Planting the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne Memorial Tree

February 25, 2015

 

Bugg_Hiskins 001

Photo courtesy of: State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

A few moving photographs have been sent to me from the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne Archive.

Bugg_Hiskins 001

Photo courtesy of: State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

These images have kindly been made available by Sally Stewart and the Library team at RBG Melbourne and remain copyright of the State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.

The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne Memorial Tree seems to go under several synonym plant names in the articles, plaque and press cuttings – Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) its now widely used name or Queensland Box Tristania conferta (synonym). This evergreen tree is native to Australia, though cultivated in the USA and elsewhere. Other common names include the one mentioned in the 11.11.46 newspaper article Brisbane Box – there is more about this Box tree on its Wikipedia entry. The memorial plaque reads:

Lophostemon confertus BRUSH BOX.

Planted in memory of members of the staff who died in Active Service.

Driver A.W. Bugg, AIF 1915.

Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins, RAAF 1944.

10th September 1946

Read more about these men at our previous blogpost Bugg’s Life and Death: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/buggs-life-and-death-royal-botanic-gardens-melbourne-staff-memorial-tree/

I was interested to hear from the Melbourne team about the Gallipoli Oaks project.

A Gallipoli Oak has been planted by Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC Retd at the Gardens  on 13 November 2014 to mark the Centenary of WW1 working with RBG Melbourne and National Trust of Australia. This was the first of 500 seedlings planted as part of the Gallipoli Oaks Project, descended from a Quercus Coccifera (Kermes Oak) sent home from Gallipoli by Australian soldier Captain William Lempriere Winter-Cooke.  It is hoped that over the centenary years 2014-18 that each primary school in Victoria will receive a Gallipoli oak seedling as a living memorial.

There are photographs, teacher resources and more information at  the project website: http://gallipolioaks.org/about/

Photo courtesy of: State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Photo courtesy of: State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Mr. Middleton’s February and March Gardening Advice 1943

February 6, 2015

middleton calender cover

February and March gardening advice from Mr Middleton from the “Sow and Reap” 1943 calendar in our World War Zoo Gardens collection at Newquay Zoo. Happy Gardening!

middleton january week 3

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

 

feb2

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Some bird-friendly advice about pest control.

Time to order your seeds now! Soon time to get sowing.

feb3

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Spinach, lettuce, broccoli, carrots – sow!

march1

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

 

march2

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

We’ll finish March with Mr Middleton’s late March advice, as he was a man who knew his onions …
You can read more about Mr. Middleton and his January 1943 advice in our previous post.
All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Bugg’s Life and Death: Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree

February 2, 2015

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree  (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

On the 2 February 1915 Driver Arthur William Bugg of the Australian Army Service Corps  set sail from his native Melbourne, Australia on HMAT Chilka heading for the Middle East and Gallipoli campaign. Three months earlier he had been working as a gardener at Melbourne Botanic Gardens.  He was never to see Melbourne again. Nine months later from the day of his embarkation,   Arthur died of illness (meningitis) in a Cairo hospital on the 2nd November 1915

Revisiting the article I wrote for BGEN called Using the garden ghosts of your wartime or historic past   there is a section on   staff memorial trees at Kew Gardens (the recently 2014 storm-felled  ‘Verdun Oak’), the Ginkgo trees at Kilmacurragh and at Melbourne. The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne page that  I originally found  is now a ‘vanished link’ on the internet (originally from 1996, http://www.msk.id.au/ memorials2/pages/30560).

With the interest in WW1 anniversary and Gallipoli centenary in 2015, this information should be back in the public domain.

The original photograph and now vanished 1996 web page for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.

The original photograph and now vanished 1996 web page for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.

There is now a brief new link page at Monuments Australia http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/conflict/multiple/display/32471-royal-botanic-gardens-staff-memorial-tree In case it vanishes again, here are the details: “The memorial tree is a Brush Box (Lophostemum confertus) and commemorates two employees of the Royal Botanic Gardens who died on active service – Arthur William Bugg (1895 – 1915) who died during World War 1 and E.J. Hiskins who died during World War 2.”

“A commemorative plaque is mounted on the trunk of the tree. The tree was planted by Ernest Henry Bugg (1881-1971) on 10 September 1946. Ernest Henry Bugg was the elder brother of Arthur William Bugg and also served in the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) during World War 1.”

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree plaque (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree plaque (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

Lophostemon confertus BRUSH BOX. Planted in memory of members of the staff who died in Active Service.

Driver A.W. Bugg, AIF 1915.

Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins, RAAF 1944.

10th September 1946

 

Melbourne Botanic Garden’s WW1 casualty
Arthur William Bugg was born in the Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda on 28 January 1895 and was the son of Henry isaac Bugg and Drusilla Martha Sophie Bugg (nee Carroll). He went to St Kilda State School in Melbourne.

Arthur served as a Driver (service no 5207) in 12th Company, Australian Army Service Corps as part of the 13th Light Horse Brigade Train 3.  The 3rd Light Horse Brigade  Train were primarily recruited around the Melbourne area and trained at Broadmeadows.

Arthur William Bugg's picture.Source: from The WW1 Pictorial Roll of Honour, www.vic.ww1anzac.com/bu.html

Arthur William Bugg’s picture.Source: from The WW1 Pictorial Roll of Honour, http://www.vic.ww1anzac.com/bu.html

A photograph of him exists amnogst thousands of Australian casulaties at http://vic.ww1anzac.com/bu.html

Bugg enlisted on 29 December 1914, aged 19. He was speedily embarked as he had already been enlisted before the war as a Territorial in the 28th Australian Army Service Corps.

After Arthur embarked on HMAT A51 Chilka on 2nd February 1915, he disembarked in Egypt and underwent further training at Mena Camp. It seems likely that he and his Company  saw service in Gallipoli.The HMAT A51 Chilka, owned by the British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd, London, was leased by the Commonwealth on war service until 4 August 1915.

Arthur  died at Heliopolis, Egypt on 2nd November 1915 aged 20 as a result of meningitis.

He is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt and is also remembered on the headstone of his maternal grandparents, William and Ellen Currell, in St. Kilda Cemetery, Melbourne. He is also remembered on panel Number 181 of the Australian National War Memorial.

Like 62,000 other lost Australians from WW1, Arthur Bugg’s name will be individually projected for 30 seconds onto the exterior wall of the  of the Australian War Memorial thirty times throughout 2015 to 2018 – see their website for details – beginning on Thursday 19 February 2015, 12.24 a.m.

The CWGC website lists him as “Son of Henry Bugg, of 13, Smith St., St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia.” Although there appears to be no cross by request, there is the simple inscription “Peace” at the base of his headstone at the request of his father listed in CWGC Headstone schedules.

Headstone inscription chosen by his father for A.W. Bugg (Source: CWGC )

Headstone inscription chosen by his father for A.W. Bugg (Source: CWGC )

There is an interesting Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour Circular of biographical details supplied by his parents.He was his father proudly recalls him as a boy as “One of the first Baden Powell Scouts formed in St. Kilda [Melbourne]”

A.W. Bugg's personal details supplied to the Australian war Memorial by his father (Source: AWM 131)

A.W. Bugg’s personal details supplied to the Australian war Memorial by his father (Source: AWM 131)

More can be read about Bugg’s life on the AIF website, which mentions us occupation as a “gardener” at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens: www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=38240. There is more at RSL Virtual War Memorial www.rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/people/339423

Cairo War Memorial Cemetery (image CWGC website)

Cairo War Memorial Cemetery (image CWGC website)

Bugg’s headstone can be seen on the War Grave Photographic Project website.

Apparently this Staff Memorial Tree was mentioned in an article published in the Australian Herald-Sun newspaper on 23rd March 1992 in conjunction with the Botanic Gardens Revitalisation Appeal. The article, entitled “Family Tree for Buggs” included a photograph of Ernest Bugg planting the tree in 1946 and a photograph of some of his descendents who attended a family reunion at the memorial tree in 1992. Hopefully I or somebody can track these 1992 photos down via the Herald-Sun newspaper website.

Bugg_Hiskins 001

Hiskin’s father and Bugg’s brother are pictured with relatives. Copyright: State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.

 

Photographs of the planting and of the families can be seen in cuttings and photographs from scrapbooks in the State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne/Archive:   https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/54606/

There is also information about the Gallipoli Oaks project.

Melbourne Botanic Garden’s WW2 Casualty 

The original memorial tree website said that “information regarding E.J. Hiskins would be welcomed“.

His CWGC records list him as Flight Sergeant Ernest Joseph Hiskins, Royal Australian Air Force, 410058, who died in action in an air crash on the 15th April 1944. He is remembered on Panel 9 of the Northern Territory Memorial, alongside his pilot H.S. Ashbolt. He is listed as the son of Ernest Barton Hiskins and Alice Mary Hiskins, of Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.

Northern Territory Memorial, Australia  (Image CWGC website)

Northern Territory Memorial, Australia (Image CWGC website)

The Northern Territory Memorial stands in Adelaide River War Cemetery and is one of several memorials erected to commemorate 289 men of the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Merchant Navy who have no known grave and lost their lives in operations in the Timor and Northern Australian regions and in waters adjacent to Australia north of Latitude 20 South. Again I will look for some additional information on his service and the circumstances of his death.

Hiskens is also remembered on Panel 102 of the Australian National War Memorial in Canberra.

So far I have found newspaper listings of his being “previously posted missing now  presumed dead” in the latest RAAF casaulty list published in Australian newspapers on 29 September 1944, www.nla.gov.au/nla.news-article.11363210

A year earlier in the Argus, Melbourne Victoria of 27 November 1943, under Family Notices is the happier news of his marriage or engagement to Peggy, only child of Mr and Mrs M.J. Stanton, 10 Ryan Street, Coburg to Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins, RAAF, second son of Pte. And Mrs Hiskins  (E.B) 53 Lydia Street, Brunswick.  www.nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11800090.

On most of his records his mother Alice is is next of kin and his marriage is not mentioned but this marriage or engagement coincided with a period of special leave in his records.

The circumstances of his death  are sketched out in the research on his crashed plane a Beaufighter of 31 Squadron on the ADF Serials website www.adf-serials.com.au/2a19.htm

His Beaufighter plane a Mk. X Beaufighter had the RAAF serial  number A19-178, and the RAF serial number LZ201. There are several codes next to its history 30/11/44 2AD, 19/01/44 5AD, 11/03/44 3 AD then 16/03/44 31 Squadron.

There is much about 31 Squadron on the Australian War memorial website, including photographs. It mentions that No. 31 Squadron, based at Coomalie Creek (near Darwin, Australia), flew ground attack sorties against the Japanese in Timor and the Netherlands East Indies, as well as anti-shipping patrols and convoy protection missions.

On 15 April 1944, there is an entry:

“Damaged by Japanese Anti Aircraft Fire which knocked out starboard engine. After flying for 20 minutes on port engine, aircraft lost height and crashed into the Timor Sea.”

The crew Pilot Flight Sergeant H.S.Ashbolt, and Navigator Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins were in action as part of formation of 31 Squadron Beaufighters were attacking Japanese positions at Soe village in Timor. According to his ADF Gallery / RAAF file, his Beaufighter developed a starboard engine oil leak from Japanese anti aircraft fire:

“the aircraft was seen to lose speed and height and strike the water 60 nautical miles off the South Coast of Timor. The only wreckage was part of a fin, wing, dinghy and three fuel tanks. There was no sign of the crew.”

Full RAAF records and photos  for his pilot Harry Ashbolt  and Ernest Hiskins can be found on http://www.adf-gallery.co.au

Ernest’s ‘Circular’ record lists him as a “Botanist” whilst his air force records list him as a graduate of a Crown Horticulture Scholarship at Burnley Horticulture School (still open today) in 1937-39 and working at Lands Department (State) Treasury Gardens Melbourne.

Sadly Ernest’s brother Wireless Officer K.J. Hiskens was also killed flying in Wellington bombers with 70 Squadron RAF on 26 June 1944. He  is buried in Budapest Cemetery.

AWM roll of honour for E J Hiskens RAAF (Source: AWM)

AWM roll of honour for E J Hiskens RAAF (Source: AWM)

Other Memorial Trees

Where the Kew Verdun Oak stood for almost a century ... RIP 2014

Where the Kew Verdun Oak stood for almost a century … RIP 2014

Kew’s Verdun Oak was damaged by a storm in 1914 on the eve of the WW1 Centenary.

Kilmacurragh’s memorial trees are Ginkgo biloba grouped still 100 years on  in their original nursery beds, a story told on the Kilmacurragh Gardens website. 

The Kilmacurragh Ginkgo biloba trees still in their nursery beds planted close, 100 years on a memorial to their vanished staff of 1914. Picture: Kilmacurragh website

The Kilmacurragh Ginkgo biloba trees still in their nursery beds planted close, 100 years on a memorial to their vanished staff of 1914. Picture: Kilmacurragh website

Remembering zookeeper and gardener Far East POWs 70 years on 2015

January 23, 2015

January 24th 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the death in 1965 of Winston Churchill, wartime prime minister and coiner of many memorable phrases including, most notably for our wartime gardens project, “War is the normal occupation of man. War – and gardening” (speaking to Siegfried Sassoon in 1918).

January 25th 2015 and 7th February 2015 are the less well-marked 70th anniversaries of several zoo and botanic garden casualties who died as FEPOWs (Far East Prisoners of War) or in the vicious fighting of what was called the ‘forgotten war’ in the jungles and oceans of the Far East. For many, the Burma Star was hard won.

G H Spare from the Kew Guild Journal obituary c. 1945/6

G H Spare from the Kew Guild Journal obituary c. 1945/6

Remembering Albert Henry Wells, London Zoo keeper killed in action, Burma, 25 January 1945

Remembering Gordon Henry Spare, Old Kewite / former Kew Gardens staff who died as a Far East POW (FEPOW), Borneo, 7 February 1945

Amongst the family medals I saw from childhood and that I now look after is a Burma Star belonging to my maternal grandfather, who died before I was born. A naval holder of the Burma Star for his service on aircraft carriers in the Far East, he survived several Kamikaze attacks. We still have some of the dramatic photographs in our family album.

My grandfather Len Ansell's Burma Star for naval service, with two portraits and his photos of life on board deck of an RN aircraft carrier from kamikaze attacks and seaplane prangs to deck hockey c. 1944/45 Source Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens Collection.

My grandfather Len’s  Burma Star for naval service, with two portraits and his photos of life on board deck of an RN aircraft carrier from kamikaze attacks and seaplane prangs to deck hockey c. 1944/45 Source Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens Collection.

So one day about fifteen years ago, I knew I would meet some amazing people with tales to tell when I was told that the Burma Star Association were visiting Newquay Zoo (home of the World War Zoo Gardens project) during a holiday gathering. I met them all by accident whilst I was clambering around our indoor rainforest in the Tropical House at Newquay Zoo, doing a feeding talk and rainforest chat.

Part of our Tropical House at Newquay Zoo.

Part of our Tropical House at Newquay Zoo.

As they entered the heat and humidity of our Tropical House, I heard a different reaction to the usual “what’s that smell?” White haired old men remarked amongst themselves and to their wives that the smell “took them back a bit”. They were all transported back in memory to the tropics by that wet damp jungle smell.

As I scattered mealworms to attract the birds, pointed out various species of plants or animals then introduced some snakes and insects, I was surprised to be asked by one of them “if I knew what all the animals tasted like?”

The Burma Star embroidered: Embroidered hassock cushions, Zennor Parish Church Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris /WWZG

The Burma Star embroidered: Embroidered hassock cushions, Zennor Parish Church Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris /WWZG

I should have realised why he asked  when I saw the Burma Star proudly embroidered on some of their blazers and the regimental ties. These tough old men soon told me how they survived as soldiers or prisoners in the jungle, eating whatever they could catch or collect. For some of the prisoners amongst them, it literally saved their lives.

I quickly gave up talking and allowed our zoo visitors to listen to their jungle survival stories. From what I remember, to these hungry men, everything from snakes to insect grubs tasted “like chicken!” Having eaten a few unappetising invertebrates in the past, and those mostly dipped in chocolate, it only proves that hunger is the best sauce to unusual food!

Burma Star Association window, Zennor Parish Church, Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Burma Star Association window, Zennor Parish Church, Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

We do many rainforest talks for schools and visitors in our evocative and atmospheric Tropical House at Newquay Zoo, home to many interesting jungle animals including rare birds like the critically endangered Blue Crowned Laughing Thrush.

I  often think of those Burma Star veterans (who would now all be in their nineties, if still alive) and tell their “bushtucker” story whilst working or talking to people in the Tropical House.

Part of our Tropical House at Newquay Zoo.

Part of our Tropical House at Newquay Zoo.

 

I thought of them recently when passing the Portscatho Burma Star memorial overlooking the harbour in Portscatho in Cornwall. I was puzzled why of all places it was there, but recently found more on the BBC archive about the unveiling of this here in 1998.  This memorial is especially dedicated for the missing who have no known grave, people like G.H. Spare of Kew or Henry Peris Davies of ZSL London Zoo. It is “dedicated to the memory of 26,380 men who were killed in Burma 1941-45 and who have no known grave, thus being denied the customary rights accorded to their comrades in death.

I wonder if the dedication of this memorial was the reason for the Burma Star Association gathering and social visit to Newquay Zoo, where I memorably met Burma Star veterans? This would have been around 1998.

I especially think of these men whenever I look at the Burma Star window in the beautifully rugged coastal church at Zennor in Cornwall.

I have inscribed the name of my Grandfather in the Burma Star memorial book at Zennor, along with the names of some of the casualties amongst London Zoo and Kew Gardens staff who died on active service in the Far East.

Burma Star memorial book, Zennor Parish Church, Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Burma Star memorial book and lectern, Zennor Parish Church, Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Close up of the Burma Star memorial inscription, Portscatho, Cornwall  Image: Mark Norris

Close up of the Burma Star memorial inscription,
Portscatho, Cornwall
Image: Mark Norris

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Dedication on the Burma Star Memorial Portscatho Cornwall, opened by Field Marshall Slim.  Image: Mark Norris.

Dedication on the Burma Star Memorial Portscatho Cornwall, unveiled by Viscount Slim, 1998  . Image: Mark Norris.

I  also thought of these men when displaying books and a silk jungle escape map in a display about another old man in the jungles of Far East Asia, plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward.

Frank Kingdon Ward in WW2 from a trail board from a past Newquay Zoo plant hunters trail. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Frank Kingdon Ward in WW2 from a trail board from a past Newquay Zoo plant hunters trail. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

If any prisoner had escaped or aircrew crashed down in these jungles, silk escape maps like these would have been a life saver. After the war, explorers like Frank Kingdon-Ward helped the US government find their missing aeroplanes (and crew) in these dense jungles and mountains. In this connection, see our postscript about missing aircrew on the Melbourne Botanic Gardens staff memorial tree: Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins, RAAF 1944.

The lower part of Borneo on a secret WW2 silk escape map in the World War Zoo Gardens collection. Labuan Island POW camp where G.H. Spare died is off the map,  further up the coast on the left-hand side (now in modern Malaysia).

The lower part of Borneo on a secret WW2 silk escape map in the World War Zoo Gardens collection. Labuan Island POW camp, Sabah, Borneo  where G.H. Spare died is off the map, further up the coast on the left-hand side (now off the coast of modern Malaysia).

From the Kew Gardens staff war memorial:

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.
According to CWGC records Spare is remembered on column 396 of the Singapore or Kranji Memorial, as he has no known grave. He was the 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)

G.H. Spare of Kew and Henry Peris Davies of ZSL London Zoo are remembered on the Singapore Memorial (image copyright CWGC website http://www.cwgc.org)

John Charles Nauen, 10 September 1943
J.C.Nauen was Assistant Curator, Botanic Gardens Singapore from 1935. Nauen served with G.H. Spare as a Serjeant 5387, volunteer in the 3rd Battalion, (Penang and Province Wellesley Volunteer Corps) 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 aged 40 working on the Burma-Siam railway in September / October 1943 of blood poisoning. He is buried in Thanbyuzayat CWGC Cemetery in Burma, alongside 1000s of fellow POW victims from the Burma-Siam railway. He was the son of John Jacob and Clara Nauen of Coventry.

Some of Nauen’s plant collecting herbarium specimens survive at Kew, whilst he has an interesting obituary in the Kew Guild Journal 1946 (alongside G.H. Spare) and The Garden’s Bulletin Singapore September 1947 (XI, part 4, p.266).

Percy Adams, ZSL Whipsnade keeper who died as a Japanese POW is buried here at THANBYUZAYAT WAR CEMETERY, Image: www.cwgc.org

John Charles Nauen of Kew and Percy Murray Adams, ZSL Whipsnade keeper who  both died as Japanese POWs are buried here at THANBYUZAYAT WAR CEMETERY. Image: http://www.cwgc.org

Many Botanic gardens and Herbariums were looted by invading forces, Singapore Botanic Gardens only surviving through the efforts of botanist Edred Corner.

More about Kew Gardens staff in WW2 can be found on this blog post. https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-world-war-two/

An interesting Kew Gardens archives blog post on the vital nutritionist role of tropical botanists in keeping fellow POWs alive in internment camps has been recently written by James Wearn and Claire Frankland.

Ness Botanic Gardens FEPOW Bamboo Garden launch with Elizabeth and Zoe,  pupils from Pensby High School and Merle Hesp, widow of a FEPOW Harry Hesp, 2011.  Image source: Captive Memories website.

Ness Botanic Gardens FEPOW Bamboo Garden launch with Elizabeth and Zoe, pupils from Pensby High School and Merle Hesp, widow of a FEPOW Harry Hesp, 2011.
Image source: Captive Memories website.

A Far East Prisoner of War memorial garden was created in 2011 at Ness Botanic Gardens in Liverpool, linked to http://captive memories.org.uk There is more about this garden at the Waymarking website FEPOW garden entry

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

Wells, Adams, Davies: three of the five fallen ZSL staff from the Second World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010 (plaque since replaced with a more legible one, 2014)

London Zoo staff names killed in the Far East 

1. Henry Peris Davies (Lieutenant RA) ZSL Clerk: Killed in action Far East 21.12.1941

Lieutenant Davies 164971, Royal Artillery, 5th Field Regt, died aged 27. His name is listed on the Singapore memorial, like that of Gordon Henry Spare of Kew

According to his ZSL staff record card, Peris was born on 29th March 1913, he joined London Zoo as an accounts clerk on 2 September 1935. Four years later, he was called up as a Territorial on the 1st or 2nd September 1939.

Taukkyan Cemetery, Burma.  Image Source: CWGC

Taukkyan Cemetery, Burma.
Image Source: CWGC

2. Albert Henry Wells (Gunner RA) ZSL Keeper: Killed in action, Burma 25.01.1945

Gunner Wells 1755068, Royal Artillery, 70 H.A.A Regiment is buried in an individual grave in Taukkyan Cemtery, Burma, a concentration of thousands of battlefield graves from the Burma campaign. He was aged 36, the son of Henry and Mary Wells and husband of Doris Hilda Wells, Hendon, Middlesex.

According to his ZSL staff card, Albert Henry Wells was born on the 15 or 25 April, 1908. He was first employed at London Zoo in January 1924 as a Helper, the most junior keeper rank. He had worked his way up to 3rd Class Keeper  by 1937.

On January 11 1941 he was called up for military service and his staff card reports him as killed in action in Burma January 25 1945.

The rest of his staff card involves details of the pension being paid by ZSL London Zoo to his wife Mrs. Wells including additional amounts for each of his three children until they reached 16 in the 1950s.

 

3. Percy Murray Adams (Gunner RA) ZSL Whipsnade Keeper: Died in Japan POW 28.07.1943 aged 26. Gunner 922398, Royal Artillery, 148 (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) Field Regt.

According to his ZSL staff card, he was born on 15 July 1917 and joined ZSL Whipsnade on 24 May 1932. Like Henry Peris Davies at London Zoo, he was called up as a Territorial on September 3rd 1939. Adams was unmarried. In March 1942, his staff record card reports him as “Reported as Missing at Singapore. In 1945 reported died of dysentery in Japanese POW camp somewhere in 1943.”

Only  a few rows away from  Kew’s J.C.Nauen, Adams is also buried in Thanbyuzayat CWGC Cemetery in Burma.

Percy Murray Adams ZSL Whipsnade Keeper

Percy Murray Adams, ZSL Whipsnade Keeper, Animal and Zoo Magazine c. 1937/8

These three men are all remembered on the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial WW2 plaque. I also inscribed their names  in the Burma Star Association memorial book in Zennor Church on my last visit.

I will be updating the entries on ZSL London Zoo WW2 staff casualties later in 2015.

The grim story of what happened to Japanese zoo staff, vets and animals is well told in Mayumi Itoh’s recent Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy.

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

Further reading about POW gardening can be found in Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardening book and extension website

You can read more about the Burma Star and its assocaition on this website: http://www.burmastar.org.uk/epitaph.htm 

It’s probably appropriate to end with the Kohima prayer or Burma Star epitaph, which I didn’t realise came from WW1 but was used on the Kohima Memorial to the dead of the Burma Campaign in WW2. The words are attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 -1958), an English Classicist who had put them together among a collection of 12 epitaphs for World War One in 1916:

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

Rest in peace, Gunner Wells and  Gunner Adams and the many others who never returned.

 

Melbourne Botanic Gardens Australia staff memorial tree.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens Australia staff memorial tree.

Postscript
Later this year I will blogpost about the staff memorial tree at Melbourne Botanic Gardens which remembers a Gallipoli / Middle East campaign casualty and an airman from the Far East Campaign in WW2.

Planted in memory of members of the staff who died in Active Service.

Driver A.W. Bugg, AIF 1915.

Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins, RAAF 1944.

10th September 1946

The original memorial tree website said that “information regarding E.J. Hiskins would be welcomed“. His CWGC records list him as Flight Sergeant Ernest Joseph Hiskins, Royal Australian Air Force, 410058, who died on the 15 April 1944.

He is remembered on Panel 9 of the Northern Territory Memorial. He is listed as the son of Ernest Barton Hiskins and Alice Mary Hiskins, of Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.

Northern Territory Memorial, Australia  (Image CWGC website)

Northern Territory Memorial, Australia (Image CWGC website)

The Northern Territory Memorial stands in Adelaide River War Cemetery and is one of several memorials erected to commemorate 289 men of the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Merchant Navy who have no known grave and lost their lives in operations in the Timor and Northern Australian regions and in waters adjacent to Australia north of Latitude 20 South.

More to follow!

Blog post by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

 

 

 

Mr. Middleton’s January Gardening Advice 1943

January 16, 2015

Mr Middleton’s gardening calender “Sow and Reap” 1943 (images from my collection).

middleton calender cover
Middleton Jan week 1

middleton jan week 2
The pencil marks on the dates I think refer  to the original owner’s chicken breeding or egg production, judging by other strange pencil notes inside this calender.
middleton january week 3

This calender is put together from a mix of Mr. Middleton’s gardening advice from other sources and publications, recycled by an obviously busy Mr. Middleton. We will post the relevant section month by month throughout 2015, another useful guide for our wartime allotment project.

Wartime rationing 75 years on and Mr Middleton’s wartime gardening advice

2015 marks the 75th anniversary of rationing being introduced on 8th January 1940 and the 70th anniversary of Mr Middleton’s death on 19th September 1945.

How time flies! We marked this rationing date on the 70th anniversary in 2010, several years into the World War Zoo Gardens project, alongside the Imperial War Museum – see the legacy site for http://food.iwm.org.uk  2010 Ministry of Food Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, marking  70 years since rationing was introduced.

A Titchmarsh before his time ... C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

A Titchmarsh before his time … C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

2015 is also sadly the 70th anniversary of the death of Cecil Henry Middleton (b. 22 February 1886) on 18 September 1945.

On the Ministry of Food IWM site, there is also some great December 1945 gardening advice pages from this wartime celebrity gardener Mr. Middleton. The whole 1945 leaflet set has been reprinted recently as a book edited by Twigs Way (Sabrestorm Press, 2009). We will feature more about Mr. Middleton throughout 2015. As well as Pathe Newsreel footage of Mr. Middleton, there is an interesting Mr Middleton blog.

It’s a quiet time in the World War Zoo Garden allotment at Newquay Zoo, a time to plan rather than to plant and sow. “Hasten slowly”,  my favourite gardening advice from Mr. Middleton.
Happy gardening! Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

The ‘First Blitz’ on London from an unpublished WW1 diary

January 11, 2015

Cropped detail of a private back garden photograph of an airship or possible Zeppelin, location and date unknown. (Image source: copyright World War Zoo Gardens collection)

Cropped detail of a private back garden photograph of a British Zero airship , location and date c. 1917 /unknown. (Image source: copyright World War Zoo Gardens collection)

July 1917 entry, Edith Spencer's diary. Source: Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens collection

July 1917 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens collection

Air Raid Precautions were not just part of wartime life at London Zoo in WW2 and the 1940s. Amongst one of the  prescient safety actions at London Zoo in World War 1 was to build reinforced enclosure fronts for some of the dangerous animals such as reptiles, to protect the animals and staff from flying glass and the public from escaped animals.

The shape of things to come? A private back garden photograph of an airship or possible Zeppelin, location and date unknown. (Image source: copyright World War Zoo Gardens collection)

The shape of things to come? A private back garden photograph of a British airship , location and date unknown c. 1917. (Image source: copyright World War Zoo Gardens collection)

Researching what we can learn from how wartime zoos survived for the World War Zoo Gardens project, it is curious to see how people prepared for this new threat, beginning with the first aeroplane raids on Dover around Christmas 1914 mentioned in our previous December 2014 blogpost The first Zeppelin raid on Britain took place on 19 January 1915. London was reached and bombed at night by Zeppelins on 31 May 1915.

These were noticeable responses to a new threat from the skies,  German zeppelin airships and later, Gotha and Giant bombers. London Zoo and Regent’s Park were in the flight path of several raids but thankfully spared air raid damage in WW1, although Regent’s Park was bombed on several occasions. The London Zoo was spattered with spent shrapnel from the “Archies” (Anti-aircraft guns) on Primrose Hill  and prepared against possible animal escape with firearms trained staff of “a special emergency staff of picked men was always on call. Heavy shutters were fitted to the glass fronts of the poisonous snakes’ cages” (Source: The Zoo Story, L.R.Brightwell, 1952). A long-term outcome of the WW1 air raid preparation was the provision of a First Aid post for visitors continuing after the war (Source: The Zoo, J. Barrington-Johnson, 2005).

In some of the London Zoo histories such as by L.R.Brightwell, the “barking of the Archies” (anti-aircraft guns) on Primrose Hill nearby was an interesting note. London was slow at first to realise and respond to the threat. In Ian Castle’s books on these first London air raids in the Osprey History series, the maps show zeppelin and bomber routes heading over Regent’s Park with one or two bombs in the Park. By day and by night, a Zeppelin or large bomber aircraft must have been a strange and unnerving sight for visitors, staff and zoo animals.

Animals here at Newquay Zoo which have aerial predators such as meerkats, monkeys and lemurs quite frequently respond to aerial objects. Most notably in the past skies above Newquay  we have seen ranging from the Eclipse in 1999, candle party balloons, hot air balloons, party fire balloons, hang gliders, air ambulance helicopters, the Red Arrows, the Battle of Britain flight to the more natural occasional Sparrowhawk or Buzzard. Being near a former RAF base and Newquay Airport, although supposedly a no-fly zone for aircraft, the animals do see  some unusual aerial activity over the zoo.

Having been around on watch at Newquay Zoo on Firework Night in the past with nervous new arrivals, I wonder what the London Zoo animals would have made of Zeppelins, anti-aircraft guns or searchlights. Even the odd daytime firework or past lifeboat maroon sounded for emergency or Armistice Sunday in Newquay elicited a very noisy or nervous reaction from many animals from peacocks, macaws,  monkeys  and lemurs.

Cropped detail of a private back garden photograph of an airship or possible Zeppelin, location and date unknown. (Image source: copyright World War Zoo Gardens collection)

Cropped detail of a private back garden photograph of a British airship , location and date unknown c. 1917. (Image source: copyright World War Zoo Gardens collection)

There is lots of fantastic detail on Ian Castle’s excellent website on WW1 air raids. Ian is the author of two Osprey books London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace and London 1917-1918: The Bomber Blitz amongst several other airship related books.

Ian Castle identified the photo in January 2015  as “a British SSZ (Submarine Scout Zero) airship.” As Ian goes on to explain ” We had nothing to compare with the Zeppelins, but built numbers of small non-rigid airships to patrol the maritime approaches to Britain, looking for German U-boats trying to threaten the all-important convoys. The Zero was 143ft 5ins long, compared with a Zeppelin which measured over 600 feet. The first Zeros flew in the summer of 1917 and a total of 77 were built, right up to the end of the war.”

Airships like these patrolled the coast looking for U-Boats, which threatened Merchant shipping, fishing boats and Royal Navy vessels supplying and supporting Britain’s war effort. By 1917 bad harvests and U-Boats threatened Britain’s civilian food supply, leading to rationing and an early form of ‘Dig for Victory’, as mentioned elsewhere on our blog. The remains of heavy concrete mooring blocks from British  airship sheds can be seen on the Lizard in Cornwall,  an hour away from Newquay Zoo where our wartime garden project is based. There is more about these in  Ian Castle’s book  or  Pete London’s books about Cornwall in The Great War (Truran, 2014) and  U-boat Hunters: Cornwall’s Air War, 1916-19 (Truran, 1999).                             

A photograph from Ian Castle's collection of SSZ 37, the type of Zero airship shown in our postcard photograph. Source: Ian Castle

A photograph from Ian Castle’s collection of SSZ 37, the type of Zero airship shown in our postcard photograph.
Source: Ian Castle

The ZSL Archive artefact of the month recently was the 1914 WW1 ZSL report. Looking slowly day by day through the daily occurrence books of London Zoo from August 1914 in the amazing  ZSL library and archive recently, I didn’t reach 1917 or 1918, something to do on my next visit. They would certainly have been amongst the talk of many of the staff who lived in the Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park  and  Camden area. Edith Spencer’s Diaries – 1917  A glimpse of everyday life amongst the London  air raids can be found in the unpublished civilian diaries of Edith Spencer (born 1889, St. Helen’s, Lancs). These form part of my wartime diary collection for the World War Zoo Gardens project.

Please credit Mark Norris / World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo if you reproduce any sections of Edith Spencer’s diaries or contact us via this blog site comments.

When the diaries recently went on show in my village as part of a WW1 centenary display, several elderly ladies spoke vividly of their mother’s stories of hiding from the Zeppelins in London.

March 1917 entry, Edith Spencer's diary. Source: Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens collection

March 1917 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens collection

With a brother away at the Western Front, Edith was the unmarried youngest daughter of  William W. Spencer, a deceased Wesleyan Methodist Minister. Several of her brothers became Methodist ministers and missionaries. It seems from Edith’s diaries that paid work was probably new, as she had no paid career listed in the 1911 census. Her mother Isabella (nee Reid) had died the year before on the Isle of Wight, where there was a strong family connection. This meant Edith was now  working in London as a clerk, working at the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society offices at 24 Bishopsgate in London. This building has now been replaced by the Pinnacle skyscraper.

Her employment there may have been part of freeing up men for the war effort. There is more about this organisation on the website Wesleyan Methodism archives . Edith’s unpublished diaries for 1917 to 1920 have some surprisingly understated entries (a lot of the entries are work related). Maybe the raids were becoming a commonplace feature of London life by then. Date evidence suggests that these are aeroplane raids, rather than the last of the Zeppelin attacks.

As Ian Castle suggested after reading her diary extracts, Edith Spencer’s low key reaction was surprising but not unusual:

“I am always fascinated when you read diaries such us this as they are so ‘relaxed’. These early bombing raids on London and other cities were so new – like something from science fiction to the average civilian, yet their diary entries are so ‘matter of fact’!”

Friday 19 January 1917: terrific explosion at Silvertown.

This explosion at a muitions factory at first was thought to be the result of air raids and was widely reported at the time. Her next entry seems to refer possibly to the Geological or  Geographical Society offices as a lecture venue. She also goes to many other talks of an evening, on art and other things, but mostly faith related.

Friday 9 February 1917: Lecture on ‘Aircraft’ at B.G.S.

Eighteen Gotha  large bombers attacked London on 13 June in broad daylight at the height of 12,000 feet, the first daylight raid on London. Despite the efforts of 90 British home defence aircraft scrambled to intercept them, 100 bombs were dropped on London by the 14 aircraft that got through.  Several notable buildings were hit ranging from the Royal Hospital Chelsea  and Poplar County Council School where 18 children were killed and others injured. 162 people were killed and 432 injured in this first daylight raid by aeroplanes on London. No Gotha was brought down and the air  defences of London were found wanting. Source for the additional details of these raids throughout this blogpost are the books First Blitz by Neil Hanson (Corgi Books) and London 1917-18 The Bomber Blitz by Ian Castle (Osprey), as well as his excellent website. Edith Spencer records this raid which saw bombs fall all around her place of work  in Bishopsgate:

Weds 13 June 1917: 10.30 PM [Prayer Meeting]  11.30 Air Raid, piece of bomb on roof. Thurs 14 June 1917: Warning of raid, 3 – 4 in basement.

March 1917 entry, Edith Spencer's diary. Source: Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens collection

March 1917 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens collection

The 14 June entry appears only to have been a warning, rather than a raid. The next daylight raid came on 7 July 1917.

July 1917 entry, Edith Spencer's diary. Source: Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens collection

July 1917 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens collection

Saturday 7 July 1917: Big German air raid on London . Stayed in Committee Room. Leadenhall Street hit badly …

The ” Archies” or AA guns  were readier this time but more of the 24 German Gothas were successfully engaged by Sopwith Pups and other planes of No. 37 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. 21 Gothas reached London around 10.30 a.m.  and again many of the 72  bombs on the City  hit the area near Edith Spencer in Bishopsgate. 54 were killed and 190 were injured. Leadenhall Street, Fenchurch Street and Billingsagte Fish Market were hit in this raid, according to Ian Castle, Leadenhall being mentioned by Edith Spencer.

Tuesday 17 July 1917: Emergency Committee met. Tuesday 21 August 1917: Mr. Goudie called meeting re. shelter in Air Raids, decided to go to our own strong room.

August’s poor wet and windy weather deferred many other raids and some of these August daylight raids only reached the coast.

August 1917 entry, Edith Spencer's diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

August 1917 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

Wednesday 22 August 1917: Rumour of Air Raid, only reached Margate. Spent an hour in the Strong Room.

With more well organised air defence by the RFC, the German Gotha raids switched to night raids, as recorded by Edith Spencer:

Monday 3 September 1917: Air raids at night – didn’t hear anything.

16 were killed and 56 were injured by around 50 bombs from the 5 Gothas that made it through. One reason that she might not “hear anything” much is that on many night she was at home in Watford, though sometimes stayed up in London. Edith’s home address was the now vanished (1869 – 1966) Wesleyan Manse, 1 Derby Road, Watford, Herts. The shrapnel from this first night-time bombing raid can still be seen on Sphinx and Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment today.

There were other Gotha raids on London 24 and 29 September 1917, more in October and a planned firestorm of incendiaries on London in December 1917 but these have no record in Edith’s diary; these sections are mostly blank of any entry. 1918 entries Edith Spencer’s unpublished diary These most probably relate to air raids by Giant and Gotha aeroplane bombers as the last Zeppelin raids on London were on 19/20 October 1917. Britain’s air defences were becoming too organised for the lumbering Zeppelins; “the day of the airship is past for attacks on London” the Kaiser declared after the 23/24th May 1917 raids (Castle, London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace, p.85 ). Only four Zeppelin raids were mounted in 1918 against Britain on the North and Midlands ending on 5 August 1918; several Zeppelins were also destroyed by fire at their home base of Ahlhorn on 5 January 1918. From now on, aeroplanes were the emerging new threat.

Monday 28 January 1918: Raid, lights down 8.10 onwards. Tuesday 29 January 1918: Raid, warning 10pm.

January 1918 entry, Edith Spencer's diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

January 1918 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

The 28th January 1918 raid saw 65 killed and 159 injured from 44 bombs, including 38 killed and 45  men, women and children injured in the basement shelter of Odham’s printing works at Longacre in London. This was the sort of basement shelter that Edith Spencer and work colleagues used at Bishopsgate. A night time raid warning maroon was sounded for the first time shortly after 8pm. Sadly panic from these unfamiliar explosions led to a crush in Shoreditch heading towards  one air raid shelter at Bishopsagte Goods Yard, leaving 14 killed and 12 injured. Thankfully only 3 of the 13 Gothas and 1 of the 2 new Giant bombers made it as far as London. Several attacked coastal targets and 5 were lost to landing accidents or one shot down over Essex.

It is interesting that she refers to  ‘lights down’ suggesting a form of blackout in practice, either routinely or in response to air raid warning. This precedes the chaos of life in the blackout in WW2 As well as brothers who were Methodist ministers, Edith had family fighting in the war.

Sunday 10 February 1918: letter from Frank reporting next move to France on 26th [February]

F.W. Spencer her younger brother (born in 1891 at St Helen’s, Lancs.) survived his service with the 58th Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery as a Lieutenant  and later as Acting Captain, Royal Field Artillery which he joined on 11 March 1916. Raids on London continued as weather permitted  into 1918:

16 February 1918 entry, Edith Spencer's diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

16 February 1918 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

Saturday 16 February 1918: Raid warning 10.5 to 12.5 only, very distant firing heard. [this .5 might be 50 minutes or half past].

feb 18 2

17 and 18 February 1918 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

Sunday 17 February: Raid Monday 18 February: Holly and  I cleaned silver. Raid, firing nearer. Hilda, Holly and I made row in kitchen.

The sound of the anti aircraft guns is a vivid note in her record of this raid. This was a raid by only two German ‘Giants’ that made it to London where Woolwich was hit and the Royal Hospital Chelsea, killing around 7 people. On the next day 17th  London was hit again, by the R.25 a Giant, the only available German plane, but 20 were killed and 22 injured including servicemen home on leave and several in a shelter at St. Pancras station.

7 March 1918: Air Raid at 11.20. In bed.

It looks like Edith was often back in Watford each night, as she missed injury in the raid by 3 Giants which left 23 killed, 39 injured in the St. John’s Wood and Clapham Common area. A single 1000 kilogram bomb at Maida Vale was responsible for 12 of those killed and 33 injured. One of those killed was Lena Ford who wrote the words for Ivor Novello’s wartime hit song “Keep the Home Fires Burning”.

Whit Sunday Bank Holiday May 19 1918   Air Raid 11.30 to 1.15

This was the largest and last air raid of the war on London, according to Castle. It was a Bank Holiday weekend of notably fine weather. Edith Spencer on the Monday had a “beautiful walk round Plum Lane … Weather glorious, the fields all gold and green …” 18 Gothas and 1 Giant bomber reached London for the Whitsun raid of 1918, thankfully under half those that set out. 48 were killed, 172 were injured by the raid. The evening raid was the first countered by the newly amalgamated Royal Air Force which was created from the RFC and Royal Naval Air Service units on 1 April 1918. Several Gothas were brought down by the RAF and anti-aircraft fire over London and the Coast. After the War Edith Spencer continued to work for the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, working on her Pitman Shorthand and recording family, religious and missionary activities returning to normal.  Our diaries finish in 1920 by which she was experiencing increasing health problems.

11 November 1918 entry, Edith Spencer's diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

11 November 1918 entry, Edith Spencer’s diary. Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection

In her armistice day entry, I think Mary is Edith’s  older sister Isabella Mary Spencer, who seems to have been involved in nursing after a career as a teacher and Methodist missionary. The reference to ‘hospital isolation to help with pneumonia’ suggest the Spanish flu epidemic that killed so many civilians and servicemen who survived  the war. Edith is off work for several weeks dealing with Mary, when she herself comes down with flu from working in the hospital. This flu  probably accounted for the post-war deaths of  several zoo and Kew gardens staff after WW1 as set out in our WW1 casualty biography sections. Lessons learned for another war? You can look at the equivalent raid entry for each date on Ian Castle’s website www.iancastlezeppelin.co.uk as these years are added to this evolving website or in his book the London 1917-18 The Bomber Blitz.

WW1 air defence technology that survived into WW2.

WW1 air defence technology that survived into WW2.

Ian Castle’s website shows more details of the Zeppelins, German and British  planes involved as well as the increasingly organised air raid defences. These would be tested again, resembling some of the WW1 devices like sound locators, searchlights,  aircraft batteries, balloon screens  and plotting rooms (all shown on propaganda / information cigarette cards of  the late 1930s, see above)  but with the  significant improvement of RADAR in the Second World War. Zoos themselves were staffed by WW1 veterans who had served in the forces or worked at the zoo through WW1. This would give them some insight into how to prepare for the threats that air raids and gas raids might pose as WW2 loomed. My research area of zoos, botanic gardens and aquariums has uncovered many stories across Europe  of preparing for and surviving disastrous events like air raids in the Second World War.  Swords into  ploughshares … Researching what happened to wartime zoos, aquariums and  botanic gardens one sometimes comes across odd facts. Former airfields and failing  estates make  suitable large spaces for wildlife parks. Newquay’s coastal sister zoo Living Coasts in Brixham  (opened on the Marine Spa /Beacon Quay site in 2003)  was briefly part in 1918 of a naval seaplane station; its war surplus hangers eventually became aviaries in the fledgling Paignton Zoo in the 1920s. This must be some kind of ‘swords into ploughshares’ or its zoo equivalent, for a very different kind of flight! Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo. Postscript Edith Spencer’s diaries are written in the  Boots Home Diary and Ladies’ Note Book for 1917 to 1920.

Fighting German Imports, a page from Boots Home Diary 1918.

Fighting German Imports, a page from Boots Home Diary 1918.

Amongst the handy medical and legal information, one interesting page is about Boot’s the Chemist’s  role in the War. Collecting and growing plants for the Vegetable Drugs Committee in WW1 and WW2 is another story for a future blog post.

WW2 at Newquay Zoo and other Primary Workshops ‘Inspire’d by the new curriculum.

January 5, 2015

Breathing New Life into Old Bones and Fossils – The new primary curriculum and the Cornish Inspire Curriculum

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc 

An interesting  development we have seen this year is the new 2013/4  primary curriculum, and specifically the Inspire Curriculum packages being pioneered in Cornwall by Cornwall Learning:  http://theinspirecurriculum.co.uk/

As these four to six week cross-curricular topic based units of the Inspire Curriculum were only launched in September 2014, we had an unseasonably busy start to the Autumn term with lots of unexpected new requests for visits to the zoo or outreach talks to schools, not next term or Summer but this week or at the very latest next week please!

This flurry of activity was coupled with requests to support topics like teeth, food  and skeletons for newly christened workshops like “Why are humans animals too?” (Year 3, Unit 1) and Year 4 Unit 1 “Where Does my Food Go?”  Out of the resources cupboard and back into our everyday workshop box have come  carnivore, herbivore and omnivore skulls or odd objects like a lion-chewed mangled  plastic enrichment ball to illustrate different teeth points. For some of our live encounter animals like African Land Snails  a cheese grater or sandpaper is the best way to show what their microscopically tiny radula teeth are like!

Over the next few months as new topics are being first delivered in class, we will update our curriculum workshops and look for new curriculum opportunities in addition to what we already offer.

Although the full  curriculum topic packages  for schools have to be purchased from Cornwall Learning,  there is a glimpse of available curriculum map summaries in published materials online on Cornish school websites. Published  to inform parents of the new curriculum, they reveal some interesting possibilities to engage schools with Newquay Zoo’s education and conservation mission.

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

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

World War Zoo Gardens and the new WW2 curriculum links

Whilst popular topics from the old primary curriculum like World War Two evacuation seem at first sight to have disappeared, on closer examination they have morphed into new titles  like Year 6  Unit 5   “The Battle of Britain – Bombs,   Battles and Bravery 1940”. Evacuation crops up in open History questions like “What was it like to be a child during WW2?”

Throughout 2015 we will use this topic and Inspire curriculum map to refocus our existing wartime history talks, still focussed around life in a wartime zoo. You can see our workshop write up for our current wartime zoo workshops.

Below we have put a few interesting zoo links to the new Inspire Curriculum WW2 unit , to which we will add more in future blog posts.

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc

The WW2 curriculum map has some interesting questions to engage learners to read, write and research in different genres – fictional diaries, stories or biographies.  For English links,  there is  for Text Evacuee diaries based around Children’s book Goodnight Mr Tom, or writing war stories with the theme “The Night the Bomb Fell” as well as Biographies of War Heroes. Lots of possible zoo and botanic garden links there, including the short biographies of WW2 wartime careers of Kew staff and London Zoo staff.  

I have heard some fabulous sing-alongs, poster displays and seen some great murals when visiting schools on offsites with animals.  For Music and Media there is the chance to “listen to and sing popular WW2 tunes”, as well as “preparing and broadcasting their own WW2 radio programmes with songs, message and news items”. Hopefully there’ll be some handy gardening advice and kitchen front recipe tips on the radio (see previous blog posts).  It sounds a bit like creating the Kernow Pods wartime garden podcast on our website.

For Art and Design there is a chance to look at examples  and design your own WW2 propaganda poster, as WW2 evacuee Benenden School girls did for a 1941 competition for Newquay War Weapons Week (see poster in the background of our workshop display). I look forward on school visits to seeing many “Large scale murals of London during the Blitz using silhouettes” as the Inspire curriculum WW2 unit suggests, hopefully with London Zoo’s escaped Blitz  zebra somewhere around (famously painted by war artist Carel Weight). And why the London Blitz , not Plymouth or Exeter or many other blitzed towns?

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

Centre: The original WW2  Newquay War Weapons Week poster designed by evacuee Benenden girls. Putting our workshop materials out, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

 

Another History topic question in the Inspire WW2 Unit is “Why was the Battle of Britain important and how did the use of RADAR help in its victory?” There are many interesting future blog stories to post about around the development of radar, codebreaking and the wartime scientific work of botanists or zoologists like Solly Zuckerman who designed and tested air raid helmets under explosive test conditions on himself and a few unwilling volunteer zoo monkeys.

For Maths  – “Exploring Coding and the Enigma Coding Machine” in the Inspire Curriculum opens up some interesting topics. Senior  zoo staff in WW1 and WW2 such as ZSL’s Peter Chalmers Mitchell, Julian Huxley and Aquarium Curator E.G.Boulenger were involved in wartime intelligence, often at the vaguely named ‘War Office’ and in Boulenger’s case as a  possible codebreaker (often this is not explicitly stated but hinted). Possibly their knowledge of Latin and German as keepers and classifiers of animals, friendly with German zoo directors and scientists, would have been useful.

Woburn Abbey housed a “Wrennery” in its attic, accommodating WRNS women linked to the Wireless Intercept stations as part of the Bletchley Park network. Kew Gardens had some equally ‘secret’ staff  missions such as William W.B. Turrill writing documents on the vegetation of various wartime areas, whilst Herbert Whitley’s Paignton Zoo’s bird collection  housed a secret carrier pigeon loft as part of the National Pigeon Service and Royal Corps of Signals. Other zoos such as Blackpool, Port Lympne, Marwell and Knowsley had interesting wartime pasts (airfields, tank training, crash sites)  as declining  estate gardens before conversion post-war to zoos and safari parks.

WAAF servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at an unidentified  Chain Home Station like RAF Drytree, declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

WAAF or WRNS servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at an unidentified Chain Home Station –  declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

Another Science question in the  Inspire curriculum WW2 unit “How was light important during WW2? (the Blackout, searchlights etc)” and “How does light reach our eyes?” links well with our nocturnal animal / in the dark talks. Animals at Newquay Zoo have some super senses ranging from echo-locating bats at nighttime over the zoo lake to vibrissae (otter whiskers), super-sensing snakes which listen to the ground without ears or ‘ground radar’ cockroaches who listen through their ‘knee ears’. Even the humble carrot reputedly eaten to improve the night sight of fighter pilots like ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham was used as cover story  for the secret development of RADAR. Strange sound locators (below) were widely publicised as cover for the success of this secret invention, such as  this image from our collection:

soundlocator C card

Planthunters and gardens

There are also gardening and plant links that open up interesting possibilities for connecting to our World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment such as  Year 2 Unit 6 – “Sowing and Growing” whilst  planthunters such as George Forrest make a surprising appearance in Year 1 Unit 6 “The Potting Shed – Buried Treasure”. An amazing adventurous  character, George Forrest, as you can see from the RBGE magazine, a real life Indiana Jones like many planthunters!  Time to think about plant trails and workshops for 2015 or 2016, maybe?

Frank Kingdon Ward in WW2 from a trail board from a past Newquay Zoo plant hunters trail. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Frank Kingdon Ward in WW2 from a trail board from a past Newquay Zoo plant hunters trail. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Cornwall has a rich heritage of plants received from famous planthunters. Some were Victorian figures like William and Thomas Lobb. There were many explorers from the poles to planthunting who  were actively exploring  into wartime such as Reginald Farrar, Frank Kingdon-Ward and George Forrest. Their wartime careers in WW1 and WW2 is something I’m researching for a future blog post. Their amazing adventures in tropical forest and mountain valleys were being reported back through garden journals  magazines alongside news of WW1 which saw many gardeners enlist as we have covered in other blog posts.

elderly plant hunter and wartime secret agent Frank Kingdon Ward in battledress 1940s (taken from his last posthumous book 1960  volume in the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection).

Elderly plant hunter and wartime secret agent Frank Kingdon Ward in battledress 1940s (taken from his last posthumous book 1960 volume in the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection)

Some of the wartime exploits of ageing plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958) included teaching jungle survival, surveying secret escape routes for pilots in Japanese held territory and searching for missing planes through Asian jungles (whilst collecting plants en route). A secret silk escape map of SE Asia in our collection illustrates this story well. 

Evolution, Dinosaurs  and Fossils

There are also other welcome new  titles such as  “A Voyage of Discovery”  (Year 6 Unit 5) bringing Darwin’s life, voyages and discoveries back into the classroom and also a chance to look at fossils and dinosaurs in Year 3 – “Shake, Rock and Roll”. Our Darwin 200 bicentenary resources from 2009 including our Darwin stamp blog with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo have another life with this chance to discuss evolution and extinction, highly relevant to the modern zoo conservation mission of any of our Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust sites at Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo or Living Coasts.

Modern Foreign Languages are embedded in topic maps throughout, so a chance to freshen up our basic Spanish and French offerings about animal names, habitats,  travel and conservation projects. Lots of possible links here – Maybe a ‘crash course’ in French for lost secret agents or downed airmen to survive in occupied France to complement the WW2 unit? Maybe some simple Spanish as  Charles Darwin had to learn to find his way around South America on his Beagle journey?

Other old favourite topics, snappily retitled include these which complement our workshops:

Classification (Year 1 Unit 8 – “Animal Allsorts”)

Habitats (Year 4 Unit 9 – “A Place for Everything”)

Rainforests (Year 4 Unit 7 – “Amazing Amazon”)

Life Cycles (Year 5 Unit 5 – “Round and Round”)  

There are others  well as several focussing on human and animal senses:

(Year 1 Unit 7 – “Brilliant Bodies”)

Sound and sense (Year 4 Unit 6 – “Sounding Off”)

Other slots include current affairs (Year 6 unit 2  – “What’s Happening Now?”) and an interesting ‘The Apprentice’ style  Young Enterprise unit Year 6 Unit 9 “You’re Hired” (a possible link to business studies?)

We also like the links to journeys, navigation, maps, travel  and explorers across many Primary years (such as Year 5 Unit 3 – “Poles Apart”)  whilst “Dragons – Fact and Fiction” in Year 4 Unit 4 might bring some interesting reptile requests!  

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo

Not all Cornish schools have adopted this Inspire Curriculum package yet; some I know intend to use it to develop a Cornish or more regional focus to some aspects of the curriculum, using the local area and history. This was pioneered through the Sense of Place initiative.  

Inspire, Sense of Place and the new primary curriculum  are all good opportunities to spot what old, new or unusual topics we might be asked to support the delivery of during an outreach animal encounter or  school visit to the zoo.

Watch this space! The zoo education team can be contacted on 01637-873342 or via the zoo website.

Happy New Year  from all the Education team!

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, and Education Manager  Newquay Zoo .

 

 

 

 

 

A gardener named Banks, Britain’s first air raid casualty 24 December 1914

December 24, 2014

Did you know that the first bomb from an aeroplane ever to fall on England in 1914 fell in a garden?

“Shortly before 11 o’clock on December 24th [1914] an aeroplane was seen flying down the valley and it dropped a bomb which burst in the kitchen garden of Mr T.A.Terson at the end of Leyburne Road [Dover]. The bomb was probably meant for the Castle and where it burst it did no damage beyond breaking adjoining windows  and throwing a gardener named Banks, who was working at St. James’ Rectory, out of a tree to the ground, slightly injuring him.

The Journalist, 1914

This intriguing story of a “gardener named Banks” makes him Britain’s first air raid casualty, but thankfully one who survived.

It  was featured as the opening panel of the Garden Museum London exhibition on Gardens and War (which ended 19 December 2014).

 

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames,  Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames, Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

Whilst the famous Christmas Truce and football matches of No Man’s Land were unofficially happening in the front line trenches on land, in the air several wartime firsts were about to happen.

The spot (according to the Britain at War history magazine First World War) is now marked by a Blue Plaque from the Dover Society: “Near this spot on Christmas Eve fell the first aerial bomb ever to be dropped on the United Kingdom.”

The plaque is pictured on Ian Castle’s excellent website on WW1 air raids.

Ian is the author of two Osprey books London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace and London 1917-1918: The Bomber Blitz amongst other airship related that I have recently read, researching a 2015 blogpost about how zoos responded to the Zeppelin and aerial threat and featuring air raid related mentions from Edith Spencer’s 1917 civilian diary in our collection.

I am curious to see how people prepared for this new threat. London Zoo and Regent’s Park were in the flight path of several raids but thankfully spared air raid damage in WW1. The London Zoo was spattered with spent shrapnel from the “Archies” (Anti-aircraft guns) on Primrose Hill  and prepared against possible animal escape with firearms trained staff of “a special emergency staff of picked men was always on call. Heavy shutters were fitted to the glass fronts of the poisonous snakes’ cages” (Source: The Zoo Story, L.R.Brightwell, 1952). A long-term outcome of the WW1 air raid preparation was the provision of a First Aid post for visitors continuing after the war (Source: The Zoo, J. Barrington-Johnson, 2005).

Other wartime firsts
Three days earlier on 21st December 1914 a German seaplane dropped bombs in the sea near Dover Beach. However towns on the East Coast of Britain had been bombarded from the sea by German ships  on 16th December 1914 with a number of civilian casualties.

Within weeks on 19 January 1915, the first Zeppelin raid on Britain had taken place, aimed for London but diverted by bad weather to Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. The raids would eventually reach London on 31 May 1915.

The gardener in St James Rectory garden  reportedly pruning a tree for Christmas greenery was called variously James Banks or in some sources John Banks.

I have seen three different pilots named as the pilot responsible for the 24 December 1914 attack. Various sources ranging from Ian Castle, Neil Hanson’s First Blitz book to Dover history sites give a range of often conflicting details about the incident, no doubt down to wartime reporting restrictions and propaganda. The bomb appears to have been a single hand-held 22lb bomb, dropped by hand from 5000 feet  and probably aimed at Dover Castle from a FF29 Friedrichshafen  floatplane of the German Naval Air Service. It fell 400 yards from the Castle and created a crater ten feet wide in the gardens.

Tommy Terson was a local auctioneer and there are a few, no doubt, jokey Christmas references to him picking Brussel sprouts from the patch which was bombed!

The cook at the Rectory was reportedly showered with glass. The garden and window damage is pictured in the http://doverwarmemorialproject website.co.uk

Christmas Truce in the trenches, but in the air?

The next day the 25th December 1914  the same German Navy air force unit attacked again, aiming for London but dropping its bombs on  Cliffe Railway Station. The raid  was seen off over the skies above Erith  by a British Royal Flying Corps Vickers Gunbus from Joyce Green Airfield near Dartford.

This was the first aerial interception of an enemy aircraft over the United Kingdom of the First World War.

On this same day, there was an attack on German Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven on Christmas Day 1914, beyond the range of British air stations. This was known as “The Christmas Raid” with British Royal Navy Air Service RNAS seaplanes from a converted passenger ship HMS Engadine and HMS Empress. Whilst the raid was not that effective, all the pilots and 3 of the 7 seaplanes survived. It was to foreshadow aircraft carrier operations in the next war.

With these two days of bombing, the long road to the Battle of Britain and Blitz in 1940 had begun, with all the chaos that World War 2 caused to the people, animals and plants of British zoos and botanic gardens and in turn to European counterparts.

Aircraft of the period can be seen at air museums like the Imperial War Museum Duxford, RAF Museum Hendon and the Shuttleworth collection.

There is also an interesting and ongoing airfield restoration of a recently listed and most complete surviving WW1 air station at Stow Maries in Essex http://www.stowmaries.org.uk. It’s also home to some very interesting wildlife, the area being used for filming part of the BBC’s The Great British Year in 2013.

Have a peaceful Christmas!

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Happy 90th birthday Peggy Jane Skinner!

December 20, 2014

Back in 2012 I published a few excerpts from wartime diaries from my collection; amongst them my favourite is a selection belonging to Peggy Jane Skinner, born 90 years ago on 20 December 1924 in Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond, Surrey.

Several years of research eventually tracked down a death certificate stating that Peggy died in 2011, aged 86.

Peggy Jane Skinner's 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

Peggy Jane Skinner’s 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

In 1940 Peggy was a 15 year old Kingston / Richmond schoolgirl living in Glendee Road, Renfrew on the edge of Glasgow and Clydeside, Scotland. She spends her summer with relatives back in Kingston-upon-Thames and Richmond, London. Her father William Ernest Skinner appears to have been working as an “co-ordinating engineer” in wartime Glasgow factories and became a sergeant in the local Home Guard battery (probably anti aircraft guns or rocket batteries protecting Glasgow factories and shipyards).  Originally from a Hartlepool maritime family, her father is described on Peggy’s birth certificate as a cycle agent, a year earlier as a draughtsman. These were skilled jobs and maybe where Peggy got her scientific side from.

By 1941/2 she had made it on a Carnegie Trust Grant and Renfrew Education Authority grant to the University of Glasgow as a wartime science student in botany, radio, astronomy and ‘Natural Philosophy’ (science), again working though her summer in wartime London as a council clerk.

Over the next year or two, we’ll feature a little more about Peggy Skinner’s diaries for 1940, 1943 and 46-49 in later blogposts; eventually part of the 1943 diary section will be added to the Glasgow University Story website and  blog  http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/ww2-background/

The 1943 diary is full of interesting detail about being a female student at a wartime university, of her friends attending Daft Friday dances, complaints about catering and problems with wartime transport (by tram or trolleybus) making it to lectures on time.

Together with the 1940 diary, we get many glimpses of the highs and lows, stresses and strains of her school and student life as a civilian on the Home Front in Scotland and London. There is much about clothes rationing, Paisley War Weapons Week 1940, balloon barrages behind her house at Glendee Road in Renfrew,  fundraising for wartime charities, firewatch, canteen work for the war effort as a university  student  after completing her chaotic wartime schooling with schools requisitioned by the military and school windows meshed against bomb blasts, for example:

Friday 6th September 1940: Air Raid Practice yesterday, fire drill today …

Thursday 12th … half day from school as net was being put on windows …

Thursday 24th October … Air raid last night lasted for two hours. It’s the first time that anything’s happened when the siren’s gone. Several bombs dropped in Joyhnstone and round about. An awful lot of noise last night. 

We don’t have a diary for 1941 and the period of the Clydeside Blitz, but she survived and passed her matriculation exams to attend university.

In our 2012 blog post we quoted from her 1943 diaries. Like Churchill with his view that the end of 1942 was the ‘end of the beginning’, Peggy’s  1943 wartime student  diary entries start on a more optimistic note than her (missing) 1942 diary would have done:

Tuesday 2nd     February 1943:                I’m going to bed very late again as I had a bath and once I get in I can never be bothered getting out. The war news has been good now for a month or two, it is the best spell we have had since war began, the only trouble seems to be in Tunisia and it’s not too serious there – yet. It must do the occupied countries a lot of good to hear good news for a change.

Saturday 9th  January 1943:      Very uninteresting day for my last Saturday of holiday.  I would have liked to have gone with mum and dad to see Noel Coward In Which We Serve but I did not like to ask and anyway I’d made up my mind that next term I must work harder (what a hope but I must try) and must try also to enjoy myself more, but how I could do that without going to dances which is impossible, I don’t know.”

When she saw it later, she liked the film, more so than Mrs Miniver:

Wednesday 7th  April 1943  –  I went to pictures by myself this evening to Paisley to see “Mrs Miniver” with Greer Garson  and Walter Pidgeon. As I rather expected I would be I was rather disappointed with it. I’d heard such a lot about it  that I’m doubtful if any picture could come up to standards which were to be expected of a film  of which I’d heard such glowing stories. The little boy in it was awfully good, also the clergyman and Walter Pidgeon and the Young Mrs Miniver but Greer Garson seemed to have an awful fixed grin on her face.

Postwar life

9 November 1943 – Joint Recruiting Board … Had interview this morning, after first two girls had asked for the forces, we were all called in and told that the only option we have is Research or Industry. I did not know for sure which to sy, so said Research. Air Force bloke spent so much time talking to each person that I did not get away till 10.30 and so missed Geography again.”

Graduating in 1944, the  next diary in my collection  picks up Peggy’s story in 1946 working at RAE Farnborough aircraft development factory on Radio and Mica Condensers. As RAE Farnborough was scaled down after the war, she moved to TCC Condensers in Acton (which later became part of Plessey). The TCC  building and firm closed mid 1960s, becoming later a BBC building used for Doctor Who 1970s filming.

Peggy kept regular diaries but we only have a few, covering the next 3 years to 1949. She worked on electronics, condensers and batteries, radio and early television, including visits to Alexandra Palace in its early BBC TV days.

Her diaries are full of technical information on condensers, capacitors, Schering Bridges and Q-Meters. FAST, the RAE Farnborough collection have expressed their interest in the early 1946 sections about life at the Ambarrow hostel and RAE Farnborough as it was changing over into peacetime. Her job at RAE from 1944 onwards on Radio was obviously of support for the war effort; there are wartime TCC Condensers for radio equipment in the Imperial War Museum.

Her late 1940s diaries evoke a London of post-war Austerity, power cuts, strikes, heatwaves, wet Victory Parades and continued rationing shortages, including of clothing. Peggy spends a lot of time ‘mending stockings’ and buying  ‘remnants’ of cloth to make clothes.

Peggy Skinner's patent on batteries, Yardney Corps 1956/60 USA

Peggy Skinner’s patent on batteries, Yardney Corps 1956/60 USA

And after that no more diaries, just a few traces that I’ve found through family history websites. She took out a co-patent on battery developments for Yardney Corp USA /UK in the 1950s /60s. No doubt that Peggy who had a wartime Astronomy and Science BSc Degree from Glasgow would have been delighted to learn 60 years later that modern Yardney Lithion batteries were in use with the Mars Rovers in her lifetime and are still going strong on Mars in 2014.

Peggy Skinner's patent on Lithion batteries, Yardney Corps 1956/60 USA

Peggy Skinner’s patent on Lithion batteries, Yardney Corps 1956/60 USA

Peggy Skinner comes across in her diaries as an inquisitive, spirited but  quite a shy young woman with many friends and  large London family of aunts, uncles and cousins. She never married for some reason; maybe the missing diaries cover lost romances.

Throughout life she was involved with the church, teaching Sunday school (quite reluctantly at times) and as part of the postwar Christian revival crusades of the late 1940s such as the Norbiton Fellowship. She seems to have worshipped at local Anglican churches including St. Peter’s Norbiton for many years. She also appears to have spent much of her later adult life living with or caring for her mother Minnie Letitia Skinner who died in the mid 1970s, sharing a house in Woodfield Gardens, New Malden.

The diaries came into my collection via an online auction  from a house clearance in that area.

So far we have found no surviving relatives either from the Field or Skinner families, including her younger brother Mick / Michael (who died late 1990s?) or cousins Peter and Madge.

In the early raids of 1940, her father considers having her and Mick evacuated overseas (before the SS City of Benares disaster). As the Battle of Britain raged over her home London skies and merged into the Blitz, her family consider asking her cousins Peter and Young Madge up to the apparent safety of Glasgow, only to have bombing raids visit thir area too in 1940 and 1941. By the end of her 1948/9 diaries her brother Mick is doing his National Service.

If Peggy Jane Skinner were still alive, she would be celebrating her 90th Birthday on 20 December 2014. We would love to hear from anyone who knew Peggy Skinner via our comments page.

Wartime Christmas and Birthdays
On her 16th birthday 1940 she records: “Black velvet for frock, jumper, ring and money to buy books were my presents. Half Day for 3rd Years Dance [at School] … Short Air-Raid warning this evening.”

There is little recorded in the way of gifts for Christmas 1940, although being in Scotland there is first footing by neighbours: “Saw New Year in. Mr Buchanan was first foot” (Glasgow, 1 January 1940) and “Mr Read (neighbour) saw the New Year In so this should actually be here” (Glasgow, 1st January 1941).

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

 

The book Christmas on the Home Front by Mike Brown gives a good idea of how tight things were trying to obtain Christmas presents as the war went on. Peggy was hand making bead doll brooch presents for a ‘sale of works’ by the AYPA (Anglican Young People’s Association) at Christmas in 1940. Peggy’s  1946-49 diaries show that things didn’t ease rapidly as she tries to track down suitable gifts for family.

On her 19th birthday like many wartime celebrations gifts were sparse: “a pot of cream from Mrs. Baine … a pixie hood and very cute bookmark from Aunt Madge” and for Christmas equally sparse: “Auntie Madge’s parcel arrived. I got cold-cream and powder from her and a collar from Grandad [Field]. Also received a diary from Eileen Swatton.” Sadly we don’t have this diary for 1944 or 1945.

Close up of a portrait possibly of Peggy Jane Skinner, enclosed in her 1940s diaries. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

Close up of a portrait possibly of Peggy Jane Skinner, enclosed in her 1940s diaries. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

If Peggy Jane Skinner were still alive, she would be celebrating her 90th Birthday on 20 December 2014.

We would love to hear from anyone who knew Peggy Jane Skinner via our comments page.

Happy 90th birthday Peggy Jane Skinner, not forgotten!

 

 

War and Peace Christmas Pudding Rationing Recipe WW1 / WW2

December 19, 2014

This “War and Peace Christmas Pudding” was made in Canada during the First World War. The recipe was published in the Second World War by the Ministry of Food Government “Food Facts” in newspapers and radio programmes as part of the “Kitchen Front” campaign in Britain. According to some, it makes a good wartime Christmas pudding. We decided at Newquay Zoo to put it to the staff taste test as part of our World War Zoo Gardens project.

Our trial War and Peace Christmas Pudding - before pretasting by keepers - at Newquay Zoo.

Our trial War and Peace Christmas Pudding – before pretasting by keepers – at Newquay Zoo. Trial quarter ingredients sized version on a side plate.

War and Peace Christmas Pudding Recipe WW1 / WW2

Ingredients:

225 grams  (8 ounces / oz) flour

225 g (8 oz) breadcrumbs

100 g (4 oz) suet

100 g (4 oz) dried fruit

5 ml (1 teaspoon / tsp) mixed spice

225g (8 oz) grated raw potato

225g (8 oz) grated raw carrot

5 ml (1 tsp) bicarbonate of soda

 

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together and turn into a well-greased pudding bowl.

The bowl should not be more than two thirds full.

Boil or steam for at least 2 hours.

Imperial ounce measurements have been updated to equivalent grams.

Source: “Food Facts” Ministry of Food, Britain 1939-45

Setting it alight, as is traditional with a Christmas pudding, would require some alcohol or spirits, increasingly scarce in wartime.  Custard would have been rare too, though Bird’s Custard Powder (replacing eggs in the recipe since 1837, very useful in wartime) and other companies continued to advertise throughout the war.

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Newquay Zoo’s brave Austerity Christmas Pudding tester Nick in suitably protective wartime headgear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taste testing the War and Peace Christmas Pudding

In pursuit of our World War Zoo Gardens project activities,  Newquay Zoo’s fabulous café team, headed up by ex-military chef Jeremy, have cooked up a trial one of these puddings to test out on Newquay Zoo staff. Apparently the test one that we served up to zoo staff was only a quarter of the recipe ingredients.

Zoo staff reaction was mixed. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so honest about the ingredients. Some of the cafe team politely said that they’d eat it again. Many reckoned it needed custard or a good soaking in spirits (we couldn’t set it alight), whilst others thought it ‘not very sweet’ and it made them appreciate a luxurious modern Christmas pudding.

Some keepers wondered whether any of the animals would eat it? Since the famous zoo ‘banana ban’ for monkeys of 2014 at Paignton, Newquay and other zoos, we have become increasingly used in our zoo animal diet sheets to replacing  rich sugary exotic fruit (selectively bred and grown for human palates) with more ‘sweet’ vegetables, albeit mixing the wartime standby sweeteners of carrot, parsnip with other more modern imports like sweet potato. I’m sure this substitution was also how wartime zoos scraped by feeding their animals without imports of exotic fruits.

I was surprised how close the War and Peace Christmas Pudding  was to one of the few wartime dishes that was popularly reckoned to have survived wartime into the postwar British menu  – carrot cake.

Thanks to all the Newquay Zoo cafe team and brave zoo volunteers for this interesting taste lesson about rationing!

Feed the Birds: The Final Taste Test – or Food Waste?

Being rich in suet and a bit crumbly, I tested the final scraps of wartime Christmas pudding on the bird table. Bullfinches, robins, blackbirds, sparrows, crows and pigeons all quickly came down for a crumb or morsel as it turns colder; they weren’t fussy about the strange ingredients in the recipe.

Wasting food like this on the bird table or on pet animals was of course illegal in wartime and liable to prosecution as pointed out in the Imperial War Museum Dig For Victory pdf and the excellent Cooksinfo.com website points out about British Wartime Food.

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Wartime rationing and gardening

2015 marks the 75th anniversary of rationing being introduced on 8th January 1940 and the 70th anniversary of Mr Middleton’s death on 19th September 1945.

How time flies – we marked this on the 70th anniversary in 2010, several years into the World War Zoo Gardens project, alongside the Imperial War Museum.

At the legacy site for http://food.iwm.org.uk  2010 Ministry of Food Exhibition at the Imperial War Musuem, marking  70 years since rationing was introduced, there is an interesting recipe for ‘plum and russet apple mincemeat‘ at   http://food.iwm.org.uk/?p=1045

There is also some great December 1945 gardening advice pages from wartime celebrity gardener Mr. Middleton http://food.iwm.org.uk/?p=1057&album=18&gallery=18  The whole 1945 leaflet set has been reprinted recently as a book edited by Twigs Way (Sabrestorm Press. 2009). We will feature more about him in 2015. There is an interesting Mr Middleton blog to look at meanwhile.

An alternative Christmas pud recipe can be found on the interesting  Eat For Victory website and blog 

More simple wartime rationing recipes (pdfs) can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/schools/teachers/heroes

You can find another wartime recipe that we use with visiting schools doing our wartime zoo workshops ; if its quiet enough in the café we knock up a  batch of savoury potato biscuits – see recipe below.

A Fruitful Happy Christmas and a Prosperous Gardening New Year from all involved in the World War Zoo Gardens Project at Newquay Zoo!

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

 

That Wartime Savoury Potato Biscuit recipe 

cooked up if time for World War Zoo Gardens workshop days 

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

Makes about 24 approx 3 inch biscuits

Ingredients

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 this*)

3. Work to a stiff dough

4. Roll out thinly and cut into shapes  – festive shapes for Christmas if wanted!

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

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

Enjoy!


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