Author Archive

A question about wartime big cat keeping

January 31, 2017

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London Life, 28 March 1942

28 March 1942. National magazine London Life reader’s questions page –

 Amateur Zooman writes: “I have got a wartime job as attendant to animals in a small zoo, being unfitted for military service through old war wounds and have been told by my employers that there is only one thing to learn, and that is how to lure the animals safely in and out of their cages, as I have been warned against pushing them with a brush as it makes the big cats angry.

Up until now I haven’t had much success and am wondering if the ‘Brains Trust’ can find out for me some easy ways of luring the big cats back again after their cages have been cleaned?

Unfortunately the man who did the job before me has been called up and not been able to train me. I am absolutely single handed so please help! “

This is an intriguing reader’s letter in wartime 1942  from one of the many older men called in to keep zoos going when younger staff joined up or were conscripted. It could equally have been written by one of the many women who stepped temporarily in to fill keeper posts in wartime.

This untrained keeper or ‘Amateur Zooman’ is interestingly an injured veteran from the First World War “being unfitted for military service through old war wounds”.

 

The advice or reply given is from an animal trainer attached to a wartime circus.

“An animal trainer attached to one of the big circuses tealls us that big cats are playful and if you are not careful they will lean on the gate and shut you in, but that any animal will return quickly to a cleaned cage if a titbit of food is placed in the furthest corner. He will associate this titbit with getting back into his den.

Also all big felines like to be talked to! They will do more for an attendant who talks to them  as though they were intelligent than for one who treats them as savage, dumb beasts. Big cats are very curious, and if they see you doing anything unusual, are quite likely to try and get into the cage with you to investigate, so be sure that any intervening door is well closed.

When a big cat is angry, leave him alone. Don’t force any action on him, or he will bear a grudge against you for days. Leave him to himself and he will soon get over his moods.”

I wondered how this 1942 advice would stand up today in the world of modern zoos and big cat conservation, 75 years later.

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I asked my zoo colleagues who are  modern big cat keepers on carnivore section at Newquay Zoo what they thought of this interesting wartime article  and its advice.

Owen, one of our senior keepers responded thus on behalf of the others:

Interesting little read.

The response given isn’t actually a bad one! What the new keeper may not have realised is he is being asked is to positively reinforce the cat to move where he wants by using a small piece of food as a reward, as we currently do with the lionesses here.

The other option that could have been looked into then (albeit not overly common back in the day in zoos) would’ve been to train the animal/animals to go to station or target train them to touch the target to receive a reward (a small piece of meat) which again is a form of positive reinforcement. The target training would have also easily led the cats into moving for him.

The building a relationship by talking and training with the cat is always a good idea. It’s always better to be seen as the ‘good guy’ on a regular basis than the ‘bad guy’.

Some species are more likely to approach you than others and tigers seem to be more pro-keeper than some of the other big cat species, even chuffing at keepers to say hello. Not that they can comprehend our language but it is a way of getting to know you and we, as keepers, talk to the animals on a daily basis.

Although it is dated, the reply to him actually makes a lot of sense. We didn’t necessarily have the knowledge then as we do now but the talk of positive reinforcement and the keeper not wanting to negatively reinforce the animal movement (the brush mentioned) sounds like he wanted to do a good job!

Another thing I would’ve mentioned is not to underestimate them! They’re smarter than what people give them credit for and not to mention very dangerous.

Cheers,

Owen, Senior Keeper, Carnivore section,  Newquay Zoo

This answer from Owen is a longer and more detailed  answer than mine, which  would be write to the Ministry of Labour and ” get another job, any job, especially one  that isn’t going to eat you …”

Owen’s answer  is a brilliant modern keeper interpretation of the original advice using our modern zoo speak, which communicates our modern zoo mission –  enrichment, positive training – and animal  welfare etc.

An interesting article which  works really well as a ‘Then and Now’ piece, what has changed and what has not changed!

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A few more interesting pages and always an excuse for a flash of ankle or pretty face …

 

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More Camouflage ideas for ladies … hide in a bush.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, January 2017

The Silvertown Explosion London 19 January 1917

January 19, 2017

WW1 diarist Edith Spencer recorded in her diary for 19 /20 January 1917:

Terrific explosion at Silverton.

She had recently arrived back from visiting family in Newcastle upon Tyne (‘luggage came’) to her new clerical job at 24 Bishopsgate in London, filing and learning shorthand for the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. No doubt she had filled  a post made free by the call up or conscription of young men for war work or the armed services.

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The Silvertown explosion occurred in Silvertown in West Ham, Essex, (now Greater London) on Friday, 19 January 1917 at 6.52 pm.

The blast occurred at a munitions factory that was manufacturing explosives for Britain’s war effort.

Approximately 50 long tons (50 tonnes) of trinitrotoluene (TNT) exploded.

73 people were killed and 400 injured, as well as causing substantial damage to hundreds of houses across the local area.

Remembering the many men and women war worker casualties of the Silvertown TNT factory explosion. 

The blast could be heard and felt up to a hundred miles away.

The animals at London Zoo a few miles away would clearly have heard it.

The panes of glass in the greenhouses at Kew Gardens would have rattled.

So even if Edith Spencer had travelled back from her new clerical job in London and reached the family home at Wesley Manse, Derby Road  in Watford about 17 miles away, she could clearly have heard the Silvertown explosion.

You  can read more about and by Edith Spencer, one of the diarists in my personal collection of wartime diaries on loan to the World War Zoo Gardens project, at this previous Zeppelin WWI air raid blogpost https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-first-blitz-on-london-from-an-unpublished-ww1-diary/

More about the explosion at:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvertown_explosion

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Unknown Zoo, Wartime Elephants

January 3, 2017

german-zoo-ww2

Interesting little ‘wartime’ snapshot of elephants,  about 7.5 cms by 6cms printed on Agfa Lupex film  and stamped FO21.

Anyone recognise which European zoo in the 1930s or World War Two these Elephants are at?

Is this in occupied Europe?

Are these off duty German servicemen enjoying a home visit to one of the many German zoos or are they part of the Occupying Forces somewhere?

Taking photographs of service personnel in the wrong situation could be a real problem but these may well be taken by other soldiers or their families. Certainly in Britain, camera film was scarce and taking photographs of anything military was unwise. Camera film in wartime was often in short supply for civilian use.

On the left is a white coated zoo keeper with mahout / elephant stick.

At the back centre behind the elephant is a building (an elephant house?)

There is a clear dry moat barrier between the elephants and the vistors by the viewing wall.

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Checking the Zoo Guidebook, feeding an elephant or examining identity papers?

Interesting little vignette – is this soldier checking the Zoo Guidebook, feeding an elephant treats or examining identity papers?

This appears to be a feed time, the (Asian?) elephants interacting with visitors, trunks stretched over the wall.

It appears a peaceful enough scene, with no weapons showing. I’m sure the odd service cap got eaten by these elephants!

I’d be interested to hear what people think and where this might be.

 

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo gardens project, January 2017.

Ministry of Food Formed

December 22, 2016

The Ministry of Food was formed on December 22 1916. It was formed to deal with the increasing supply problems of bad harvests, an ongoing war requiring food for civilians, war workers and troops, call up of agricultural workers and horses affecting farming and merchant shipping threatened by German U-boats.

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WW1 child and adult ration books from the Ministry of Food (October 1918)

The Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Pensions were formed on the same day, the same time that a new War cabinet wad formed under the new Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C786

National Archives file summary:

The first Ministry of Food was established on 22 December 1916 under a Food Controller who, under the New Ministries and Secretaries Act 1916, was empowered to regulate the supply and consumption of food and take steps for encouraging food production.

The Ministry was dissolved on 31 March 1921.

“Never Mind the Food Controller, We’ll Live on Love …” was a popular gramophone and music hall song by Florrie Forde at this time.

 The Ministry of Food survived until 1921, was reformed in 1939 for WW2 and later in the 1955 became MAFF and since 2002 DEFRA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minister_of_Food_(United_Kingdom)#Minister_of_Food_Control_.281916.E2.80.931921.29

Inside a ww1 ration book

Inside a WW1  ration book

The national food situation would become a growing concern for gardeners and garden editors like Herbert Cowley:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/dig-for-victory-1917-world-war-1-style-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-and-the-fortunate-herbert-cowley-1885-1967/

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Remembering Henry Peris Davies ZSL staff died Far East 21.12. 1941

December 21, 2016

 

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Names of the five fallen ZSL staff from the Second World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010. This well polished plate has been replaced in 2014 with a new one.

Davies. Henry Peris (Lieutenant RA)    ZSL Clerk: Killed in action Far East 21.12.1941 

164971, Royal Artillery, 5th Field Regt, died aged 27.

Occasionally his official date of death is given as 31st December 1941.

Davies is listed on the Singapore memorial.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/remembering-zookeeper-and-gardener-far-east-pows-70-years-on-2015/

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Autumn colours behind the ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, November 2010 (Photo: Kate Oliver, ZSL Education)

As well as being remembered on the Singapore War Memorial and the ZSL staff war memorial at London Zoo, 27 year old Henry Peris Davies is also remembered on the parish war memorial at Crymych, Pembrokeshire, Wales. This is presumably his home area.

Henry was the son of Evan and Anne Davies, and served with 5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

A Probate record suggests that he was married and lived at 4 Mallard Way, Kingsbury and he left £1216 to his wife Ann.

Photographs of the Crymych memorial and his panel on the Singapore Memorial can be seen on Steven John’s website:

http://www.wwwmp.co.uk/pembrokeshire-war-memorials/crymych-war-memorial/

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Within Kranji War Cemetery stands the SINGAPORE MEMORIAL, bearing the names of over 24,000 casualties of the Commonwealth land and air forces who have no known grave including London Zoo’s Henry Peris Davies. Many of these have no known date of death and are accorded within our records the date or period from when they were known to be missing or captured.

Individuals are commemorated on the Singapore Memorial in this way when their loss has been officially declared by their relevant service but there is no known burial for the individual, or in circumstances where graves cannot be individually marked, or where the grave site has become inaccessible and unmaintainable.

The land forces commemorated by the memorial died during the campaigns in Malaya and Indonesia or in subsequent captivity, many of them during the construction of the Burma-Thailand railway, or at sea while being transported into imprisonment elsewhere.

Remembered 75 years on, Henry Peris Davies of ZSL London Zoo.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 21 December 2016.

5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery : Henry Peris Davies’ Regiment

5th Field Regiment – Jephson (from Rawalpindi & Nowshera, India 1939-1941)  firing 16 x 4.5 inch howitzers 63rd Battery, 73rd Battery, 81st Battery. supported Indian Regiment troops.  

5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery was commanded in 1941 by  Lt. Col. Edward William Francis Jephson

Times of Malaya’s blogspot :  http://malayacommand.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/1941-december-royal-artillery-indian.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BL_4.5-inch_Medium_Field_Gun

 

Happy Wartime Christmas Birthday Peggy Jane Skinner

December 20, 2016

 

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

Today is a birthday reminder of one of our wartime diarists from our wartime collection, wartime student Peggy Jane Skinner:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/peggy-skinners-wartime-christmas-1940/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner/

On what would have been her 92nd birthday (Peggy was born 20th December 1924 and died in 2011), we send her  giftwrapped her favourite 1940s film star Tyrone Power.

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1940s heart throb Tyrone Power (Image: Wikepedia source)

 

Happy birthday Peggy!

Scheduled Blog post by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo. 20 December 2016

The Verdun Oak at Kew Gardens

December 20, 2016

19th December 2016 saw the unveiling ceremony of a commemorative bench  commissioned by Kew Gardens to mark the centenary of the end of the “Battle of Verdun”.

The bench has been crafted by Gaze Burvill with timber from a specimen of Quercus petraea which was struck and felled during “St Jude’s storm” in 2013.

http://www.kew.org/about/press-media/press-releases/kew-gardens-unveil-verdun-bench-mark-100th-anniversary-battle

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The new Kew Gardens Verdun Oak bench, 19 December 2016 (Image: RBG Kew) 

 

This tree was planted at Kew in 1919, from an acorn picked up after the Battle of Verdun,  in remembrance of Kew staff who died during the Great War,  and all soldiers from the different nationalities who fought in this dreadful battle and “the Great War”.

http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/

The Ceremony took  place on the 19th December 2016  by the Palm House pond near the Cumberland Mound.

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Where the Kew Verdun Oak stood for almost a century … RIP 2013 (photo; Mark Norris)

Just before I saw the absence of the Verdun Oak at Kew Gardens I had read this article by blogger Lucy at http://www.familyaffairsandothermatters.com/verdun-oak-kew-gardens-an-armistice-day-story/

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Verdun Oak 2013 photo from Lucy’s Blog at http://www.familyaffairs and othermatters.com

Sadly, although invited, I could not attend the Ceremony but I will look out for this bench on my next visit to Kew Gardens.

 

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens Project, December 2016.

 

 

Japanese zoos in wartime

December 7, 2016

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Faithful Elephants

Interesting children’s book about the fate of some Japanese Zoo elephants in wartime, originally  written by Yukio Tsuchiya and published in 1951. It was  reissued with illustrations by US illustrator Ted Lewin by publishers Houghton Mifflin in the USA in 1988.

Our second post of the day on the Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary, I wonder if Faithful Elephants  is still “read aloud  on Japanese radio every year to mark the anniversary of Japan’s Surrender in World War 2” each August?

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Back or inside cover blurb for Faithful Elephants

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Preface to Faithful Elephants (1988 version)

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Copies are available via online bookshops.

A true or fact-inspired  story to go alongside the many fictional stories set in wartime zoos, focussing on elephants …

Worth reading alongside Mayumi Itoh’s book Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy …

Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh’s  Japanese zoos in  wartime history book (2010)

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo,  7th December 1941

 

Remembering Pearl Harbor 1941 75 years on

December 7, 2016

Remembering Pearl Harbor 75 years on from the date that will live “in infamy”, the 7th of December 1941.

Here is the blogpost that we wrote on the 70th anniversary in 2011 with an interesting Pearl Harbor related camouflaged panda story (which coincided with the arrival of pandas at  Edinburgh Zoo c. 2011):

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/panda-tourism-and-pearl-harbor-a-wartime-perspective-from-world-war-zoo-gardens/

This wartime Panda  story is more widely covered in Maura Cunningham’s blogpost https://mauracunningham.org/2016/02/08/panda-monium-at-the-bronx-zoo-a-history/

Japan’s entry into the war against America, then Britain and the Allies had a profound  effect on world events, including on the careers and lives of several of the zoo and botanic Gardens staff that we have researched.

America’s entry into the war against Italy and Germany would have an unusual effect on our sister zoo at Paignton Zoo and Clennon Gorge  (where many GIs camped) and much of Southwest Britain with the arrival of the GIs.

Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh’s Japanese zoos in  wartime book

Mayumi Itoh’s book on Japanese wartime zoo policy makes grim reading and mentions what happened to some of the Japanese zoo keepers and vet staff during the war, as well as the unfortunate zoo animals.

Remembering 75 years on the many lives lost at Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941 and in the Far East campaign 1941-45.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 7 December 2016.

 

 

Stanley Saul Mottershead killed 4 December 1916

December 4, 2016

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Stanley Saul Mottershead,  brother of the founder of Chester Zoo George Mottershead, was killed in action in France on 4 December 1916.

http://www.chesterzoo.org/global/about-us/our-zoo-bbc-drama/george-mottershead

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George Mottershead in uniform with wife Elizabeth, World War One, one of many family photos in the new June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo, 2011.

George Saul Mottershead himself had been very seriously wounded by a bullet near the spine during the Battle of The Somme a few weeks earlier on the 15th October 1916. Doctors feared that George would be paralysed, however this former physical fitness instructor took several years to walk again, always with a limp.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/george-mottersheads-trip-from-our-zoo-at-chester-zoo-to-newquay-zoo/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/our-zoo-chester-zoo-and-the-drama-of-zoo-history/

George lost two brothers, half-brother Albert (Bert) Mottershead,  remembered with his brother Stanley Saul Mottershead on the Sale war memorial.

33 year old  Lance Corporal Albert Mottershead, Service No. 25258,  Lewis Gunner in the 23rd Battalion, Manchester Regiment was killed on 22 October 1917 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

http://www.traffordwardead.co.uk/index.php?sold_id=s%3A8%3A%22413%2Csale%22%3B&letter=M&place=&war=&soldier=Mottershead

http://www.mlfhs.org.uk/data/war_memorials_images.php?memorial=75

Private Stanley Saul Mottershead, Service No. 12594, 19th Battalion Manchester Regiment, (the 4th Manchester Pals) was killed by a shell on 4 December 1916. He had only arrived at the front in November 1916. He is buried at Grave Reference: I. E. 3, in  Douchy-Les-Ayette British Cemetery in France, a concentration burial  area for 491 soldiers including many from scattered graveyards across Arras and The Ancre.

http://www.traffordwardead.co.uk/index.php?sold_id=s%3A8%3A%22412%2Csale%22%3B&letter=M&place=&war=&soldier=Mottershead

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George’s brother Stanley Saul Mottershead is buried here near the tree on the right at Douchy Les Ayette Cemetery, France (Image source: CWGC)  

 

The Mottershead family, remembered.

Many thanks to George Cogswell for his website and research on the Mottershead family, Trafford and Sale war dead.

Posted By Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.


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