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Remembering J. G. ‘Jack’ Mayne 16th May and the Kew Gardens casualties of 1944

May 16, 2019


Kew Gardens Staff War memorial WW2 section – Jack Mayne’s panel / entry, along with fellow 1944 casualties Sutch and Thyer. 

Remembering Jack Mayne  (J.G. Mayne) of Kew Gardens killed on active service in Italy on 16 May 1944 

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Image Source / Copyright: TWGPP / Steve Rogers 

Jack Mayne is one of 14 Kew trained gardeners and staff remembered on the Kew Gardens staff war memorial WW2 panels.


Kew Gardens Staff war memorial (Kew website)

J.G. Mayne, 16 May 1944
Lieutenant, 48th Highlanders of Canada, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps.
Buried at the Cassino War Cemetery, Rome.

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Monte Cassino loom over the Monte Cassino Cemetery where Jack Mayne, Kew Trained Gardener lies buried. Photo: TWGPP / Steve Rogers 

Monte Cassino was finally captured from the Germans two days after Mayne’s death.

Born on January 1st 1914, ‘Jack’ was the son of Robert Furlong Mayne and Kathleen Mayne. He attended Kew from 1938 to 1939 before leaving for an exchange post at the Ontario Agricultural College in Canada.  He married Mary (Mayne) of  Frimley, Surrey in England in 1943 and his only daughter was born after his death.

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Jack Mayne’s headstone is located  amongst this  a stone sea of Canadian headstones tells its own story about the hard-won victory at Cassino, 1944. 

Jack Mayne was one of several Kew trained gardeners killed in 1944, most of them like him killed in the Italian Campaign. Others died following D-Day in June 1944.

The dates, regiments  and cemeteries or death places on the Kew Gardens Staff War Memorial in WW2 is a miniature war atlas or history timeline of the events and campaigns of WW2. 

P.E.or R.E. Thyer, 17 June 1944
Lance Corporal 589614V, Royal Natal Carabineers, South African Forces, Bolsena War Cemetery, Italy.

Born July 5 1911, Percy Ernest Thyer he was the son of William H. and Kate Thyer, Glastonbury, Somerset. (Listed on the site as R.E. Thyer and in the Kew Guild Journal as P.E. Thyer). Thyer was at Kew between 1936 and 1937. He transferred to South Africa as an Exchange student at Government House Gardens, Pretoria in 1937 until he enlisted in 1943 after part-time service whilst still employed as a gardener. Thyer died aged 32, in action at Belvedere Farm, Citta d’Pieve, Italy. Many of the burials in this cemetery are related to a tank battle between the 6th South African Battalion and the Hermann Goering Panzer Division in Italy.

C.G. Last, 22 June 1944 MM, Military Medal
Died aged 36, Corporal 9900V, Cecil George Last served with the South African Medical Corps, attached First City / Cape Town Highlanders, South African Forces, buried at Assisi War Cemetery, Italy. This is mostly burials from June – July 1944 from battles with the Germans who were trying to stop the Allied advance north of Rome.

Born October 12, 1910 he was the son of William G and Beatrice Last of Letchworth, Hertfordshire.
His Kew Guild obituary notes that he was killed at Chiusi in Italy whilst attempting “under heavy shell fire … to bring to safety one of his native stretcher bearers who was wounded and exposed to heavy fire.” He was previously noted for gallantry and awarded the Military Medal whilst wounded in the Desert campaign. He served as a medic with the South African Highlanders until after El Alamein.

E.H. Robson, died 23 October 1944, Italy 

Born in 1912, Edward Herbert Robson entered Kew in 1935 after working in private estate gardens and became foreman in the Temperate House until 1938 when he moved to work in the parks of Coventry. He had already joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment in October 1940 by the time Coventry was bombed in late 1940 and 1941. 1944 was a bad year for the Mayne family – his brother Major John Elliott Robson of the same regiment was also killed in Italy on 7th October 1944 and a third brother was injured and taken prisoner at Arnhem. His Kew Guild Journal 1946 obituary notes him as collecting and sending back plants and seeds throughout his service in Palestine, Egypt and Italy. His grave is in Florence War Cemetery in Italy.

D-Day and its aftermath 1944 also affected Kew Gardens staff

J.W. Sutch, 8 August 1944
Royal Armoured Corps, Trooper, 1st Northants Yeomanry. John Wilfred Sutch was born on November 8 1923 and served at Kew as a “Gardens boy” from 1939-1942. He is buried in the Banneville La Campagne war cemetery, Calvados, France. Sutch was a tank driver and died during the battle for the Falaise Gap in the Normandy campaign after D-Day.

G.H.Larsen 13 September 1944
Born November 25 1914 in France, Georges Henri Larsen came to Kew on exchange from the Luxemburg Gardens, Paris 1935-36. Serving with Corps Franc d’Afrique and Free French forces in Normandy, Larsen was killed in the fighting at Epinal.

You can read more about the Kew Gardeners lost in WW2 here

Jack Mayne and the Kew Gardeners of WW2 – Remembered 

Blogposted 75 years on 16 May 1944 / 2019 by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project.

Remembering ANZAC Day 2019

April 25, 2019


Helles memorial to the missing British and Empire  soldiers of Gallipoli (Image: CWGC) 

Remembering the Australian and New Zealand  zoo staff and gardeners who served in  WW1 and WW2

As well as Australian and New Zealanders, many Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff and those of Kew Gardens serving in WW1 were heavily involved in the Gallipoli campaign in 2015 which is commemorated on ANZAC day.

Driver A.W. Bugg from Melbourne Botanic Gardens is commemorated by a staff memorial tree, a Box Brush planted in the Gardens by his brother.


You can find out about ANZAC day here:

Not forgetting the lovely ANZAC biscuit tradition with recipes here

Remembering the Australian and New Zealand zoo staff and gardeners who served in WW1 and WW2

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project (Newquay Zoo)   on ANZAC Day 2019 25 April 2019 


Remembering Ernest Joseph Hiskins Melbourne Botanic Gardens RAAF died 15 April 1944 WW2

April 15, 2019


Royal_Botanic_Gardens_Staff_Memorial_Tree-10618-32471 (1)

RBG Melbourne staff memorial tree plaque (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

Remembering Flight Sergeant Ernest John Hiskins of the Royal Australian Air Force who died 75 years ago on 15 April 1944, formerly staff of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, where he is commemorated on their staff memorial tree. 

His RAAF records list him as a Botanist and we know he worked at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens as he is listed alongside A.W.  Bugg, a WW1 casualty on the tree plaque.

This memorial Lophosternum or Brush Box tree was planted on 10 September 1945


Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorialLophosternum or Brush Box  tree (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia 

His CWGC records list him as Flight Sergeant Ernest Joseph Hiskins, Royal Australian Air Force, 410058, who died on active service against the Japanese on the 15th April 1944.

He is remembered on Panel 9 of the Northern Territory Memorial, alongside his pilot H.S. Ashbolt. He is listed as the son of Ernest Barton Hiskins and Alice Mary Hiskins, of Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.

n terr mem cwgc

Hiskins and his crew member RAAF pilot Ashbolt are remembered on the Northern Territory Memorial, Australia (Image CWGC website)

Hiskins and Ashbolt flew Bristol Beaufighters with 31 Sqaudron RAAF / RAF. There is much about  31 Squadron on the Australian War memorial website, including photographs.

It mentions that No. 31 Squadron, based at Coomalie Creek (near Darwin, Australia), flew ground attack sorties against the Japanese in Timor and the Netherlands East Indies, as well as anti-shipping patrols and convoy protection missions.

On 15 April 1944, there is an entry:
“Damaged by Japanese Anti Aircraft Fire which knocked out starboard engine. After flying for 20 minutes on port engine, aircraft lost height and crashed into the Timor Sea.”
The crew Pilot Flight Sergeant H.S.Ashbolt, and Navigator Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins were in action as part of formation of 31 Squadron Beaufighters attacking Japanese positions at Soe village in Timor.

According to his ADF Gallery / RAAF file, his Beaufighter developed a starboard engine oil leak from Japanese anti aircraft fire:
“the aircraft was seen to lose speed and height and strike the water 60 nautical miles off the South Coast of Timor. The only wreckage was part of a fin, wing, dinghy and three fuel tanks. There was no sign of the crew.”

sxtaff mem tree RBG melbourne

The original photograph and now vanished 1996 web page for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.

His RAAF air force records list him as a graduate of a Crown Horticulture Scholarship at Burnley Horticulture School (still open today) in 1937-39 and working at Lands Department (State) Treasury Gardens Melbourne.

Sadly Ernest’s brother Wireless Officer K.J. Hiskins was also killed flying in Wellington bombers with 70 Squadron RAF on 26 June 1944. He is buried in Budapest Cemetery.

You can read more about both these two WW1 and WW2 Melbourne Botanic Gardens casualties:

Posted on the 75th anniversary of Ernest Hiskins and pilot  H.S. Ashbolt’s deaths – 15 April 1944 / 2019 – Remembered. 

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 15 April 2019

Post script – I will put a link and details onto this online memorial


Food, allotments and rationing in WW1

March 27, 2019

Interesting WW1 centenary legacy from Richmond in London with this snippet about wartime gardening and rationing in WW1. An attractive website worth looking at.

richmond allotments

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens, 27 March 2019

Remembering Albert Wright of Kew and Birmingham Botanic Gardens died WW1 25 February 1919

February 25, 2019



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)

Remembering Albert Wright, Gardener of Kew and Birmingham Botanic Gardens who  died from pneumonia in hospital as a result of the effects of service with the 2/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment in WW1 on 25 February 1919.

Private Albert Wright, 201656, 2nd /7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died on 25 February 1919, aged 29. He is remembered at Grave Reference Screen Wall B10. 9. 661A, Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery, presumably where he is buried


Birmingham Lodge Cemetery and Screen Wall where Wright’s name is recorded.

He has no individual headstone. A photograph of his screen wall entry is on the TWGPP website. The cemetery contains 498 First World War burials, most of them in a war graves plot alongside Wright in Section B10. The  screen wall panels of names are linked to numbered stone panels in the ground in front of the cross.

Wright’s name on the screen wall Source image: TWGPP

Born in Birmingham, Albert Wright worked at Birmingham Botanic Gardens as an Outdoor Foreman from April 1914 to February 1916, leaving Kew Gardens where he studied from May 1912 to April 1914 (being there an Assistant 1st Class).


Birmingham Botanic Gardens, 2010 (photographed during my last visit)

His Kew Guild Journal obituary 1920/21 lists him as joining the 5th Warwickshire Regiment, moving with them to France in May 1917.


In 1917 he was invalided home with fever before returning to France where he was wounded in the leg whilst wiring out in front of the trenches. Sent to hospitals in Glasgow, Irvine and finally Liverpool, he died of influenza and pneumonia in hospital, three months after the war ended.

In the Kew Guild Journal 1920, p.482, the article on the Kew War Memorial mentions that “Two additional names have to be added to the Tablet. Pte. Albert Wright and L.Cpl. Sidney Cockcroft.”

Wright is also remembered in the unusual round Hall Of Memory of all those Birmingham citizens lost as civilians or service people since 1914.

The First World War saw four important hospitals, besides many smaller ones, located at Birmingham with over 7000 beds. It appears that Albert died of wounds or ill health back in his home city, hopefully amongst family.

Albert Wright is the last named Kew Gardener on the staff war memorial but by no means the last Kew man to die as a result of WW1. As far as we can tell, several more of the Kew staff died from the effects of war service after Albert Wright in 1919.


It has been a few months since my last Centenary Memorial Blog Post and there has been thankfully a pause, reflecting the end of fighting, although war wounds and Spanish influenza continued to claim victims well after November 1918.

It has been over ten years since I visited Birmingham Botanic Gardens where Albert Wright  worked, whilst working for Newquay Zoo during National Science Week in Birmingham. I spent a spare day at the Gardens and time in the City Library Local Records  researching through the Birmingham Botanic Garden Archive records  to see how the Gardens survived wartime challenges.

Peggy Skinner’s 1943 Wartime Diary Glasgow London

February 23, 2019

Cross-posted from my WW2 Home Front Diary blog


Peggy Jane Skinner’s 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris collection.

Peggy Jane Skinner (born 20 December 1924) is a London born Science student,  studying wartime at the University of Glasgow. She returns to wartime London in the summer for a temporary job. This is her 1943 diary.

Copyright: Peggy Jane Skinner / Mark Norris, my WW2 Home Front Diaries collection / blog. If you wish to reproduce or quote from this diary, please contact me via the Comments stage. 


The Little Blitz on Wimbledon London February 1944 Unpublished Diary Extract

February 23, 2019

Crossposted from my blog WW2 Home Front Diaries 
Friday 18th February 1944 – (F) Bad Wimbledon raid at night & bombs all round including Nelson Hospital, Labour exchange etc.

This is the February 1944 diary entries for Vera Richardson, a 37 year old woman living at home with her retired doctor father, mother and sister at 218 Coombe Road, Wimbledon.

Research suggests that Vera Aileen Mary Richardson, the diary writer was born in Wandsworth in 1907 or 1908.  However the 1939 Register lists her living at 218 as Vera ‘Ann’ born 10 August 1907, on unpaid domestic duties like her Mother Lily E. Richardson.

This is one of the pocket or personal diaries that I collected doing research on the Home Front in the early stages of the World War Zoo Gardens project in 2009.


February 1944 Kew Gardens during the Little Blitz on London

February 23, 2019

kew blitz 1944

Kew Guild Journal 1945/6

This short Kew Guild Journal article shows the problems faced when  zoos and botanic gardens suffered raid damage in this case in the Little Blitz on London of February 23 and 24th 1944.

A lot of broken glass, wrecked trees or buildings and subsequent heating problems, with very few materials available to repair the damage.

Posted on the 75th anniversary of the Little Blitz by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo.

Not only live animals were evacuated from London in WW2

November 13, 2018


nhm snakes

Cartoon by Bill Tidy from “Would You Believe It About Animals?” (Futura, 1977)

Not just live animals were evacuated from zoos in air raid areas to other zoos in the safer countryside or seaside. Chessington Zoo sent animals to Paignton Zoo in Devon, London Zoo sent animals to its country zoo, Whipsnade.

Art treasures were moved from museums in London, or hidden away, as were  the zoological collections of books and specimens from London Zoo’s Library  and natural history museums.

The Natural History Museum has an interesting webpage about life in the wartime museum throughout WW1 and WW2.

As the photographs show, neatly ordered museum collections are sadly the complete opposite  of the chaos of bombing.   

Visitors can still see two plaques memorialising the efforts that Museum staff played in both world wars. The first (located in Hintze Hall) honours the 68 men from the Museum who served in the First World War, 13 of whom did not return.

The second (found outside the Mammals Gallery) remembers the men and women who worked for the top secret spy network SOE (Special Operations Executive) in WW2.

As the web pages show, even a dead rat or an animal dropping in a museum collection can play its part in war if you read the SOE section.

More interesting archive material and articles here about dispersing their bug collection to country houses:

There is also  a recent new book out by  Karolyn Shindler who chronicles Natural History Museum life during the First World War in her book A Museum at War, drawing on records and letters from the Museum archives. Sounds like an interesting read. 

A more general book is now out of print – Museums and the First World War: A Social History by Kavanagh Gaynor published by Leicester University Press in 1994.

No doubt similar books account for the lost collections of German and European Natural History Museums and Zoo Museums.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 13 November 2018

100 Years On We Remember …

November 11, 2018

british legion stamp 1968

Men and women of WW1 – British Legion 50th Anniversary stamp from the 1971 in my collection.

Remembering on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice

the brave men and women of many nations affected by war,

including the many zoo staff,  zookeepers, botanic gardens staff and others we have featured on our blog since 2008.

We will remember them.

Even  though the war was over (until 1939), there were still many zoo and botanic gardens staff who died after November 11th 1918 from wounds and the effects of war service.

We will post a blog entry on the centenary of their deaths as we have done throughout the 2014-2018 Centenary of WW1.


Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo, 11 November 2018.



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