Shades of Dunkirk, the race for the Channel Ports: No it’s not 1940 all over again. It’s the BBC Dig In Campaign, Icelandic volcanoes, ash and our Dig For Victory garden at Newquay Zoo prepares for our World war Zoo wartime garden event, 1 to 3 May 2010

Dig In for victory - BBC Dig in campaign seeds ready for planting in the next few weeks in our wartime garden, getting ready for our Wartime garden weekend at Newquay Zoo 1 to 3 May 2010.

Two of our resourceful zoo managers have just made it back from a European zoo meeting in Hungary  as there were no flights to be had in the last few days. (Another keeper’s planned trip to our BIAZA rainforest reserve project in Brazil didn’t even leave Britain). The Prime Minister ordered British subjects to make their way to the Channel Ports, on the expectation that the Navy or others would somehow get them back to Blighty.Over the last few days one could almost believe that Dunkirk and the fall of the Channel ports in May and June 1940 was being recreated as part of the 70th anniversary. Maybe I’ve spent too much time in the wartime garden and the 1940s preparing our displays  for our World War Zoo gardens event at Newquay Zoo on 1 to 3 May 2010.
This event marks the 70th anniversary of the events of 1940, rationing, dig for victory (or dear life as some wartime wags put it) and the happier 65th anniversary of  VE and VJ day in May and August 1945. Street parties, Spam fritters and the like.
I eagerly awaited a call from the PM on national radio for the owners of ‘small ships’ to make their way to France and bring back as many as they could. Once the channel ports had fallen, U boats and bombers attempted unrestricted blockade and blitz of Britain. Goodbye easy food imports and luxury goods for the duration.  Hello rationing, recycling, gardening (and spivs with suitcases on the black market). I wonder if any of our wartime suitcase ‘display cases’ of wartime objects  that didn’t go through the Battle Of Britain with WAAFs or accompanied evacuees might have belonged to the Private Walkers of the time, full of the Nylons and hard to get items of the time. (We’ve got some of these luxuries in our wartime collection to show you, no coupons or qusetions asked).

Today's headlines are recycled into tomorrow's plant pots while yesterday's Dig for Victory posters and civil defence helmets look on. The fabulous Paper Potters and a successful potting up of sunflowers in practice for visitors to try out at our wartime gardening event 1 to 3 May 2010. Note the vintage fuel can as a reminder of fuel rationing and the modern BBC Dig In campaign leaflet! Paper potters in FSC wood are available singly or in sets from and

Hard to get items in Britain and Europe the last few days include flights, ferry tickets, coach seats  and even hire cars. The last few days of Volcanic ash from Iceland might have cleared international air space but they’ve probably made many people realise how dependent we have become on flying for holidays, business and international trade with a knock on and backlog in many countries and food producers around the world. It also makes you realise the appalling conditions that wartime pilots had to fly in with subsequent losses. We have in our archive a flight dairy of a (bored) flight mechanic in RAF Reykjavik in Iceland, servicing planes which didn’t quite make it over from Canada and America in one piece. Some of these were Liberator bombers.

One of these US planes tragically crashed near Newquay at Watergate Bay on 28 December 1943 with complete loss of life. Relics of this plane and other local stories will be on display at the zoo on our wartime weekend, thanks to Newquay wartime schoolboy Douglas Knight who salvaged some of these relics along with some very impressive shrapnel from the zoo valley at the time.   

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 evacuated with Benenden school to Newquay. Copyright Newquay Zoo

We’ll also have some memories and photos of Benenden girls from that famous school in Kent evacuated to the Hotel Bristol from June 1940 to  December 1945, to accompany the Newquay War Weapons Week salvage and savings poster designed by two sadly now passed away Benenden Girls  Carmen Blacker and Joan Pring. Photos show the girls doing voluntary agricultural work around the Zoo valley area in the 1940s.
We’ll also be highlighting the daring exploits of plant hunters including Frank-Kingdon-Ward, employed secretly during the war to map jungle scape routes, teach survival skills and find crashed aircraft in the jungles of Burma and South east Asia.
A pilot’s silk scarf escape map of these jungles will be on display to illustrate this strange tale.
Silk stockings and scarves aren’t needed to visit the zoo but you could dress to impress in 1940s style to visit us on 1 to 3 May 2010. We’d love to see you … you can take way your little pot of a wildlife gardening sunflower  as part of 2010 Biodiversity Year as well and a few wartime recipes.
Cheerio and TTFN!
Until We’ll  Meet Again …
Mark Norris ,

World War Zoo gardens project team

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