Archive for the ‘Home front’ Category

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WWI air raid blogpost https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-first-blitz-on-london-from-an-unpublished-ww1-diary/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.

Elsie Widdowson and WW2 rationing

August 18, 2016

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World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

It’s August. The schools are on 2016 holiday break and Newquay Zoo is lovely and busy with families. http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/

I am also lovely and busy, preparing, repairing and refreshing schools and college workshop materials for September.

For the new City and Guilds 2016 syllabus  on animal managment delivered at  Newquay Zoo and Cornwall College Newquay,  I have been preparing new sessions for my new 16-19 year old students on animal feeding and nutrition.

https://www.cornwall.ac.uk/campus/cornwall-college-newquay

http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/education-clubs/cornwall-college

One of the challenging new elements is a bit of biochemistry (and it’s a long time since I did my O levels!)

In the course of finding simple enough ways for me to understand and explain the new nutrition bits such as the  chemical structure of amino acids, protein bonds and suchlike,  I came across this great BBC clip on Elsie Widdowson from CBBC’s Absolute Genius team Dick and Dom:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/zf9rkqt

Dr. Elsie  Who?

I feel I should know the name, as I have been looking at wartime gardening and rationing since 2009 as part of the World War Zoo gardens project workshops for schools.

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

 

Elsie_Widdowson

Reading the story brought back very vague memories of this story being noted in passing in histories of food in wartime, rationing and gardening.

So who was Elsie Widdowson?

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

A trip to the kitchens at King’s College Hospital, London, brought her into contact with Professor Robert McCance, who was carrying out research into the best diets for people with diabetes. The two bonded and started on a research partnership that was to span 60 years.

They studied the effect poor nutrition has in adulthood and their book The Chemical Composition of Foods, published in 1940, became the “bible” on which modern nutritional thinking is founded.

Soon after the war started, she and Prof McCance lived for weeks in the Lake District eating the diet which they thought the British should consume during World War II to maintain basic health.They also cycled round Cambridge to study the importance of energy expenditure on diet. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6228307.stm)

There’s a new volume for the World War Zoo gardening bookshelf – The Chemical Composition of Foods, published in 1940 – and the 7th edition (2014 version) is still in print on Amazon from the Food Standards agency today.

World War Zoo Children evacuation suitcase & garden items Oct 09 018

Delabole Co-op and Camelford stores in Cornwall for meat, registered with Haddy’s for other rationed items, (is Haddy’s still going?) this well used (light brown adult RB1) Ration Book from Cornwall is part of our wartime life collection (copyright: World war Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo).

Widdowson and McCance headed the first mandated addition of vitamins and mineral to food. Their work began in the early 1940s, when calcium was added to bread.  They were also responsible for formulating the wartime rationing of Britain during World War II. (Elsie Widdowson’s Wikipedia entry)

Elsie Widdowson, wartime rationing star and Mother of the modern loaf as this BBC report named her – that’s one to chew on when you’re eating your lunchtime sarnies!

Elsie Widdowson and her scientific partner, Robert McCance, oversaw the first compulsory addition of a substance to food in the early 1940s, when calcium was introduced to bread. They were also responsible for formulating war-time rationing – some experts say that under their diet of mainly bread, vegetables and potatoes, that was when Britain was at its healthiest.(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6228307.stm)

A biography  of sorts exists – McCance and Widdowson: A Scientific Partnership of 60 Years, 1933-93  A Commemorative Volume about Robert McCance CBE, FRS and Elsie May Widdowson CBE, FRS   published / edited by  Margaret Ashwell in 1993.

Interesting medical history blog entry by Laura Dawes about early  wartime food security concerns in Britain with a brilliant wartime photograph of McCance and Widdowson:

Digging For Victory

August 2, 2016

dfv postcard

Fairly random WW2 photographic postcard from our World War Zoo Gardens collection entitled “Digging For Victory”, the name of the Government backed drive to encourage all from schools, scouts, workplaces, families and even zoos to grow their own food.

The back gives really not much more for information, other than the jokey family tone and the cub scout hat.  It reads “Your daft-in-law, doing his turn. Good Scout”.

dfv postcard 2

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

 

Blitz and pieces at our Wartime zoo workshops

March 10, 2016

Another successful wartime zoo workshop at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall.

Before busily  packing away our interesting archive of wartime items until their  next outing for a schools workshop, so I thought I’d photograph a few more items in our collection to share with you.

wartime toys

Previously we showed a little of our  wartime workshop for schools about how  wartime changed life for zoo staff, animals, visitors and more generally for people on the Home Front in Britain in World War 2.

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

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/ww2-at-newquay-zoo-and-other-primary-workshops-inspired-by-the-new-curriculum/

It’s always interesting to see what items attract children’s attention each time. The handmade toys proved popular and the school may well have a go at making some of their own. (I have a few plans and books of these).

 

A wartime toy ark made from whatever wood was available by Mr Ernest Lukey, teacher from Poole, Dorset for his daughter Wendy (kindly loaned to Newquay Zoo).

wartime toy ark

Mr Lukey’s  hand carved wooden toy animals are the only time you’ll see elephants, rhinos, camels and giraffes at Newquay Zoo. The real ones are usually seen at our sister zoo at Paignton, operational throughout World War 2.

wartime wooden animals

Trying on helmets and heavy woollen wartime uniforms and clothing was also popular:

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land army greatcoat label

Inside the Women’s Land Army greatcoat was this 1943 label and inside the pocket this curious cardboard roll of labels – maybe to do with size?

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In our next Blitz and Pieces we’ll feature another popular item on display – the insides of the family ARP (Air Raid Precautions) First Aid Box, still intact 70 years on.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo (March 2015).

 

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.

home guard cert ww2 reverse

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.

Home Gaurd Brophy book parachutists

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.

Peggy Skinner’s Wartime Christmas 1940

December 10, 2015

December 1940  – a schoolgirl’s wartime Christmas in Scotland

If you are struggling to choose or afford Christmas presents this year, spare a thought for the fashion conscious 1940s wartime young woman like Peggy Skinner!

Peggy Skinner is a 15 to 16 year old schoolgirl in her final years of school, transplanted in wartime to Paisley in Renfrewshire, Scotland from her South London home.

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

Like many school girls she is worrying about exam results and making it into her  school leaving year in 1941. She makes it to wartime Glasgow University on a Carnegie Grant to study Astronomy, Maths, Radio and Science, but all this seems far away in Christmas 1940. [I’ve added additional notes in brackets].

Much of her social life revolves around school friends and a church youth group, attending a Bible Class en route to becoming a Sunday School teacher of a weekend throughout her wartime student years. 

Peggy is obviously a bright girl, daughter of an engineer and draughtsman. School is thankfully going well for her despite relocation and wartime disruption. Unusually at the time for a female student, she is doing well studying Science and Maths.

 

Glasgow schools in wartime

Many Glasgow schools were closed early on in the war or requisitioned for military and civil defence use. Peggy’s school seems to have a range of teachers on loan from other schools.

Amongst the range of teacher names and nicknames somebody in Paisley or Glasgow might recognise or identify Peggy’s school:

Jetta Yuill her French teacher from Renfrew High School, Bone her Latin teacher, ‘Fanny’, Miss Buchanan, Miss Reid and Miss Blair her Gym teachers, ‘Doc’ and Billy Robb her Science teachers, Stoney, Denham or Denman her Physics and Science teacher, Tommy Henderson, Alice Young, Miss McKim, Miss Walker, Hutchison or Hutchie, Stevenson her History teacher, Mr. Reid her music teacher and McCrossan who produces the school play.

Does anyone recognise any of these names from wartime school days?

Peggy Skinner’s summer in Scotland safe from the London Blitz and Battle Of Britain in July to September 1940 were covered in a previous blogpost: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/battle-of-britain-day-remembered-15-september-1940/

More about Peggy’s life (1924-2011) and other wartime birthdays and Christmas entries can be found here on what would have been her 90th birthday tribute in December 2014: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/1942-the-end-of-the-beginning-70-years-on-in-the-world-war-zoo-gardens-at-newquay-zoo/

 

Peggy Skinner’s wartime diary, December 1940

Sunday 1st                    As [the local vicar] Mr Laming is away, the Marines’ chaplain took the Eucharist. Mr [Bovey?] took Bible Class and some one from Trinity Paisley took evensong. His profile was like Tyrone Power’s but he spoke so slowly.

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[Tyrone Power, the famous U.S. film actor of the time, was a bit of a Peggy Skinner favourite!]

 Monday 2nd                  Physics marks back, they were really out of 120 but they were counted out of 100 since we didn’t get all the time we were supposed to. I’ve got 50% for my Latin.

Tuesday 3rd                 I have found out that I am the highest in lower History in our class, so I’m quite bucked. I got 67% for my Chemistry which is far better than I’d expected.

Wednesday 4th            Dance practice with boys at Gym. Latin sentences in place of or in addition to the exam ones, of course I couldn’t do them. AYPA – went to Youth welfare meeting, pretty boring.

[Anglican Young People’s Association, a church youth and social group of the time]

Thursday 5th                Dance practice with boys. Latin marks back, the sentences we had yesterday were counted in place of the ones in the exam. They brought my marks up a bit. It is 55% which I think is good.

Friday 6th                     Half day. Went to Whist drive round church hall. I just filled in, had to help Mum get the hall ready first.

Saturday 7th                 Went to Paisley with Bunty to see My Two Husbands, it was very amusing.   Altogether, it was quite a good show. Paisley was crowded, it was War Weapons Week.

[See our separate blog post for Paisley War Weapons Week]

Sunday 8th                    Communion and Bible Class. It is very cold. I think it is freezing tonight. Trying to think of Xmas presents.

Monday 9th                   Higher History marks back. I am second equal and first equal when averaged British and European history is taken.

Tuesday 10th                Xmas is getting very near and I haven’t brought any presents. I don’t know what to get. Our parcel from Grandma arrived last Friday.

[Grandma is back home with the family in London]

Wednesday 11th          Literature back, I got 30 ½ out of 45. I’m third equal in our section. Didn’t do much at AYPA tonight.

 Thursday 12th              It is Paisley War Weapons Week this week, our savings collection last week towards it was £175, this week it is £333, making a total of over £500 which is five times as much as we aimed at.

Friday 13th                   English marks back. We got away at 1.30, because of yesterday’s collection. I went to Paisley in the afternoon, Xmas shopping, I wasn’t very successful, everything’s so expensive.

Saturday 14th               Very miserable day. Went to Paisley with Mum in afternoon, got nothing we went for. Stockings are 2 to 3 times the price they used to be.

 

Editor’s note: This shortage and price increase was pre-clothes rationing, which would arrive in six months time on Sunday June 1st 1941, partly to manage and organise scarcity, profiteering  and excessive prices.

The shortage of shoes and everyday clothes became a major irritation for Peggy throughout her diary including into the austerity and rationing period long after the war, especially being tall.

Thankfully her family were competent makers of clothes with whatever remnants became available.

 

Sunday 15th                  Poured with rain again, I had to borrow an umbrella to come home from church this morning. I went to Bible Class and evensong.

Monday 16th                 We had our report cards back. The Rector [the School Headmaster] sent for some people but luckily not me. Packed Xmas presents this evening.

 

[These presents are to be posted to her remaining family down south in London.]

 

Tuesday 17th                I hate Maths now (although the periods are often quite good, like the ones today) because we always seem to be so keyed up.

Wednesday 18th          Dancing in boy’s shed this morning because the Gym was being decorated. Only 7 at AYPA tonight, so as usual did nothing.

Thursday 19th              Half-day for 4th, 5th, 6th year dance – I did not go. I’ll hear all about it tomorrow I expect. It was just an afternoon affair.

Friday 20th                   [Peggy’s 16th birthday] Black velvet for frock, jumper, ring and money to buy books were my presents. Half-day for 3rd years dance. We have a big Hamlet crossword puzzle to do. Short air –raid warning this evening.

Saturday 21st               Another short warning, which I did not hear last night. Bessie and Jean came to tea, just talked. I at any rate quite enjoyed myself.

 Sunday 22nd                 Woke so late that I had a job to get to church in time but service was only beginning as I went in. I went to Bible Class. I tried to finish the [Hamlet school] crossword but couldn’t.

Monday 23rd                Two boys had managed to get the crossword done. We only had two periods this afternoon then got away early. I’ve still some Xmas shopping to do.

Tuesday 24th                Half day, broke up, we did X-word puzzles in Maths, nothing in History and Bible and worked in English and Chem. I went to midnight Eucharist, took communion. Church was crowded.

Wednesday 25th            Christmas Day  Went to [neighbours] Read’s for tea and evening, two other people there, we had a very good time but I’m so sleepy now Xmas is over. This year it’s come unexpectedly and passed quickly.

 

Christmas in Wartime

Not the first Christmas of the war, but this was the first Christmas in wartime where rationing was beginning to have an effect on food and gifts. Later entries by Peggy Skinner for 1943 and 1946-9 record the ongoing difficulties of finding suitable presents and making of things to sell for charity fundraising.

 

Thursday 26th              Didn’t wake till midday. Went round to Bunty’s but I got no reply So I just came home and read. I haven’t started my homework yet.

Friday 27th                           Saw Bunty this morning. We have a [barrage] balloon opposite us now, the site has been prepared for months but the balloon wasn’t brought till today.

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Peggy Skinner’s wartime home  is towards the top of the photograph,  (top right) a barrage balloon on the balloon site nearby protecting the Hillington Rolls Royce and other factories at the bottom left. Canmore.org.uk ID 211548

This barrage balloon site near her house is on the National Historic Monuments Record for Scotland in the Glendee Road area of Paisley, protecting factory areas at Hillingdon.

https://canmore.org.uk/site/211548/renfrew-loanhead

Saturday 28th             Got letters from Bessie and Jean this morning, they were very amusing, especially if they were compared. Went to see Pinocchio the full length cartoon alone this afternoon.

Sunday 29th                    Good crowd at Communion, had service in church at Bible Class. Good number of carols at evensong, choir alone sang them all, quite a few I didn’t know.

Monday 30th                   Went round to Bunty’s this afternoon, we both tried to do some history. She and I went down to library this evening . Miserable cold wet day.

Tuesday 31st                   Reads came over this evening, had a little party, quite a good time. I’m full and tired. Mr Read saw the ‘New Year’ in,  so this should actually be here.

 

Editor’s note: This list entry about ‘first footing’ by neighbours gives you a clue when her diary was sometimes written, often at the end of day before sleep.

 

January 1941

Wednesday 1st               I did not get up till dinner-time today, all the family was late up. Did some English this afternoon. Snow.

Thursday 2nd                  While I was down the town this afternoon the siren went but I just finished my shopping and then wandered home. Nothing happened, the [barrage] balloon opposite didn’t even go up.

We have no diaries from Peggy for 1941 and 1942. These two January entries give us a few clues as to what was to happen in coming months.

Like her entries for January 1940, the winter of 1941 is recorded by other diarists in our collection and other published diaries as a harsh one of frozen pipes and snow.

The lack of reaction to the air raid siren and ‘nothing happened, the balloon opposite didn’t even go up’ would change on 13 and 14th March 1941 when Clydebank and the Glasgow area were heavily bombed. Sadly we don’t have Peggy’s diaries for this eventful year.

Happy Christmas!

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

 

A wartime guide to Edinburgh 1943

April 1, 2015

This little wartime guide to Edinburgh is something I didn’t get time to post during the 2014 Scottish referendum or during the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo centenary in 2013. It is from the 5th Edition, November 1943.

Edinburgh wartime guide c/o the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Edinburgh wartime guide c/o the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

It gives a little flavour of wartime life in Edinburgh and Scotland during WW2. Clicking on a picture below should allow you to enlarge it and read more.

wartime guide 2wartime guide 3

More about Edinburgh wartime life, such as where to sleep for visiting servicemen and women:wartime guide 4

And of course, regimental clubs and less glamorous canteens and rest rooms for H.M. Forces:

wartime guide 5Alongside “leading churches in the city”, there is mention of Edinburgh Zoo and an image of its polar bears. There is also suggestions for Sunday evening entertainments other than churches.

wartime guide 6wartime guide 7 mapAmongst many recreation and entertainments including cinemas, theatres, public baths and zoos, golf seems to feature quite heavily in this little wartime tourism guide in the era of “holidays at home” in Scotland.

“>wartime guide 8

“Some addresses which may be useful” in wartime from ARP and NAAFI to the NFS and the YWCA.

wartime guide  10

wartime guide 12

wartime guide 11

So that’s a glimpse of wartime life in Edinburgh, a little bit of time travel.

There is a final page written in French which I will scan and add later, probably for Free French and Canadian French troops visiting the city.

Later in the year I will add more about the history of Edinburgh Zoo, its remarkable founder ‘Tom’ T.H. Gillespie and a few stories from its WW1 and WW2 history.

wratime guide 1

Mr. Middleton’s February and March Gardening Advice 1943

February 6, 2015

middleton calender cover

February and March gardening advice from Mr Middleton from the “Sow and Reap” 1943 calendar in our World War Zoo Gardens collection at Newquay Zoo. Happy Gardening!

middleton january week 3

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

 

feb2

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Some bird-friendly advice about pest control.

Time to order your seeds now! Soon time to get sowing.

feb3

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Spinach, lettuce, broccoli, carrots – sow!

march1

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

 

march2

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

We’ll finish March with Mr Middleton’s late March advice, as he was a man who knew his onions …
You can read more about Mr. Middleton and his January 1943 advice in our previous post.
All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Mr. Middleton’s January Gardening Advice 1943

January 16, 2015

Mr Middleton’s gardening calender “Sow and Reap” 1943 (images from my collection).

middleton calender cover
Middleton Jan week 1

middleton jan week 2
The pencil marks on the dates I think refer  to the original owner’s chicken breeding or egg production, judging by other strange pencil notes inside this calender.
middleton january week 3

This calender is put together from a mix of Mr. Middleton’s gardening advice from other sources and publications, recycled by an obviously busy Mr. Middleton. We will post the relevant section month by month throughout 2015, another useful guide for our wartime allotment project.

Wartime rationing 75 years on and Mr Middleton’s wartime gardening advice

2015 marks the 75th anniversary of rationing being introduced on 8th January 1940 and the 70th anniversary of Mr Middleton’s death on 19th September 1945.

How time flies! We marked this rationing date on the 70th anniversary in 2010, several years into the World War Zoo Gardens project, alongside the Imperial War Museum – see the legacy site for http://food.iwm.org.uk  2010 Ministry of Food Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, marking  70 years since rationing was introduced.

A Titchmarsh before his time ... C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

A Titchmarsh before his time … C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

2015 is also sadly the 70th anniversary of the death of Cecil Henry Middleton (b. 22 February 1886) on 18 September 1945.

On the Ministry of Food IWM site, there is also some great December 1945 gardening advice pages from this wartime celebrity gardener Mr. Middleton. The whole 1945 leaflet set has been reprinted recently as a book edited by Twigs Way (Sabrestorm Press, 2009). We will feature more about Mr. Middleton throughout 2015. As well as Pathe Newsreel footage of Mr. Middleton, there is an interesting Mr Middleton blog.

It’s a quiet time in the World War Zoo Garden allotment at Newquay Zoo, a time to plan rather than to plant and sow. “Hasten slowly”,  my favourite gardening advice from Mr. Middleton.
Happy gardening! Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

A gardener named Banks, Britain’s first air raid casualty 24 December 1914

December 24, 2014

Did you know that the first bomb from an aeroplane ever to fall on England in 1914 fell in a garden?

“Shortly before 11 o’clock on December 24th [1914] an aeroplane was seen flying down the valley and it dropped a bomb which burst in the kitchen garden of Mr T.A.Terson at the end of Leyburne Road [Dover]. The bomb was probably meant for the Castle and where it burst it did no damage beyond breaking adjoining windows  and throwing a gardener named Banks, who was working at St. James’ Rectory, out of a tree to the ground, slightly injuring him.

The Journalist, 1914

This intriguing story of a “gardener named Banks” makes him Britain’s first air raid casualty, but thankfully one who survived.

It  was featured as the opening panel of the Garden Museum London exhibition on Gardens and War (which ended 19 December 2014).

 

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames,  Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames, Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

Whilst the famous Christmas Truce and football matches of No Man’s Land were unofficially happening in the front line trenches on land, in the air several wartime firsts were about to happen.

The spot (according to the Britain at War history magazine First World War) is now marked by a Blue Plaque from the Dover Society: “Near this spot on Christmas Eve fell the first aerial bomb ever to be dropped on the United Kingdom.”

The plaque is pictured on Ian Castle’s excellent website on WW1 air raids.

Ian is the author of two Osprey books London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace and London 1917-1918: The Bomber Blitz amongst other airship related that I have recently read, researching a 2015 blogpost about how zoos responded to the Zeppelin and aerial threat and featuring air raid related mentions from Edith Spencer’s 1917 civilian diary in our collection.

I am curious to see how people prepared for this new threat. London Zoo and Regent’s Park were in the flight path of several raids but thankfully spared air raid damage in WW1. The London Zoo was spattered with spent shrapnel from the “Archies” (Anti-aircraft guns) on Primrose Hill  and prepared against possible animal escape with firearms trained staff of “a special emergency staff of picked men was always on call. Heavy shutters were fitted to the glass fronts of the poisonous snakes’ cages” (Source: The Zoo Story, L.R.Brightwell, 1952). A long-term outcome of the WW1 air raid preparation was the provision of a First Aid post for visitors continuing after the war (Source: The Zoo, J. Barrington-Johnson, 2005).

Other wartime firsts
Three days earlier on 21st December 1914 a German seaplane dropped bombs in the sea near Dover Beach. However towns on the East Coast of Britain had been bombarded from the sea by German ships  on 16th December 1914 with a number of civilian casualties.

Within weeks on 19 January 1915, the first Zeppelin raid on Britain had taken place, aimed for London but diverted by bad weather to Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. The raids would eventually reach London on 31 May 1915.

The gardener in St James Rectory garden  reportedly pruning a tree for Christmas greenery was called variously James Banks or in some sources John Banks.

I have seen three different pilots named as the pilot responsible for the 24 December 1914 attack. Various sources ranging from Ian Castle, Neil Hanson’s First Blitz book to Dover history sites give a range of often conflicting details about the incident, no doubt down to wartime reporting restrictions and propaganda. The bomb appears to have been a single hand-held 22lb bomb, dropped by hand from 5000 feet  and probably aimed at Dover Castle from a FF29 Friedrichshafen  floatplane of the German Naval Air Service. It fell 400 yards from the Castle and created a crater ten feet wide in the gardens.

Tommy Terson was a local auctioneer and there are a few, no doubt, jokey Christmas references to him picking Brussel sprouts from the patch which was bombed!

The cook at the Rectory was reportedly showered with glass. The garden and window damage is pictured in the http://doverwarmemorialproject website.co.uk

Christmas Truce in the trenches, but in the air?

The next day the 25th December 1914  the same German Navy air force unit attacked again, aiming for London but dropping its bombs on  Cliffe Railway Station. The raid  was seen off over the skies above Erith  by a British Royal Flying Corps Vickers Gunbus from Joyce Green Airfield near Dartford.

This was the first aerial interception of an enemy aircraft over the United Kingdom of the First World War.

On this same day, there was an attack on German Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven on Christmas Day 1914, beyond the range of British air stations. This was known as “The Christmas Raid” with British Royal Navy Air Service RNAS seaplanes from a converted passenger ship HMS Engadine and HMS Empress. Whilst the raid was not that effective, all the pilots and 3 of the 7 seaplanes survived. It was to foreshadow aircraft carrier operations in the next war.

With these two days of bombing, the long road to the Battle of Britain and Blitz in 1940 had begun, with all the chaos that World War 2 caused to the people, animals and plants of British zoos and botanic gardens and in turn to European counterparts.

Aircraft of the period can be seen at air museums like the Imperial War Museum Duxford, RAF Museum Hendon and the Shuttleworth collection.

There is also an interesting and ongoing airfield restoration of a recently listed and most complete surviving WW1 air station at Stow Maries in Essex http://www.stowmaries.org.uk. It’s also home to some very interesting wildlife, the area being used for filming part of the BBC’s The Great British Year in 2013.

Have a peaceful Christmas!

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


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