Archive for the ‘1940s’ Category

The Blitz begins 7 September 1940

September 7, 2018

 

ZSL 1940 p2

The Times article republished and illustrated in War Illustrated November 15th 1940

The Blitz, during which Nazi Germany bombed London and other English cities in nighttime raids, lasted from Sept. 7, 1940, to May 1941.

The raids killed around 43,000 British civilians and left widespread destruction.

ZSL London Zoo was in the firing line for the first time in over twenty years since Zeppelin airship and airplane bombing of London in WW1.

Long existing zoos such as Belle Vue (Manchester) and Bristol Zoo  had to put ARP (Air Raid Precautions) in place in 1939, along with newer 1930s zoos such as Chessington Zoo and Belfast Zoo.

https://www.zsl.org/blogs/artefact-of-the-month/zsl-london-zoo-during-world-war-two

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Some animal propaganda (ZSL chimps with tin hats) in  War Illustrated November 15th 1940

” The Zoo is in fact a microcosm of London …” 

Chessington Zoo

Chessington Zoo was bombed on 2 October 1940 and several staff family members were killed. https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/10/02/chessington-zoo-blitzed-2-october-1940-eyewitness-accounts/

www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/80/a5333780.shtml

Lovely Chessington Zoo home movie 1940 footage, a grand day out presumably before the October 1940 bombing  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHeqmMWs7VM

LR Brightwell's wartime panda poster London Zoo 1942

LR Brightwell’s wartime panda poster for London Zoo 1942, encouraging zoo visitors and pandas to return  once the 1940/1 Blitz had quietened down. The “Off the Ration” exhibition encouraged Dig for Victory allotments like our World War Zoo Gardens but also encouraging zoo visitors  grow your own food animals (rabbits, chickens, pigs). 

Zoo Blitz Resources for Schools

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/blitz-and-pieces-at-our-wartime-zoo-workshops/

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Interesting Year 6 cross-curricular topic map for WW2 – Blitz and Battle of Britain (now defunct 2014/15 Inspire Curriculum, Cornwall)  

The 1944/45 Blitz

Later in the war (1944/45) Chessington Zoo  was hit by a Flying Bomb – as mentioned in our blog post https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/10/02/chessington-zoo-blitzed-2-october-1940-eyewitness-accounts/

You can see Chessington zoo and circus staff clearing up the aftermath on YouTube https://youtu.be/T9CiQvwP1TQ 

London Zoo would also be affected by V1 and V2 bombing, including London Zoo veteran staff member Overseer W.W. T. Leney being killed in 1944 by a flying bomb at home. Nowhere in London or the Southeast was safe, night or day, at work or at home during the flying bomb raids. We shall mark the occasion 75 years on later next year on 25th November 1944 / 2019 with a fuller blogpost on Walter Leney.

The ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial:

Leney, William Walter Thomas, ZSL Overseer: Killed by flying bomb 25.11.1944

ZSL London Zoo veteran Keeper and Overseer William Leney at 65, old enough to have served in the First World war, was killed alongside his wife Kate Jane Leney (also 65) at 59 King Henry’s Road (Hampstead, Metropolitan Borough) by flying bomb. W.W.T.  Leney and wife died on 25 November 1944. Several flying bombs are recorded as having fallen around the London Zoo area, close neighbour of RAF Regent’s Park.

Studying the Blitz and Wartime Life? 

For more details about our schools wartime zoo / wartime life workshops for primary and secondary schools at Newquay Zoo, contact us via  https://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/education-clubs/school-visits/primary

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The last elephant left at the damaged Elephant house Berlin Zoo in 1943/44 after the Allied Air raids (Image source: Mark Norris, private collection from defunct press archive0.

Similar Allied air raids on German cities and industrial targets  caused extensive damage to German zoos in city and railway areas, as personally and vividly described  in zoo Director Lutz Heck’s Berlin Zoo memoir Animals – My Adventure. This will be the subject of a future blogpost as we approach the 75th anniversary of these raids in 1943 / 2018 and 1944 / 2019.

Remembering all those affected by the Blitz and air raids, 1940 /41 and 1944/45. 

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 7th September 1940 / 2018.

A Tale of Tin Hats WW2

September 6, 2018

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A Table or Tale of Tin Hats during our wartime schools workshops at Newquay Zoo.

Our WW2 Tin Hat collection has been busy again this year with school wartime zoo workshops at Newquay Zoo.

On the eve of the First Day of the Blitz (7th September 1940) 78 years on, we explore some of the protective head gear that zoo keepers and others may have worn in their various work and wartime roles.

https://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/education-clubs/school-visits/primary

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/world-war-zoo-gardens-workshops-for-schools-at-newquay-zoo/

The ‘Tin Hats’ or Steel Helmets

Heavy – Tried on by many visiting school pupils!

Many male and female wartime zoo staff members, if not called up into the Armed Forces, may have had a ‘second life’ in the form of a night-time  or weekend role in the Home Guard, Fire Service or ARP Wardens in their work or home area.

All these roles required  protective equipment and clothing, including steel helmets.

WW2 British Police Helmet 

Issued to Police staff and wartime Police reservists

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Fire Service Helmets

The NFS National Fire Service in Britain adopted the wartime Brodie Helmet style, rather than their traditional Roman / Napoleonic cavalry brass helmets.

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Not sure what HAL in red stands for, whereas their fire sector number was written as a number, in this case 34 (West London).

Their sector number was written as a number, in this case 34 (West London).

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Reproduction canvas shoulder hanger for your steel helmet – this helps to always keep it with you, along with your gas mask! 

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NFS Service Number 815946 

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NFS Sector or Fire Area 8 (decal) 

Newquay  lost many of  its AFS Auxiliary Fire Service Crew in the Plymouth Blitz in 1941. A memorial bell can still be seen at Newquay Fire Station today.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/the-plymouth-blitz-70-years-on-and-newquays-lost-wartime-afs-firecrew-remembered/

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Peaked cap and smart uniform: unnamed ZSL Whipsnade Zoo  Keeper c. 1939/40 ploughing up zoo paddocks for crop planting with Dixie the elephant, instead of horses. (source: Zoo and Animal Magazine, 1939/40) 

Peaked Caps

Male zoo keepers traditionally wore a smart military style, stiff peaked cap in public (right up until the late 1980s in some zoos). Many other jobs also had this everyday cap, as well as the steel helmet for Raid and ARP duty.

NFS crews also had a smart peaked cap, worn when not wearing the Steel Helmet.

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Rubber handled WW2 fireman’s axe, designed to avoid or insulate against electrocution if touching live wires. 

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Maple and Co?  1941 makers stamp on the canvas Fireman’s Axe holder 

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Information and voltage markings 

 

Irish / Eire Raid Warden Helmet

Distinctively a lovely Irish or emerald shade of green.

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Irish Republic / Eire ARP Wardens Helmet – The W looks rather amateurishly applied. Helmet Source: closed Fire Service museum / collection

Although a neutral country in WW2, unlike Northern Ireland, there were several occasions when Eire or the Irish Republic / Southern Ireland  was bombed by the German air force, presumably by mistake.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dublin_in_World_War_II

As a result Dublin Zoo staff would have had to had ARP precautions in place. The newly opened 1934 Belfast Zoo in Northern Ireland was in the Belfast Blitz area.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/belfast-zoo-and-the-belfast-blitz-19-april-1941/

http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/about-us/zoo-history/elephant-angel.aspx

Zuckermann Helmet 1939/40

Designed by zoologist Solly Zuckerman at ZSL London Zoo for civilian workers and fire watchers

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MFP possibly refers to Main Fire Party or Precautions or similar 

Look out for a future blog post on ZSL London Zoo Scientist and primatologist Solly Zuckerman and how he designed and tested this helmet.

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Heavy helmets match to some of the heavy original WW2 clothing, much tried on by visiting school pupils during our wartime zoo / wartime life Schools workshops at Newquay Zoo.

World War Zoo Nov Dec Zoo Magazine pics 021 Whipsnade keeper in tin hat 1939

Primary history source material – Keeper Billett of Whipsnade Zoo ZSL in tin hat and gas mask pictured in the shortlived ‘Animal And Zoo magazine’, November 1939 (magazine / photo from the World War Zoo archive, Newquay Zoo). Can’t quite see the front marking on the helmet.

This part of a print (below) in our collection shows some of the range of labelled and marked helmets that would distinguish different ranks and different emergency services during and after an air raid.

steel hlemet pdf .jpg

Note the NARPAC National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee helmet.  

Some of the rarer variations of markings, if genuine, can command much higher prices to collectors than others. Beware imitations!

Lesson Ideas for Primary School WW2 sessions 

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc

Blitz and Battle of Britain WW2 Cross Curricular Year 6 topic (the now defunct 2014/5 Inspire Curriculum, Cornwall) 

https://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/education-clubs/school-visits/primary

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo, on the eve of the Blitz anniversary 7th  September 1941 / 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dambusters Do A Bit Of Gardening

May 15, 2018

dambusters-gardeningYou may have noticed news stories about the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid in May 1943 on the Ruhr Dams.

Hard to look at this photo  and not think of the theme tune to The Dambusters movie. (Duh Duh duh duh duh duh de duh duh …)

I picked this wartime photo up as a copy from an online source, as it shows a little off-duty R&R and Dig For Victory, although it is hard to see exactly what is being planted.

These airfield gardens are the kind of ephemeral gardens that sprung up briefly in wartime, remembered today only in photographs or ‘ghost marks’ on the ground (as such traces were called by Kenneth Helphand, Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime).

Obviously not all of these RAF Bomber Command crews would live to see these gardens flower and vegetables harvested, given the low life expectancy and high casualty rates of such bomber crews. Such wartime gardens also gave pleasure and rations to downed RAF crews, gardening in POW (Prisoner of War) Camps in Occupied Europe.

dambusters-gardening

Guy Gibson, his black dog mascot and some of the Dambusters crews of 617 Squadron gardening between sorties.

This curious (posed propaganda?) photo shows one of Guy Gibson’s Dambusters crews gardening for relaxation in between bombing  sorties.

Interestingly it  looks possibly like flowers rather than vegetables during the WW2 Dig For Victory campaign.

In the background, you can see their iconic and famous  Lancaster bombers.

The Dambusters crews No. 617 Squadron are famous for taking part in the attack on the Mohne and Ruhr Dams as part of Operation Chastise.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Chastise

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._617_Squadron_RAF

This picture is likely to have been taken at their base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Scampton

This Wikipedia entry also shows the grave of his famous black dog mascot who died the same night as the raid.

The Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron  Guy Gibson (1918-44) has local Cornish connections to Porthleven, near to us here in Cornwall. Some of the local road names in Porthleven have Gibson and aircraft connections, and there is a plaque to him on the famous Porthleven harbour tower.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Gibson

http://www.rocassoc.org.uk/open/items/gr10/guy_gibson.htm

The Dambusters have a memorial garden in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire commemorating those who took part in the raids. http://www.dambusters.org.uk/commemoration/

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 15 May 2018.

1940s WW2 Farming advert

August 21, 2017

fordson advert

Goodbye Horse power, welcome to mechanised farming in the drive for more home grown food security … WW2 era farming advert from The Countryman, 1940s, in our World War Zoo Gardens collection

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

Unknown Zoo, Wartime Elephants

January 3, 2017

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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.

Dad’s Army and the Home Guard in the Wartime Zoo

February 6, 2016

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Our LDV ‘Gnome Guard’ in his usual allotment spot in our wartime ‘Dig For Victory’ garden, Summer Newquay Zoo, 2010

The Home Guard has long suffered from the Dad’s Army image of the 1960s and 1970s comedy programme, but an image that has helped to keep its memory alive.

The new Dad’s Army  film with Bill Nighy and other famous British actors is due out on 5 February 2016.

Zoos and botanic gardens sometimes had their own Home Guard companies ranging from Whipsnade Zoo to Kew Gardens, with big wide open spaces suitable for paratroop or glider landings.

Kew also possessed its very own Home Guard in the shape of a special Garden Platoon. Many of those involved were old soldiers or regular visitors. The manning of Kew Bridge was one of their tasks.

http://www.kew.org/discover/news/kews-wreath-remembrance

Kew Gardens staff were involved in the local 63rd Surrey (RICHMOND) Battalion V Zone Home Guard:
“Few units have such a beautiful and historic area to defend as the 63rd Surrey (Richmond) Battalion.

In the early days its members were called on to provide nightly guards on the Thames bridges in their territory and on such historic premises as Kew Observatory and Wick House, once the residence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, which stands on Richmond Terrace …

Major Bott, who had fought so hard for this, was offered the command of the new Battalion. He refused on the ground that his work did not allow him the time to do the job as he felt it should be done. So the command was given to Sir Geoffrey Evans, C.LE., eminent botanist and soldier, who held it until his appointment as Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Major Bott was made second-in-command.

http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/ww2/home_guard/hg006.shtml

Many zoo keepers over or under military age served in the Home Guard, along with other evening jobs at their zoo or in the local community in the National Fire Service, Firewatching, Air Raid wardens (ARP)  or other war work including Dig For Victory gardens.

Often these Home Guard staff from zoos  were veterans of the First World War.

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Home Guard lapel badge for your civilian clothes to indicate your branch of National Service. Author’s collection.

In the chaos and lack of weapons after the British Army’s evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940 when German invasion by paratroops or landing craft seemed imminent, surprisingly zoos were often allowed to keep their rifles and rifle-trained staff on account of the fears over large dangerous animals being loosed by air raids. Angus MacDonald (‘Mac’) was one such sure shot and a fine pest controller as well at London Zoo, as remembered by  the zoo writer L.R. Brightwell.

Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester became a source of some rather ancient weapons from its theatrical spectacular firework displays including 1866-vintage Snyder rifles, which were issued to members of the local 49th Lancashire Battalion of the  Home Guard during the Second World War (mentioned in Norman Longmate’s The Real Dad’s Army published in 1974 / 2012).

In 1943 the Fireworks Island itself was used for a public display of Home Guard Training, the Home Guard capturing a ‘nazi Flag’ as part of the display: http://www.chethams.org.uk/bellevue/files/original/c5c53efac3b80d96d3ac3a866b207a3f.jpg

More information on Belle Vue as a venue for the Home Guard can be found on the Virtual Belle Vue digitised collection at Chethams archive: http://www.chethams.org.uk/bellevue/files/original/22e81e259938404e6a9a309f33d0640a.jpg

Belle Vue Zoo remained a popular brass band venue in wartime including local Home Guards Bands, http://www.chethams.org.uk/bellevue/files/original/42e062a73a956504bccb320614777833.jpg 

Whipsnade  Zoo in Bedfordshire had its local Home Guard unit under ex-Army Captain W.P. Beal, the Zoo Superintendent.  Areas were turned over for rifle ranges and Home Guard training as mentioned in Lucy Pendar’s Whipsnade My Africa and Paul Wilson’s ZSL website article:

Mrs Beal’s jovial husband Captain W P B Beal (the Zoo’s first Superintendent, made famous by his curries in the Gerald Durrell’s book, Beasts in my Belfry) became the leader of the local Home Guard and made use of the Zoo’s facilities as far as he could. The Estates office became the Headquarters, the Cloisters were transformed into an indoor firing range and an outside range was created at the bottom of the downs below Bison Hill. The Zoo witnessed groups of men marching around, initially with just broom handles and farm implements and later with proper weapons.

https://www.zsl.org/blogs/artefact-of-the-month/whipsnade-during-the-second-world-war

Bristol Zoo was also home to its local Home Guard Unit:

The Home Guard of the 11th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment was based in the zoo’s cafeteria during World War Two. One member based at the zoo recalled how they were not allowed to march and parade in front of Alfred’s cage lest he become aggressive. At the time the troops discussed the causes of this, musing that it might be that their uniforms reminded Alfred of other primates. On reflection, as the keepers also wore uniforms, the writer concluded that it was more likely the marching itself which upset the gorilla.

He also recalled how night watch at the zoo was his scariest experience during his time in the Home Guard. On the one hand, he was worried about Germans appearing out of the dark but he was equally concerned that if a bomb dropped near the zoo the animals might escape from their cages. ‘Often, 17 year olds like myself exchanged our fears about what one would do if, spare the thought, in such an event the monstrous form of Alfred were to lumber forward out of the darkness’, he recalled, ‘probably run towards the enemy!’ he concluded.

Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Gorilla  quoting Bristol Museum, Alfred Archive L13, 23 July 1993.

home guard cert ww2

Home Guard certificate for Frederick Redvers Booth, Hailsham Sussex Battalion (Author’s Collection)

If you come across a Home Guard certificate, they only have the person’s name (as both men and women served) on the front but very usefully they are often stamped on the back with the Home Guard group and battalion they belong to.

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Certificate (back) for Frederick Booth, Hailsham Sussex Battalion

Training this new civilian or old soldier army in national defence brought forth a wide range of publications, some recently reprinted.

Home Guard cover

(Author’s collection)

The aims of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) or Home Guard are set out in many of these rapidly written and published advice books, focussing on tone modern methods of war shown in the Invasion of Poland and Blitzkreig across Holland, Belgium and France of 1939/40. Parachutists, gliders and  tanks required training in roadblocks, street fighting and ambush techniques.

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Advice about parachutist and glider troops: Page 50 from the Home Guard Handbook (1940) by John Brophy

 

The Last word Home Guard

Page 125 from the Home Guard Handbook (1940) by John Brophy

 

LDV checklist Home Guard Brophy

Page 126 from the Home Guard Handbook (1940) by John Brophy

As we come across new stories of zoo or botanic garden Home Guard units or links, I will post them on this blogpost.

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

Happy Wartime Christmas?

December 22, 2015

wartime garden PZ  Christmas 2010 009

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

Happy Christmas to all our World War Zoo Garden blog readers, another very busy year at our project base at Newquay Zoo.

Past Christmas blogposts

2015

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

2014

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

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Our trial War and Peace Christmas Pudding – before pretasting by keepers – at Newquay Zoo.

2014

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/war-and-peace-christmas-pudding-rationing-recipe-ww1-ww2/

oxfam unwrapped ecard

We have continued our tradition of buying an Oxfam Allotment gift again this year 2015 on behalf of the project:

2014

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/a-corner-of-a-foreign-field-football-gardening-and-oxfam-allotments-for-christmas/

2013

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/not-just-zoo-animals-get-adopted-even-wartime-allotments-get-christmas-presents-2/

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Noah’s Ark handmade by Ernest Lukey for his daughter (in our wartime collection) alongside a cocoa tin and wood pull along train. Wartime Christmas presents.

 

There’s always the tradition of handmade or recycled presents as well. One of my favourites remains this simple puzzle, handmade for a little girl.

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Handmade sliding puzzle made by a man for his daughter in wartime, from Australian Butter box wood and cut out calender dates, 1940s, Newquay Zoo wartime life collection

This featured in our  2010 Christmas blogpost:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/wartime-christmas-past-and-presents-from-the-world-war-zoo-gardens-newquay-zoo/

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Back view of the wartime handmade sliding puzzle showing the Australia butter box markings

Wartime Harvest Home 1941

October 11, 2015

The last crops in our World War Zoo wartime keepers’ garden at Newquay Zoo are being gathered in for the year, at a time of Harvest Festivals around the country.

A Dig For Victory cartoon in my cuttings collection celebrating Harvest Home 1941 from Punch by Thomas Derrick, Punch,  Sept 17, 1941.

A Dig For Victory cartoon in my cuttings collection celebrating Harvest Home 1941 from Punch by Thomas Derrick, Punch, Sept 17, 1941.

Chessington Zoo Blitzed 2 October 1940 – eyewitness accounts

October 2, 2015

peter pollard and derek witney

Two wartime friends reunited again after nearly 75 years, 2014 – evacuee Peter Pollard (left) and Derek Witney, Chessington Zoo staff child (right) Photograph: Derek Witney

A chance conversation with the Hart family about their ‘zoo evacuee father / grandfather’  whilst picking crops in  our wartime garden as part of our Junior Keeper experience back in 2008 led me to the story of Peter Pollard, Derek Witney – and the tragic story of Chessington Zoo on 2nd October 1940.

These are some of the previously unpublished memories I have been sent by Peter and his sister Wendy, along with the story of Derek Witney, wartime Chessington and Paignton Zoo staff child.

Ladies first …

Peter and Wendy Pollard, Chessington Zoo 1940 (Pollard family album)

Peter and Wendy Pollard, Chessington Zoo 1940 (Pollard family album)

Wendy Gothard (nee Pollard): 1940 Chessington memory

“As I was only four when we lived at Chessington Zoo in the Summer of 1940, my memories could best be described as snapshots, but they are very clear. I was allowed complete freedom to play around the zoo all day long, without any adult supervision, and apart from scraped knees I came to no harm.

I loved the rehearsals for the circus. I would sit on the bench closest to the ring, all on my own – magic. Sometimes there would be cubs born to the big cats, and I shall never forget sitting on the ground and having a cub carefully settled on my lap for a cuddle.

The slides in the playground both thrilled me and scared me to bits. They were very high, and of course even taller for a small person. The older children would go down head first, but I never managed that.

Our caravan in the corner of the field was amazingly quite small. With gas mantle lighting the temperature ranged from ninety odd degrees near the ceiling to freezing at floor level. My mother would stand ironing in her bra and sheepskin boots. In the floor there was a small trapdoor which my parents would open for ventilation until an air raid warden came knocking saying he could see the light from a long way off. With several windows it was difficult not to have a single chink of light showing.

I remember well the night of the bombing when the big air raid shelter was hit.

The small brick shelter is clear in my mind, but I have no picture of the big shelter. The next day I was forbidden to go the zoo, and I knew something terrible had happened there, so perhaps my mind blotted it out.

Later my mother told me that the bomb rolled down the steps, but they did not tell me that my playmate [Derek Witney],* the son of the zoo manager, was among those killed.

We did not know whether the Germans had just unloaded a few bombs on something suspicious or were actually aiming for a munitions factory just up the road, but my father was in a great hurry to move us away from the zoo in case they returned.

However, one of the bombs had made a crater in the lane from the zoo to the main road, and he had a big problem getting the caravan out. The animals were evacuated to [Whipsnade].* They were taken away two by two , an unusual sight as the elephants plodded along the main road.

My time at the zoo is among my most cherished memories. It was my garden, my playground ,and even when the visitors were there, it was still my zoo. Fortunately, they went home.”

Wendy Gothard (nee Pollard), Chichester, December 2008.

Wendy Pollard and Derek Witney, Chessington Zoo 1940 (Pollard family archive)

Wendy Pollard and Derek Witney, Chessington Zoo 1940 (Pollard family archive)

Researching this story,  I struggled to reconcile this memory with any WW2 casualty lists, but as it later proved it was not Derek Witney who was killed on the night but another of her zoo playmates. Derek Witney thinks the elephants were headed somewhere else- Devon!

chessington aerial 1950s

Aerial detail of Chessington Zoo from Alan Ashby’s We Went to the Zoo Today: The Golden Age of Zoo Postcards (2009)

Chessington Memory  – Peter Pollard (born 1930)

By the end of August 1939 I was approaching my ninth birthday, my sister Wendy was five years younger and we lived with our parents in a three year old detached house by the River Thames at Richmond. However when war was declared I was not actually there, having been sent for safety to The Linns, a 1000 acre dairy farm outside Dumfries, owned by my Uncle Alex and Aunt Kathleen. It was in a window seat at The Linns on 3rd September 1939 that I listened to the historic broadcast by Neville Chamberlain which ended “and I have to tell you now that no such undertaking (to withdraw from Poland) has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany” …

The rest of the family were not cowering from the bombs in the bolt hole under the stairs. My father let the house for the duration of the war to a Czech diplomat called Pospisil, bought a small caravan and sited it in the car park at Chessington Zoo which I think was still open but very quiet. Later on a bomb did land on Richmond Palace across the river and the blast damaged our house, but fortunately it was empty at the time.

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My rough sketch notes from my conversation with Derek Witney on 1940s locations, identified with Derek on a more recent 1960s 1970s map of Chessington  Zoo from the online Chessington Zoo.info website

Chessington Zoo – 1939/40 memory by Peter Pollard 

In 1939 the zoo proper occupied the same area as it does now, although the animals and attractions were very different. There was one small field for parking on the North Boundary, whereas now there is parking for thousands of cars at both North and South ends. At the heart of the Zoo was “The Burnt Stub”, a beautiful old manor house occupied by the owner Reginald Goddard.

The Southeast quadrant of the site was mainly a vast playground of high slides, oscillating roundabouts and swing boats.

In the centre of the site, and immediately in front (i.e. South) of “The Burnt Stub” was a  small permanent circus with stabling and props rooms, and also the terminus and workshops for the miniature railway. This was no land train but a genuine miniature locomotive, all steam and polished brass, which took visitors around the site on narrow gauge tracks.

Just to the west of the Burnt Stub was an odd construction, a cafeteria room with large cage attached to the left and right hand sides for lions and tigers respectively, while beyond that was a small lake for water birds like flamingos.

I returned from [school at Dumfries Academy in] Scotland in the Spring of 1940, and had free access to all parts of the zoo, even the private areas. This was quite perfect for a boy of nine. I helped to feed all the wild animals, and the ponies in the circus. I helped backstage in the circus during the performances, hosed down the elephants, helped to polish and maintain the rolling stock and rode the rails whenever I wanted., and spent hours in the huge playground.

But it didn’t last.

chessington bombsight graphic

Satellite mapping of Chessington Zoo Bombsight.org 1940/41 bomb mapping

The Chessington Raid – memory by Peter Pollard 

There were two air raid shelters in the zoo.

The first was a small brick surface shelter like a tool store, with room for four camp beds, which was used by Mr. Goddard and his family. It was not blast resistant.

The second was a proper shelter, excavated four feet into the ground and covered over with arched corrugated sheeting and the excavated earth to five feet above ground. There was  enough room for about twenty people, sleeping on wooden shelves. This was where my family and I spent our nights, sharing with the zoo keepers and their families. It was by uncomfortable, with no privacy and little sanitation.

One day in the summer of 1940 Mr Goddard who owned a second zoo in Paignton  [* Goddard had entered a wartime business arrangement with Herbert Whitley at Paignton Zoo]  to which he had transferred some animals, told my father that he would be making a short inspection visit to Devon, and invited my family to use his shelter while he was away.

That same night a German Bomber flew over and mistaking the zoo buildings for a nearby army camp in the moonlight, dropped four bombs.

The first breached the railings of the water bird enclosure, releasing dazed birds to wander round the Zoo.

The second blew out the cafeteria, leaving the big cats on either side uninjured and angry but fortunately still secure.

The third landed on the driveway and did little damage but the fourth penetrated straight through the roof of the big shelter, exploded and killed every body inside, including our friend ‘Derek Witney’.* [Here Peter has made a fortunate memory slip after 70 years]

Our family in the flimsy brick shelter was unscathed, and I didn’t even wake up.

Chessington wartime memory by Peter Pollard.

Bombsight.org 1940 /41 bomb map of Chessington Zoo with one bomb clearly on the zoo site. Image : bombsight.org

Bombsight.org 1940 /41 bomb map of Chessington Zoo with one bomb clearly on the zoo site. Image : bombsight.org

The aftermath – a memory by Peter Pollard 

My father decided that we were still too close to the Luftwaffe bombing campaign on London and hastily removed us to a farm at Christmas Common in Oxfordshire where we had only well water and a two mile walk each way back to the shops in Watlington.

This was a bit too primitive, and we came back as far as a farm at Hedgerley, between Beaconsfield and Slough. The farm was owned by the Halse family and it was Brenda Halse who taught me how to trap and skin rabbits. It was still a two mile walk each way to the good shops in Beaconsfield but at least it was sometimes (depending on the weather) possible to get a bus into Farnham Common where I attended a small primary school for the Autumn term of 1940.

In January 1941 I was sent off to Board at Derby Grammar School, which was settled in a holiday camp in the wilds of Derbyshire near Matlock. But that is another story …

Previously unpublished Chessington wartime memory by Peter and Wendy Pollard, written up for the World War Zoo Gardens project November 2008 (with thanks to the Hart family).

The dustjacket cover to Frank Foster’s circus autobiography Pink Coats, Spangles and Sawdust (Stanley Paul, late 1940s) Image: Mark Norris, private collection

Frank Foster’s account

Frank Foster, “Pink Coat, Spangles and Sawdust”, published by Stanley Paul 1949?

Frank Foster was a circus performer, ringmaster and equestrian director who wrote one of the few accounts of wartime Chessington Zoo. R.S. Goddard (or ‘RSG ‘ as Derek Witney still calls him) died very suddenly at Christmas 1946 and few archive records have survived throughout the changing ownership of Chessington Zoo.

P.158. “After we had arrived back at Chessington twenty-one bombs fell in the grounds. One was a direct hit on a shelter and killed three attendants.

Two high explosive bombs dropped within a hundred yards of the elephants quarters. With lions, tigers, polar bears and many other animals to look after, this was an anxious time.

Apart from the possibility of their being killed there was the danger that cages might be blasted open and occupants escape into the surrounding countryside.

Fortunately this has only happened to the penguins’ cage: their quarters were completely demolished.

Searching in the debris for their remains, we were astonished to see them walking towards us, like Charlie Chaplins, along the miniature railway track.

They’d been blown clear and without hurt. Later came the buzz bombs …”

These blitzed penguins are possibly some of the ‘dazed water birds’ that Peter Pollard mentioned. (Derek Witney  chatting in October 2015 also thinks this might be a bit of characteristic circus story embroidery by Goddard or Foster).

Frank Foster’s 1949 book is out of print and hard to obtain, so I have scanned the 4 relevant pages about wartime:

chessington foster 1

chessington foster 2chessington foster 3

chessington foster 4

Tracing the Chessington Zoo Casualties of 2 October 1940

For a while I could find no trace of a Derek Whitney being killed at Chessington Zoo or a bombing date. Now thanks to the CWGC records being online, I have found the identity of the child and other zoo staff sadly killed that day.

cwgc chessington casualties

The three casualties recorded CWGC as “Died at Chessington Zoo Shelter” on 2nd October 1940 by the Municipal Borough of Surbiton are:

  1. Annie Page, aged 37, the Cottage, Zoo, Chessington. Daughter of Mrs Todd, 128 Woodside Road, Westborough, Guildford, wife of Reginald Page.

cwgc ronald page

 

2. Ronald Page, aged 10, son of Reginald and Annie Page. 

 

3. Elizabeth Arnold, aged 54, of the Lodge, Chessington Zoo, wife of George Arnold.

Several family photos of the Page family, Ronald, Reginald and Annie can be found on the Ancestry website.

A BBC audio clip of Peter Pollard 2010

There is a short sound clip of Peter from 2010 online talking about the bombing on  a BBC Radio Cornwall report as well as a brief paragraph:

“For a while Peter Pollard found himself living in a caravan in the car park of Chessington Zoo at the age of nine in the summer of 1940. He shared his memories with the Zoo for the exhibition.

Reflecting on the time Peter said: “It was wonderful for a small boy of nine. I had a complete run of the zoo, I helped in the circus, maintained a miniature railway, they had an enormous playground there, it was perfect, it was heaven.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/cornwall/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8539000/8539314.stm

Chessington Zoo advert 1937, Zoo and Animal Magazine (Image source: Mark Norris private collection)

Chessington Zoo advert 1937, Zoo and Animal Magazine (Image source: Mark Norris private collection)

Researching and confirming this wartime story

Curiously the Pollard’s  9 & 5 year old memories seem to suggest that they quickly left Chessington for safety somewhere else and were told their playmate ‘Derek Whitney‘ [sp] was killed in the bombing.

What they did not know until 70 years later was that Derek had left that day with his father, the park’s engineer, to take some animals and the miniature railway down to Paignton Zoo, a story Derek confirmed when he visited me at Newquay Zoo last year. Leopards, lions and tigers were mentioned as travelling down. Mr. Witney was there on behalf of Chessington Zoo’s  Mr. Goddard  to help Mr. Herbert  Whitley open his  zoo up again (see late August 1940 press cuttings) from its early wartime closed state.

The Miniature Railway by the way is still going strong at Paignton Zoo. Mr Witney, Derek’s father, was the Chessington Zoo Engineer and organised taking one train and the track down to Paignton Zoo. According to Derek, this train  returned at the end of the war when the animals returned. It was obviously popular as the miniature railway was reconstructed postwar. Life in wartime Paignton Zoo sounded a little makeshift, the family lived in a caravan for about a year.

I first had a feeling that the Pollard’s account was slightly wrong after 70 years when I couldn’t find a CWGC or death record for a ‘Derek Whitney’.

Having been reading the two Chessington history books by the late  C.H. Keeling of the Bartlett Society and some further research on this little reported 1940 incident (compared to the buzz bombs of 1944), it suggests that a “Derek Whitney of Burgh Heath Surrey, who literally grew up around Chessington’s Circus” (p. 29 , The Chessington Story, CH Keeling) had met Clinton Keeling  the author to talk about the 1935 Chessington Circus blaze where some circus horses were killed. So unless Clinton Keeling had met a ghost …

This set me thinking that something in the Pollard stories did not tie up with what happened and led to reuniting Peter and Derek 70 plus years later!

The ‘forgotten name’ of their playmate casualty was young Ronald Page.

Herbert Whitley as Derek Witney would have known him. Source: Paignton Zoo

Herbert Whitley as Derek Witney would have known him. Source: Paignton Zoo

Meeting up with Derek Witney and family to hear their stories

In 2014 I was lucky enough to meet up several times with Derek Witney at Newquay Zoo and  also when he came in the company of wife and grandson to my wartime zoo and botanic gardens Kew Guild talk at Kew Gardens. It was odd to be able to put his picture of being reunited with Peter Pollard on screen, tell his story and then point to Derek in the audience!

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The Witney family visiting me at Newquay Zoo, full of a lifetime of stories of working with animals, 2014. (Derek Witney and his wife on the right) Image: Mark Norris

Derek told me more about his meeting with Peter, who is now suffering from health problems. Derek also remembers meeting Herbert Whitley wearing a battered pair of old white plimsolls at Paignton Zoo (Whitley was famous for his scruffy or eccentric dress sense). Derek’s other  family memories of this period include:

Eight or nine people in the shelter that night it was hit included my grandmother who was keeping house while we were on our way down to Paignton with a convoy of animals having left that morning.

The alarm was raised by two of the zoo staff who were in another part of the shelter.

I was not aware of any animals going to Whipsnade for the duration of the war but this could well be true.

What I am absolutely certain is that the Elephants remained at the park and worked in the circus during the whole of the war. I know this to be true as I looked after them as part of my duties in my school holidays.

Frank Foster came to  Chessington at the start of the war from Bertram Mills Circus along with some of the animal trainers and remained there until the end of hostilities when he and some of the artists returned to the Bertram Mills circus while at Chessington  Frank was responsible for the circus smooth running only.”

Derek Witney, personal comments, 2014

As we pored over past maps of Chessington Zoo in the past (http://www.chessingtonzoo.info/zoo-maps.html) to locate where the shelters were, Derek mentioned that the surviving brick built shelters remained for many years in various roles such as tool sheds, something Peter said they looked much like.

“I hope that this will further inform you of life at Chessington”: I am currently chatting to Derek Witney about more of his wartime memories of Paignton Zoo.

This temporary wartime expedient business  merger between Goddard’s Chessington Zoo and Whitley’s Primley / Paignton Zoo is not a well-studied area and I will post more on this blog as I uncover more.

primley pic WW2

“You Will Enjoy Yourselves Here!” These documents remain in the Archive at Paignton Zoo and we will post further research about them in time.

primley zoo pic 2 ww2

Derek Witney, one of the remaining Chessington / Paignton Zoo wartime staff children,  mentioned to people after my Kew Guild talk  about the GIs at Paignton Zoo and their big Anti Aircraft AA guns, being there at Paignton Zoo protecting the Clennon Gorge GI camp in the run up to D-Day.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/war-and-the-whitleys-para-medics-peacocks-and-paignton-zoo/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/d-day-1944-and-the-disappearing-peacocks-and-ducks-of-wartime-paignton-zoo/

This was further supported by Dave Ellacott, Reserves Warden, Primley park and Clennon Gorge, who mentioned

“As for GI leftovers I have not found anything which would have hinted at their presence.  Google earth makes a claim that there was a gun emplacement in Primley Park which makes sense as this is on an elevated position with good 360 views of Torbay.”

Lots more stories to follow …

Remembering Ronald and Annie Page and Elizabeth Arnold, “Died at Chessington Zoo Shelter”, 2 October 1940. 

Research posted by Mark Norris at Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo Gardens Project.


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