I was very pleased to see that our World War Zoo Gardens idea of celebrating and commemorating your site’s history and the role of zoos and animals in wartime has spread to other collections, just as I had hoped it would. I wrote an article about this last year for the BGEN botanic gardens website.
World War Zoo – Port Lympne Reserve, Kent
25 Aug 2014 – 31 Aug 2014
“Mark 100 years since the outbreak of World War I, 75 years since World War II and 70 years since D-Day by celebrating the role of animals throughout the war at Port Lympne.
Enjoy a special week of events and talks at Port Lympne as the park looks back on the extraordinary and untold stories of the animals during the war. From pigeons carrying top secret messages to elephants helping local farmers in country void of horses, discover how animals helped to change the course of history.
Enjoy special talks at Port Lympne about how animals were cared for and look after during the war. Learn about The Dickin Medal, a special award that honoured the vital work of animals during war from pigeons to horses serving on the frontline!
Port Lympne has enjoyed a long and rich military history since its construction in 1912 by the Rt Hon Sir Phillip Sassoon. He was Field Marshall Haig’s personal secretary during WW1 and went on to be an avid aviator at the nearby Lympne air field. With Sassoon’s death in 1939 the MOD took charge of Port Lympne and RAF officers were stationed there from RAF Lympne and RAF Westenhanger. The mansion was now in the front line of the Battle of Britain. With special re-enactors at Port Lympne, you will be able to see how the soldiers and airmen involved in these events looked and lived …and you may even discover Port Lympne’s top secret plot to kidnap Adolf Hitler!”
It’s a nice early summer birthday present for us, as this is what I was hoping would happen when I launched the World War Zoo gardens project in August 2009 six years ago. The WW1 centenary has brought us into contact with many different groups from London Zoo to Kew Gardens, small botanic gardens, re-enactors, garden history societies and many others.
Over the next week, I’ll be changing our permanent display case over to some WW1 material amongst the WW2 Dig for Victory material, to show how the experiences of WW1 prepared zoo and gardens staff for surviving WW2 – what was similar and what was very different?
More on zoos, gardeners and gardens and WW1 commemoration
As we begin the WW1 centenary, many historic houses and gardens are marking their WW1 contribution. Some of these houses eventually became or diversified into becoming zoos and safari parks with the decline, demolition or diversification of the country house postwar after WW1 / WW2. Port Lympne was one such estate, Woburn, Knowsley and Longleat amongst others. Along with Heligan, other places such as Woburn Abbey are celebrating their contribution.
The UK National Inventory of War Memorials has an excellent project blog post by Frances Casey on Lost Gardeners of World War 1 with many interesting links.
I’ve also been researching a local Cornish village war memorial and writing recently about food and farming in WW1 Britain.
Happy gardening, and happy National Allotment Week 4 to 10 August!
Mark Norris, World War Zoo