The Silvertown Explosion London 19 January 1917

January 19, 2017

WW1 diarist Edith Spencer recorded in her diary for 19 /20 January 1917:

Terrific explosion at Silverton.

She had recently arrived back from visiting family in Newcastle upon Tyne (‘luggage came’) to her new clerical job at 24 Bishopsgate in London, filing and learning shorthand for the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. No doubt she had filled  a post made free by the call up or conscription of young men for war work or the armed services.

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The Silvertown explosion occurred in Silvertown in West Ham, Essex, (now Greater London) on Friday, 19 January 1917 at 6.52 pm.

The blast occurred at a munitions factory that was manufacturing explosives for Britain’s war effort.

Approximately 50 long tons (50 tonnes) of trinitrotoluene (TNT) exploded.

73 people were killed and 400 injured, as well as causing substantial damage to hundreds of houses across the local area.

Remembering the many men and women war worker casualties of the Silvertown TNT factory explosion. 

The blast could be heard and felt up to a hundred miles away.

The animals at London Zoo a few miles away would clearly have heard it.

The panes of glass in the greenhouses at Kew Gardens would have rattled.

So even if Edith Spencer had travelled back from her new clerical job in London and reached the family home at Wesley Manse, Derby Road  in Watford about 17 miles away, she could clearly have heard the Silvertown explosion.

You  can read more about and by Edith Spencer, one of the diarists in my personal collection of wartime diaries on loan to the World War Zoo Gardens project, at this previous Zeppelin WWI air raid blogpost https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-first-blitz-on-london-from-an-unpublished-ww1-diary/

More about the explosion at:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvertown_explosion

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

Unknown Zoo, Wartime Elephants

January 3, 2017

german-zoo-ww2

Interesting little ‘wartime’ snapshot of elephants,  about 7.5 cms by 6cms printed on Agfa Lupex film  and stamped FO21.

Anyone recognise which European zoo in the 1930s or World War Two these Elephants are at?

Is this in occupied Europe?

Are these off duty German servicemen enjoying a home visit to one of the many German zoos or are they part of the Occupying Forces somewhere?

Taking photographs of service personnel in the wrong situation could be a real problem but these may well be taken by other soldiers or their families. Certainly in Britain, camera film was scarce and taking photographs of anything military was unwise. Camera film in wartime was often in short supply for civilian use.

On the left is a white coated zoo keeper with mahout / elephant stick.

At the back centre behind the elephant is a building (an elephant house?)

There is a clear dry moat barrier between the elephants and the vistors by the viewing wall.

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Checking the Zoo Guidebook, feeding an elephant or examining identity papers?

Interesting little vignette – is this soldier checking the Zoo Guidebook, feeding an elephant treats or examining identity papers?

This appears to be a feed time, the (Asian?) elephants interacting with visitors, trunks stretched over the wall.

It appears a peaceful enough scene, with no weapons showing. I’m sure the odd service cap got eaten by these elephants!

I’d be interested to hear what people think and where this might be.

 

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo gardens project, January 2017.

Ministry of Food Formed

December 22, 2016

The Ministry of Food was formed on December 22 1916. It was formed to deal with the increasing supply problems of bad harvests, an ongoing war requiring food for civilians, war workers and troops, call up of agricultural workers and horses affecting farming and merchant shipping threatened by German U-boats.

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WW1 child and adult ration books from the Ministry of Food (October 1918)

The Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Pensions were formed on the same day, the same time that a new War cabinet wad formed under the new Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C786

National Archives file summary:

The first Ministry of Food was established on 22 December 1916 under a Food Controller who, under the New Ministries and Secretaries Act 1916, was empowered to regulate the supply and consumption of food and take steps for encouraging food production.

The Ministry was dissolved on 31 March 1921.

“Never Mind the Food Controller, We’ll Live on Love …” was a popular gramophone and music hall song by Florrie Forde at this time.

 The Ministry of Food survived until 1921, was reformed in 1939 for WW2 and later in the 1955 became MAFF and since 2002 DEFRA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minister_of_Food_(United_Kingdom)#Minister_of_Food_Control_.281916.E2.80.931921.29

Inside a ww1 ration book

Inside a WW1  ration book

The national food situation would become a growing concern for gardeners and garden editors like Herbert Cowley:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/dig-for-victory-1917-world-war-1-style-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-and-the-fortunate-herbert-cowley-1885-1967/

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Remembering Henry Peris Davies ZSL staff died Far East 21.12. 1941

December 21, 2016

 

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Names of the five fallen ZSL staff from the Second World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010. This well polished plate has been replaced in 2014 with a new one.

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

164971, Royal Artillery, 5th Field Regt, died aged 27.

Occasionally his official date of death is given as 31st December 1941.

Davies is listed on the Singapore memorial.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/remembering-zookeeper-and-gardener-far-east-pows-70-years-on-2015/

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

As well as being remembered on the Singapore War Memorial and the ZSL staff war memorial at London Zoo, 27 year old Henry Peris Davies is also remembered on the parish war memorial at Crymych, Pembrokeshire, Wales. This is presumably his home area.

Henry was the son of Evan and Anne Davies, and served with 5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

A Probate record suggests that he was married and lived at 4 Mallard Way, Kingsbury and he left £1216 to his wife Ann.

Photographs of the Crymych memorial and his panel on the Singapore Memorial can be seen on Steven John’s website:

http://www.wwwmp.co.uk/pembrokeshire-war-memorials/crymych-war-memorial/

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Within Kranji War Cemetery stands the SINGAPORE MEMORIAL, bearing the names of over 24,000 casualties of the Commonwealth land and air forces who have no known grave including London Zoo’s Henry Peris Davies. Many of these have no known date of death and are accorded within our records the date or period from when they were known to be missing or captured.

Individuals are commemorated on the Singapore Memorial in this way when their loss has been officially declared by their relevant service but there is no known burial for the individual, or in circumstances where graves cannot be individually marked, or where the grave site has become inaccessible and unmaintainable.

The land forces commemorated by the memorial died during the campaigns in Malaya and Indonesia or in subsequent captivity, many of them during the construction of the Burma-Thailand railway, or at sea while being transported into imprisonment elsewhere.

Remembered 75 years on, Henry Peris Davies of ZSL London Zoo.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 21 December 2016.

5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery : Henry Peris Davies’ Regiment

5th Field Regiment – Jephson (from Rawalpindi & Nowshera, India 1939-1941)  firing 16 x 4.5 inch howitzers 63rd Battery, 73rd Battery, 81st Battery. supported Indian Regiment troops.  

5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery was commanded in 1941 by  Lt. Col. Edward William Francis Jephson

Times of Malaya’s blogspot :  http://malayacommand.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/1941-december-royal-artillery-indian.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BL_4.5-inch_Medium_Field_Gun

 

Happy Wartime Christmas Birthday Peggy Jane Skinner

December 20, 2016

 

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

Today is a birthday reminder of one of our wartime diarists from our wartime collection, wartime student Peggy Jane Skinner:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/peggy-skinners-wartime-christmas-1940/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner/

On what would have been her 92nd birthday (Peggy was born 20th December 1924 and died in 2011), we send her  giftwrapped her favourite 1940s film star Tyrone Power.

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1940s heart throb Tyrone Power (Image: Wikepedia source)

 

Happy birthday Peggy!

Scheduled Blog post by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo. 20 December 2016

The Verdun Oak at Kew Gardens

December 20, 2016

19th December 2016 saw the unveiling ceremony of a commemorative bench  commissioned by Kew Gardens to mark the centenary of the end of the “Battle of Verdun”.

The bench has been crafted by Gaze Burvill with timber from a specimen of Quercus petraea which was struck and felled during “St Jude’s storm” in 2013.

http://www.kew.org/about/press-media/press-releases/kew-gardens-unveil-verdun-bench-mark-100th-anniversary-battle

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The new Kew Gardens Verdun Oak bench, 19 December 2016 (Image: RBG Kew) 

 

This tree was planted at Kew in 1919, from an acorn picked up after the Battle of Verdun,  in remembrance of Kew staff who died during the Great War,  and all soldiers from the different nationalities who fought in this dreadful battle and “the Great War”.

http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/

The Ceremony took  place on the 19th December 2016  by the Palm House pond near the Cumberland Mound.

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Where the Kew Verdun Oak stood for almost a century … RIP 2013 (photo; Mark Norris)

Just before I saw the absence of the Verdun Oak at Kew Gardens I had read this article by blogger Lucy at http://www.familyaffairsandothermatters.com/verdun-oak-kew-gardens-an-armistice-day-story/

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Verdun Oak 2013 photo from Lucy’s Blog at http://www.familyaffairs and othermatters.com

Sadly, although invited, I could not attend the Ceremony but I will look out for this bench on my next visit to Kew Gardens.

 

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens Project, December 2016.

 

 

Japanese zoos in wartime

December 7, 2016

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Faithful Elephants

Interesting children’s book about the fate of some Japanese Zoo elephants in wartime, originally  written by Yukio Tsuchiya and published in 1951. It was  reissued with illustrations by US illustrator Ted Lewin by publishers Houghton Mifflin in the USA in 1988.

Our second post of the day on the Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary, I wonder if Faithful Elephants  is still “read aloud  on Japanese radio every year to mark the anniversary of Japan’s Surrender in World War 2” each August?

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Back or inside cover blurb for Faithful Elephants

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Preface to Faithful Elephants (1988 version)

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Copies are available via online bookshops.

A true or fact-inspired  story to go alongside the many fictional stories set in wartime zoos, focussing on elephants …

Worth reading alongside Mayumi Itoh’s book Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy …

Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh’s  Japanese zoos in  wartime history book (2010)

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo,  7th December 1941

 

Remembering Pearl Harbor 1941 75 years on

December 7, 2016

Remembering Pearl Harbor 75 years on from the date that will live “in infamy”, the 7th of December 1941.

Here is the blogpost that we wrote on the 70th anniversary in 2011 with an interesting Pearl Harbor related camouflaged panda story (which coincided with the arrival of pandas at  Edinburgh Zoo c. 2011):

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/panda-tourism-and-pearl-harbor-a-wartime-perspective-from-world-war-zoo-gardens/

This wartime Panda  story is more widely covered in Maura Cunningham’s blogpost https://mauracunningham.org/2016/02/08/panda-monium-at-the-bronx-zoo-a-history/

Japan’s entry into the war against America, then Britain and the Allies had a profound  effect on world events, including on the careers and lives of several of the zoo and botanic Gardens staff that we have researched.

America’s entry into the war against Italy and Germany would have an unusual effect on our sister zoo at Paignton Zoo and Clennon Gorge  (where many GIs camped) and much of Southwest Britain with the arrival of the GIs.

Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh’s Japanese zoos in  wartime book

Mayumi Itoh’s book on Japanese wartime zoo policy makes grim reading and mentions what happened to some of the Japanese zoo keepers and vet staff during the war, as well as the unfortunate zoo animals.

Remembering 75 years on the many lives lost at Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941 and in the Far East campaign 1941-45.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 7 December 2016.

 

 

Stanley Saul Mottershead killed 4 December 1916

December 4, 2016

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Stanley Saul Mottershead,  brother of the founder of Chester Zoo George Mottershead, was killed in action in France on 4 December 1916.

http://www.chesterzoo.org/global/about-us/our-zoo-bbc-drama/george-mottershead

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George Mottershead in uniform with wife Elizabeth, World War One, one of many family photos in the new June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo, 2011.

George Saul Mottershead himself had been very seriously wounded by a bullet near the spine during the Battle of The Somme a few weeks earlier on the 15th October 1916. Doctors feared that George would be paralysed, however this former physical fitness instructor took several years to walk again, always with a limp.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/george-mottersheads-trip-from-our-zoo-at-chester-zoo-to-newquay-zoo/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/our-zoo-chester-zoo-and-the-drama-of-zoo-history/

George lost two brothers, half-brother Albert (Bert) Mottershead,  remembered with his brother Stanley Saul Mottershead on the Sale war memorial.

33 year old  Lance Corporal Albert Mottershead, Service No. 25258,  Lewis Gunner in the 23rd Battalion, Manchester Regiment was killed on 22 October 1917 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

http://www.traffordwardead.co.uk/index.php?sold_id=s%3A8%3A%22413%2Csale%22%3B&letter=M&place=&war=&soldier=Mottershead

http://www.mlfhs.org.uk/data/war_memorials_images.php?memorial=75

Private Stanley Saul Mottershead, Service No. 12594, 19th Battalion Manchester Regiment, (the 4th Manchester Pals) was killed by a shell on 4 December 1916. He had only arrived at the front in November 1916. He is buried at Grave Reference: I. E. 3, in  Douchy-Les-Ayette British Cemetery in France, a concentration burial  area for 491 soldiers including many from scattered graveyards across Arras and The Ancre.

http://www.traffordwardead.co.uk/index.php?sold_id=s%3A8%3A%22412%2Csale%22%3B&letter=M&place=&war=&soldier=Mottershead

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George’s brother Stanley Saul Mottershead is buried here near the tree on the right at Douchy Les Ayette Cemetery, France (Image source: CWGC)  

 

The Mottershead family, remembered.

Many thanks to George Cogswell for his website and research on the Mottershead family, Trafford and Sale war dead.

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

Remembering Charles Anderson of Kew Gardens Albert Medal winner

November 28, 2016

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Anderson and Fussell are buried alongside each other  in the third row right, just out of the edge of this photo of St Venanlt Communal Cemetery, France (Image source: CWGC)

Remembering Charles Henry Anderson, Kew Gardener, and Bertram Fussell, 14 London Regiment, who both died on 28/ 29 November 1916  due to an accident with a hand grenade.
2326 Lance (Sergeant or) Corporal Charles Henry Anderson died on 29 November 1916 aged 26, serving in France with the  1st/14th Bn. London Regiment (London Scottish). He was awarded the Albert Medal for his actions on 29 November 1916, saving the lives of several of his comrades.

His medal record card states that in addition to the standard Victory and British war medals, he was also awarded the Albert Medal (citation below, also available on CWGC website ).

Citation
An extract from “The London Gazette,” No. 30156, dated 29th June, 1917, records the following:-“The King has been graciously pleased to award the Decoration of the Albert Medal of the First Class in recognition of the gallantry of Lce. Cpl. Charles Henry Anderson, late of the 1st/14th Bn. of the London Regt., who lost his life in France in November last in saving the lives of others.

On the 28th Nov., 1916, Lce. Cpl. Anderson was in a hut in France with eleven other men when, accidentally, the safety pin was withdrawn from a bomb. In the semi-darkness he shouted a warning to the men, rushed to the door, and endeavoured to open it so as to throw the bomb into a field. Failing to do this, when he judged that the five seconds during which the fuse was timed to burn had elapsed, he held the bomb as close to his body as possible with both hands in order to screen the other men in the hut. Anderson himself and one other man were mortally wounded by the explosion, and five men were injured. The remaining five escaped unhurt. Anderson sacrificed his life to save his comrades.”

Anderson is buried alongside Fussell at Grave Reference II. K. 3, St. Venant Communal Cemetery in France, just to the side of the cross of sacrifice, amongst 253 WW1 Commonwealth soldier burials. The cemetery is associated with the Casualty Clearing Stations where Anderson and Fussell died.

Anderson’s headstone is shown at: https://www.twgpp.org/photograph/view/3980361

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/287702/ANDERSON,%20CHARLES%20HENRY

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Anderson’s name on the Kew Gardens staff war memorial.

In the Kew Guild Journal staff records Anderson is listed around 1914/15 as a ‘Present Kewite’ (still employed actually at Kew when war broke out) and employed as a ‘Gardener’. You can read more about him and his story at:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/such-is-the-price-of-empire-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-the-first-world-war/

Charles Anderson’s “heroic” death, an alternative view:

Interestingly earlier this year (2016) James Wearn at Kew and I were contacted by Mike Thompson, who had a different interpretation of the grenade accident incident:

In Mike Thompson’s words, “Charles Henry Anderson was a fool and a show-off, who got himself killed through his own stupidity and cost the life of another man, as well as five others wounded.”

“He was in an army hut behind the line, kitted up for a trench raid and each man had been issued with two No.5 Mills Bombs.  All except Anderson carried them in their gas satchels. He was showing off how he had cut slits in the inside lining of his leather jerkin, to get bombs out more quickly. He was demonstrating this when the pin came out of one of the grenades. He ran to the door but the bomb exploded. The Court of Enquiry concluded that the bomb was not a faulty short fuse but recommended that improvements be made to the actual pin.”

“The Corps Commander, Lt-Gen Sir Richard Haking recommended him for the Albert Medal“.

To Mike Thompson this appears “By modern standards, an absolutely bizarre decision.”

The Court of Enquiry report is in the WW1 service file for the other man killed Bertram Fussell, which can be found on Ancestry. Anderson and Fussell are buried side by side.”

In this alternative interpretation, the Albert Medal recommendation appears today to Mike Thompson  “an absolutely bizarre decision”.

I have since read the Court of Enquiry notes and witness statements on Fussell’s service record (available on Ancestry).

In modern times / standards,  the medal might appear to be a wartime attempt to hide the awkwardness or embarrassment to his family or regiment and maintain morale and good press for the war effort.

Although the Court of Enquiry held that Anderson was to blame, his self-sacrificing efforts to save his fellow soldiers from the blast by shielding them from the explosion was noted.

Changes to the demonstration, issue and carrying of  Mills grenades were recommended in his battalion after this accident, as well as criticism of the ‘malleable’ yellow metal of the grenade pins.

Whether this was accident, mistake or both, both Anderson and Fussell are buried alongside each other.

Fussell’s death is recorded as Bomb Wound (accident) on 28.11.16 from which he died in 32 Casualty Clearing station at 9pm on 29 / 30 November 1916, after the Court of Enquiry had taken place. Only Anderson had died by the time the Court of Enquiry notes were typed up.

Bertram Fussell was a former  clerk of the Port Of London Authority who attested as a pre-war Territorial in 1912, living with his brother at 81 Dover Road, South Wanstead. Born in West Ham in January 1894, he enlisted in London on 5 August 1914, transferred regiments to serve with friends and finally embarked for France on 14 July 1916. He was injured by a shell wound on his right shoulder on 6 September 1916 and only returned to his battalion a week before his accidental death.

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/287725/FUSSELL,%20B

Headstone photo at https://www.twgpp.org/photograph/view/3980449

Bertram Fussell and Charles Henry Anderson, remembered.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project


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