Wartime Harvest Home 1941

October 11, 2015

The last crops in our World War Zoo wartime keepers’ garden at Newquay Zoo are being gathered in for the year, at a time of Harvest Festivals around the country.

A Dig For Victory cartoon in my cuttings collection celebrating Harvest Home 1941 from Punch by Thomas Derrick, Punch,  Sept 17, 1941.

A Dig For Victory cartoon in my cuttings collection celebrating Harvest Home 1941 from Punch by Thomas Derrick, Punch, Sept 17, 1941.

Remembering Frank Windebank and Henry Smith of Kew Gardens 10 October 1915

October 10, 2015

Albert Wright of Birmingham and Kew Botanic Gardens Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Frank Windebank and Henry Smith remembered on the Kew Botanic Gardens WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Pony Boy and Garden Labourer: Two Kew Gardens staff from the same regiment were killed in the closing days of the 1915  Battle of Loos.


31. Henry James Smith, 10 October 1915
Serjeant Henry James Smith, Service number 24, 7th Battalon, East Surrey Regiment, 10 October 1915, aged 37. He is buried at Grave Reference I. L. 37, Vermelles British Cemetery, France.

According to his CWGC record, his headstone has the inscription from his wife “Memory is the only thing that grief can call its own“. The headstone is pictured on the TWGPP website.

During the Battle of Loos, when Smith was killed, Vermelles Chateau was used as a dressing station and Plot I was completed first. Smith and fellow Kewite Frank Windebank are buried a few graves apart with other 7th East Surreys) It was laid out and fenced by the Pioneers of the 1st Gloucesters, and known for a long time as “Gloucester Graveyard“.

Vermelles Cemetery (Image: CWGC website)

Vermelles Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

Henry is listed as the husband of C. E. Smith, of 6, Enmore Villas, Fourth Cross Rd., Twickenham. He was CSM of the same battalion and regiment as fellow Kewite Frank Windebank, who died the same day. Both are listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour.

An earlier mention notes:

“Two employees from the Gardens were killed in action in France on the same day, Sergeant H.J. Smith, a garden labourer, and Private F. Windebank, pony boy, both of the East Surrey Regiment”.

Fellow Kewites Henry Smith and pony boy Frank Windebank are buried a few garces apart having died the same day in Vermelles. Source: CWGC

Fellow Kewites Henry Smith and pony boy Frank Windebank are buried a few graves apart having died the same day in Vermelles. Source: CWG

Francis Richard or Frank Windebank,10 October 1915

Private (or Lance Corporal) Frank Windebank, 822, 7th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment died 10 October 1915, aged 17. He is buried at Grave Reference I. L 35, Vermelles British Cemetery.

According to his CWGC record, there is no family inscription on his headstone, pictured on the TWGPP project website. The Kew Gardens war memorial plaque (above) lists him as a Lance-Corporal, rather than as a Private.

What makes this particular anniversary interesting is that Vermelles is where a fellow Kewite of the same battalion and regiment CSM Henry James Smith, who died on the same day is buried only two graves along (I.L 37). Described as a ‘pony boy’ amongst the “gangers, labourers and boys” at Kew, Windebank was listed as the son of James and Mary Windebank, of 20, Evelyn Rd., Richmond, Surrey.

Frank Windebank and fellow Kewite Henry Smith both died on the 10th in the same regiment, 7th East Surreys, Vermelles.

Frank Windebank and fellow Kewite Henry Smith both died on the 10th in the same regiment, 7th East Surreys, Vermelles.

H.J.Smith was noted as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. The same journal lists a possible relation, one J. Windebank listed at Kew as a carter who joined up in 1918.

Noting that Windebank was a ‘pony boy’ it was interesting to read that in timeline in the History of Kew by Ray Desmond that in August 1914 “three horses taken by Army.” In 1928 when one of the six Kew horses died, it was replaced by a motor lorry. Kew’s last Shire Horses were replaced by a team of five Suffolk Punch in 1937, both now rare breeds. By 1948 only two horses still worked the grounds, mostly mowing and hauling but being steadily replaced by motor mowers and lorries. Finally in 1961 there is a note that “Horses no longer used in the Gardens”, the year before the last Victorian Wardian cases were used for transporting plant collectors’ precious finds back to Kew.

Smith and Windebank’s regiment The 7th East Surreys were one of several wartime service battalions raised for the duration of the war and one of two who fought (with the 8th Battalion) at Loos in September and October 1915.


7th (Service) Battalion
This was very local to Kew Gardens as it was formed at Kingston-upon-Thames in August 1914 as part of K1 (Kitchener’s VolunteerArmy No. 1) and came under orders of 37th Brigade in 12th (Eastern) Division. The 7th Moved initially to Purfleet but by November 1914 was in billets in Sandgate. They moved to Albuhera Barracks in Aldershot in February 1915.
Smith  and Windebank would most likely have disembarked in France  at Boulogne on 2 June 1915.

The 7th Battalion War Diary for the 10th October 1915 lists 2 casualties from shelling – Smith and Windebank?


Frank Windebank and Henry Smith, Kew Gardens staff, remembered.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo

Chessington Zoo Blitzed 2 October 1940 – eyewitness accounts

October 2, 2015

peter pollard and derek witney

Two wartime friends reunited again after nearly 75 years, 2014 – evacuee Peter Pollard (left) and Derek Witney, Chessington Zoo staff child (right) Photograph: Derek Witney

A chance conversation with the Hart family about their ‘zoo evacuee father / grandfather’  whilst picking crops in  our wartime garden as part of our Junior Keeper experience back in 2008 led me to the story of Peter Pollard, Derek Witney – and the tragic story of Chessington Zoo on 2nd October 1940.

These are some of the previously unpublished memories I have been sent by Peter and his sister Wendy, along with the story of Derek Witney, wartime Chessington and Paignton Zoo staff child.

Ladies first …

Peter and Wendy Pollard, Chessington Zoo 1940 (Pollard family album)

Peter and Wendy Pollard, Chessington Zoo 1940 (Pollard family album)

Wendy Gothard (nee Pollard): 1940 Chessington memory

“As I was only four when we lived at Chessington Zoo in the Summer of 1940, my memories could best be described as snapshots, but they are very clear. I was allowed complete freedom to play around the zoo all day long, without any adult supervision, and apart from scraped knees I came to no harm.

I loved the rehearsals for the circus. I would sit on the bench closest to the ring, all on my own – magic. Sometimes there would be cubs born to the big cats, and I shall never forget sitting on the ground and having a cub carefully settled on my lap for a cuddle.

The slides in the playground both thrilled me and scared me to bits. They were very high, and of course even taller for a small person. The older children would go down head first, but I never managed that.

Our caravan in the corner of the field was amazingly quite small. With gas mantle lighting the temperature ranged from ninety odd degrees near the ceiling to freezing at floor level. My mother would stand ironing in her bra and sheepskin boots. In the floor there was a small trapdoor which my parents would open for ventilation until an air raid warden came knocking saying he could see the light from a long way off. With several windows it was difficult not to have a single chink of light showing.

I remember well the night of the bombing when the big air raid shelter was hit.

The small brick shelter is clear in my mind, but I have no picture of the big shelter. The next day I was forbidden to go the zoo, and I knew something terrible had happened there, so perhaps my mind blotted it out.

Later my mother told me that the bomb rolled down the steps, but they did not tell me that my playmate [Derek Witney],* the son of the zoo manager, was among those killed.

We did not know whether the Germans had just unloaded a few bombs on something suspicious or were actually aiming for a munitions factory just up the road, but my father was in a great hurry to move us away from the zoo in case they returned.

However, one of the bombs had made a crater in the lane from the zoo to the main road, and he had a big problem getting the caravan out. The animals were evacuated to [Whipsnade].* They were taken away two by two , an unusual sight as the elephants plodded along the main road.

My time at the zoo is among my most cherished memories. It was my garden, my playground ,and even when the visitors were there, it was still my zoo. Fortunately, they went home.”

Wendy Gothard (nee Pollard), Chichester, December 2008.

Wendy Pollard and Derek Witney, Chessington Zoo 1940 (Pollard family archive)

Wendy Pollard and Derek Witney, Chessington Zoo 1940 (Pollard family archive)

Researching this story,  I struggled to reconcile this memory with any WW2 casualty lists, but as it later proved it was not Derek Witney who was killed on the night but another of her zoo playmates. Derek Witney thinks the elephants were headed somewhere else- Devon!

chessington aerial 1950s

Aerial detail of Chessington Zoo from Alan Ashby’s We Went to the Zoo Today: The Golden Age of Zoo Postcards (2009)

Chessington Memory  – Peter Pollard (born 1930)

By the end of August 1939 I was approaching my ninth birthday, my sister Wendy was five years younger and we lived with our parents in a three year old detached house by the River Thames at Richmond. However when war was declared I was not actually there, having been sent for safety to The Linns, a 1000 acre dairy farm outside Dumfries, owned by my Uncle Alex and Aunt Kathleen. It was in a window seat at The Linns on 3rd September 1939 that I listened to the historic broadcast by Neville Chamberlain which ended “and I have to tell you now that no such undertaking (to withdraw from Poland) has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany” …

The rest of the family were not cowering from the bombs in the bolt hole under the stairs. My father let the house for the duration of the war to a Czech diplomat called Pospisil, bought a small caravan and sited it in the car park at Chessington Zoo which I think was still open but very quiet. Later on a bomb did land on Richmond Palace across the river and the blast damaged our house, but fortunately it was empty at the time.


My rough sketch notes from my conversation with Derek Witney on 1940s locations, identified with Derek on a more recent 1960s 1970s map of Chessington  Zoo from the online Chessington Zoo.info website

Chessington Zoo – 1939/40 memory by Peter Pollard 

In 1939 the zoo proper occupied the same area as it does now, although the animals and attractions were very different. There was one small field for parking on the North Boundary, whereas now there is parking for thousands of cars at both North and South ends. At the heart of the Zoo was “The Burnt Stub”, a beautiful old manor house occupied by the owner Reginald Goddard.

The Southeast quadrant of the site was mainly a vast playground of high slides, oscillating roundabouts and swing boats.

In the centre of the site, and immediately in front (i.e. South) of “The Burnt Stub” was a  small permanent circus with stabling and props rooms, and also the terminus and workshops for the miniature railway. This was no land train but a genuine miniature locomotive, all steam and polished brass, which took visitors around the site on narrow gauge tracks.

Just to the west of the Burnt Stub was an odd construction, a cafeteria room with large cage attached to the left and right hand sides for lions and tigers respectively, while beyond that was a small lake for water birds like flamingos.

I returned from [school at Dumfries Academy in] Scotland in the Spring of 1940, and had free access to all parts of the zoo, even the private areas. This was quite perfect for a boy of nine. I helped to feed all the wild animals, and the ponies in the circus. I helped backstage in the circus during the performances, hosed down the elephants, helped to polish and maintain the rolling stock and rode the rails whenever I wanted., and spent hours in the huge playground.

But it didn’t last.

chessington bombsight graphic

Satellite mapping of Chessington Zoo Bombsight.org 1940/41 bomb mapping

The Chessington Raid – memory by Peter Pollard 

There were two air raid shelters in the zoo.

The first was a small brick surface shelter like a tool store, with room for four camp beds, which was used by Mr. Goddard and his family. It was not blast resistant.

The second was a proper shelter, excavated four feet into the ground and covered over with arched corrugated sheeting and the excavated earth to five feet above ground. There was  enough room for about twenty people, sleeping on wooden shelves. This was where my family and I spent our nights, sharing with the zoo keepers and their families. It was by uncomfortable, with no privacy and little sanitation.

One day in the summer of 1940 Mr Goddard who owned a second zoo in Paignton  [* Goddard had entered a wartime business arrangement with Herbert Whitley at Paignton Zoo]  to which he had transferred some animals, told my father that he would be making a short inspection visit to Devon, and invited my family to use his shelter while he was away.

That same night a German Bomber flew over and mistaking the zoo buildings for a nearby army camp in the moonlight, dropped four bombs.

The first breached the railings of the water bird enclosure, releasing dazed birds to wander round the Zoo.

The second blew out the cafeteria, leaving the big cats on either side uninjured and angry but fortunately still secure.

The third landed on the driveway and did little damage but the fourth penetrated straight through the roof of the big shelter, exploded and killed every body inside, including our friend ‘Derek Witney’.* [Here Peter has made a fortunate memory slip after 70 years]

Our family in the flimsy brick shelter was unscathed, and I didn’t even wake up.

Chessington wartime memory by Peter Pollard.

Bombsight.org 1940 /41 bomb map of Chessington Zoo with one bomb clearly on the zoo site. Image : bombsight.org

Bombsight.org 1940 /41 bomb map of Chessington Zoo with one bomb clearly on the zoo site. Image : bombsight.org

The aftermath – a memory by Peter Pollard 

My father decided that we were still too close to the Luftwaffe bombing campaign on London and hastily removed us to a farm at Christmas Common in Oxfordshire where we had only well water and a two mile walk each way back to the shops in Watlington.

This was a bit too primitive, and we came back as far as a farm at Hedgerley, between Beaconsfield and Slough. The farm was owned by the Halse family and it was Brenda Halse who taught me how to trap and skin rabbits. It was still a two mile walk each way to the good shops in Beaconsfield but at least it was sometimes (depending on the weather) possible to get a bus into Farnham Common where I attended a small primary school for the Autumn term of 1940.

In January 1941 I was sent off to Board at Derby Grammar School, which was settled in a holiday camp in the wilds of Derbyshire near Matlock. But that is another story …

Previously unpublished Chessington wartime memory by Peter and Wendy Pollard, written up for the World War Zoo Gardens project November 2008 (with thanks to the Hart family).

The dustjacket cover to Frank Foster’s circus autobiography Pink Coats, Spangles and Sawdust (Stanley Paul, late 1940s) Image: Mark Norris, private collection

Frank Foster’s account

Frank Foster, “Pink Coat, Spangles and Sawdust”, published by Stanley Paul 1949?

Frank Foster was a circus performer, ringmaster and equestrian director who wrote one of the few accounts of wartime Chessington Zoo. R.S. Goddard died very suddenly in Christmas 1945 and few archive records have survived throughout the changing ownership of Chessington Zoo.

P.158. “After we had arrived back at Chessington twenty-one bombs fell in the grounds. One was a direct hit on a shelter and killed three attendants.

Two high explosive bombs dropped within a hundred yards of the elephants quarters. With lions, tigers, polar bears and many other animals to look after, this was an anxious time.

Apart from the possibility of their being killed there was the danger that cages might be blasted open and occupants escape into the surrounding countryside.

Fortunately this has only happened to the penguins’ cage: their quarters were completely demolished.

Searching in the debris for their remains, we were astonished to see them walking towards us, like Charlie Chaplins, along the miniature railway track.

They’d been blown clear and without hurt. Later came the buzz bombs …”

These blitzed penguins are probably some of the ‘dazed water birds’ that Peter Pollard mentioned.

Frank Foster’s 1949 book is out of print and hard to obtain, so I have scanned the 4 relevant pages about wartime:

chessington foster 1

chessington foster 2chessington foster 3

chessington foster 4

Tracing the Chessington Zoo Casualties of 2 October 1940

For a while I could find no trace of a Derek Whitney being killed at Chessington Zoo or a bombing date. Now thanks to the CWGC records being online, I have found the identity of the child and other zoo staff sadly killed that day.

cwgc chessington casualties

The three casualties recorded CWGC as “Died at Chessington Zoo Shelter” on 2nd October 1940 by the Municipal Borough of Surbiton are:

  1. Annie Page, aged 37, the Cottage, Zoo, Chessington. Daughter of Mrs Todd, 128 Woodside Road, Westborough, Guildford, wife of Reginald Page.

cwgc ronald page


2. Ronald Page, aged 10, son of Reginald and Annie Page. 


3. Elizabeth Arnold, aged 54, of the Lodge, Chessington Zoo, wife of George Arnold.

Several family photos of the Page family, Ronald, Reginald and Annie can be found on the Ancestry website.

A BBC audio clip of Peter Pollard 2010

There is a short sound clip of Peter from 2010 online talking about the bombing on  a BBC Radio Cornwall report as well as a brief paragraph:

“For a while Peter Pollard found himself living in a caravan in the car park of Chessington Zoo at the age of nine in the summer of 1940. He shared his memories with the Zoo for the exhibition.

Reflecting on the time Peter said: “It was wonderful for a small boy of nine. I had a complete run of the zoo, I helped in the circus, maintained a miniature railway, they had an enormous playground there, it was perfect, it was heaven.”


Chessington Zoo advert 1937, Zoo and Animal Magazine (Image source: Mark Norris private collection)

Chessington Zoo advert 1937, Zoo and Animal Magazine (Image source: Mark Norris private collection)

Researching and confirming this wartime story

Curiously the Pollard’s  9 & 5 year old memories seem to suggest that they quickly left Chessington for safety somewhere else and were told their playmate ‘Derek Whitney‘ [sp] was killed in the bombing.

What they did not know until 70 years later was that Derek had left that day with his father, the park’s engineer, to take some animals and the miniature railway down to Paignton Zoo, a story Derek confirmed when he visited me at Newquay Zoo last year. Leopards, lions and tigers were mentioned as travelling down. Mr. Witney was there on behalf of Chessington Zoo’s  Mr. Goddard  to help Mr. Herbert  Whitley open his  zoo up again (see late August 1940 press cuttings) from its early wartime closed state.

The Miniature Railway by the way is still going strong at Paignton Zoo. Mr Witney, Derek’s father, was the Chessington Zoo Engineer and organised taking one train and the track down to Paignton Zoo. According to Derek, this train  returned at the end of the war when the animals returned. It was obviously popular as the miniature railway was reconstructed postwar. Life in wartime Paignton Zoo sounded a little makeshift, the family lived in a caravan for about a year.

I first had a feeling that the Pollard’s account was slightly wrong after 70 years when I couldn’t find a CWGC or death record for a ‘Derek Whitney’.

Having been reading the two Chessington history books by the late  C.H. Keeling of the Bartlett Society and some further research on this little reported 1940 incident (compared to the buzz bombs of 1944), it suggests that a “Derek Whitney of Burgh Heath Surrey, who literally grew up around Chessington’s Circus” (p. 29 , The Chessington Story, CH Keeling) had met Clinton Keeling  the author to talk about the 1935 Chessington Circus blaze where some circus horses were killed. So unless Clinton Keeling had met a ghost …

This set me thinking that something in the Pollard stories did not tie up with what happened and led to reuniting Peter and Derek 70 plus years later!

The ‘forgotten name’ of their playmate casualty was young Ronald Page.

Herbert Whitley as Derek Witney would have known him. Source: Paignton Zoo

Herbert Whitley as Derek Witney would have known him. Source: Paignton Zoo

Meeting up with Derek Witney and family to hear their stories

In 2014 I was lucky enough to meet up several times with Derek Witney at Newquay Zoo and  also when he came in the company of wife and grandson to my wartime zoo and botanic gardens Kew Guild talk at Kew Gardens. It was odd to be able to put his picture of being reunited with Peter Pollard on screen, tell his story and then point to Derek in the audience!


The Witney family visiting me at Newquay Zoo, full of a lifetime of stories of working with animals, 2014. (Derek Witney and his wife on the right) Image: Mark Norris

Derek told me more about his meeting with Peter, who is now suffering from health problems. Derek also remembers meeting Herbert Whitley wearing a battered pair of old white plimsolls at Paignton Zoo (Whitley was famous for his scruffy or eccentric dress sense). Derek’s other  family memories of this period include:

Eight or nine people in the shelter that night it was hit included my grandmother who was keeping house while we were on our way down to Paignton with a convoy of animals having left that morning.

The alarm was raised by two of the zoo staff who were in another part of the shelter.

I was not aware of any animals going to Whipsnade for the duration of the war but this could well be true.

What I am absolutely certain is that the Elephants remained at the park and worked in the circus during the whole of the war. I know this to be true as I looked after them as part of my duties in my school holidays.

Frank Foster came to  Chessington at the start of the war from Bertram Mills Circus along with some of the animal trainers and remained there until the end of hostilities when he and some of the artists returned to the Bertram Mills circus while at Chessington  Frank was responsible for the circus smooth running only.”

Derek Witney, personal comments, 2014

As we pored over past maps of Chessington Zoo in the past (http://www.chessingtonzoo.info/zoo-maps.html) to locate where the shelters were, Derek mentioned that the surviving brick built shelters remained for many years in various roles such as tool sheds, something Peter said they looked much like.

“I hope that this will further inform you of life at Chessington”: I am currently chatting to Derek Witney about more of his wartime memories of Paignton Zoo.

This temporary wartime expedient business  merger between Goddard’s Chessington Zoo and Whitley’s Primley / Paignton Zoo is not a well-studied area and I will post more on this blog as I uncover more.

primley pic WW2

“You Will Enjoy Yourselves Here!” These documents remain in the Archive at Paignton Zoo and we will post further research about them in time.

primley zoo pic 2 ww2

Derek Witney, one of the remaining Chessington / Paignton Zoo wartime staff children,  mentioned to people after my Kew Guild talk  about the GIs at Paignton Zoo and their big Anti Aircraft AA guns, being there at Paignton Zoo protecting the Clennon Gorge GI camp in the run up to D-Day.



This was further supported by Dave Ellacott, Reserves Warden, Primley park and Clennon Gorge, who mentioned

“As for GI leftovers I have not found anything which would have hinted at their presence.  Google earth makes a claim that there was a gun emplacement in Primley Park which makes sense as this is on an elevated position with good 360 views of Torbay.”

Lots more stories to follow …

Remembering Ronald and Annie Page and Elizabeth Arnold, “Died at Chessington Zoo Shelter”, 2 October 1940. 

Research posted by Mark Norris at Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo Gardens Project.

Remembering Henry Munro London Zoo Penguin Keeper missing 29 September 1915

September 29, 2015

Remembering Billy and Harry.

The Zoological Society of London war memorial bears the inscription:

In memory of employees who were killed on active service in the Great War 1914-1919

Staff casualties are listed on the plaque in order of date of death. The first of these is:

29.9.1915 Henry Munro 4 Middlesex Regt ZSL Keeper

I first saw Henry  pictured on a postcard from London Zoo given to me by a zoo colleague and I became intrigued by the unnamed “King Penguin with Keeper 1914”.

Harry Munro, the now named 'Keeper with King Penguin 1914' (as described on a recent London Zoo postcard I was given) Copyright ZSL / London Zoo/ F.W. Bond

Harry Munro, the now named ‘Keeper with King Penguin 1914’ (as described on a recent London Zoo postcard I was given) Copyright ZSL / London Zoo/ F.W. Bond

The Photograph

Look at the photograph again. Really look at it. Look at it carefully in detail. What attracts your attention?

It would be fascinating to know how different people react to this photo – a photographer from a technical point of view or that of another zoo keeper?

On a recent Twitter #ThrowbackThursday pic.twitter.com/7Zv155kWSe @zsllondonzoo 30 January 1914 release of this picture by ZSL, there were a few brief comments including someone who misread the caption: “King Penguin with keeper Harry Munro (1914), who was sadly lost in action during WWI” to reply (hopefully tongue in cheek) that “He was a brave penguin who fought valiantly for his country” !!!

Maybe  you can use the comments box at the end of the blogpost to tell me your view of this picture, I’d be interested to hear.

To me this is a fantastic photograph, considering the photographic technology of the time. It’s one of my favourite zoo archive photos.

Having myself spent around 20 years working with zoo animals, having on many occasions sitting with them and other keepers to keep the animal still enough to be photographed, I know how difficult this is today, let alone with the cameras of 1914.

I have looked at this photograph many, many times since I first started the World War Zoo Gardens research project. What do I find so fascinating about it?

It is beautifully framed, the keeper at the same height as the penguin, so somehow equal. Many photographs emphasise the height or short size of penguins measured against a keeper bending down to it. Height implies dominance or mastery. It is a species photo of a penguin, but with the photographer’s choice to include the keeper. This photo can be read as being about equality or friendliness.

The Penguin

We should not forget that in 1914 this is almost certainly a wild caught King Penguin, one of few that would have been around in European zoos at the time. These were usually brought back from Salvesen whaling or from polar expeditions, such as the famous penguin groups established at this time at Edinburgh Zoo in its first year.

In  1914, the year that this was taken, Ernest Shackleton was still on his Antarctic expedition, Captain Scott was only a year or two dead from the race to the Pole in 1912, and the extreme journey of Apsley Cherry Garrard to retrieve Emperor Penguin Eggs from the South Polar sea ice nesting grounds nearly cost him has life, recounted in his book The Worst Journey in the World.

This was a box office animal, a very topical and popular unusual bird, worthy of a photograph. A King Penguin (possibly the same one?) is pictured on another London Zoo postcard meeting royalty and Princess Mary around this date.

Getting down to penguin level holds some risks. Putting your shiny eyes near or at penguin beak height is unwise. Many press photographers have asked myself  or other zoo colleagues to hold penguins or other injured seabirds at our face height to get a better cropped head shot. This is something we have to warn them against, if we value our eyes against that powerfully muscled head and neck with fish-hook of a beak.

The Keeper’s hand is blurred with movement, perhaps caught in the act of either stroking the Penguin to reassure it in this unfamiliar setting, or to keep it in place for the photograph and at a safe distance.

Is it a portrait of the Keeper as well as the Penguin? It is to me a very purposeful gaze – the Keeper’s attention is fully focussed on this bird, rather than smiling to the camera. Difficult to tell what mood the keeper is in – has he been kept too long doing this by the photographer, as sometimes happens? Is the penguin being cooperative? What mood is the penguin in? It’s also difficult to judge the keeper’s character from the photograph, but F.W. Bond as London Zoo’s  photographer and staff member would have known the other staff reasonably well.

The clothes

I like the slightly naval look to the informal uniform, not the usual keeper double breasted suit and peaked cap that London Zoo staff were pictured in at the time, but a much more relaxed waistcoat, scarf, and the oddly modern looking boots.  Was it a hot day the picture was taken?

I have seen these boots  advertised in garden magazines of the period, very similar to the clogs worn by working gardeners and no doubt good in the wet slippery conditions a penguin or sea lion keeper would work in. They are pretty much the Edwardian / Georgian equivalent to today’s steel toe-capped keeper safety boots.

It is also resonant as a picture of a youngish man in uniform in 1914. Soon many such photographs would be taken in different circumstances, once war was declared in August. Their jobs in many workplaces, including London Zoo, would increasingly be taken by women until the war ended (see the Mary Evans picture blog below for an early WW1 female keeper).

The background

Looking into the background, unlike in many zoo photos of the time, there are no crowds of visitors around in the background. Nobody is  sitting on the ornate metal bench, the path is swept clear of litter. Is this photograph taken before the zoo day begins, the end of a long day or a quiet Sunday when the zoo was mostly the preserve of ZSL fellows rather than public?

Another photograph

I was excited looking at London Zoo’s Zoo at War 2014 exhibition in their old elephant tunnel under the road (put together by Adrain Taylor) to see another photograph of Harry and his favourite penguin.

henry munro

The Daily Graphic coverage of a “Missing Soldier-Keeper”, 16 November 1915 mentions more about this keeper – penguin relationship. It reads:

“Billy” the famous King Penguin at the Zoo died shortly after his keeper, Munro, enlisted at the beginning of the war. Munro is now reported missing from his regiment. It is hoped he may be a prisoner.

So we have a name for the King penguin as well as the keeper too.

The Keeper

But who was this  ‘unnamed’ Keeper with King Penguin?

Henry Munro was the first of the London Zoo staff to be killed on active service, 29 September 1915.

On the CWGC site and UK Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919 database (1921), ZSL Keeper Henry Albert or ‘Harry’ Munro is registered as born in the St. Pancras Middlesex area and enlisting in the Army in Camden Town, Middlesex (the area near Regent’s Park Zoo).

Quite old in military terms, Harry appears to have volunteered or enlisted most likely in 31 August 1914; conscription for such older men was only introduced in 1916.

Munro served as Private G/2197 with the local regiment, 4th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own).

Henry (Albert) Munro served in France and Flanders from 3rd January 1915 and died  aged 39 in action on or around 29th September 1915.


 The Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

The Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

Harry has no known grave, being remembered on panel 49-51 amongst the 54,000 Commonwealth casualties of 1914 to 1917 on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Flanders, Belgium.


His death occurred a few days after September 25th 2015 saw the British first use of poison gas during the Battle of Loos after the first German use in April. The Battle of Loos took place alongside the French and Allied offensive in Artois and Champagne, following the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April to May 5th 1915 onwards).

Henry Munro served from 31 August 1914 to 5 January 1915 in Britain, and then with the 5th and then 4th Middlesex Regiment as part of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) from the 6th January 1915 in France until his death on 29th September 1915

Much of the detail for this story comes from his Military History Sheet, and WW1 Army Service Papers (“Burnt Documents”) that fortunately have survived. Here he is listed as a “Zoological Attendant” This early service gained him the 1915 star, along with the standard Victory and British medal.

According to his service record, Henry enlisted at Camden Town on 31 August 1914. Posted as a Private, 5th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment GS (General Service) on 2 October 1914, by the 6 January 1915, Henry was posted to the 4th Battalion with whom he fought and was posted missing 29 September 1915.

Land, air and sea 

I first came across the keeper’s name as ‘Harry’ Munro as it is listed in Golden Days, a 1976 book of London Zoo photographs (ZSL image C-38771X?) This same book also lists Harry as intriguingly being involved in “the army, airships and anti-submarine patrols”. Airships from coastal bases were used for anti submarine patrols because of their longer range and stamina than the flimsy aircraft of the time.

Nothing more appears on his service papers about this air and sea activity. I have little more information on this intriguing entry at present but the London Zoo typed staff lists of men of active service list him as ‘missing’ well into their 1917 Daily Occurence Book records. Many of the identifications of staff in the photographs in Golden Days were from the memory of long retired staff.

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

Harry Munro’s name is the first of the names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010

Harry Munro is pictured with a King penguin but is listed on his staff record card as a keeper of sea lions. Intriguingly, several London Zoo histories list secret and unsuccessful attempts made early in the war to track submarines using trained seals or sealions. Airships were also used for U-boat spotting. I wonder if and how Harry was involved?

On the Mary Evans Picture blog “London Zoo at War” there features an interesting reprinted picture from the Mary Evans archive:


“In March 1915, The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News featured this picture, showing a zookeeper in khaki, returning to his place of work while on leave to visit the seals, and to feed them some fish in what would be a rather charming publicity photograph.”

This soldier, according to Adrian Taylor at ZSL, working on their WW1 centenary exhibition, is George Graves, one of Munro’s keeper colleagues in khaki who survived the war and returned to work at London Zoo.

Family background

Henry Munro was born in Clerkenwell, in 1876, not far from Regent’s Park zoo (London 1891 census RG12/377) and may have worked initially as a Farrier / Smith, aged 15. His family of father William J Munro, a Southwark born Printer aged 42 and mother Eliza aged 43 (born Clerkenwell) were living in 3 Lucey Road, (Bermondsey, St James, Southwark?)

Private Henry or Harry Munro was 39 when he died, married with three children. He had married (Ada) Florence Edge on 20th November 1899. His service papers record along the top clearly written that half his pay was to be allotted to his wife.

They had three children, born or registered in Camden Town (near the zoo) by the time he was killed on active service. Hilda was 14 (born 29th March 1901), Albert Charles was 9 (born 5th June 1906, died 1989) and Elsie, 7 (born 17 August 1908, died 1977), all living at 113 Huddleston Road, Tufnell Park to the north of the zoo in London in 1915. 2 other children died in infancy according to the 1911 Census.

Interestingly, maps list Regent’s Park as having a barracks on Albany street (A4201).

Sadly Ada Florence his wife died in 1919, his later medal slips amongst his service papers being signed for by Hilda, his oldest daughter. Hilda was then around 19 in 1920 and no doubt responsible for her younger brother Albert Charles by then around 14 and of school leaving age and much younger sister Elsie, by then 12.

Staff record card information

I was lucky enough in 2014 in the ZSL Archive to look through the 1914 Daily Occurrence Book that recorded daily life and works in London Zoo, handwritten in a huge ledger each day. After many mentions thought preceding years, Munro’s name disappear from the keeper’s list in August 1914.

Even more revealing and intimate was his staff record card, an index card listing his career:

Henry Munro. Married. Born February 18 1876.

January 18 1898 Helper at 15 shillings per week.

February 21 1899 Helper at 17 shillings and 6 pence a week.

February 6 1900 Helper at 21 shillings per week.

February 6 1903 Helper at 24 shillings and 6 pence per week.

May 19 1906 Helper at 25 shillings per week.

August 15 1909 Junior Keeper on staff Antelopes at  £6 per month.

December 15 1913 Senior Keeper on staff Sea Lions at £6 10 shillings per month.

Entered Army September 15th 1914.

Missing 29 September 1915.

Enlisted for war 1914, balance of pay given to wife.

Addresses listed include 177 Gloucester Road, Regent’s Park, NW (crossed out) 113 Huddlestone Road,Tufnell Park, N. (Date stamped April 23 1913)

A Helper is the lowest or youngest  rank of Keeper, this phrase crops up on the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial for young staff.

(Many thanks to Michael Palmer the archivist and library team at ZSL for their help during my visit.)




Middlesex Regimental War Diary

On 29 / 30 September 1915, the number of officers and other ranks killed, wounded and missing is listed after an account of the preceding few days of battle. Harry Munro would have been amongst these missing.

Remembering Billy and Harry, 100 years on.

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


London Zoo in the Blitz 26 / 27 September 1940 from magazines and press articles

September 28, 2015

This week sees the anniversary of the London Blitz affecting London Zoo, not just on the 26/27th September but for many anxious nights to come. Slowly press coverage and press releases trickled out, reassuring people that not much harm or damage had been done.

Our first report is from an Australian newspaper archive, itself reprinting a South African source? World news indeed!


Animals’ Remarkable Escapes.

In London’s famous zoo elephants and monkeys, zebras and parrots have had remarkable escapes from indiscriminate Nazi bombing. The keepers (according to the “Cape Argus” Cape Town), have become amateur salvage men. The zoo suffered the disastrous effects of nearly 100 incendiaries and 14 other bombs recently, and while most of them fell either on paths or open spaces, a few hit buildings.

Monkey Hill, the ostrich and crane house, the restaurant, zebra house, aquarium, one of the aviaries and the antelope house have all been damaged. The aquarium keeper has been unofficially made foreman of the salvage gang. He has other keepers to help him. Jubilee and Jacky, the chimpanzees who were born at the zoo, are both still at the Zoo, with George and Chiney. They have been moved from the “chimp” house into the monkey house. So far the only animals which have escaped from the quarters through bombing are some monkeys and zebras and three humming birds.

There was great excitement the night a bomb fell on the zebra house. The building received a direct hit, and every one expected to find the animals dead. Not only were they alive and fit, but one ran a mile, as far as Gloucester Gate, with keepers in chase. One of the monkeys enjoyed a long spell of freedom. For three days it explored the Park, but towards the end of the third it returned to the Hill for food. There were about 30 monkeys set free by a hit scored on the Hill, but the keepers knew that if the animals were left alone they would soon return for food, and they did so. Although half a ton of concrete was blown over a parapet by the bomb, none of the monkeys was hurt. Fortunately, all the fish had been removed from the aquarium at the beginning of the war, so that none of them was hit when a bomb went through the roof.

Reprinted from The West Australian, Saturday 28 December 1940


ZSL 1940 p2

This magazine article in our collection is again a reprint of another paper – The Times – but with exclusive photographs for The War Illustrated magazine and makes interesting reading.

The zebra house shown is wrecked and its escaped zebra is ‘pictured’ later in our blog post in an unusual way, painted by a war artist.

ZSL 1940 p1

“The Zoo is in fact a microcosm of London. Hitler’s bombs cause a certain amount of damage to it, and a considerable amount of inconvenience; but they have not destroyed the morale or the routine of its inhabitants, animal or human, and it continues to function with a very respectable degree of efficiency”

In our August blogpost on the August 1940 edition of Boy’s Own Paper, we mentioned an article by Sydney Moorhouse advertised for the following month on London Zoo and zoos at war, September 1940.  The kind donation of this September issue to me  from Norman Boyd, a fan of the zoo artist L.R. Brightwell  means that I can now share this piece with you.

It should be read like The Times / The War Budget article on London Zoo’s blitz above as a reassuring bit of wartime propaganda in itself.

War zoo BOP 1940 1

The Boy’s Own Paper account of zoos at war was published the month that London Zoo was blitzed but written well before September 1940.

Warzoo BOP 2 1940

London Zoo’s preparation for War can be seen in some photographs taken from their Animal and Zoo Magazine in November 1939 in their library and archive blog :


zsl 40s map BW

The wartime /mid 1940s map we have for London Zoo in our collection  mentions the  Camel House “as damaged by enemy action” but it’s still standing today!

When Zebras roamed Camden Town during the Blitz

One of the remarkable sights of wartime London in the 1940 Blitz was an escaped zebra during the London bombing raid of 26/27 September 1940.

There is an excellent personal account of it by London Zoo Director Julian Huxley in his memoirs and snippets of what the Blitz was like for zoo staff on duty:

One night about 11 o’clock we heard a stick of bombs exploding nearer and nearer to our shelter, until the last bomb shook the foundations of the building.

I put on my tin hat and went across the Zoo to find that five bombs had hit the grounds, the Zoo’s water main had been cut and the restaurant was burning …

Firemen soon turned up and I conducted them to the Sea Lion Pool, the only source of water left, which they nearly drained before the flames were under control …

taken from Julian Huxley, Memories. Julian Huxley was the Director of the Zoo at the time.

The incident has been remembered also in a painting by war artist Carel Weight, now in the Manchester City Art Gallery.


zebra ww2 carel weight

London Zoo Bombsight ww2 website

London Zoo area in the Bombsight.org ww2 website

The amazing Bombsight.org  blitz map for 1940/41 also shows where bombs fell in and around the zoo, a website well worth exploring.

The Blitz on Britain’s cities and its zoos,  remembered.

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



Tower Poppies #PoppiesTour 2014 to 2018

September 28, 2015

I picked up through blogger Christine Lucas’ blog that the Tower Poppies 2014 exhibition by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper is on tour #PoppiesTour throughout the UK until arriving at the IWM 2018 as part of 14-18Now. It is currently at both the Woodhorn Colliery until November 2015 and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park until early January 2016 http://www.ysp.co.uk/exhibitions/poppies-wave


Tower Poppies, 2014 #PoppiesTour  Image: Mark Norris

Gardeners and zoo staff lost at the battle of Loos 25 September 1915.

September 26, 2015

100 years ago the Battle of Loos which began on the 25th September 1915 saw another sad list of casualties from the zoo and botanic garden staff that we have been researching.

Many of them have no known grave and are listed on the panels of the Loos Memorial to the missing.


Over the next few weeks up until 14th October 1915 at Loos, around 2013 officers and 48,677 men became casualties (of which 800 officers and 15,000 men were killed). British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German casualties.

The Battle of Loos was the largest British battle that took place in 1915 on the Western Front. The battle was an attempt by the Allies to break through German defences in Artois and Champagne.

The first day Sunday 25th September 1915 was when each of these men were killed.

In many places British artillery had failed to cut the German barbed wire in advance of the attack and many British troops were advancing over open fields, within range of German machine guns and artillery. The British were able to break through some weaker German defences and capture the town of Loos-en-Gohelle, mainly due to weight of numbers. Sadly British supply and communications problems and late arriving  reserves meant that any breakthroughs could not be exploited on that vital first day.

Sunday the 25th was an especially bad day for the volunteers and army reservists on the staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh serving with the 5th Cameron Highlanders.  Four of their number were lost on 25 September 1915. All four are remembered on the Loos Memorial, having no known grave.

Losses at Gallipoli to their RBGE colleagues in the 5th Royal Scots had also been steadily happening throughout 1915.

  • Willam Frederick Bennett, 5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – missing
  • Alan Menzies, 5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed
  • John Stewart,  5th Cameron Highlanders,  Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed
  • George Hugh Stuart,  5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed

Leonie Paterson and RBGE team have been blog posting the stories behind the RBGE men on their memorial. The losses at Loos and what happened to the 5th Cameron Highlanders are covered here: http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/17293



About the four RBGE staff lost at Loos.

Lance Corporal S/10817 William Frederick  Bennett of the 5th Cameron Highlanders, aged 26,  is listed on panel 120A of the Loos Memorial having no known grave. CWGC list him as as the “Son of Anna Bennett, of 5, Holdings, Llanedarne, Cardiff, and the late William Bennett.” Bennett joined RBGE staff as Probationer in 1911, and enlisted in the 5th Cameron Highlanders on 29 August 1914 and served in Flanders for about five months before his death at Loos.

Private Allan Menzies, S/11385, died aged 21, serving with  “B” Coy. 5th Bn. Cameroon Highlanders, also remembered on Panel 122, Loos Memorial. CWGC lists him as the “Son of James and Mrs. Menzies, of 117, Scott St., Perth. A Forester in the Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.” Menzies joined the garden staff as a Probationer in August 1913 and like Bennett joined the Cameron Highlanders on 29th August 1914. He served for four months in Flanders before his death at Loos.

There are two John Stewarts died on 25 September 1915 serving in the 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders, both on the Loos Memorial. Both deserve to be remembered but RBGE list the following as their man:

  • Lance Corporal John Stewart, S/14592,  died aged 25, 5th Cameron Highlanders. He is also remembered on Panel 120,  Loos Memorial. CWGC lists him as the “Son of Mrs. Elizabeth Christina Stewart, of Carrick Place, Alloway, Ayr.”

Private George Hugh Stuart, S/14584, died aged 23 serving with 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders. He is remembered on Panel 123 A, Loos Memorial.

Second panel, Kew Gardens War Memorial D - M C.L. Digoy to P.T. Martin Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Henry James Longhurst, remembered on the Second panel, Kew Gardens War Memorial, London. 
 Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Belle Vue Zoo (Manchester) lost 33 year old private 22109 Frederick Lester Reid of the 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, formerly Private 16565 Manchester Regiment. He is also named on the Loos Memorial to the Missing, having no known grave.

Stockport born and raised, he left a widow and several children. CWGC lists him as the “Son of the late Peter and Mary Ann Reid; husband of Elizabeth Jessie Reid, of 256, Gorton Rd., Reddish, Stockport.”

There is more about his war service at http://www.loyalregiment.com/22109-pte-f-l-reid-l-n-lan-r/  and the http://www.stockport1914-1918.co.uk

Belle Vue Zoo's now vandalised war memorial - luckily the names, although hard to read, are inscribed in stone as the brass statue has been stolen. Image: manchesterhistory.net

F.L. Reid listed  on Belle Vue Zoo’s now vandalised war memorial – luckily the names, although hard to read, are inscribed in stone as the brass statue has been stolen. Image: manchesterhistory.net

Kew Gardens lost Rifleman Henry James Longhurst, R/7519, 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, who died aged 23 on 25th September 1915. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 101 / 102, Loos Memorial.

Born on February 3 1892, Longhurst is noted in his Kew Guild Journal obituary 1915/16 as “the first of our young gardeners to give his life for his country in this war” alongside W.H. Morland, another early Kew casualty at Gallipoli, who was then employed at  Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. He entered Kew on July 1913. He enlisted on November 21, 1914 and was killed in action “somewhere in France“, as we now know during the Battle of Loos.

Some of the many names panels on 15 foot high walls surrounding Dud Corner Cemetery's headstones - the Loos Memorial to the missing of this 1915 battle. (Image Source: CWGC)

Henry Longhurst is listed on one of the many name panels on 15 foot high walls surrounding Dud Corner Cemetery’s headstones – the Loos Memorial to the missing of this 1915 battle. (Image Source: CWGC)

The Anglo-Irish landed estates of Ireland, soon to be rocked by civil war and the Easter Rising of 1916, were already experiencing the same unsettling situation as English estates with the heirs lost and dynasties ending.

Charles Annesley Acton, heir to Kilmacurragh, killed 25 September 1915, Battle of Loos. Image Source: Kilmacurragh website.

Charles Annesley Acton, heir to Kilmacurragh, killed 25 September 1915, Battle of Loos. Image Source: Kilmacurragh website.

Charles Annesley Acton, heir to Kilmacurragh estate and gardens (now Botanic Gardens of Ireland) Was also killed on 25 September 1915.

When Thomas Acton died on August 25th 1908, his 32 year-old nephew, Captain Charles Annesley Acton then succeeded to Kilmacurragh. Born in Peshwar, India in 1876, he was educated following family tradition at Rugby and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

In 1896 he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and served with the regiment in Malta, Crete, Hong Kong, India and Burma. Following his uncle’s death Charles resigned his commission and settled for a gentleman’s life on the family estate … He continued to develop the estate and arboretum …

With the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Charles and many of the gardeners at Kilmacurragh headed for the battlefields on the French Front. On September 25th 1915, Charles Acton, while trying to assist a fellow soldier, was mortally wounded by an explosion at Loos. He was only 39.

Major Charles Annesley Acton, D Coy. 9th Bn Royal Welch Fusilers is also remembered on the Loos memorial, panel 50 to 52. CWGC lists him as “Of Kilmacurragh, Rathdrum. High Sheriff Co. Wicklow, 1913, and J.P. Served in Crete, 1898, and China Expedition, 1900. Second son of the late Col. Ball-Acton, C.B., and Mrs. Ball-Acton.”

You can read more of this story about how Kilmacurragh lost both  Charles and another heir in WW1 along with most of the gardeners and declined until rescued as part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland at http://www.botanicgardens.ie/kilmac/kilmhist.htm

Later 1915 casualties

Later on in this month on 29 September 1915 London Zoo’s Sea lion keeper Henry Munro would be posted missing in Flanders,  and eventually judged to have no known grave is now remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial.

He was followed on 10th October 1915 by Kew Gardens pony boy private Frank Windebank and Sergeant H. J. Smith, both of the 7th East Surrey Regiment, killed on the same day and buried close to each other in Plot 1 of  Vermelles British Cemetery. During the Battle of Loos, Vermelles Chateau was used as a dressing station and Plot I was completed first. Smith and fellow Kewite Frank Windebank are buried at Vermelles Cemetery a  few graves apart with other 7th East Surreys.

We will post remembrance blog entries on the appropriate days.


All those who fought at the Battle of Loos, remembered.

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

Saving energy and salvage in wartime – advice for today from Vicky Victory the Hair Aid Warden!

September 22, 2015

Salvage message in WW1 ration book (Image Source: Mark Norris, private collection)

Salvage message in WW1 ration book (Image Source: Mark Norris, private collection)

World War 1 and World War 2 both saw salvage and energy saving drives that are uncanny parallels of modern initiatives like ‘Pull the Plug’, the Pole To Pole challenge set up by EAZA European Zoos.

Encouraging positive behaviour change is nothing new, as we can see from these interesting items in our collection:

Energy saving WW2 style Bookmark (source: author's collection, on loan to World War Zoo Gardens project)

Energy saving WW2 style
Bookmark (source: author’s collection, on loan to World War Zoo Gardens project)

From the days before Twitter and Facebook, there are many examples from WW1 and WW2 of mini-messaging from bookmarks and  bus tickets to big broadcast messaging through posters (‘weapons on the wall’) and numerous information films.

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc

Posters are a great wartime study resource and the primary history Inspire Curriculum Year 6 WW2 unit suggest a poster design session to mix Art and Design with History.

St George and the wartime dragon, ready for St. George's day this week - striking Battle of Britain imagery from Carmen Blacker and Joan Pring's wartime design for  Newquay War Weapons Week, whilst evcauted with  Benenden school to Newquay.  Copyright Newquay Zoo

St George and the wartime dragon, ready for St. George’s day this week – striking Battle of Britain imagery from Carmen Blacker and Joan Pring’s wartime design for Newquay War Weapons Week, whilst evcauted with Benenden school to Newquay. Copyright Newquay Zoo

You can  see the WVS website for posters and Imperial War Museum for wartime poster examples. There’s a COGS poster, the Squanderbug, etc  all downloadable for classroom use. You can also buy great reproduction Wartime Posters through the IWM  shop, I use these posters  in our Year 6  wartime zoo schools workshops.

Wartime recycled handmade toys and Blitz, our re-enactor bear have got the squander bug surrounded - surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection.

Wartime recycled handmade toys and Blitz, our re-enactor bear have got the squander bug surrounded – surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection

The Squanderbug is another of my wartime cartoon favourites.

salvage bus ticket WW2

Mini Eco- messaging examples 1940s style on 1940s bus and tram tickets. (Image Source: Mark Norris, private collection)

Mini Eco- messaging examples 1940s style on 1940s bus and tram tickets.

Save Steel - An encouragement to reuse rather than recycle, with Vicky Victory The Hair Aid Warden (USA) (Source: author's collection, World War Zoo gardens Project)

Save Steel – An encouragement to reuse rather than recycle, with Vicky Victory The Hair Aid Warden (USA) (Source: author’s collection, World War Zoo gardens Project)

Save Steel – An encouragement to reuse rather than recycle, with Vicky Victory The Hair Aid Warden (USA).

Salvage was not all as glamorous as Vicky Victory in the beauty salon.  It could involve,  as the WVS did, dragging village ponds for abandoned tyres as rubber became more scarce after December 1941 with the war spreading  in the Far East .

The WVS  have produced some excellent teachers resources  and picture gallery,  including of COGS “Children on Government Salvage” collecting scrap metal and school salvage clubs.

Energy saving became not only thrifty and money saving but also a patriotic duty in wartime. This was recycling at gunpoint!

Part of our wartime garden display on Make Do and Mend in wartime, Newquay Zoo World War Zoo Gardens collection

Part of our wartime garden display 2010 on Make Do and Mend in wartime, Newquay Zoo World War Zoo Gardens collection

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Reduce Reuse Recycle is a modern way of looking at Make Do and Mend, involving zoo scrounging and recycling materials in unusual ways.

Chester Zoo still had visible in 2011 wartime concrete road blocks sold as Government Surplus to George Mottershead to build enclosures when building materials were scarce in the 1940s.

Newquay Zoo's wartime roaming 'gnome gaurd-ener' in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Newquay Zoo’s wartime roaming ‘gnome gaurd-ener’ in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Our Modern Energy Saving Challenge

The parallels between wartime and peacetime challenges are explored in the interesting New Home Front reports including their poster competition modern ‘wartime’ propaganda posters http://www.newhomefront.org/

Phil Wellington's winning modern 'wartime' poster for the New Home Front Report No. 2 (Image Source: http://www.newhomefront.org)

Phil Wellington’s winning modern ‘wartime’ poster for the New Home Front Report No. 2 (Image Source: http://www.newhomefront.org)

Energy saving  is now a big challenge in peacetime for a modern Zoo or Botanic Garden – how to look after our rare  animals and plants in the most environmentally friendly way, and how to involve our visitors in positive behavioural change for wildlife.

Recently throughout 2014/15 many zoos have run ‘Pole to Pole’ activities as part of this EAZA European Zoo Association campaign.

We have got through thousands of leaflets to visitors, amongst other activities, as well as continuing our ongoing energy audit which is part of our past Green Tourism Gold award and current ISO 14001 accreditation.   You can learn more about this here on our Newquay Zoo website page. and some good links on our Paignton Zoo website page. pole to pole leaflet

The Two Degrees is the Limit Campaign 2015

Scientists are clear about the devastating effects on human well-being, the natural world and its biodiversity that man made global warming above 2⁰C will have. As part of the Pole to Pole Campaign of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, website and zoo visitors signed the petition  to demand the commitment of our national governments and the European Union to support all measures which help keep global warming under the 2⁰C limit, and to work towards a binding global agreement at the intergovernmental meeting on climate change in Paris in December 2015.

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


Remembering Mr. Middleton, died 18 September 1945

September 17, 2015

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.

18 September is the 70th anniversary of the sudden death in 1945 of BBC radio celebrity Dig for Victory gardener Mr Cecil Henry Middleton.

World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

Mr. Middleton rightly placed alongside our wartime garden, World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

First TV gardening programme?

Mr Middleton, 21 November 1936 – Middleton was an early pioneer of TV gardening before WW2, but sadly he died before the BBC gardening resumed on television.

Recently many of his simple and readable garden guides and radio talks have been reprinted for a whole new generation.

middleton calender cover

We have previously covered some of his garden advice – look through our blogposts earlier this year.




Life, Work and Tributes

There is a very good Wikipedia entry Mr. Middleton for him, covering his life and published works.


There is also delightful  Pathe newsreel of his ‘chats over the garden fence’. 

This film footage is reused in the 1945 Pathe Newsreel “Passing of an Old Friend” which ends with Mr Middleton walking away up a country lane – becoming  his last farewell to his audience –  then footage  of the flower-bedecked funeral procession of Mr Middleton moving away from St. Mathews Church, Surbiton.

An animated cartoon Mr Middleton on Pathe Newsreel talks compost in wartime.

A comic 1938 gardening song “Mr Middleton Says it’s Right” by trio Vine, More and Nevard on Pathetone Pathe newsreel. Proof of his celebrity …

In 2012 an interesting Mr Middleton inspired modern gardening blog began with lots of links to his surviving media archive.

His memorial gates erected in 1955 at his original BBC plot at Langham Gardens are now outside the BBC written archives at Caversham.

A floral tribute (now lost?)  was a dark red Hybrid Tea Rose named after him, Registration name ‘C.H. Middleton’ was bred by Benjamin R. Cant & Sons (United Kingdom, 1939). This Hybrid Tea Rose was described as “Crimson. Strong fragrance. Large, very double, high-centered bloom form. Blooms in flushes throughout the season.”

Middleton Jan week 1

“Hasten slowly”: Mr. Middleton, fondly remembered.

He was and is the inspiration to our wartime garden:


And our own attempt at being Mr. Middleton, albeit in modern podcast form in 2010: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/from-bean-pods-to-podcasts-the-first-world-war-zoo-gardens-blog-podcast/

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Garden project, Newquay Zoo





Happy Centenary to the Inspiring Women of the W.I.

September 16, 2015

16 September 1915 is the centenary of the Women’s Institute in Britain, the anniversary of the first W.I. meeting on Anglesey in Wales.

Canny recyclers before their time! The WI did important work for the Dig For Victory and salvage campaigns. This wartime WI badge is from our wartime display, World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo.

Canny recyclers before their time! The WI did important work for the Dig For Victory and salvage campaigns. This wartime WI badge is from our wartime display, World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo.

Although the W.I. has its origins in Canada in 1897, the W.I. spread quickly throughout the First World War and the 1920s.

http://www.thewi.org.uk/centenary has a fabulous timeline well illustrated with photos.

In WW2 it became very important alongside the WVS / WRVS in food production, salvage and fundraising but most importantly, a supportive and friendly social network for women and their community in times of peace and war. This wartime role was most recently written up in the brilliantly titled book Jambusters.

Lady Denman who oversaw the food and farming efforts of the early W.I. throughout WW1 would go on to lead the Land Girls of the Women’s Land Army in WW2. A inspiring woman, to misquote the new W.I. Slogan.

As part of my work at Newquay Zoo (where the World War Zoo Gardens project allotment garden is based) I have been lucky enough to have visited and talked about the zoo and recently our wartime garden to many W.I. groups all over  Cornwall over the last 20 years.

lerryn WI

I still proudly have the poster from Lerryn W.I. probably using up old poster stock which declared that ‘Lerryn WI’ were hosting a talk about ‘Newquay Zoo by Mark Norris’ under which was printed ‘A Modern Voice for  Women’. I’ve been called many things in my time but this is a title or an accolade I feel I don’t rightly deserve! I still have the poster proudly in my scrapbook,  after years on my office wall, raising many a smile from passing staff.

I feel proud and privileged to have spent lots of time with the W.I., enjoyed their hospitality, drunk their tea, eaten the occasional cake or two, warily judged many competitions and listened to their many interesting life stories along with rousing renditions of ‘Jerusalem’.

Their care for each other, especially through ill health, advancing years and bereavement, have always been apparent to myself as a visitor listening in to their ‘business’ whilst setting up projectors and the like. Long may it continue …

Never to be underestimated or taken for granted, the W.I. Branches in some areas will be celebrating their 100th birthday, others have merged or quietly vanished as was the case in the one I researched in wartime recently.

On our sister blog looking at a Cornish village in wartime, helping to research its war memorial, I have been through the 1940s wartime newspapers for a flavour of jam making and inspiring, uplifting and useful talks in wartime:


Fascinating to read of the many wartime talks and fundraising efforts from just one village W.I. that  stands in for hundreds of others.

Whilst this W.I. branch may be gone but not forgotten, I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing the W.I. another happy hundred years.

Posted on behalf of the World War Zoo Gardens project

by Mark Norris, “A Modern  Voice for  Women:)


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