Remembering VE Day May 8 1945 and 2015

May 4, 2015

Our bunting is back out in the World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment garden at Newquay Zoo to remember and mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day on 8th May 1945.

Celebration bunting, cabbages and mascot Blitz Bear out in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo, Summer 2011

Celebration bunting, cabbages and mascot Blitz Bear out in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo, late Summer 2011.

Remembering VE day May 8  1945 – many events are planned around Britain and the world to mark this 70th anniversary on Friday 8th May 2015, as the election news settles. The lists several VE Day 2015 projects.  BBC Radio Cornwall have also been collecting and featuring local memories of  VE Day events in 1945.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo  - blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo – blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

Here is a local Victory Day programme (1946) from our World War Zoo Gardens collections at Newquay Zoo:

Marazion VE day 1945

Some interesting and unusual sports – Tip the Bucket, Slow Cycle race – amongst the familiar egg and spoon and sack races  to celebrate Victory Day programme for the Marazion Victory parade in 1946.


Marzaion VE day 1945 2

Note the last phrase “The public are asked to decorate their houses with Flags and Bunting for the occasion”.

Many local people were interested to see this original Victory parade programme near its origin at the Trengwainton National Trust Gardens 1940s event in June 2014. A copy has now been passed on to the local Marazion school and museum

We will be back at Trengwainton with part of our wartime collection  at its next Sunday June 14th 2015 event  – check the Trengwainton Gardens website for details. They had a fantastic display at their own wartime allotment, including this fetching V for Victory 1940s garden poster:

Wartime poster, Trengwainton NT, Cornwall May 2014 Image: Mark Norris, WWZG.

Wartime poster, Trengwainton NT, Cornwall May 2014 Image: Mark Norris, WWZG.

After VE  day instead of relaxing in the wartime garden and planting flowers,  there was a switch from “Dig For Victory” to “Dig on For Plenty“, realising we had much of Europe to feed.

You can see more of Trengwainton’s wartime ‘victory’ garden and our part in their Victory Day  2014 events here:

However for my family and the nation there was still VJ Day to work towards, an a anxious and tired wait for the end of the war against Japan, which finally happened in August 1945.

This was covered in our zoo keeper and botanic garden staff FEPOW and Burma Star blogpost in January 2015: 

Remembering VE Day 1945 …

Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.

Lucky Underwear and the Lusitania Centenary 7 May 1915

May 3, 2015

Remembering 1195 souls lost in the sinking of the Lusitania centenary 7 May 1915.

This is a brilliant London Tube Poster (photographed Autumn 2014) advertising the 2014 relaunch of the WW1 galleries at the Imperial War Museum London showing how well an unusual object can ‘tell’ an incredible survival story:

lusitania ww1 text

Having seen the object in the gallery, an almost overwhelming immersive experience, the poster tells the Lusitania story simply and well.

ww1 lusitania

Appropriately for someone researching wartime gardens in unusual places like zoos, a flowery patch of home also caught my eye on this IWM WW1 ‘object story’ poster, again for a small object that might get lost amongst the mass of exhibits at the IWM galleries:

wallpaper ww1

The posters were created by agency Johnny Fearless and its Executive Creative Director Paul Domenet which included a short animation with Aardman, Flight of Stories:

Another chilling anniversary for April and May 1915 was the use of poison gas on the battlefield:


An unusual “Hoodie” for Tube Commuters to see indeed.

Other clever WW1 centenary interpretation methods glimpsed in London include the WW1 soldier war memorial to railway staff ‘Talking Statue’ at Paddington Station.

Lest we forget …

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Poppies poem anniversary written 3 May 1915

May 3, 2015



Somme poppies, Thiepval area, France taken on my first trenches tour,  1992 (Copyright: Mark Norris)

Somme poppies, Thiepval area, France taken on my first trenches tour, 1992 (Copyright: Mark Norris, WWZG, Newquay Zoo)


“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row …”

Today is the 100th anniversary of the writing on 3rd May 1915 of the Poppies poem, In Flanders Fields, by Canadian Army doctor John McCrae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It was written by McCrae to commemorate his Canadian friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer who had died the day before on 2 May 1915 during the Second Battle Of Ypres. McCrae had presided over the burial and noticed poppies around the graves.,%20ALEXIS%20HANNUM

The poem was said to have been written in the back of an ambulance the next day 3rd May 1915 but not published anonymously until 8th December 1915 in Punch magazine. McCrae himself died of pneumonia in January 1918.

I visited  the very muddy flooded Essex Farm casualty clearing station where McCrae worked  and took my picture of Thiepval Somme poppies the same wet, overcast day in 1992. You can see pictures on Alan Jennings’ WW1 Battlefields Blog

Tower Poppies

Tower Poppies, London WW1 Centenary, November 2014 (Image: Mark Norris, WWZG collection)

The poem’s final verse (below) caused some unease and discussion when it was read recently at a local Roll of Honour rededication ceremony. However I think it sits well with the WW1 centenary ethos of keeping ‘faith’ with the memory of all “the Dead”  of all nations, in remembering the fallen WW1 casualties and their generation.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

You can read more about John McCrae and Alexis Helmer who inspired the Poppies poem at :

The recent Gallipoli anniversary in April 2015 also saw CWGC commemoration of the early death from disease on active service  of poet Rupert Brooke and his sonnet The Soldier : “If I Should Die …”

Wild Memorial Flowers

The Poppy went on to become a powerful symbol of remembrance, symbolic of blood yet at odds with the beautiful spread of wildflowers on disturbed farmland torn up and disfigured by the trenches. The Tower Poppies display in Autumn 2014  showed that its symbolic power en masse has not faded with the years but grown with the centenary and with fresh memories of recent conflict.


Tower Poppies, Autumn 2014. (Image: Mark Norris, WWZG)


In France, according to RBGE archivist Leonie Paterson, the equivalent remembrance flower is the Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) or “Les Bleuets”, based on the sky blue uniform adopted during WW1 by the French troops. Leonie has been studying many of the flowers dedicated to RBGE staff killed in WW1 on her fascinating blog posts. A WW1 centenary wildflower and poppy lawn were sown at RBGE Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh in 2014.

I have planted some Cornflowers, a source of edible petals for some of our animals, in our World War Zoo Gardens allotment plot at Newquay Zoo.

Many BIAZA zoos in the UK including Newquay Zoo have planted wildflower areas in 2015 as part of the BIAZA Grab That Gap  wildflower initiative with Flora Locale to encourage wildlife and survey them as part of  a BIAZA Bioblitz this summer.

French prisoners of war in a German postcard, wearing the old early French WW1 uniform (almost bright Waterloo colours) before it became sky blue, like the cornflower - "les bleuets"  (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection)

French prisoners of war in a German postcard, wearing the old early French WW1 uniform (almost bright Waterloo colours) before it became sky blue, like the cornflower – “les bleuets” (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens collection)

Remember John McCrae, Alexis Helmer and the many other casualties of all nations, whenever you next see a wild poppy blowing in the wind, wherever it is, in a zoo or in a field or garden  …

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

War and Paice: Remembering Reginald James Paice undergardener Bagshot Park died 28.4.1915

April 27, 2015

Remembering Reginald  James Paice, undergardener, Bagshot Park,  who died of wounds in France on 28 April 1915, serving with  C Squadron,  Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars.

Part of the World War Zoo Gardens project here at Newquay Zoo involves looking at the impact that WW1 and WW2 had on the staff and activities  of zoos and botanic gardens and their related areas of science, gardening and horticulture. As an active memorial it also involves researching some of the lesser known names whose passing would not have been remarked outside their family, workplace, town or village. One such ordinary man was Reginald Paice.,%20REGINALD%20JAMES

Private R J Paice No 2078, died 28/04/1915 aged 26, serving in C Squadron Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. Paice is buried at Grave Reference: I. E. 158, Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord. He is listed as the “Son of Walter and Catherine Paice, of Park Farm, Frimley, Surrey” and as a “Native of Sandhurst”.

Bailleul Cemetery Extension where Paice lies. Source image: CWGC.

Bailleul Cemetery Extension where Paice lies. Source image: CWGC.

Bailleul in Northern France became an important railhead, air depot and hospital centre, with the 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 11th, 53rd, 1st Canadian and 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Stations quartered there. This links with Paice’s death of wounds.

The 1911 census records him living and working as part of a team of gardeners at Bagshot Park in Surrey

1911 census for Gardeners at Bagshot park including Reginald James Paice

1911 census for Gardeners at Bagshot park including Reginald James Paice

This census return gives a glimpse of a vanishing way of estate and walled garden life, beautifully caught by the BBC Victorian Kitchen and Garden series and in living gardens like Heligan.

At  the time Paice was employed as an Undergardener, the Head Gardener was Charles William Knowles (1857-1941) who was Head Gardener at Bagshot Park from 1903  until 1927.

Bagshot Park in Surrey has been owned by royals since Stuart times, then from 1942 the base of army chaplains until it recently became the home and farm estate of Prince Edward and The Countess of Wessex.
There is more about the history and estate staff at

Bagshot War memorial (Image from the Bagshot village website)

Bagshot War memorial (Image from the Bagshot village website)

Paice features on the Bagshot war memorial. It mentions his job and family:

“Reginald was born in Sandhurst in 1889, the eldest of the seven children of farmer Walter Paice (1859-1923) and his wife Catherine (b 1860). The family moved to Hall Grove Farm, Bagshot, about 1895. Reginald did not follow his father into farming but became an under-gardener in Bagshot Park.”

Farm boys and gardeners like Paice are likely to have had from a young age a good working knowledge of horses, perfect for the Yeomanry / Cavalry.

He is remembered on other local history websites such as the Frimley and Camberley memorial site :

1891 Census – Living at Sandhurst, Berkshire
1901 Census – Living at Hall Grove Farm, Bagshot, Surrey
1911 – Living at Bagshot Park, Bagshot, Surrey, in the 1911 census.

Reginald,  aged 21 in 1911, was working as a Gardener at Bagshot Park, which was then the residence of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.


Paice enlisted at Oxford into the local Yeomanry  regiment, the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. His regimental number suggests an enlistment date of September 1914.

Paice’s Squadron was then  posted to the B.E.F. in France, disembarking on the 24th of November 1914. His death date suggests actions relating to  the Second Battle of Ypres 22 April to 25 May. His service records do not seem to have survived.

Members of his family remember him on

The Oxfordshire Yeomanry or  Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars (or the “Queer Objects On Horseback”) regiment was formed on the creation of the Territorial Force in April 1908. It was headquartered in Oxford with Paice’s “C  squadron” nicknamed the Henley Squadron, being headquartered at Henley-on-Thames (Watlington, Theme and Goring-on-Thames.

There is a brief regimental summary for the QOOH WW1  on Wikipedia, as well as evocative pictures on these following websites, suggesting that these “War Horse” cavalry soldiers spent time digging and manning trenches as the stalemate of trench warfare began and the open war suited to cavalry receded. Churchill had a strong connection to this regiment, along with his brother Jack.

Interestingly Reginald’s brother Walter Gilbert Paice (Private 2350 or 2355) seems to have also been in the QOOH, appearing on the same WW1  service medal roll as his brother. It lists this former farmer’s son embarking for France on 16 April 1915 and being discharged on 26 July 1917  (presumably because of ill health or wounds). He died in 1974.

Remembered …

Remembering the Lost Gardeners of Gallipoli 2015

April 25, 2015

ANZAC day on 25 April 2015 is the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli.

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

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

On the day and over the next few months of bitter fighting, several zoo related and botanic gardens staff were killed at Gallipoli.

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

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

Kew Gardens lost Charles F. Ball and Walter Morland from amongst the former  Kew trained staff. Charles Ball was based at Glasnevin, now part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland.

Walter Morland in his 5th Royal Scots uniform (Source: RBGE archives)

Walter Morland in his 5th Royal Scots uniform (Source: RBGE archives)

Private Charles Frederick Ball, service number 16445, 7th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers (Pals Battalion), died at Gallipoli  on 13 September 1915, aged 36. He is buried at Lala Baba Cemetery in Gallipoli, Turkey.

Lala Baba cemetery, Turkey. Image copyright CWGC

C.F. Ball lies amongst the top left hand side row of graves  to the west of this picture Lala Baba cemetery, Turkey. Image copyright CWGC

C.F. Ball, Gallipoli casualty, is remembered in the hedging plant Escallonia ‘C.F. Ball’.

Kew trained gardener Walter Morland of the 5th Royal Scots was killed at Gallipoli. Married in 1909 whilst serving at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, Morland enlisted on August 31 1914 in the 5th Battalion Royal Scots (Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles) at Edinburgh where he was (CWGC entry) “on staff at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh as a Rose Specialist“..

Morland survived the landings on April 25th 1915 (the date on his entry to Theatre of war on his WW1 medal record card) but died on 2nd or 7th May – records vary – during:

“an assault on a wood below Krythia on May 7th. For three weeks no traces of him could be found, and it was supposed he had been taken prisoner; then his chums, during an advance, found his body.”

Walter Morland has no known grave and is remembered with many other missing men on panel 26-30 of the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli in Turkey.

Ball and Morland’s stories are told more fully on the Kew Gardens WW1 War Memorial blogpost:

RBGE Gallipoli Casualties

The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE) had many former staff serving in the local regiment  the 5th Battalion Royal Scots including Kew trained Walter Morland.

Several of the 20 RBGE staff casualties were killed at Gallipoli. Archivist Leonie Paterson has uncovered the service stories behind their Roll of Honour and the RBGE War Memorial.

Private Duncan Smith, RBGE Gardener 1909, served in the 5th Royal Scots in Gallipoli and was killed in action after three months on 11 June 1915.

William Gordon Dickson, Labourer RBGE 1914, Private 5th Royal Scots  killed in action Gallipoli 28 June 1915.

Sergeant George Fallow, 5th Batt. The Royal Scots, a former gardener on the staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, died 19th August 1915, in Egypt, of wounds received in action at Gallipoli. Fallow had a Buddleia fallownia plant named after him by RBGE staff

Private John Mathieson Brown, served 7th Royal Scots  Egypt and Galliopoli 1 year, killed in action Gallipoli 24 November (1917?)

RBGE Gallipoli Survivors

Others served and survived Gallipoli like Private William Dykes employed at RBGE as a Boy (junior staff) in 1914. Dykes served at Galliploi and France for 2 years with the 5th Royal Scots, being wounded once and demobilised in 1919.

Corporal Horace Elwood, RBGE Probationer 1913, also served with the 5th Royal Scots for  1 year 1 month at Gallipoli, twice wounded, demobilised 1919.

Henry Johnstone (RBGE Labourer) served in Egypt, Gallipoli and Flanders for three years, 9 months, being once wounded and demobilised 1919. Charles Lamont (RBGE Probationer, 1914) also served for these periods and places, again once wounded.

John McMillan Lugton, RBGE Park Keeper 1913, served as a Squadron Sergeant-Major in the Scottish Horse for three years Gallipoli, Egypt, Balkans and France, being twice wounded.

Alexander McCutcheon, RBGE Gardener 1907 returned on demobilisation to become a Foreman in 1919. He had served as a Sergeant in the Royal Scots for three years ten months in Gallipoli and Flanders.

James Maxwell Hampson, RBGE Labourer 1914, served as a Private, 5th Royal Scots at Gallipoli for one year,  only to be killed in action two years later in France on 8 March 1918.

Dublin Zoo RZSI – Frank Brendan O’Carroll

Zoo families were affected by the loss of staff but also of the members of staff families on active service. Sons, brothers, grandsons and heirs of zoo and botanic gardens staff were lost in WW1. The wealthy citizens and Dublin Zoo council members living in Merrion Square in Dublin had their own family losses. One such was Frank Brendan O’Carroll, the son of Dublin Zoo RZSI council member Joseph O’Carroll MD FRCPI of 43 Merrion Square, Dublin.

Second Lieutenant Frank Brendan O’Carroll, 6th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers died on 10 August 1915, aged 20 as part of the Gallipoli and Dardanelles campaign. He is remembered on panel 190-196 of the Helles memorial to the missing, Turkey.

The circumstances of his death are recorded in the 6th Battalion war diary:

7 August Suvla Bay. Made landing at C Beach on Anafarta Bay at 18.00. Battalion in reserve under Brig General Hill. Took up position at Entrance to Salt Lake. 6th and 7th Dublins attached to 31st Brigade.

8 August Suvla Bay. Battalion on water and ammunition fatigue for the Brigade

9 August Suvla Bay. Battalion attached to 33 Brigade (General Maxwell), Moved from beach about 02.30 to Hill 50. A Coy detached to support the right flank of the Brigade. Battalion ordered to support firing line near Ali Bay Chesme point 105-H-8.

Officers killed Lt Doyle, wounded believed killed 2nd Lt Stanton, 2nd Lt Mc Garry. Wounded and missing Major Jennings. Wounded Capt Luke, Capt Carrol, Lt Martin, 2nd Lt Carter, 2nd Lt Mortimer, 2nd Lt O’Carroll. Missing Lt Clery. Killed wounded and missing Other Ranks 259.

The Europeana website has a poignant letter from father Joseph as he worries over four sons including another fighting in Gallipolli.

O’Carroll’s name on the memorial is pictured on


Melbourne Botanic Gardens Australia staff memorial tree.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens Australia staff memorial tree.

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne have a staff memorial tree which remembers Driver Arthur William Bugg AASC who died in hospital in Egypt  in 1915 as part of the AIF. Members of his family have been involved in the Shrine at the ANZAC service in Melbourne. We have posted more about this memorial on our previous blogposts.

You can hear more of the survivor’s voices (including Alexander Burnett of the Royal Scots) from Gallipoli on the IWM WW1 centenary Podcast No 14 

You can also read more on the CWGC website:


Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo



A Trench Dead Darwin 24 April 1915

April 23, 2015


Erasmus Darwin IV in uniform (Source: Wikipedia)

Erasmus Darwin IV in uniform (Source: Wikipedia)

Gazing down the steps of the British Museum (Natural History) as it used to be known is the marble statue of Charles Darwin, looking past the famous dinosaurs down the entrance hall. Nearby on the wall are the names of the museum staff lost in both world wars at home and abroad.

Darwin’s grandson is not listed among them on this plaque in The Natural History Museum but he is one of the many naturalist and scientist related casualties who died in both World Wars.

Erasmus Darwin IV, grandson of the famous scientist, was killed aged 33 on 24 April 1915, serving as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards).

He was killed after only a week of active service, typical of the short life of a junior officer, during the Battle of St. Julien, 2nd Battle of Ypres.

Erasmus was buried with a fellow Officer, John Vivian Nancarrow, but unfortunately their grave was lost in the fighting. As a result, he has no known grave and is remembered on Panel 33 Of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

CWGC lists him as the “Son of Horace and Ida Darwin, of The Orchard, Cambridge. Grandson of naturalist Charles Darwin and statistician Thomas Farrer, 1st Baron Farrer.” He was a director of the Cambridge Scientific Instruments Company, founded by his father.

There is a extensive Wikipedia biography of him:

His story and that of his Regiment and the battle and memorials around the country are well told o0n various websites:

British Museum (Natural History) staff war memorial

We will feature more about the British Museum  (Natural History) staff lost in WW1 and the 8 staff casualties from WW2  in future blog posts.

Duncan Gotch of the British Museum staff’s  story, killed in WW1, is told here:




Remembering William Donald Pascoe April 1915, Primrose Day and Percy Izzard

April 20, 2015

Cross-posting from another research post about a local war memorial in Cornwall, I featured a lyrical couple of pages from Homeland, a book written in 1918 from press pieces by garden writer Percy Izzard.

April 19th and 20th entries, Homeland: A Book of Country Days (1918) Percy W D Izzard

April 19th and 20th entries, Homeland: A Book of Country Days (1918) Percy W D Izzard

He later wrote the more prosaic Daily Mail guide to Dig for Victory in WW2, which I have used as topical advice of the time for our World War Zoo Gardens WW2 allotment project here at Newquay Zoo.

Preface to Percy Izzard's Homeland (1918)

Preface to Percy Izzard’s Homeland (1918)

One can imagine the solace that Izzard’s  writing gave during wartime to anxious relatives and soldiers far from their Homeland”, all part of the healing power of nature, albeit a slightly romantic and vanishing countryside.

Lots more could be written about his book (available second hand on the web) and I will feature more about Izzard and his book Homeland close to its centenary in 2018.

Lyrical and lush, maybe even painterly in places, it chimes with contemporary efforts like the Wildlife Trust’s My Wildlife campaign and Project Wild Thing, to value the healing power of nature and get people outdoors. Gardening Leave the ex-forces horticultural therapy group would no doubt agree.

The Future of Nature Writing?

Continuing the Izzard tradition, nature writers like Gerald Durrell  inspired (and continues to inspire?) a whole generation of conservationists who work alongside me in zoos and wildlife parks.

I wonder what the next generation of nature writers will be like and how they will communicate?

I shall have to ask the Wildlife Education and Media students next door at Cornwall College Newquay.

The slow calm and quiet headspace created by good nature writing from people like Richard Mabey in Nature Cure and others, pioneered in the past nature writing competitions by BBC Wildlife magazine, still has a power to engage people with conservation and wildlife, even in the manic days of tweets, podcasts, dramatic whizzy films and apps.

Good nature writing can be as calming as  a quiet country churchyard full of wildflowers but on a page and at your own pace.

Interesting compilations of nature writing can be found online including the Guardian based  Country Diary (see article about 1914) collected as The Guardian Book of Wartime Country Diaries (Martin Wainwright, 2007) or an older US compilation The Nature Reader by Daniel Halpern.

By the way, whatever happened to Primrose Day?

Does anyone still celebrate this?

Primroses seem to be doing well enough in Plantlife’s

You can read a little more about Percy Izzard (who will feature in a forthcoming blog here in 2016/7)  and William Pascoe at the original blog I wrote:

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

Back to Nature: The quiet  riches of a country churchyard where William D. Pascoe, WW1 casualty is remembered on the family plot amongst wildflowers, pinecones and primroses. Devoran Churchyard, Cornwall,  April 2015.  Image: Mark Norris

Back to Nature: The quiet riches of a country churchyard where William D. Pascoe, WW1 casualty is remembered on the family plot beneath the fir tree amongst wildflowers, pinecones and primroses. Devoran Churchyard, Cornwall, April 2015.
Image: Mark Norris

WW2 Eggless Cake recipe from the YAC website

April 19, 2015

Quick WW2 wartime cake recipe to try from the newly relaunched website for the Young Archaeologist’s Club or YAC:

“Heritage you can eat”, that fits with our World War Zoo Gardens allotment philosophy and workshop approach at Newquay Zoo.

Look out for our previous entries on WW1 Christmas cake and WW2 Savoury Potato biscuits.

Maybe ANZAC Biscuits should be the next topical ones  featured with the Gallipoli WW1 centenary next weekend on 25th April? We’ll be blog-posting about zoo and botanic garden staff involved in Gallipoli in time for ANZAC day on  25 April 2015.

A few ANZAC biscuit recipes can be found here at BBC Food and  Taste.Com AU

A wartime guide to Edinburgh 1943

April 1, 2015

This little wartime guide to Edinburgh is something I didn’t get time to post during the 2014 Scottish referendum or during the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo centenary in 2013. It is from the 5th Edition, November 1943.

Edinburgh wartime guide c/o the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Edinburgh wartime guide c/o the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

It gives a little flavour of wartime life in Edinburgh and Scotland during WW2. Clicking on a picture below should allow you to enlarge it and read more.

wartime guide 2wartime guide 3

More about Edinburgh wartime life, such as where to sleep for visiting servicemen and women:wartime guide 4

And of course, regimental clubs and less glamorous canteens and rest rooms for H.M. Forces:

wartime guide 5Alongside “leading churches in the city”, there is mention of Edinburgh Zoo and an image of its polar bears. There is also suggestions for Sunday evening entertainments other than churches.

wartime guide 6wartime guide 7 mapAmongst many recreation and entertainments including cinemas, theatres, public baths and zoos, golf seems to feature quite heavily in this little wartime tourism guide in the era of “holidays at home” in Scotland.

“>wartime guide 8

“Some addresses which may be useful” in wartime from ARP and NAAFI to the NFS and the YWCA.

wartime guide  10

wartime guide 12

wartime guide 11

So that’s a glimpse of wartime life in Edinburgh, a little bit of time travel.

There is a final page written in French which I will scan and add later, probably for Free French and Canadian French troops visiting the city.

Later in the year I will add more about the history of Edinburgh Zoo, its remarkable founder ‘Tom’ T.H. Gillespie and a few stories from its WW1 and WW2 history.

wratime guide 1

A garden in a war desert Zonnebeke Ypres 1915 by Herbert Cowley

March 29, 2015

Herbert Cowley's article "A Garden in a War Desert", The Garden Illustrated journal June 26, 1915

Herbert Cowley’s article “A Garden in a War Desert”, The Garden Illustrated journal June 26, 1915

The April 1915 RHS lecture  on “Informal and Wild Gardening” by James Hudson was reprinted over several issues of The Garden weekly journal alongside  interesting articles by former Kew Gardener and The Garden sub-editor Herbert Cowley, away serving at the front. His own writing on war-ravaged gardens  in the same journal proved an interesting and ironic counterpoint to James Hudson’s more studied and peaceful ideas of wildness and beauty.

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

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

Cowley was at the time serving with the 12th County of London Regiment (The Rangers) who had been in France and action  since Christmas Day. He is likely to have been a prewar Territorial with this short four number (2477) to have embarked so soon. His battalion are featured in a propaganda or recruiting film at the time:

Our Sub Editor wounded in action ran the headline in The Garden, May 8 1915:

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

Shortly afterwards, as  fighting continued in the Second Battle of Ypres, Rifleman H. Cowley 2477 was home with a Blighty wound that would finish his military career and was recovering in  Surgical 7, 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford “wounded in the knee while bandaging another soldier in the trenches.”


Before this Cowley had been writing home about the horticultural sights “somewhere in France or Belgium” on page 169 of the April 10th, 1915 issue of The Garden. Previous mention by various readers had been made of sending flower and veg seeds to serving soldiers:

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

These are the kind of ‘trench gardens‘ that Kenneth Helphand writes about in Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime and his legacy website

Herbert Cowley's article "A Garden in a War Desert", The Garden Illustrated journal June 26, 1915

Herbert Cowley’s article “A Garden in a War Desert”, The Garden Illustrated journal June 26, 1915

In the June 26 1915 edition of The Garden Illustrated, the convalescent Cowley  wrote about “A Garden in the War Desert” that  he had observed in the ruined walled garden of Zonnebeke Chateau at Zonnebeke near Ypres in Belgium:

This article proves to be an interesting piece of Great War prose or reportage, vivid in its description of early wartime destruction, ‘Romantic’ in its lost or secret garden associations of ruin and verdant wildness.

Herbert Cowley’s last battle May 1915

12th London Rangers history - Zonnebeke 1915

12th London Rangers history – Zonnebeke 1915

This article by Cowley can be read alongside the Regimental History which mentions Zonnebeke:

12th London Rangers - Ypres May 1915 battles

12th London Rangers – Ypres May 1915 battles

The May 1915 battles where Cowley was wounded are recounted here:

1/12th London Bn in the second battle of the Ypres.

“On the night of May 2nd-3rd, the Battalion was sent to dig a trench line, fire and support trenches, on the Frezenburg ridge, and to man this, which was to become the front line in the event of a retirement from the salient at Zonnebeke taking place. This retirement took place the following night (May 3rd-4th) on which night the new line was improved.

The German artillery soon found the new line on the Frezenburg ridge, and shelled it repeatedly, causing numerous casualties. Relief by the Monmouths, eagerly looked for by the troops now wearied with the strain of many days under continual shell fire, took place on the night May 7th-8th, and the Battalion retired to dug-outs behind the G.H.Q. line, arriving about 4 a.m. Heavy shelling of these dug-outs from about 6 a.m. onwards caused numerous casualties and forbade rest.

At 11.15 a.m. came the order to advance in support of the Monmouths, the right of the Brigade line having been broken by the German advance. The Battalion, now about 200 strong, advanced with A, B and C Companies in the front line, led by Major Challen and Major Foucar, and D Company, under Captain Jones, in support, the Machine Gun Section with one gun only left, moving independently on the left flank.

The Battalion had to pass through a gap in the barbed wire in front of the G.H.Q. line on which German machine-guns were trained, and suffered heavily in its passage. The whole of the ground over which the further advance took place was heavily shelled, and in places exposed to heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, so that the Battalion rapidly dwindled. A small remnant pushed forward to the rise where the trench line had been and there dug in, and stayed the German advance. The Machine Gun Section under Lieut. J. K. Dunlop, operating independently, did extremely useful work and was able to bring enfilade fire to bear on the advancing Germans, until the gun was struck and disabled by shell fire.

Of survivors there were ultimately collected by Sergeant W. J. Hornall (every Officer having been either killed, wounded, or taken prisoner), 53, mainly pioneers and signallers. All the remainder were either taken prisoner, killed, missing or wounded.

The determination of the attack, it is said, was such that the Germans thought it could only have been made by troops sure of speedy and strong support, not, as in fact was the case, by practically the last remaining troops between them and Ypres, and so the enemy dug in without further advance, and thus was achieved the object for which so many gallant souls gave up their lives. The few survivors, after assisting to dig trenches in the vicinity for the next two or three days were ultimately withdrawn to the rest they so richly deserved.”


“There were many sad and many glorious days to come, but for sheer tragedy the Second Battle of Ypres stands out most prominently from the many vicissitudes through which the Rangers went during the War.

The brave effort on the Frezenburg ridge had brought about the end of the original Battalion. Of the Officers and men who had so whole-heartedly and unselfishly prepared themselves for war during the days of peace, only fifty-three men, headed by Sergeant Hornall, struggled out of the shell-fire and the mud and slush in front of Ypres.

Meanwhile Lieut. Withers Green, the Battalion Transport Officer, had brought up to Ypres every man of Battalion Headquarters, every detail on whom he could lay his hands, and some reinforcements that had lately arrived under Lieut. Benns and 2nd Lieut. Bentley. By May l0th, however, the German advance had been stemmed and the eighty odd men that composed Lieut. Green’s party were not needed. Accordingly they proceeded to a camp near Ypres and slept the night in some huts. It was here that Sergeant Hornall and the band of fifty-three survivors, begrimed with mud, dazed and utterly weary, reported to Lieut. Green in the early hours of May nth. They had little enough time that day to sleep and recover from their experiences, for at 5 o’clock in the afternoon the Battalion, now numbering five officers (counting Lieut. Lindop, the Quartermaster and Lieut. Uloth, the Medical Officer) and two hundred N.C.O.’s.”

Herbert Cowley would have been amongst the many wounded of this Battalion. He survived his wound,  got married at the end of 1915 and returned to his garden writing career as editor of The Garden. He died in the late 1960s after a long and busy horticultural career.

Many thanks to contributors on for this Regimental information.

There is more about Herbert Cowley’s recovery, life and writing career in my previous blogpost and my Wikipedia entry for him:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 227 other followers

%d bloggers like this: