes Morland  (alongside Henry Longhurst) as amongst  the “first of our members to fall in the service of his King and Country. Such is the price of Empire.” His medal card lists him as receiving the 1915 star as well as the usual Victory and British medals.

He is listed on the CWGC website as the son of the late William and Mrs. E.S. (Sarah) of Maidstone, and husband of Annie M.E. Morland of 6 Astley Street, Maidstone. Annie Mary Eliza Morland (1878-1960) lived on at this Maidstone address until her death in 1960. They appear to have married probably in Cambridge whilst he worked at the Botanic Gardens there in 1909 before joining Kew.

28. Frederick Thomas Pursell or Purssell, 4 April 1917
Gunner / Sergeant Frederick T Purssell or Pursell, 51510, Royal Field Artillery,

70th Bty. 34th Army Brigade, died 4 April 1917 in Ypres. He is buried at Grave Reference IX. F. 16, Vlamerthinge New Military Cemetery, Belgium. Just outside the normal range of German shell fire, the village was used both by artillery units (such as Pursell belonged to) and field ambulances.

Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery,  Belgium (Image: CWGC website).

Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery,
Belgium (Image: CWGC website).

Listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. In the 1911 census Purssell is listed as a Stable Hand (Student Part Time) at the “Royal Gardens Kew”. He was born in Surrey around 1894 to a father Roger Purssell who was a bricklayer, living at Pond Cottage in Kew.

One of several brothers, he is listed as being in the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery, arriving in France on 29 August 1915. His experience with horses may have been useful in largely horse drawn artillery regiments. Another Kew Casualty Frank Windebank (see below) was listed as a ‘Pony Boy’.

He is listed as married to Sarah Maria Grant on 29 August 1915 in (St.Paul) Brentford (the same day as he embarked for France?) Purssell is listed on his marriage certificate as a “Soldier, RFA living at 7 Albany Road”. He is also listed on the Richmond War Memorial (see Roll of Honour website).

29. Munro Briggs Scott, 12 April 1917
2nd Lt. Munro Briggs Scott, 12th Battalion, Royal Scots, died 12 April 1917. Scott is commemorated on Panel Reference Bay 1 and 2 of the Arras Memorial. M.B. Scott was most likely killed in the major Battle of Arras offensive planned for April-May 1917. The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and August 1918 and have no known grave.

The Arras Memorial  (Image: CWGC website)

The Arras Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

Born at East Wemyss, Fife, Scotland, Scott was on the Herbarium staff at Kew around the outbreak of war. He joined the East Surrey regiment in February 1916, then the Suffolk Regiment before joining the Royal Scots as an officer. Married in late 1916, he was posted to France on January 9, 1917 and killed by a high explosive HE shell three months later on 12 April 1917 at the Battle of Arras.

30. Robert Service, 28th September 1918
Gunner Robert Service, 1257927, 4th Canadian Trench Mortar Battery,

Canadian Field Artillery, died 28th September 1918. He is buried at Grave Reference I. D. 18, Bourlon Wood Cemetery.

Bourlon Wood, and the village and the wood were the scene of desperate fighting in the Battle of Cambrai 1917 (where fellow Kewite George Douglas). At the end of the Battle of Cambrai, British troops were withdrawn from Bourlon, and the wood and the village were ultimately retaken by the 3rd Canadian and 4th Canadian Divisions on the 27th September 1918, the day before Service died. Bourlon Wood Cemetery has nearly 250 burials and was started by the Canadian Corps Burial Officer in October 1918. 274 metres South-West of the cemetery is a Battlefield Memorial erected by the Canadian Government to recall the forcing of the Canal du Nord by the Canadian Corps on the 27th September 1918 and the subsequent advance to Mons and the Rhine.

Vermelles Cemetery (Image: CWGC website)

Vermelles Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

31. Henry James Smith, 10 October 1915
Serjeant Henry James Smith, Service number 24, 7th Battalon, East Surrey Regiment, 10 October 1915, aged 37. He is buried at Grave Reference I. L. 37, Vermelles British Cemetery, France.

During the Battle of Loos, when Smith was killed, Vermelles Chateau was used as a dressing station and Plot I (where Smith and fellow Kewite Frank Windebank are buried) was completed. It was laid out and fenced by the Pioneers of the 1st Gloucesters, and known for a long time as “Gloucester Graveyard“.

Henry  is listed as the husband of C. E. Smith, of 6, Enmore Villas, Fourth Cross Rd., Twickenham. He was CSM of the same battalion and regiment as fellow Kewite Frank Windebank, who died the same day. Both are listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. An earlier mention notes:

“Two employees from the Gardens were killed in action in France on the same day, Sergeant H.J. Smith, a garden labourer, and Private F. Windebank, pony boy, both of the East Surrey Regiment”.

32. Herbert Southgate, 19 April 1917
Serjeant Herbert William Leonard Southgate, 240701, ‘A’ Company, 1st/ 5th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, died on 19 April 1917, aged 28. He is buried at Grave Reference XXX. F. I, Gaza War Cemetery. He most likely died during the Second Battle Of Gaza (17-19 April, 1917) fighting against the Turks and was posted missing until his body was found seven months later and buried by British troops. Gaza was finally recaptured in November 1917. He served with his younger brother.

Born on 19 September 1888, he is listed as the son of Herbert William and Hannah Southgate, of East Raynham, Fakenham, Norfolk. Previous to training and working at Kew in 1910-12 and 1913, he had worked at Raynham Hall Norfolk and Westonbirt, Gloucestershire. He was noted as an orchid specialist. He also worked on The Gardener’s Magazine for a brief time.

33. John Leonard Veitch, 21st May 1918
Major John Leonard Veitch, Military Cross, 7th Batalion, attached 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, died on 21st May 1918, aged 31. Mentioned in Despatches. He is buried at Grave Reference Row A. Grave 1, Thiennes British Cemetery, France.

The German offensive of April 1918 pushed the front line back almost as far as St. Venant in this sector and this was one of the cemeteries made for Commonwealth burials arising from the fighting in the area. Thiennes British Cemetery was started by the 5th Division in May 1918 (when Veitch was buried) and used by the 59th and 61st Divisions before being closed in August 1918. There are now 114 First World War burials in the cemetery. He is listed as the son of Peter Christian Massyn Veitch, and Harriett Veitch, (nee Drew) of Exeter of the famous Veitch nursery family.

Vietch is buried in Thiennes Cemetery. (Image: CWGC website)

Vietch is buried in Thiennes Cemetery.
(Image: CWGC website)

His Kew Guild Journal 1919 obituary lists him originally enlisting in August 1914 in the 7th Cyclists Battalion of the Devon Regiment, his local regiment. He was in France from 1915, noted s being on front line duties since December 1915 and fought through the battle of the Somme in 1916. He was wounded in the shoulder at Vimy Ridge. After service in Italy, Veitch was killed by a stray machine gun bullet in the Nieppe Forest area of France on May 21,1918.

A month earlier he had received his recommendation for a Military Cross “for his excellent defence of the Lock, just east of the Forest of Nieppe, in the middle of April, when he stopped five attacks. He had the honour of dying in temporary of our famous battalion.” (letter to Veitch’s father from his Colonel).

He was at Kew from 1908 to 1910, before joining the family nursery business in 1910. Educated at Exeter School, he spent time studying horticulture in Germany and Holland before entering Kew.

34. Francis Richard or Frank Windebank,10 October 1915

Lance Corporal (or Private) Frank Windebank, 822, 7th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment died 10 October 1915, aged 17. He is buried at Grave Reference I. L 35, Vermelles British Cemetery.

Vermelles is where a fellow Kewite of the same battalion and regiment CSM Henry James Smith, who died on the same day is buried only two graves along (I.L 37). Described as a ‘pony boy’ amongst the “gangers, labourers and boys” at Kew, Windebank was listed as the son of James and Mary Windebank, of 20, Evelyn Rd., Richmond, Surrey.

Listed with H.J.Smith as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. The same journal lists a possible relation, one J. Windebank listed at Kew as a carter who joined up in 1918.

Noting that Windebank was a ‘pony boy’  it was interesting to read that in timeline in the History of Kew by Ray Desmond that in August 1914 “three horses taken by Army.” In 1928 when one of the six Kew horses died, it was replaced by a motor lorry. Kew’s  last Shire Horses were replaced by a team of five Suffolk Punch in 1937, both now rare breeds. By 1948 only two horses still worked the grounds, mostly mowing and hauling but being steadily replaced by motor mowers and lorries. Finally in 1961 there is a note that “Horses no longer used in the Gardens“, the year before the last Victorian Wardian cases  were used for transporting  plant collectors’ precious finds back to Kew.

35. John Nicholls Winn, 7th June 1918
Signaller / Private John Nicholls Winn, 365004, C company, 7th Battalion, London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles), died on 7th June 1918, aged 20. He is buried at Grave Reference X. 5629, Richmond Cemetery, Surrey. ‘Jack’ Winn is listed as the son of William Nicholls Winn (1868-1945, who worked as Assistant in the Curator’s Office at Kew) and Bertha Winn, of 87, Mortlake Rd., Kew.

According to the Kew Guild Journal obituary 1919, John Nicholls Winn was born at Kew on 27 enlisted at 18 in May 1916 and went to France in Spring 1917. He was wounded in the leg and died later of septic poisoning in hospital in Exeter.

36. Herbert Martin Woolley, 9 October 1916
Listed on the Kew memorial as Rifleman / Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, “Essex Regiment”  is most likely to be Rifleman 3844, 1st / 5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), died 9 October 1916. Herbert is commemorated on Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 D, Thiepval Memorial, along with fellow Kewite John Divers.

Born 27 September 1883, Herbert was the son of G.H. Woolley, Vicar of Old Riffhams, Danbury, Essex. In 1908 after working in several nurseries and Kew 1906-08 he left to work managing a rubber estate in North Borneo. He returned from Borneo to join the Essex Regiment but ditched his commission and training as an officer to become a corporal in the London Rifle Brigade to see action more quickly. His brother suggest he was also promoted to Sergeant.  Herbert was killed shortly after the attack on Combles in 1916.

Herbert or “Bertie” Woolley came from a high-achieving and distinguished family of 12 children including his brother Lieutenant Colonel Sir Charles Woolley (1880 – 1960), “Woolley of Ur”,a famous archaeologist who knew Lawrence of Arabia. His brother Major George Harold Woolley VC OBE MC (1892 – 1968) was the first Territorial to win the Victoria Cross. In G.H. Woolley’s  autobigraphy, “Sometime a Soldier“, Bertie’s unusual decision to become a private soldier and change regiments to get to the front  quicker is described:

 “While I was on sick leave my third brother, Bertie, returned from British North Borneo. He had been trained at Kew Gardens and in Germany, and then was employed on rubber plantations in Borneo. When in England he had joined the old Militia, so I had no difficulty in helping him to get a commission in the Essex Regiment. He soon tired of England, so transferred as a private to the London Rifle Brigade; he did well with them in France and was quickly made a sergeant, then offered a commission. He was killed with the L.R.B. on the Somme in 1916.

About the same time Leonard, who was doing intelligence work in Egypt, was blown up in a yacht while placing agents on the north Syrian coast. He was rescued, but as a Turkish prisoner, and spent two years of bitter captivity at Kedos and Kastamuni.

Also in 1915 Kathleen, my fourth sister, made her way across Russia to take up a teaching appointment in a school in Tokyo. After leaving Somerville College, Oxford, she had been trained for this work by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Rachel, my fifth sister, was also now teaching in England. She had taken a degree at St. Andrew’s University and then went for teacher-training to St. Hilda’s at Oxford. Later she went to a school in Jamaica, and was subsequently head mistress of a diocesan school in India. My other two sisters, Edith and Marjory, were at home looking after my father at Old Riffhams, as well as coping with five or more officers of the Gloucester Regiment (T.A.), who were billeted in the house. A company of their men were in the barn. Most of the Gloucester Brigade were in huts on Danbury Common. Later in the war Edith married Harry Laxton, one of the officers who had been billeted in our house, and Marjory went to live in New Zealand.”

G.H. Woolley, Sometimes A Soldier. London: Ernest Benn, Ltd., 1963, pp. 38-39

His brother George Cathcart Woolley (1876-1947) worked in Borneo (like Herbert Martin Woolley) as a Colonial Administrator and Ethnographer. Part of his collection formed the Sabah Museum. He was interned and harshly treatedby the Japanese as a POW. A quite remarakable family!

37. Albert Wright, 25 February 1919
Private Albert Wright, 201656, 2nd /7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died 25 February 1919, aged 29. He is buried at Grave Reference Screen Wall B10. 9. 661A, Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery. This wall carries the  names of those buried in the main CWGC war graves main plot B10 or in graves elsewhere in the cemetery which could not be individually marked.

The First World War saw four important hospitals – besides many smaller ones – posted at Birmingham with over 7000 beds. The cemetery contains 498 First World War burials, most of them in a war graves plot alongside Wright in Section B10.

The Cross of Sacrifice (found in most CWGC cemeteries  worldwide) at Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery. Image: Wikipedia

The Cross of Sacrifice (found in most CWGC cemeteries worldwide) at Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery. Image: Wikipedia

Albert Wright worked at Birmingham Botanic Gardens as an Outdoor Foreman from April 1914 to February 1916, leaving Kew Gardens where he studied from May 1912 to April 1914 (being an Assistant 1st Class). His Kew Guild Journal obituary 1920/21 lists him as joining the 5th Warwickshire Regiment, moving with them to France in May 1917. In 1917 he was invalided home with fever before returning to France where he was wounded in the leg whilst wiring out in front of the trenches. Sent to hospitals in Glasgow, Irvine and finally Liverpool he died of influenza and pneumonia before discharge in hospital, three months after the war ended.

In the Kew Guild Journal 1920, p.482, the article on the War Memorial mentions that “Two additional names have to be added to the Tablet. Pte. Albert Wright and L.Cpl. Sidney Cockcroft.”

A view familiar to gardener Albert Wright, the view of Birmingham Botanic Gardens from the Bandstand where local MP Neville Chamberlain spoke to crowds after becoming Prime Minister shortly before WW2. Underneath ironically  is the WW2 Air Raid shelter. Photo: Mark Norris, 2011

A view familiar to gardener Albert Wright, the view of Birmingham Botanic Gardens from the Bandstand where local MP Neville Chamberlain spoke to crowds after becoming Prime Minister shortly before WW2. Underneath ironically is the WW2 Air Raid shelter. Photo: Mark Norris, 2011

Priavte 201656 Albert Wright is listed on the CWGC website as finally serving in the 2/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was 29 when he died and the brief additional information says he was ‘Born at Birmingham’, around 1890. Further photographs of the Lodge Hill cemetery graves can be seen on the Traces of War website. Albert Wright will also be listed  in the large central Hall of Memory which records the names of the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who died in the First World War (The Birmingham City Council website notes that a further 35,000 Birmingham men came home with a disability).

Other Kew Casualaties

Several other non-Kew staff are listed in the early Kew Guild Journal roll of honour  (but not as far as I know on the memorial) such as “employed as temporary labourers when the war broke out” who then joined up.

One such was T. Clay (Killed in action) noted by the Kew Guild Journal 1915/16 Journal publication. Of the 6  T. Clays on the CWGC website, he is likely to be one of two 1914/15 casulaties   likely to be remembered on the Le Touret Memorial - either Private Thomas Clay 9308, 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment killed 28 October 1914 or Private Thomas Clay 10586 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment  killed on 18 May 1915.

A postwar Kew Guild Journal 1921, p.43 “In Memoriam” section records that the deaths “of W. Humphris and Mr J. Hayhurst of the Border Regiment … are recorded in the war but we have been unable to obtain any particulars”.

W. Humphris (unusual spelling) does not appear to have been otherwise listed on the Kew Gardens memorial and served with Australian forces. Private Walter George Thorrell Humphris  2632 served in 1st Battalion Australian Infantry AIF and died aged 25 on 22 April 1917. He has no known grave and his name is  recorded on the Basra Memorial.   He is listed as the son of James Thorrell Humphris and Jane Ellen Humphris, born London, England. He joined Kew in August 1903 from Oakwood Hall, Rotherham. He left Kew in August 1904 to work at Riverslea, Grassendale Park, Liverpool.

There is still far more to be discovered about each of these names. From Birtle’s posts on Rootschat, it appears that  Kew Gardens archives have staff photographs of each year of new gardeners. I will add further details of my research into each casualty to the post as I uncover more.

There is a contact form if you wish to comment or pass on more information.

If any readers visit any of these Kew Gardeners’ graves, please lay a flower, a poppy cross or spend a few moments of prayer or quiet reflection on the shortened lives of these men and the families and colleagues they left behind them, so that they,  like the lost gardeners of Heligan, are not forgotten.

If any of you visit the Helles Memorial in Turkey where Walter Henry Morland is remembered, the “rose specialist” who started me off on this quest to find out more about Kew’s lost gardeners, then perhaps the most appropriate flower to leave is of course … a rose.

Floreat Kew!

The Lost Gardeners of Kew in World War Two

April 6, 2013

RBG Kew's war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew (Image copyright :  Kew website)

RBG Kew’s war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew
(Image copyright : Kew website)

Kew Gardens war memorial (from the Kew Gardens website)

Kew Gardens lost 14  serving and former staff in World War Two, commemorated alongside the Great War losses at the Kew Gardens war memorial in the Temple of Arethusa. A wreath is laid there each November on behalf of past and present Kew staff, a copy of one laid at the Cenotaph made by Kew staff for the Foreign Office on behalf of British Overseas Territories.

Kew Gardens staff and Old Kewites served all over the world in both World Wars and sadly this is where some of them lie buried, as far afield as the hills of Italy, the deserts of Libya, the jungles of Singapore and the battlefields of Normandy.  Kew Gardens staff or Kew trained gardeners in both world wars also helped with the design and planting of war cemeteries, which are beautifully and respectfully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission gardeners.

One of RBG Kew Gardens' WW2 staff casualties rests  in this beautifully planted war cemetery, Assisi, Italy. (Image copyright CWGC website www.cwgc.org)

One of RBG Kew Gardens’ WW2 staff casualties rests in this beautifully planted war cemetery, Assisi, Italy. (Image copyright CWGC website http://www.cwgc.org)

Looking through the 1940s issues of the Kew Guild Journal recently published online, there are short obituary tributes to the lives of these Kew Gardens and Old Kewite staff. I have added details from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. A recent discussion thread on the Rootschat forum listed brief details of the names of First World War casualties from Kew Gardens, which is covered in a separate blog post. There was however no list of easily accessible names for the 14 casualties from World War Two. A little detective work reveals the following (nearly complete) list.  I hope this is of use to family historians, as well as a tribute to these brave men.

Photographs of Kew in both wars can be seen in the excellent book The Story of Kew Gardens in Photographs by Lynn Parker and Kiri Ross-Jones. There is an excellent selection on Kew in both wars in this book, including the employment of women gardeners to replace the men on active service, ‘Dig for Victory’ allotments and the ARP preparations for air raids.

The Kew Guild Journal 1944 article obituaries for C.G. Last, J.G. Mayne, F.G. Selby, J.W. Sutch and P.E. Thyer can be read here.

G.H.Larsen 13 September 1944
Born November 25 1914 in France, Georges Henri Larsen came to Kew on exchange from the Luxemburg Gardens, Paris 1935-36. Serving with Corps Franc d’Afrique and Free French forces in Normandy, Larsen was killed in the fighting at Epinal.

C.G. Last, 22 June 1944 MM, Military Medal
Died aged 36, Corporal 9900V, Cecil George Last served with the South African Medical Corps, attached First City / Cape Town Highlanders, South African Forces, buried at Assisi War Cemetery, Italy. This is mostly burials from June – July 1944 from battles with the Germans who were trying to stop the Allied advance north of Rome. Born October 12, 1910 he was the son of William G and Beatrice Last of Letchworth, Hertfordshire.
His Kew Guild obituary notes that he was killed at Chiusi in Italy whilst attempting “under heavy shell fire … to bring to safety one of his native stretcher bearers who was wounded and exposed to heavy fire.” He was previously noted for gallantry and awarded the Military Medal whilst wounded in the Desert campaign. He served as a medic with the South African Highlanders until after El Alamein.

C.G.Lasts's burial place lies amongst the graves of Assisi War cemetery, Italy (image CWGC copyright www.cwgc.org)

C.G.Lasts’s burial place lies amongst the graves of Assisi War cemetery, Italy (image CWGC copyright http://www.cwgc.org)

J.G. Mayne, 16 May 1944
Lieutenant, 48th Highlanders of Canada, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps.
Buried at the Cassino War Cemetery, Rome. Monte Cassino was finally taken two days after Mayne’s death.
Born on January 1st 1914, ‘Jack’ was the son of Robert Furlong Mayne and Kathleen Mayne. He attended Kew from 1938 to 1939 before leaving for an exchange post at the Ontario Agricultural College. He married Mary Mayne, Frimley, Surrey in England in 1943 and his only daughter was born after his death.

 J.G. Mayne's burial place, Cassino War Cemetery,  Monte Cassino, Italy (image copyright: CWGC www.cwcg.org)

J.G. Mayne’s burial place, Cassino War Cemetery, Monte Cassino, Italy
(image copyright: CWGC http://www.cwcg.org)

W.S.H. Menzies, 2 July 1943
Sergeant William Sydney Hugh Menzies, Sergeant Wireless Operator, RAF (Volunteer Reserve) buried Sleaford Cemetery, Lincolnshire. Garden boy at Kew 1936-38. Son of William Duncan Graham Menzies

R. F. Miles, 11 May 1942
Reginald Frederick Miles 1375370, RAF (Volunteer Reserve), aged 26. He is one of 47 air force burials in Dunure Cemetery, Ayrshire. Born July 21st 1915, Miles was a student gardener at Kew from 1932-34 and returned to work in the Tropical department in 1938 until call up on September 23 1940. He crashed off the West Coast of Scotland during a training flight and was listed as missing for four months until identified and buried. “A wreath from the Kew Guild was among the floral tributes”, his Kew Guild Journal obituary noted. He was the son of Frederick William and Ethel Miles, Clench Common, Wiltshire.

J.C.Nauen, October 1943
Assistant Curator, Botanic Gardens Singapore from 1935. Served with G.H. Spare as a sergeant volunteer in the 3rd Penang, SSVF Straits Settlement Volunteer Force. His botanic skills were of help gardening and collecting plants from the local area to help keep fellow prisoners alive. Nauen died as a Japanese POW prisoner of war working on the Burma-Siam railway in October 1943 of blood poisoning

T.W. Rayment, 14 June 1942
Flight Sergeant Thomas Watkins Rayment, Air Gunner, 7 Squadron, RAF (Volunteer Reserve) aged 28. Buried at Avesnes-sur-Helpe Communal Cemetery, France.
‘Tommy’  Rayment is buried alongside several of his 7 Squadron crew (Pilot Officer Don White and Flight Engineer Sergeant Leonard Clinton Fenton) after being shot down during a bombing raid over Essen  and the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial areas. Rayment’s was possibly the only Stirling bomber among several 7 Squadron bombers lost on this 1000 bomber raid. He was based at RAF Oakington near Cambridge and his crew’s death is recorded / confirmed in the ops notes on 25 August 1942 appendix of Oakington’s history .

The CWGC webiste lists him as the son of Herbert John Rayment JP and Louise Rayment, of Beecroft, NSW, Australia. Born to English parents working in the seed business in Australia, Tommy was at Kew from 1938-1940 in the Tropical & Decorative Departments. He volunteered for the RAF from July 23,1940 and survived many bombing missions. He was shot down once at sea, the sole survivor of his crew, picked up by a trawler after five hours in a rubber dinghy.

Rayment  features on a war memorial at Beecroft , NSW, Australia. The memorial, Rayment’s  life and a possible memorial to this Stirling crash are  being researched by Beecroft historian Tony Cunneen and aviation researcher Joss Leclercq.

T W Rayment features on the Beecroft war memorial  (Photo from the Register of War Memorials in Australia website) .

T W Rayment features on the Beecroft war memorial (Photo from the Register of War Memorials in Australia website) .

A probate record in the UK 10 March 1943 lists him as living at 1 Mortlake Road, Kew, Surrey before call up,  his death / probate registered  by Reuben Thomas Rayment (civil servant) and Dorothy Rayment (spinster) , presumably family members.

E.H. Robson, 23 October 1944

Born in 1912, Edward Herbert Robson entered Kew in 1935 after working in private estate gardens and became foreman in the Temperate House until 1938 when he moved to work in the parks of Coventry. He had already joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment in October 1940 by the time Coventry was bombed in late 1940 and 1941. His brother Major John Elliott Robson of the same regiment was also killed in Italy on 7th October 1944 and a third brother was injured and taken prisoner at Arnhem. His Kew Guild Journal 1946 obituary notes him as collecting and sending back plants and seeds throughout his service in Palestine, Egypt and Italy. His grave is in Florence War Cemetery in Italy.

F.G.Selby, 4 December 1943
Born August 4 1913, Frederick George Selby entered Kew from 1937 – 1942 serving as student gardener and then Foreman in the Decorative department after several years working in private gardens in Cornwall and Surrey. He joined the RAF on October 16, 1942 as aircrew becoming a Sergeant Air Gunner.
Selby was killed during a bombing raid on Leipzig on December 3-4, 1943. He is recorded as visiting Kew two days before his final flight. Air Gunner F.G. Selby is buried At Becklingen War Cemetery in Germany. He was the son of William Frank and Alice Selby, and husband of Rita May Selby.

Eric Egerton Smith, 23 November 1941
Trooper 7910903,11th Hussars, Royal Armoured Corps. Joined Born June 19 1914, Smith was at Kew as a student gardener from February 1939 to June 12 1940 when he enlisted in the 11th Hussars, after previous service with the Parks Department, Hounslow. Buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya. Smith died during the Libyan Desert campaign driving an armoured car on patrol towards Italian and German enemy lines at Sidi Rezegh. Son of George Egerton Smith & Lilian Nelly Smith, Heston, Middlesex.

Eric Smith's desert burial ground Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya (Image copyright: CWGC website www.cwgc.org)

Eric Smith’s desert burial ground Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya (Image copyright: CWGC website http://www.cwgc.org)

G.H. Spare, 7 February 1945
Gordon Henry Spare, Private 6070 SSVF Straits Settlements Volunteer Force / 3rd Battalion (Penang and Province Wellesley Volunteer Corps), Singapore Volunteers, died at Labuan, Borneo as a Japanese POW. Remembered on column 396 Singapore Memorial. Son of Harry and Grace Spare, Wallington, Surrey, and husband of Rose Ellen Spare, Worthing, Sussex. His wife, young son and daughter were evacuated clear  of danger before the Japanese invasion.

Singapore Memorial (image copyright CWGC website www.cwgc.org)

Singapore Memorial (image copyright CWGC website http://www.cwgc.org)

J.W. Sutch, 8 August 1944
Royal Armoured Corps, Trooper, 1st Northants Yeomanry. John Wilfred Sutch was born on November 8 1923 and served at Kew as a “Gardens boy” from 1939-1942. He is buried in the Banneville La Campagne war cemetery, Calvados, France. Sutch was a tank driver and died during the battle for the Falaise Gap in the Normandy campaign after D-Day.

A photograph of him in uniform can be seen in The Story of Kew Gardens in Photographs.

Beautifully kept garden setting of Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery , Calvados, France where Kew's J.W.Sutch lies buried. (Image copyright: CWGC www.cwgc.org)

Beautifully kept garden setting of Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery , Calvados, France where Kew’s J.W.Sutch lies buried. (Image copyright: CWGC http://www.cwgc.org)

P.E.or R.E. Thyer, 17 June 1944
Lance Corporal 589614V, Royal Natal Carabineers, South African Forces, Bolsena War Cemetery, Italy. Born July 5 1911, Percy Ernest Thyer he was the son of William H. and Kate Thyer, Glastonbury, Somerset. (Listed on the cwgc.org.uk site as R.E. Thyer and in the Kew Guild Journal as P.E. Thyer). Thyer was at Kew between 1936 and 1937. He transferred to South Africa as an Exchange student at Government House Gardens, Pretoria in 1937 until he enlisted in 1943 after part-time service whilst still employed as a gardener. Thyer died aged 32, in action at Belvedere Farm, Citta d’Pieve, Italy. Many of the burials in this cemetery are related to a tank battle between the 6th South African Battalion and the Hermann Goering Panzer Division in Italy.

Kew Gardener P E or R E Thyer is buried in Bolsena Cemetery, Italy . Image: CWGC website

Kew Gardener P E or R E Thyer is buried in Bolsena Cemetery, Italy . Image: CWGC website

So that (as of April 2013)  is brief information on  13 of the Kew casualties named on the bronze memorial plaque on the Kew Gardens memorial.

The 14th name
Who the 14th name belongs to will have to wait until I next visit Kew or somebody checks and leaves a comment on the blog here.

Several other Kew related wartime casualties are mentioned in the Kew Guild Journal tributes.

Norman Laurence Harding, July 23 1941  RAF Sergeant Wireless Operator and Air Gunner, 18th Squadron, reported missing (later presumed killed in action) after an attack by Blenheim bombers on shipping off the coast of France on July 23 1941. Bought up at Kew, the son of Laurence Harding, Norman as a 19-year-old had worked in Kew’s Herbarium Library from 1933-34.

Percy Henry Patmore MBE, MM, 26 February 1944
‘Pat’ was a Ministry of Agriculture ARP Officer and a District Warden in Westminster during the war, well-known to many Kew staff. He earned his Military Medal in the First World War. He was killed by injuries from a bomb on his home at 80 Cat Hill in East Barnet in the little blitz of February 20 1944. Passed away from injuries in Wellhouse Hospital, 26 February 1944.

Posted on behalf of the World War Zoo Gardens Project at Newquay Zoo, researching what happened in zoos and botanic gardens in wartime. Find out  more about the project on the Botanic Gardens Conservation International BGCI website article from the BGCI Roots journal by Mark Norris

Dig for Victory 1917 (World War 1 style), the lost gardeners of Kew and the fortunate Herbert Cowley (1885 – 1967)

March 22, 2013

There is still a great deal of labour employed for example, in pleasure grounds and bedding out which in the present circumstances should be put to better account

(The Garden, editorial No. 2359, 3/2/17)

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guild journal obituary 1968

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guild journal obituary 1968

Corporal Herbert Cowley returned from the trenches in 1915 to his editing desk at The Garden magazine, walking with a stick from a shrapnel wound to his knee cap. In this he was somewhat lucky as 37 of his former Kew Gardens colleagues were killed (see  blog post on the Lost Gardeners of Kew WW1 ).

This was a generation of gardeners for whom ‘digging trenches’  had a deadly double meaning. Active in the Kew Guild for Old Kewite staff as its secretary, he also edited the Kew Guild Journal, recently placed online. After four years as journal editor from 1909 to 1914 and time off for military service, he became editor of The Garden in 1915/16 and carried on as a gardening writer until the late 1930s.

Unlike his fallen Kew colleagues, Herbert Cowley lived to the grand age of 82, dying in Newton Abbott in Devon in November 1967. There is a lovely description of him at Dartington as:

“that eighty-year-old gentleman with the vivid blue eyes, who retired from the world of horticultural journalism in 1936, yet who still remembered everyone and everything from those days”

recalled a researcher who had tracked him down to talk about his friendship with Gertrude Jekyll (quoted on pg. 79, Beatrix Jones (1872-1959):Fifty Years of Landscape by Diane K. McGuire)

The Garden 1917, edited by Herbert Cowley.

The Garden 1917, edited by Herbert Cowley.

In my collection of wartime gardening books at Newquay Zoo as part of the World War Zoo Gardens project,  I have a slightly musty bound year’s copy of The Garden magazine from 1917, an edition  that Cowley edited. This is one of the wartime volumes I’ve bought whilst researching  the wartime history of zoos and associated botanic gardens.  Leafing through its yellowing pages, it is sometimes hard to believe at first that there is a war on. Only when you begin to read between the lines or look at the adverts do you begin to pick up glimpses of the upheavals caused by war on an Empire of pioneer plant hunters, foresters, farmers and botanists called back from around the world to defend their mother country.

I will feature more in detail from this random 1917 edition in a future blog post. The Garden magazine can be read online for free at https://archive.org/details/gardenillustrate7915lond - search by year – and other sites.

Herbert Cowley as Editor at The Garden magazine was no desk gardener. As a career gardener he had risen through the ranks. His father Henry was a ‘domestic gardener’. Herbert studied at Swanley College for two years, one of the last eight men students before it became a female horticultural college around 1902. Swanley then trained many lady gardeners who dug for victory in both world wars. He worked at Lockinge Gardens in Berkshire before studying at Swanley, at some point for the royal garden at Frogmore and after Swanley for the famous nursery family of Veitch’s at Feltham. One of that same family, Major John Leonard Veitch MC (Military Cross) of the Devon Regiment would be killed on 21 May 1918, one of Cowley’s Old Kewite & Veitch’s nursery family.

cowley 007Cowley joined Kew Gardens and appears always to have been a popular colleague. The Kew Guild Journal describes him in 1915/16 as having been much sought after by different departments, eventually settling in the Orchid department in 1905, probably from his experience with Orchids at one of the Veitch’s nurseries’ specialities. Veitch’s employed several famous plant hunters to collect exotic plants from around the world for the conservatories and gardens of Victorian and Edwardian Britain in one of the ‘golden ages’ of British estates, big houses and impressive gardening schemes. It was the Downton Abbey age. All this would go into decline after the war as it poignantly did at Heligan Gardens in Cornwall and many places elsewhere as a result of rising costs, loss of labour, fortunes or heirs. By the time of Herbert Cowley’s death in 1967, many of these country houses, their gardens  and their gardeners would have vanished into memories and yellowing  pages of his gardening magazines and Country Life in bound volumes in archives.

From early on Herbert Cowley was active in learning, sharing and passing on information, a quality that any good gardening writer needs, through Kew’s Mutual Improvement Lectures in 1906/7 season. Sadly the prewar lecture lists contain the names of some of the Kew staff including C.F. Ball who would soon be killed on active service. Cowley left Kew around 1907 to join The Gardener magazine as a subeditor (later called Popular Gardening).

Herbert Cowley  became Assistant Editor at a different title, The Garden in 1910. This was the magazine he was to return to as Editor in 1915/6 until 1926; this is the magazine that I have a 1917 edition in my collection. Cowley then edited Gardening Illustrated from 1923-26, another success in a long career as a gardening journalist and writer.  At some point he worked for Wallace & Co of Tunbridge Wells, nursery-men and landscape architects. He wrote his final (?)  book The Garden Year from Tunbridge Wells in 1936;  March & April excerpts of his advice are included at the end of this blog post:

“In my capacity as editor of gardening journals I have many times been asked for a practical book containing reminders for garden work all the year round. This book is specially written to supply that want – it is in fact a modern gardening calendar in book form … 

Reminders for each department – utilitarian as well as ornamental – from the kitchen garden to the orchid house – will be found in these pages.  

It is hoped that this book will be given a place in the front row of the gardener’s bookshelf and that it will prove useful all the year round.

The information given is based on generally accepted practice and the season for doing things in any well-ordered garden” (Preface, The Garden Year, 1936)

Frontispiece to The Garden Year 1936, written by Herbert Cowley.

Frontispiece to The Garden Year 1936, written by Herbert Cowley.

“Well-ordered”,  “practical”, “each department” of the garden, this is the voice of the Kew-trained gardener from the Edwardian age . Cowley writes in a clear, no-nonsense advice style about gardening. At first sight there is very little personal material, so it is hard to glimpse from his writing what he made of his wartime experiences as a temporary warrior. Like many of his generation, he got on with life after the war and probably didn’t talk or write about it much.

His army records (available on genealogy sites like ancestry.co.uk) reveal that he enlisted early in the war on 7th September 1914 as No. 2477 in the 12th County of London Regiment (the London Rangers). He very quickly embarked for France by 25 December 1914, just after the famous Christmas Truce and football matches in No Man’s Land. He may well have been a Territorial Army soldier to have enlisted and embarked so swiftly. His brother Charles Cowley  (b. 1890, Wantage, Berks – d. 1973, New Zealand) served in the same regiment from 1915 and became a Sergeant, invalided out with trench foot to become a musketry instructor in devon.

In one of Herbert Cowley’s  postwar letters in his  National Archives British Army Service records, he complains to the Army authorities in 1920 from his residence at Curley Croft, Lightwater, near Bagshot :

I have received so far no medals whatsover for services rendered at the Front in 1914/15. I was in the 12th London Regiment and went to Belgium with the 1st Battalion on Christmas Eve.”

He would eventually be awarded the ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ trio of medals for soldiers who served so early in the war. He was also awarded the War Badge by 1916, a useful public symbol which showed others that he had been injured and demobilised, protecting him from the comments and white feathers of the ignorant or unknowing. Cowley had got what was known as a ‘Blighty’ wound, serious enough to get him invalided out of the army but one that allowed him to live an active life. He was to suffer other family tragedies though.

Ever the gardener, he wrote for The Garden a letter on March 28 1915 about plants in France whilst overseas with the BEF, published 10 April, 1915 about a need for a  “seeds for soldiers” scheme,

“The suggestion re. quick-growing seeds is excellent. Delightful instances are now to be seen of dug-outs, covered with verdant green turf, garden plots divided by red brick and clinker paths suggestive of an Italian Garden design. Some plots are now bright with Cowslips, Lesser Celandine and fresh green leaves of the Cuckoo-Pint, wild flowers obviously lifted from meadows and ditches nearby. Yet the roar of heavy guns and the roll of rifle fire is incessant. Verily the Briton is a born gardener.”   The Garden, 10.04.1915

This is an area extensively  covered in Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardens chapter on Trench Gardens.

Alongside part of an RHS lecture from the RHS journal April 1915 by James Hudson on the “Informal and Wild Garden”,  The Garden’ s Editor F.W. Harvey has printed an evocative article by Herbert Cowley on “A Garden in the War Desert”  about a war damaged village and famous chateau garden at Zonnebeke near Ypres in Belgium.

“Our Sub-Editor at the Front”, Cowley is recorded in the 1916 Kew  Guild Journal as being “wounded twice” in the spring battles of Ypres in 1915. He was slightly wounded in late April 1915, reported in The Garden of 8 May 1915:

” For the past eight days we have been in severe battle. I am slightly wounded by shell – only a bruised rib and am in hospital. Dreadful warfare is still raging … we must win!” 

Looking through his army and pension records, he was more seriously wounded on May 4 1915, as GSW Right Knee (either Gun Shot Wound or shrapnel wound?). His medical  entry is hard to read on the ‘burnt documents’ as these Blitz damaged records are known. The circumstances are reported in The Garden on 15 May 2015:

“Rifleman H. Cowley … has again been wounded in action and is now in hospital at Oxford … wounded in the knee whilst bandaging another soldier in the trenches … Rifleman H. Cowley 2477, Surgical 7, 3rd Southern General Hospital , Oxford”  

Over the next few days of fighting on the Frezenberg Ridge in the Second Battle Of Ypres, it is recorded at 1914-18.invisionzone.com website entries about the 1st Battalion, that the fighting “brought about the end of the original battalion.” The battalion had also been involved in the first German poison gas attack on 22 April 1915.

Cowley was lucky to be alive, if injured; only 53 of his original battalion comrades survived unscathed  after this action at Ypres, an area soon to become as sadly well known as the Somme. The Kew Guild Journal 1916 notes his absence from the 1915 Kew Guild dinner speeches as “Our Secretary Rifleman H. Cowley (cheers) in hospital at Oxford, wounded at the knee.” Obviously a popular man as the ‘cheers’ shows. In an uncanny or eerie coincidence, the 1911 census lists his sister Annie (b. 1887) as being a nurse in domestic service to the Prentice family of the oddly named Ypres House, Rye in Sussex.

By the end of the 1915,  Herbert Cowley would be invalided out of the Army, be recovering from wounds and married to Elsie Mabel Hurst on 8th December 1915 in Kingston. By the end of this same year, several more of his Kewite gardening colleagues would be dead. Herbert Cowley went on to have at least one son. Many of his Kew colleagues who died in the First World War left many children fatherless.

A walk in the trench cemeteries in my early twenties past rows of teenage soldiers’ graves  made me feel both prematurely old and also fortunate to have a life ahead of me. Searching through book auction websites reveals Cowley to have made good use of his extra lease of life, a life  denied to so many of his generation.  Cowley very quickly returned his gardening and writing talents  to produce many books of practical, no-nonsense advice for the gardening enthusiast, in his own way helping the war effort in the First World War’s version of Dig for Victory.

In the 1917 journal,  his own book Vegetable Growing in Wartime is reviewed. His  article on this topic appears soon after, amidst many articles on vegetable allotments for the novice gardener, some written by women. Cowley’s book quickly went into a second edition as the First World War Home Front food situation in Britain appeared more and more worrying.  Bad  harvests and the increasing German submarine attacks on merchant shipping was causing shortages, price rises  and uncertainty over future supply. Rationing was introduced in Britain in the last years of the First World War. In Germany the Allied blockade was to have even greater effects on the wartime population and eventually its fighting ability.

Herbert Cowley continued to practical small pamphlets on Storing Vegetables and Fruit (1918), Cultivation with Movable Frames (1920) and a short book on The Modern Rock Garden (a book still available as print on demand online). His largest book The Garden Year appeared in 1936, when some sources suggest his garden journalism career came to an end.

He had not given up plants though in 1936. For a well-known gardener  with a dodgy knee in his fifties, a new element to his career was beginning, away from the deadlines of editing  and publishing. In Theo A. Stephen’s My Garden magazine, a 1936 volume lists Cowley as leading:

“Garden Tours – starting from London on the evening of Saturday 20th, Mr. Herbert Cowley will conduct a party to the Swiss Alps. The tour will take fifteen days,returning on Sunday July 5th to London …”

So Cowley was still energetically going abroad in his fifties, despite his shrapnel wounds. Alpine plants were to remain a passion of Herbert Cowley to the end of his life in 1968. He was an honorary life  member of the British Alpine Society and his Modern Rock Garden remains in print to this day.

His Kew Guild Journal obituary in 1968 mentions other plant hunting trips to the Dolomites and a notable visit to Bulgaria as a guest of King Ferdinand in the company of Kew contemporary C.F.Ball of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin in Dublin. (Ball was killed as a Private in the Royal Dublin Fusilers on 13 September 1915 as part of the Gallipoli campaign).

Cowley wrote interesting accounts early in his editorship of the Garden in late 1915, around the time his obituary appeared for Charles Ball  about their shared Bulgaria trip in the special “Rose issue” of The Garden, 23 October 1915 and in the The Garden November 6 , 1915 

In a future blog post, I will look at the gardening and writing career of Theo Stephens in war and peace. Owned and edited by Stephens from 1934 to 1951, My Garden  was an unusual survivor amongst small magazines throughout the paper shortages of World War 2.

Cowley had a long  working relationship with Gertrude Jekyll, to whom she records her thanks in A Gardening Companion:

and lastly to her devoted friend and colleague, Mr. Herbert Cowley, editor of The Gardening Illustrated during the period of her contribution to it, for many of the photographs which materially enhance such value as this book may possess.”

The Fate of The South Border, Gertrude Jekyll, January 20, 1917, The Garden magazine

The Fate of The South Border, Gertrude Jekyll, January 20, 1917, The Garden magazine

An entry in the 1917 The Garden  magazine describes how Miss Jekyll dug up the South Border, one of her flower beds at Munstead to plant potatoes (photograph by Cowley?). Many of the famous postwar photographs of Jekyll’s Munstead Wood and Miss Jekyll are attributed to Cowley. Judith Tankard in a recent beautifully illustrated Country Life article launching her Gertrude Jekyll book (27 April  2011 pdf reprinted at judithtankard.com):

in her articles published before the First World War she supplied most of the pictures herself, but after that, she relied on photographs taken by Herbert Cowley, who became Country Life‘s Gardens Editor after the departure of E.T. Cook in 1911“.

Many of Cowley’s early booklets were published by the Country Life magazine publishers / George Newnes. They produced small and useful booklets throughout the Great War well into the Second World War as part of  the ‘dig for Victory’ efforts.

Cowley, according to Tankard, “was a frequent guest at Munstead Wood [and] snapped the famous picture of Jekyll strolling in her Spring Garden in 1918.” He is remembered as a prolific photographer in his Kew Guild Journal 1968 obituary by A.G.L Hellyer, a noted editor of Amateur Gardening and garden writer (1902-1993) in the Second World War period:

throughout the 1920s he was always a prominent figure at shows – with close-cropped hair and always a large wooden camera and stand. He seemed to do all his own photography as well as being editor.”

By Spring 1918 when he had snapped these famous photographs, Cowley would have undertaken a more unpleasant task.  As oldest surviving Cowley brother, he was busy of sorting out the probate or estate on 12 March 1918  of his older brother Henry William Cowley. Brother Henry had died whilst training on military service on 14 September 1917. Lance Corporal Henry W. Cowley TR9/76191 (his trainee / regimental number) 26th Reserve Training Battalion died in a comatose state of a cerebral haemorrhage at Napsbury Hospital St Albans. Cowley’s brother is buried near Heathrow airport at Heston (St. Leonard) Churchyard as the family lived in Isleworth, Middlesex.
Brother Henry’s service and pension records still contain the urgent  telegrams from medical staff to his wife that Henry was dangerously ill in hospital. Among other records are a list of his surviving possessions to be returned, poignant personal items such as pipes, tobacco, whistle, cigars. A schoolteacher, Henry W. Cowley attested on 22 November 1915 and was mobilised for training on 16 July 1917, called up in the 34/35 year old age range. His wife Olive was awarded a pension of 26/3 a week for herself and her three children Henry F G Cowley (born 23/08/1906, d. 1986 Newton Abbott, Devon), Ivy Cowley (b. 6/01/1908)  and Eric Jack Cowley (b. 24/2/1911, . 1984), all born at Heston, Middlesex. Later Herbert Cowley would again be listed professionally as ‘editor’ when he sorted his father Henry’s will or probate after his father died on 3 April 1930 at Easton, Portland, Dorsetshire.

Richard van Emden’s recent 2011 book The Quick and The Dead gives a much fuller account of how the burials, search for the missing and impact on the surviving families affected the now passing generation of surviving children and their own families right up to the present day. Some of the long-serving Kew staff such as C.P. Raffill, A.B. Melles and others worked in the Graves Registration Unit and for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission; in this way Kew was involved in planning the planting of these cemeteries with suitable plants for the climate.

Herbert Cowley’s side of the family was not the only one to lose a relative. Two years earlier on the first day of Battle of the Somme, his wife Elsie Mabel (nee Hurst) lost her 30 year old brother Percy, a clerk. Rifleman 4278 Percy Haslewood (or Hazlewood) Hurst of the 1st /16th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles) was
killed on the 1st July 1916, during his battalion’s diversionary attack on Gommecourt. Percy left a wife Geraldine of 18 Teddington Park, Middlesex. His widowed clerk / accountant father Samuel and typist sister Elsie Mabel was left grieving for his loss. Like Herbert’s Kewite colleagues Rifleman John Divers and Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, Percy H. Hurst is listed on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing of The Somme (Pier / face 13C). Several other Kew Gardens staff are listed in the Kew Guild magazine ‘Roll of Honour’ section as serving in Percy Hurst’s local London Regiment but thankfully survived.

The Kew Guild journal obituary ends with an unusual coda to Herbert Cowley’s gardening career. According to an (obituary?) article it quotes from the Western Guardian on November 9th 1967, Cowley left journalism to move to Withypool on Exmoor to run a riding school for 20 years throughout what must have been the wartime period 1940s up to the late 1950s. I wonder what this old soldier, who had seen the widespread call up and loss of horses, their grooms and riders  in the Great War, made of Exmoor’s famous mounted Home Guard patrols in a very different
war, a war that would cause him more family grief.

Cowley and his wife made a final move to the Brixham area in the early 1960s, growing camellias, nerines and alpine plants. (His Western Guardian obituary notes him as an honorary life member of the Alpine Garden Society). This is where he was encountered at Dartington in his eightieth year, with his “vivid blue eyes” and excellent recall.

Herbert’s unexpected move to the West Country and retirement from journalism may be explained by a sad wartime event in 1940. His Kew Guild Journal 1968 obituary concludes that he is survived by his wife Elsie (b. 1893?  d. 1969) and a son (name as yet undiscovered). However it seems one possible son is likely to have been killed in World War Two.  RAF Sergeant Observer Robert Hurst Cowley, 580643, died aged only 22 on the 2nd September 1940. His 57 Squadron was flying Blenheim bombers on anti-shipping patrols over the North Sea from its base in Elgin in Scotland at the time before converting to Wellington bombers in November 1940. Robert is listed on the CWGC site as the son of Herbert & Elsie Mabel Cowley of East Grinstead, Sussex. Like many of his father’s Kew Gardens colleagues from the previous war, Robert Hurst Cowley has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 13 of the Runnymede Memorial to missing aircrew, one amongst 20327 names. Robert is also listed on the St. Thomas a Becket church, Framfield on the War Memorial as ‘of this parish’. Kew Gardens itself would lose several of its 1940s staff as aircrew during the Second World War (see future blog post), recorded on their war memorial.

I will end with some of Herbert Cowley’s March vegetable gardening advice from The  Garden Year (1936). The advice in some areas would soon be out of fashion or obsolete as rationing and Dig For Victory took hold again in Cowley’s lifetime. No doubt his 1917 Vegetable Gardening in Wartime booklet would be found on the shelves or second hand bookstall, dusted off and referred to many times again.

We’ve just started planting some 1930s / 1940s varieties of veg that Cowley would be familiar with in the World War Zoo Gardens project allotment at Newquay Zoo, despite the rain, frost and soggy ground. Heritage varieties such as The Sutton broad bean  seedlings, Early Onward peas and Ailsa Craig onions are all in, planted on the odd dry warm March  day.  By late summer they will be ready as fresh unsprayed  food for our zoo animals, especially our monkeys.


from The Garden Year 1936 by Herbert Cowley

Fruit & Vegetables

Wall fruit will require protection from frost.

Gooseberries are best pruned now and sprayed to keep birds at bay.*

Fruit tree planting must be completed.

Gaps in the Strawberry beds should be filled and Strawberry plants in pots for forcing should be taken inside.

Autumn-fruiting Raspberries need cutting down

Black Currants infected with ‘big bud’ require spraying.*

Grape Vines, Peaches, Nectarines and Figs require attention.

Main crop potatoes should be planted, also Jerusalem Artichokes, Shallots and Asparagus.

The main sowings of all vegetable crops are necessary this month.

The Garden Year, illustrationTomatoes will require potting on.

Celery must be sown in gentle heat.

Herbs can be planted.

A seed bed can be sown for the cabbage tribe.


from The Garden Year 1936 by Herbert Cowley

Fruit & Vegetables

Apples and Pears should be sprayed with lime-sulphur and lead arsenate*,  and bark ringed if necessary.*

Gooseberries should be sprayed with  derris.*

Raspberries and Loganberries need mulching.

Melon beds should be made and seed sown.

Peaches and Nectarines should be disbudded.

Grape Vine flowers should be pollinated.

Onions should be planted out.

Carrot and Beet   main crops should be sown.

Celery trenches should be prepared.

Mushroom beds can be made this month.

Vegetable Marrows and Ridge Cucumbers should be sown in the greenhouse.

Peas, Beans, Spinach, Lettuce should be sown.

* Many of these sprays are now wisely banned (2013).

March 1936 tasks The Garen Year

March 1936 tasks
The Garden Year

April 1936 tasks, The Garen Year


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 155 other followers

%d bloggers like this: