Remembering D-Day 6th June 1944 – the Wild Planet Trust Connection

June 6, 2021


Clennon Gorge hasn’t always been such a peacful place as it is today …

Three of the Wild Planet Trust sites in Devon  have D-Day connections worth exploring, 77 years on from the Normandy Invasion of 6th June 1944 – Paignton Zoo and Clennon Gorge and Slapton Ley.  

7th June 1944 – Zoo staff begin the clear up after thousands of US Army boys quietly leave Clennon Gorge for D-Day beaches.

“This is the Day and This is the Hour …” BBC report on 6th June 1944 that D-Day (Operation Overlord) or the Allied  invasion  of Europe had started.

Hundreds of thousands of British, American and Allied troops quietly  left the SW coastline at embarkation hards like Torquay and across Devon and Cornwall after months of  training near Slapton Ley and other coastal areas.

The secret Whitley carrier pigeons also played their part aiding  reconnaissance of Normandy and Northern France.

Many young American GIs of the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division  (4ID or IV – “The Ivy Boys”) had spent their last days waiting, camped under the cover of trees at Clennon Gorge and Paignton Zoo.  We will forgive them eating the odd zoo waterfowl and Primley peacock …

TRebah and LC USA links 014

Sadly since I wrote this D-Day post below in 2019, our site at Living Coasts, which was next to the D-Day embarkation hards at Beacon Quay in Torquay, closed during the Covid pandemic in Summer 2020.


Yellow Welsh poppies pop up again in our cleared wartime allotment, heralding lots of wildflowers and pollinators

Another Covid change has been the conversion of the World War Zoo wartime zoo keeper’s allotment garden recreated at Newquay Zoo (2009-2020) into a less time and staff intensive wildflower and pollinator garden as part of our Nearby Nature campaign. Poppies are blooming there as the wildlflower seedlings come through. 


All that research isn’t wasted though as we can still share these stories about how wartime zoos  survived WW2 with you at home or in school through our free downloadable pdf  Wild at Home activities 

wartime pigeons

We also offer our old Wartime Zoo workshop as an online talk suitable for schools 

Remembering the 6th June 1944, 77 years on in 2021

Blog published by Mark Norris Newquay Zoo Education Office, 6 June 2021

Green shoots of recovery and spring at last in our Nearby Nature Garden as World War Zoo Gardens goes online

May 13, 2021

It has been a funny old year or so in the World War Zoo Garden at Newquay Zoo – or should i say, former World War Zoo Garden. Whilst I was on furlough from March 2020 onwards and working / teaching  from home from September, with essential keeping staff only on site, there was no time for planting our wartime zoo keepr’s allotment recreation. 

It had not been planted in March 2020 when Lockdown began, and its future was uncertain. Whilst I was teaching from home our latest ‘crop’ of Cornwall College Newquay students on Teams, David Folland our Operations Manager managed to arrange some staff time (thanks Lee!) to clear and weed the old allotment beds  ready for a new crop of lots of herbs and  wildflower seeds. 

We marked up where surviving plants were and many of these have been transferred to the old Veg bed 2.  Others like the Welsh yellow poppies – self seeded?- have turned up at the back of the old Veg Bed 1 where the ferns are marked. 

I was delighted on my return to the zoo site as Newquay Zoo reopened again to visitors on 12 April 2021 to see lots of these wildflower seedlings.  The garden plot should soon  be buzzing with pollinators, bees and butterflies as it has always been.

Leeks seeds and bees World War Zoo gardens 020

Leek flowers / seeds and bees, August 2010, World War Zoo gardens Newquay Zoo before our proper fence arrived. 

I look forwards to seeing what herbs and edible flowers have self-seeded from previous years and cheekily pop up amongst the new wildflowers. We will link this refreshed  garden plot in with our Wild Planet Trust ‘Nearby Nature’ ongoing theme of celebrating our local native wildlife and plants. 

I have put the World War Zoo Gardens signage (looking fresh still after 10 years outdoors) and the old Zuckermann Helmet and Stirrup Pump into storage for now, as we move into the next exciting phase of World War Zoo Gardens – moving online

Why online? Although school visits have returned this week – one class / school per day at a time – we don’t expect to be offering our popular schools workshops this summer term. So … 


World War Zoo Gardens online 2021 – Virtual School Talks 

Buidling on the year’s experience teaching our Cornwall College Newquay students via Teams and supporting other colleges up country with online talks has all been useful in preparing to launch WW2 workshops and other talks for schools and other groups via Teams (and other platforms).

My colleagues Matt and Jo at our sister zoo Paignton Zoo (which was operational during WW2) have developed several interesting online talks on Facebook, Youtube and live sessions into schools – and we at Newquay Zoo have added a unique World War Zoo one too!


“What happened to zoo animals, staff and visitors during WW2? Using original objects, photographs and years of research, we cover evacuation, rationing, Dig for Victory, fire-fighting and air raid precautions in the blitz. Discover the zoos’ unusual contribution to the secret war in Europe – carrier pigeons!” 
Curriculum links – KS2 / KS3 History: WW2, Home Front, social history 

zoo talk ww2 2

It has been great fun transforming my modern zoo office into a 1940s zone – full of posters and 1940s things to use in my talks via webcam. Dead centre was our trusty photocopier – a little too modern looking – so this gets covered up just for the talks.   

Booking details and costs can be found here. I am usually around at Newquay Zoo Mondays to Thursdays (termtime) at the moment. You can also contact me through the comments page. 


Wild at Home – World War Zoo gardens WW2 resource pages

Our other online lessons from the World War Zoo gardens project are the useful and beautifully designed  Wild at Home pages on WW2 (thanks Graphics team, great job!) Scroll down to  the KS2 / KS3 bottom section of the web page for  free  downloadable files / pdfs! 


There is an added special “Zoo Stories” one on Paignton Zoo’s Wild at Home Education page, all about their secret carrier pigeons and other wartime animal stories!

I will keep updating posts as the garden grows, as we discover new stories and as we develop our wartime talks online.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 13 May 2021

Newquay’s AFS Fire Crew Remembered Plymouth Blitz 80 Years On 23 April 1941

April 23, 2021

Remembering today the Newquay wartime fire crew lost in the Plymouth Blitz 80 years ago today.

Newquay lost 5 of its volunteer fire crew  out of a total of 9 crew. 2 more were badly wounded.

The details of the 5 casualties are  from the Commonwealth War Graves site


Age: 40 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Featherstone, of Green Gables, Pentire, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.


Age: 37 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Old, of 9 Trenance Road, Newquay, Cornwall, and of the late J. Old; husband of V. Old, of Endberry House, Berry Road, Newquay. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.


Age: 32 Date of Death: 24/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. C. Phillips husband of Amy Phillips, of 63 Ulalia Road Newquay, Cornwall. Injured 23 April 1941, at Plymouth; died at Prince of Wales Hospital, Greenbank.


Age: 38 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Husband of Gladys I. Vineer, of 9 Robartes Road, Newquay, Cornwall. Died at Market Street.


Age: 28 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. R. M. Whiting, of Chumley, Porth Way, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

Pathe Newsreel 27 June 1940 ID No. 1290.27 features film  of  a ‘Robert Whiting’ of Newquay making puppet caricatures of topical personalities:

Photos of them are still proudly displayed alongside a memorial plaque at Newquay Fire station.

Lest we forget …

Read more from our 70th anniversary post:

The Plymouth Blitz 70 years on and Newquay’s lost wartime AFS firecrew remembered .. | Worldwarzoogardener1939’s Blog (

12 Cornish volunteer firemen were killed in the Plymouth Blitz.

The loss of 6 Saltash volunteer fire crew has also been commemorated this year.

Saltash firefighters who died in Blitz remembered – BBC News

The six firefighters killed on 22 April were the entire crew of the Saltash Auxiliary Fire Service.

  • Francis Brooking, 44
  • Stanley Crabb, 26
  • Alfred Crapp, 33
  • Bernard Jasper, 27
  • John Stanlake, 28
  • Leslie Tibbs, 31

A further man was lost from Lostwithiel. Section Leader William Tearle

William Alfred John Tearle 1890, Firefighter of Lostwithiel –

Brave Men One and All.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 23 April 1941

Wartime Make Do and Mend meets modern Zero Waste living

January 21, 2021

Make Do and Mend – Zero Waste Living | Canadian War Museum

An interesting zoom talk coming up in the next week, linking wartime salvage with modren zero waste living

Wartime Zoo WW2 Wild at Home activities for Lockdown 3

January 7, 2021

Wild at home education activities (

Like many of you now during Lockdown 3, I am working from home whilst Newquay Zoo is closed to visitors – check our website for news on reopening. So sadly I am not yet digging the garden over yet to clear it from last year and getting it ready for sowing for the spring growing season. Fresh veg, flowers and herbs for the animals – and the local pollinators and other bug life!

Meanwhile enjoy the three WW2 activity pages on Wild at Home – cookery recipes and curious WW2 history facts and links – alongside lots of other fun craft at home / home schooling ideas.

Lots of interesting history and gardening images on the blog stretching back 10 years and covering WW1, WW2 and zoos now and in the future.

We are also working on an online / digital outreach schools talk for spring 2021 on what we can learn for the future on how Zoos survived WW2. Watch this space!

Blog post by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Education, 7 January 2021.

Paris Zoo 1870 – Eating the Elephants during the Franco Prussian War

December 1, 2020

Passed on to me by a friend an image of the destructiveness of war on the civilian and zoo population of Paris – from Warfare in the Age of Steam: On this day 150 years ago (

Castor and Pollux (elephants) – Wikipedia

On this day 150 years ago Siege of Paris 1870

From our Wikipedia source: “So, by the end of 1870, the butchers turned their attention to the animals of the zoos. The medium and large sized herbivores, such as the antelopecamelsdeerkangarooyaks and zebra were first to be killed. Some animals survived: the monkeys were thought to be too akin to humans to be killed, the lions and tigers were too dangerous, and the hippopotamus of the Jardin des Plantes also escaped because the price of 80,000 francs demanded for it was beyond the reach of any of the butchers” …

Posted by Mark Norris World War Zoo Gardens Project 30 Novembre 2020

Remembrance and Poppy Day in the wartime zoo garden 2020

November 7, 2020

Remembrance 2020

I have recently returned to work at Newquay Zoo after months of furlough and pandemic lockdown. Sadly I have not had the time to tend our World War Zoo Garden project until now. It has had its own Lost Gardens of Heligan and The Secret Garden moment this year.

What surprised was this timely poppy remembering all the zoo staff and botanic gardens staff who did not return to tend their gardens.

Remember …

Want to know more? Please look through over ten years of blog posts for how zoos and botanic gardens were affected by wartime.

Blog post by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo Gardens research project, 7th November 2020 – for Remembrance Sunday 8th and Armistice Day 11th November

Please note that Newquay Zoo is closed to visitors during the November Lockdown 2020

Remembering Chessington Zoo bombed 2 October 1940 London Blitz WW2

October 2, 2020

Blog posted by Mark Norris, October 2nd 2020 World War Zoo Gardens project (Newquay Zoo)

Remembering London Zoo in the Blitz 26-27 September 1940

September 26, 2020

Remembering London Zoo in the Blitz 26-27 September 1940

Remembering the London Blitz 80 years on from September and October 1940

September 8, 2020

Remembering London in The Blitz 80 Years on …

Remembering London Zoo in the Blitz 26-27 September 1940

Remembering Chessington Zoo bombed 2 October 1940

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project (Newquay Zoo)

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