Shelter from the storm ahead, wartime zoos 3 September 1939

Taking shelter at London Zoo September 1939, a sandbagged tunnel under the road (Zoo and Animal magazine, November 1939)

Taking shelter at London Zoo September 1939, a sandbagged tunnel under the road (Zoo and Animal magazine, November 1939)

Strolling past a soon-to-be-empty chocolate vending machine is the striking figure of this wartime young woman (with the hair and fashions of the 1940s with matching gas mask holder), I wonder what she was thinking about?

Over the next few weeks we will be featuring month by month what was happening in British zoos in wartime including some superb images from long vanished magazines and stories discovered in our research. Keepers in tin hats, animal evacuations to the countryside and other unusual images will feature alongside pictures of our growing wartime zoo keeper’s garden.

World War Zoo

World War Zoo is about looking back and looking forward, learning from the past to prepare for our future. The project developed from a chance discovery that zoos were closed in the early weeks of World War Two, and even though they were re-opened and supported as a way to boost morale, they struggled throughout. This was a time when food was short, and animals didn’t get ration books. Staffing was low with keepers being called up to fight, and repairs were difficult.

Our Wartime Garden project reflects the Dig for Victory gardens that sprang up in unlikely places all over the country, including zoos. It will also act as a living memorial to the bravery of many ordinary men, women and children. Newquay Zoo already recycles, composts and think about food miles when sourcing food for the café, and now the Victory Garden will demonstrate how keepers would grow food for the animals.’’

Staff at the zoo are hoping for a good crop of vegetables before the weather turns!

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