Blitz, Battle of Britain, Broad Beans and Dig For Victory’s 70th anniversary at the World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Fowey Town Hall, Salute The Soldier week plaque awarded to Fowey, Cornwall 1944 (Image from World War Zoo garden, Newquay Zoo)

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo


7th September 2010 sees the official anniversary of the 1940 Blitz on British cities, especially London, as Luftwaffe tactics in the Battle of Britain changed from bombing airfields to civilian targets. (Falmouth saw civilian bombing in July 1940 – see earlier blog entries). 

  A poignant little diary by a young  female London Post Office worker in the zoo archive lists “1941 5th January,  2nd Great Fire of London Blazes all around.  Cornwall House hit Hilda will not have to go to work” . Amongst many other routine air raid entries and cinema listings of films seen, we have similar entries for a 1944 London diary about the flying bomb blitz. 

Lots of blitz coverage on the BBC at present blitz 

This week sees the anniversary of the launch or rechristening of what became the Dig For Victory campaign  on 10th September 1940, renamed from the less catchy National Growmore Campaign. 

Robert Hudson, Minister of Agriculture (from May 1940 onwards) broadcast a BBC radio speech on 10 September 1940: 

“We want not only the big man with the plough but the little man with the spade to get busy this autumn … Let Dig for Victory be the motto of everyone with  a garden.”   

(quoted in Jane Fearnley Whittingstall’s Ministry of Food book accompanying the IWM exhibition). 

The Little Man with The Spade - unofficial logo for the National Growmore Campaign 1940, replaced by the iconic hobnail boot on spade image of the Dig for Victory campaign in 1941 Image from adverts in The Vegetable Garden Displayed, RHS (image from the World War Zoo gardens archive, Newquay Zoo)

This “little man with a spade” would often have been a woman, rarely featured in adverts or photos in gardening books of the time.  Many women gardeners had to do make do with special interest columns such as “EXPLAINING THINGS – For the benefit of women who are doing their bit in the garden” in the Smallholder and Home Gardening Magazine.  Both women and children often had their own special pages or columns (see last month’s August 1940 Boys Own paper blog article).    

It would be 1941 before the iconic foot of Mr WH Mckie of Acton in London became the famous boot on spade of the  Dig For Victory poster

Several modern campaigns are underway this week – the start of the Prince of Wales’ Rainforest project development into START with rail journeys around the country encouraging citizens to do their bit for climate change 

Clays Fertiliser advert back cover, The Vegetable Garden Explained, RHS (image from World War Zoo gardens archive, Newquay Zoo)

The zoo is a little quieter this week as schools go back, a different story from the busy Bank Holiday weekend here that saw our first birthday anniversary of the World War Zoo gardens project. The BBC Dig In campaign mentions the schools going back and we’re delighted to see the return of schools gardens schemes over the last few years. One of our intended publications in 2011/12 will be a Dig For Victory schools gardening pack for cross-curricular primary history work 

The last few Broad beans are now saved for seed. Our animals (especially our monkeys) will miss podding these fresh crops. The 2009 sown leeks are now in big flower seed heads awaiting an October seed harvest. 

The next crop of BBC Dig In carrots is growing well along with BBC French beans. Winter hardy cabbage, lettuce and spinach are growing well from seedlings for early spring fresh greens.  As the BBC Dig in site suggests, patches of bare earth that’s too late for catch crops is being sown with ‘green manure’ (buckwheat, clover etc) for a bit of extra soil fertility, ready for next year. 

An early press version of the iconic boot on foot Dig For Victory poster (Smallholder and Home Gardener magazine, Oct 26, 1940) Image from the World War Zoo gardens collection, Newquay Zoo

We should soon have a permanent World War Zoo webpage on the Newquay Zoo website keeping you posted on the next stages of the project. The page and blog also mentions the wartime experiences of our sister Zoo Paignton Zoo in Devon, a town now home to Sutton’s Seeds (based in wartime in Reading). Sutton’s seeds have a good grow your own blog,  which is at  Paignton Zoo’s gardens team led by Kevin Frediani have a request to local gardeners for sunflower seed heads as animal food. 

Other sources of inspiration are the RHS / Wildlife Trust Wild About Gardening campaign (see blogroll 

The RHS also have a new Dig For Victory documentary DVD on sale, filling the gap until one day the BBC release the 90s series The Wartime Kitchen and Garden  on DVD (please, someone at the BBC!) with Ruth Mott and the much missed Harry Dodson.    

Advice for new women gardeners and the importance of wartime onions! Smallholder and Home Gardening magazine, Oct 26, 1940 (Image from World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo).

Don’t forget the Imperial War Museum exhibition Ministry of Food  (until Jan 2011) 

We’re offline and around and about away from the zoo for two weeks before our next posting. 

We’ll be keeping an eye out for any wartime connections or evidence, the equivalent to our Victorian Time Safari on our companion blog  for pupils and teachers studying Darwin, postal history and the Victorians. Maybe this historical I-Spy may be another coastal pillbox or tucked away as I saw in Fowey Town Hall recently on an offsite animal encounter talk during the Fowey Royal Regatta for Newquay Zoo. There is a rare surviving (in- situ) example of a Salute the Soldier Week Campaign plaque awarded to the town to look out for.   

Our stamp blog with RZSS is at  

 Whatever campaigns you’re inspired by, enjoy your gardening and if you miss us over the next few weeks, enjoy reading previous blog entries.

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