International Women’s Day March 8th – Land Army Girls March 1945 magazine cover

March 8, 2018

my home Cover

WLA Land Girl on front cover of My Home magazine March 1945 price 9d (Author’s collection/WWZG) Note the length of service armband.  

It were never that glamorous! A rather fluffy and idealised portrait of life for a WLA Land Girl is shown on the front cover of My Home magazine March 1945 (price 9d).

Life for the women of the Women’s Land Army was often very different, especially in winter.

Land Girls served in wartime zoos,  such as the team running the ‘Off the Ration’ Exhibition at London Zoo, set up with the Ministry of Information etc, to show householders how to look after simple food animals – pigs, rabbits, chickens.

This linked to a simple model wartime farm and garden which was established, as at Kew Gardens, to give gardening and livestock advice to members of the public and visitors.  Some Whipsnade Zoo paddocks were also ploughed up (by horse and elephant!) to be farmed for the war effort.

land army greatcoat labelThe quite small sized Land Girls woollen overcoat is quite a popular but surprisingly heavy fashion item for visiting schoolgirls to try on during our World War Zoo schools wartime workshop at Newquay Zoo


wartime clothing

Women’s Land Army greatcoat (second from right)in our original wartime clothing section.


Marking International Women’s Day March 8th and the activities of extraordinary ordinary women such as the Women’s Land Army in WW1 and WW2 with this colourful  Land Army Girls March 1945 magazine cover.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 8 March 2018




7 March 1918 air raids on London

March 7, 2018

Continuing the story of the WW1 air raids on London from an unpublished diary:

7 March 1918: Air Raid at 11.20. In bed.
It looks like Edith Spencer, London clerk and one of the many women who were given working opportunities during WW1, was often back in the family home in a now demolished Manse in Watford each night.

You can read more about Edith and see her diary entries  here:

This daily commute to and from Watford may have been a clever move by Edith to avoid the London air raids  as she missed the threat of injury in the air raid undertaken by 3 ‘Giants’, large German bomber airplanes that replaced the Zeppelin airship bombers. 2 other Giants raided other coastal areas.

WW1 air raid expert Ian Castle records the activities of the night here on his excellent website:

This 7 – 8 March 1918 raid  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. Damage to property in 1914 prices was £42,655.



(Wikipedia image source)


One of those killed on 7 /8 March 2018 was an American, the first American citizen to be killed in an air raid on Britain, a lyricist called Lena Ford who wrote the words for Ivor Novello’s First World War wartime hit song “Keep the Home Fires Burning”.

An imaginative but  fact based retelling or reconstruction of the events of the 7 / 8  March 1918 raid by Julian Futter can be found here:

This area featured by Julian Futter is not that far south from Regents Park and London Zoo, so you can imagine the impact that aerial bombing, the barking of nearby Anti Aircraft guns or ‘Archies’  and searchlights would have had on some of the more sensitive animals by day or night.

Special precautions had already been put in place to counter air raid damage in the form of First Aid posts and special reinforcement or coverings for the enclosures of poisonous animals such as in the reptile house.

Remembering all those affected or involved in the air raid of 7-8 March 1918 on its 100th anniversary. 

Blogposted (scheduled post) by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 7 March 2018




6 February 2018 Centenary of British women gaining the vote

February 6, 2018



military miss PC

An irreverent comic postcard view of women’s contribution in WW1 to the war effort (Author’s collection)


The focus of the First World War centenary partnership for 1918 / 2018 is the contribution that women played in the First World War.

Their work in wartime was partly what finally made Parliament agree to give some British women (over 30) and men over 21 the vote.

Tuesday 6 February 2018 is the centenary of women being granted the vote for the first time in Britain.
The Representation of People Act 1918 was an important law because it allowed women to vote for the very first time. It also allowed all men over the age of 21 to vote too.
This act was the first to include practically all men in the political system and began the inclusion of women, extending the franchise by 5.6 million men and 8.4 million women.
The contribution made during World War One by men and women who didn’t have the right to even vote was an important reason for the law changing.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed on 6 February 1918 and women voted in the general election for the very first time on 14th December 1918 that year.
“Women over 30 years old received the vote if they were either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner, or a graduate voting in a University constituency.”

Researching this in a local Cornish village a few miles away from Newquay Zoo, I noticed that the outbreak of war in 1914 saw the suspension of what was becoming a violent political nationwide campaign of ‘domestic terrorism’ (sabotage, arson, breaking windows), arrest, force-feeding and release under the Cat and Mouse Act. Kew Gardens suffered its tea room being burnt down by militant Suffragettes.

The headline grabbing WSPU publicity campaign of window breaking was dropped so that women could contribute to the war effort, filling many men’s jobs to free them up for the forces.

Women found themselves working as keepers in zoos like Miss Saunders or Evelyn Cheeseman, gardeners in botanic gardens such as Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, clerks like Edith Spencer (in our previous WW1 air raid posts) and a whole host of new jobs.

Miss Saunders working at London Zoo is pictured at


A whole host of jobs opened up from dangerous munitions work to nursing and ambulance driving. A surprisingly large number of women were killed working on the Home Front, serving overseas and by the Flu epidemic of 1918 / 1919.

Fittingly there will be a year long focus on the role women played in World War 1, culminating in some women being able to vote in the December 1918 for the first time and also be elected as MPS.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project (Newquay Zoo) on Tuesday 6 February 2018, the centenary of women being granted the vote for the first time in Britain.

Material also crossposted from the Devoran War Memorial Project Cornwall.





January 1918 WW1 Air Raids on Britain

January 28, 2018


Edith Spencer in her WW1 diary records two evening air raids on London on January 2018.

Monday 28 January 1918: Raid, lights down 8.10 onwards.

Tuesday 29 January 1918: Raid, warning 10pm.

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.

There is more detail on Ian Castle’s excellent website  about each nights Raid mentioned by Edith Spencer:

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.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 28 January 2018.



Wartime January Gardening Advice

January 26, 2018


middleton calender coverA wet but mildish start to the year with nothing much happening in the World War Zoo wartime garden at Newquay Zoo in January.

What would Wartime gardening expert Mr. Middleton have to say about January gardening?

Remembering A.J. Meads of Kew Gardens Palm House died WW1 1 December 1917

December 3, 2017

Remembering A.J. Meads of  Kew Gardens Palm House died WW1,  1 December 1917

Rifleman Arthur John Meads, 551182, D Company, 2nd /16th London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), died 1st December 1917, aged 27.

He is buried at Grave Reference H. 24, Ramleh War Cemetery, Palestine/ Israel  (now Ramla) was occupied by the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade on 1 November 1917.

The cemetery was begun by medical units linked to the Field Ambulances and Casualty Clearing Stations posted at Ramleh and Lydda from December 1917 onwards.

Meads died there of abdominal wounds in a Field Ambulance station around the time this cemetery and hospitals were established. His headstone (with no family inscription) could be seen at the TWGPP website.

His Kew Guild Journal 1918 obituary lists him as Sub-Foreman of the Palm House. Meads enlisted in January 1915 and went to France on June 1916. He was wounded on Salonika in 1916/17, before moving to Palestine in 1917. He served with three other Kew colleagues in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles.


Arthur John Meads of  Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

His death date is recorded as 1st December 1917 during the Second Battle of Gaza, of wounds received on November 26th 1917.

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

You can read more about Kew in WW1 at

Rifleman Arthur John Meads, 551182, D Company, 2nd /16th London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), died 1st December 1917, aged 27,

Remembered on the Kew Gardens staff War Memorial 100 years on.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 1st / 3rd December 2017.


Gertrude Jekyll’s Google Doodle

November 29, 2017

google doodle

Great to see a colourful Google Doodle celebrating Gertrude Jekyll (rhymes with treacle), famous Victorian and Edwardian garden designer on her 174th birthday.

Gertrude Jekyll was a friend of Herbert Cowley, a slightly forgotten garden writer, photographer  and magazine editor, who trained at Kew Gardens and was invalided out of the WW1 trenches with serious injuries.

Herbert Cowley died  in Newton Abbot, Devon 50 years ago this November 1967.

Herbert Cowley 1885-1967

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

Herbert Cowley (1885 – 1967) took photographs for Gertrude Jekyll including many of her in her Munstead garden. this like many late WW1 gardens was sacrificing sections to produce food for the war effort.

The Fate of The South Border

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

The Google Doodle of Miss Jekyll, featuring her tiny portrit amongst colourful borders of flowers, reminds me of a lovely article by Judith Tankard for Country Life (a magazine that Herbert Cowley worked and wrote for), blending the famous image of Gertrude Jekyll in her Munstead Garden in 1918 with how it has been restored today.

gertrude jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll photographed by Herbert Cowley, back in her garden in this article / photograph by Judith Tankard in Country Life, 27 April 2011


Gertrude Jekyll would be involved after WW1 with architect Edwin Lutyens and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission  in the planting and design in some of the many cemeteries they maintain for Allied casualties, creating that little bit of a country garden or English garden all over the world.

Gertrude Jekyll has an official website

Herbert Cowley does not have an official website, however some of his books on Alpine or Rock Gardening are still in print almost a hundred years later.

There wasn’t much material pre-2013 about Herbert Cowley, lots about Gertrude Jekyll, so I researched enough to write this blog article and the Wikipedia article

Gertrude Jekyll, happy birthday! 

Herbert Cowley, remembered 50 years after his death.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 29 November 2017.



Remembering Tank Sergeant George Douglas of Kew Gardens Died Cambrai WW1 20 November 1917

November 20, 2017


Cambrai Louverval Memorial (image CWGC)

A Kew Gardens “Tankie” was killed at Cambrai on 20 November 2017.

Sergeant George Douglas, Scottish Horse / Royal Tank Corps  is remembered at Kew Gardens and also on the Cambrai Memorial, Louverval in France. This is a memorial to the missing or those with no known graves from the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

He served as Serjeant, 93045 with E Battalion, Royal Tank Corps having originally been with the 2/3 or 23rd Scottish Horse. Douglas  died on 20 November 1917, aged 40.

Other websites such as the Tankmen of Cambrai website had him listed as a Corporal, alongside  fascinating information about the early Tank Corps crew and this battle. He lost several brothers in WW1.`

Of the 35 Mark IV British tanks which went into action crushing wire and supporting Scottish troops of the Highland Brigade in the attack on the German occupied village of Flesquieres, 28 tanks were put out of action by enemy fire or had broken down by the end of the first day, the 20th of November 1917.

29 were killed and 31 tank crew missing including Sergeant Douglas, 64 others were wounded.

In the 1914 Kew Guild Journal he is listed as an Old Kewite, having entered Kew in November 1899 from Lowther Castle Penrith.

He went with fellow young Kewite James G. Duncan (who entered Kew 1900 from Glenart Castle, Co. Wicklow) as Assistants in the Municipal Garden, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Kew Guild Journal (1901) notes that Duncan and Douglas have both joined the Town Guard in South Africa during the Boer War on the British side.
He enlisted again in WW1 in Edinburgh into the Scottish Horse before joining the Tank Corps. He was born in Selkirk around 1877, the son of Mr & Mrs James and Agnes Douglas of 15 Green Terrace, Selkirk and husband of Lydia E. Douglas (nee Chaplin) of 13 West Mayfield, Edinburgh.

According to a post on the Scottish War Memorials Trust website, George Douglas was one of four brothers from the same family to die in the First World War.

The others were

Gunner T. Douglas, 776624, 310 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery killed on 15 April 1917, HAC Cemetery, Ecoust St. Main, France;

Private John Sanderson Jardin Douglas, 10225 2nd Battalion, KOSB, died aged 25 on 13 October 1914, Le Touret Memorial;

Sergeant J H Douglas, S/1774, 3rd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, died 17 October 1918 and buried in Selkirk (Shawfield) Cemetery.

George Douglas is remembered on the Kew Gardens Staff War memorial


Header panel, Kew Gardens War memorial. Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Read more about Kew Gardens staff in World War 1 at

Reading these names and a little about these men, their families and where they worked means they are not forgotten 100 years on from their deaths during the Battle of Passchendaele and Cambrai  period of 1917 .

Remembering the first Tankies involved in the Battle of Cambrai.

Douglas and brothers are remembered on the Hawick in the Great War website

Posted on the centenary by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, 20 November 1917 / 2017

Cambrai 100 Wooden Tank Toy

November 20, 2017


Wooden tank toy 1920s to 1940s ? (Author’s Collection / WWZG)

Mark_I_series_tank Wikipedia Lib Congress

British Mark 1 tank 1916 (Solomon camouflage screen) Image Source: Wikipedia / Library of Congress. 


Putting away display materials from a World War Zoo schools workshop at Newquay Zoo, I photographed one of the sturdy handmade wooden toys in my collection to mark the anniversary of the ‘Tank Battle’ of Cambrai 100 on  20 November 1917.

The caterpillar tracks echo those of a First World war tank.

In its simple wooden design it appears handmade, either a homemade item from the First World War or 1920s to 1940s.

Most of the few wartime toys we have for our occasional school workshop displays are made from wood and  scrap metal when the supply of toys from Germany, toy-making  nation, or toys from   British manufacturers ran short or ceased during World War Two.  Supplies of metal ran short and toy firms were often turned over to war work and munitions.



This is no tiny wooden model, it is quite a chunky item which fits into standard shoebox.

Remembering the anniversary of Cambrai, 20 November 1917.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 20 / 21 November 2017

Remembrance Weekend 2017

November 11, 2017


World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 2016 poppy. 

Remembering the many zoo and botanic Gardens staff and their families affected by the two world wars and conflicts silence.

Remembered at Newquay Zoo and in many zoos and botanic gardens by the two minutes silence at 11 am  Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th November 2017.

We will remember them.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, 11 November 2017

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