Archive for the ‘London Zoo’ Category

Robert Jones London Zoo Gardener killed Battle of Arras April 1917 WW1

April 9, 2017

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

09.04.1917 Robert Jones 9 Royal Fusiliers ZSL Gardener.

As Listed on the ZSL London Zoo WW1 Staff War Memorial

There are two current possibilities for this name, awaiting research:

Private GS/60595 Robert Jones, 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers

This Robert Jones was born in Islington or Highgate, Middlesex around 1881 and was married to Bertha Lewin of Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon around 1905 / 1906 in Camden / Highgate.

He was formerly listed as 23358 6th Middlesex Regiment, having enlisted in Harringay and been resident in Highgate. On the 1901 census he is listed as a Gardener (not domestic) and in 1911 as a Nursery Gardener.

On the CWGC website he is listed as the husband of Bertha Jones of 22 Caxton Street, Little Bowden, Market Harborough. This Robert Jones died of wounds on 7 April 1917 (two days different from the ZSL dates on the war memorial plaque) and is buried in Faubourg D’Amiens cemetery in Arras. His headstone (photographed on the TWGPP website) bears the family inscription from his wife reads: “Thou art not far from us who love thee well”

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Robert Jones ZSL Gardener lies buried at Faubourg D’Amiens CWGC Cemetery, which is  surrounded by some of the names on the Arras Memorial including ZSL Librarian Henry G.J. Peavot. (Image source: CWGC)

The other Robert Jones possibility with the same date as the ZSL war memorial plaque is Robert Jones 472712, 1st / 12th Btn. London Regiment (The Rangers), aged 31 buried in Individual grave A2 , Gouy-en Artois Cemetery, killed or died of wounds on the first day of the Battle of Arras 1917. The CWGC lists him as the brother of Mrs. Clara Shafer, of 37, Cornwallis Rd., Walthamstow, London. He was born in 1886 in Grays, Essex and enlisted in Plaistow. He appears on the 1911 census not to have been a gardener but a coal porter in a gas works.

This coal porter seems less likely to be the ‘Robert Jones ZSL gardener’ but without surviving service or pension papers for either one that I have found so far, even the ZSL staff record cards give few clues as to which one is the ZSL Gardener.

Both deserve to be remembered.


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Names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010 – name plaques since replaced or restored.

For more about the Battle of Arras and the Centenary

ZSL Gardener Robert Jones was not the only April 1917 casualty from London Zoo. Two weeks later, the ZSL Librarian would be killed at Arras.

21.4.1917 Henry George Jesse Peavot, Honourable Artillery Company, ZSL Librarian

B Co. 1st Btn, Honourable Artillery Company, aged 35.

Killed during Battle of Arras period, No known grave, listed on Arras Memorial. Married.

Henry George Jesse Peavot, a 35 year old ZSL Librarian served in B Company, 1st Battalion, Honourable Artillery Company and died on 21st April 1917.

He has no known grave and his name is listed amongst the 35,000 missing men listed on the Arras Memorial alone.

R Jones Faubourg

Like many of these zoo staff, Peavot was married; his widow Maud or Maude Pravot as far as I can discover never remarried and lived to mourn his loss for almost seven decades until 1985. They had one child. Previously a ZSL typist, Maude kept in touch with ZSL for many years, a file of personal correspondence in the ZSL Archive appears to continue from 1917 to about 1932 and is likely to be pension related.

The legacy of absence and injury from the First world war is still ongoing or at least within our working and living memory, in families and professions such as zoo keeping across Europe.

Happy 100th birthday Dame Vera Lynn

March 20, 2017

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One of my treasured books that I tracked down, because it had been signed by Vera Lynn!

Happy Birthday Dame Vera Lynn, 100 years old today 20 March 2017, from all at the World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

I watched an excellent new BBC documentary at the weekend shown to mark Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th Birthday on 20 March 2017. Many famous people and Burma veterans talked about their personal connection with Vera Lynn and her music in person or through her radio broadcasts.

I was very happy to see a brief momentary glimpse in Vera’s post-war home movies of her family garden and orchard.

Dame Vera Lynn has long been a treasured part of my family memories, growing up with wartime evacuee parents who played many of the old wartime songs.

Little did I realise until I started the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo back in 2008/9 that my late Mum would reveal a strange wartime connection to Vera Lynn, that she had had as a tiny and unhappy evacuee in Ditchling, Sussex where Dame Vera Lynn lived:

I was very proud to show Mum a copy of the book when this experience of Mum’s  was briefly written up in Duff Hart-Davis’ Our Land At War.

Last year my brothers scattered Mum’s ashes from Ditchling Beacon out over the Sussex countryside where Mum  had lived as an evacuee and had been an unwilling look out for an evacuee scrumping gang in Vera Lynn’s orchard.

Coming from similar parts of London and not that far apart in age, Mum and Vera Lynn also had a few spoken phrases in common, that watching Vera Lynn interviewed reminds me of my late Mum.

Whilst I never planted an apple tree in the World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment, we now have two container planted English apple trees in my home garden, one named Vera and the other named after my Mum.

This Vera Lynn story is a family one  with photos that I tell school children who are visiting Newquay Zoo for our Wartime Zoo / Life schools workshop.

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Part of our August 2009 wartime garden launch exhibition display – sheet music and “Sincerely Yours” BBC  original press 1940s photos of Vera Lynn.

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An excellent book written by Vera Lynn, well worth tracking down (1990)

Whilst we tend to think of Dame Vera singing to servicemen, she also had an important role through her radio broadcasts in the lives of wartime women, at home and in the services. She wrote a fabulous book about it, Unsung Heroines, cleverly titled, alongside her own autobiography Some Sunny Day.

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Dame Vera Lynn pictured centre with Dutch resistance heroines Joke Folmer GM and Nel Lind, Utrecht, July 1990.


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Lovely pic of Dame Vera Lynn Burma 44 surrounded by nurses, the unsung heroines of the Forgotten Army.

Vera Lynn, The Forgotten Army and the Burma Star

Dame Vera Lynn is much praised for her front line ENSA concerts to the Forgotten Army in Burma, where many of the proud Burma Star veterans had served that I was privileged to meet at Newquay Zoo one day.

Sadly my wartime zoo researches also reveal that some of the London Zoo and Kew and Melbourne Botanic Gardens staff serving in the Far East never survived, dying in the Burma and Singapore jungles or in the infamous Far East Prisoner of War camps:

I believe that my navy grandfather helped transport many of these skeletal POW survivors  home on his aircraft carrier. My Mum did not see him for most of / during the War due to her evacuation and his naval service.

Dame Vera will be much in the thoughts today  of many of the Burma Star veterans like those interviewed for the BBC programme at the weekend.


Happy 100th Birthday Dame Vera Lynn! May you have good health and many more birthdays!

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

and a link to Dame Vera’s special charity

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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.

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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:


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 :


Remembering William Dexter, ZSL London Zoo Keeper died Somme 23 October 1916

October 23, 2016

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William Dexter, ZSL London Zoo keeper killed in WW1 (Photo: Courtesy of Nova Jones, digital clean up Adrian Taylor ZSL)

Remembering today 100 years on ZSL Keeper William Dexter who died on 23rd October 1916 during the Somme battles.

You can read more about him at:

One of the things I remember most poignantly about Dexter is that he was finally identified by his number or initials in “a piece of boot” (according to his pension and service records) ‘19841 R.B.’ (for Rifle Brigade)

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Burial details of how William Dexter was identified. Source: CWGC

Remembered also by his granddaughter Nova Jones whom I met at London Zoo’s war memorial whilst researching there:

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Nova Jones, Dexter’s granddaughter, inspects his name on the new panels at the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial. (Image: Mark Norris)

The old brass plaques are so well polished they were replaced in 2014 at the start of the WW1 centenary:

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Names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010 (panels now replaced by new ones in 2014)

Remembered by his family and his workplace 100 years on.


Remembering G.P. Patterson, ZSL London Zoo staff died Somme 5th October 1916

October 5, 2016


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

Remembering G.P. Patterson of ZSL London Zoo staff who died 100 years ago today on The Somme on 5th October 1916.

His name is remembered on the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial as

05.10.1916 Gerald P Patterson 19th County of London Regt ZSL Helper

The 19 County of London Regiment may be an error or his first regiment. A ‘Helper’ was a younger Keeper working his way up the ranks of London Zoo staff.

This is likely to be 43689 Private Gerald Phillips Patterson of the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was killed on 5th October 1916 during the Somme fighting.

He is buried in an individual grave XI. C. 4. in Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, Somme, France. There is no family inscription on his headstone, pictured on the TWGPP website.

The life of his battalion during the Somme battles is well set out in the Somme school visit site

It is likely that Patterson went into action with the Norfolks on the 1st of July 1916, the first day of the Somme as part of the 18th (Eastern) Division as part of K2, Kitchener’s 2nd Army Group of New Army volunteers.

Patterson was most likely killed during the attack and capture of the Schwaben Redoubt on the 5th October 1916. The next day his battalion went back for rest out of the line.

Somme poppies, Thiepval area, 1992

Somme poppies, Thiepval area, France taken on my first trenches tour, 1992 (Copyright: Mark Norris)

Many of Patterson’s 8th Norfolk battalion who were killed and whose bodies or graves were not found are remembered on the nearby Thiepval Memorial on the Somme, alongside other ZSL staff like Albert Dermott.

Read more about him and the other ZSL London Zoo staff on their WW1 memorial at our blogpost:

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Names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010. This well polished metal plate was replaced by a newer more  legible one  in 2014, the start of the WW1 centenary. 

G.P. Patterson, remembered.

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens project, 5 October 2016.

Remembering the Somme Battle of Thiepval 1916

September 26, 2016


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Routledge is one of several British zoo staff with no known grave are remembered amongst thousands on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme (Image: CWGC website)

Remembering today the thousands who died on each side of the Somme Battle of Thiepval  including 100 years ago today on 26 September 1916:

Wilfred Omer Cooper, writer and naturalist,  FLS Fellow of the Linnean Society, died Somme 26 September 2016

Alfred Routledge, Belle Vue Zoo Manchester staff, died 26 September 2016  September 1916

1. Wilfrid Omer Cooper
Born 1895, he was killed in 26 September 1916. He had been involved with the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, studying isopods.

Elected to the Linnean Society only in Spring 1915, Cooper  was still a private G/40113 in the 12 Battalion Regiment, Middlesex Regiment when he died aged 21. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme battles.

He is listed on the CWGC website as the son of the late John Omer Cooper (died 1912) and Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Thompson Cooper, 6 Queensland Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth.

On the listing for Soldiers Died in The Great War (SDGW) he is listed as born at Boscombe, Bournemouth, Hants and resident at Bournemouth. He enlisted at High Beech, Loughton and was originally listed as formerly B/23290 Royal Fusiliers. He is the author of several papers and books including The Fishing Village and other writings (Literary and Scientific) posthumously published in Bournemouth by H.G.Commin 1917, the author one Wilfrid Omer-Cooper.

Read more about Cooper and the Linnean Society losses in WW1 here:


Taken from the ‘Bournemouth School and WW1’ website



2. Alfred Routledge, Belle Vue Zoo Manchester staff, died 26 September 2016

He died serving with the 11th Battalion Manchester Regiment on The Somme, aged 23 on 26 September 1916. He was killed in an attack on Mouquet Farm which was part of the final and successful British attempt to capture the village of Thiepval.

The village occupied high ground in the centre of the battlefield and had been a British objective on the first day of The Battle of The Somme on 1 July 1916.

Alfred Routledge is one of the many “Missing of the Somme”  listed on the Thiepval memorial, having no known grave. Routledge was  killed in the  final days of taking Thiepval village, one of the original objectives of the 1st July 1916, the first disastrous day of the Battle of The Somme two months earlier.

CWGC lists him as the son of the late Alfred and Emily Barton Routledge of 504 Gorton Lane, Gorton. Married. Routledge and fellow Belle Vue Zoo staff Sidney Turner and Ralph Stamp are remembered on the St. James Parish Church war memorial at:

Read more about Routledge and the Manchester men of Belle Vue Zoo in WW1:

Late September  and early October 1916 was a bad few weeks for British zoo and botanic gardens staff. No doubt the zoo and gardens community was equally affected by the losses in Germany.

Kew Gardens staff

The follwing Kew Gardens men will also lose their lives in the closing months of the 141 days of the Somme fighting:

Sergeant Sydney George Cobbold, S/12906, 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died on the 3rd October 1916, aged 28. He has a known grave in a small Somme cemetery.

Sydney Cobbold (Kew Guild photo)

Sydney Cobbold of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died 3rd October 1916, Somme area (Kew Guild photo)

Rifleman John Divers, service number 7056, 1st / 9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria Rifles) and also County of London Cyclists, died on 9th October 1916.

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June 2016: Kew staff commemorate  John Divers near where he was killed on the Somme  in 1916.  


Rifleman / Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, “Essex Regiment”  is most likely to be Rifleman 3844, 1st / 5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), died 9 October 1916.

Herbert is commemorated on Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 D, Thiepval Memorial, along with fellow Kewite John Divers.

I will blog post 100 years on the anniversary of each of their deaths. In the meantime, read more about them at:

London Zoo

ZSL London Zoo lost the following young keeping staff (‘Helpers’)  in the latter part of the Somme battles in September and October 1916.

15.9.1916        Arthur G. Whybrow      2547, 19 Bn. County of London Regt.  ZSL Helper.

05.10.1916      Gerald P Patterson       19th County of London Regt.     ZSL Helper

and an older Keeper whose grand-daughter I met whilst researching at London Zoo:

23.10.1916      William Dexter  Kings Royal Rifles, Rifleman    ZSL Keeper 

I will blog post 100 years on the anniversary of each of their deaths. In the meantime, read more about them at:

A lucky wounded survivor  who went on to found an amazing zoo …

George Mottershead (of the BBC ‘Our Zoo’ fame) of the Manchester Regiment will be severely injured on the 15th October 1916, surviving a spinal wound that nearly killed him and left him paralysed for several years bfeore he struggled to walk again and create Chester Zoo in the 1930s. He would lose several brothers or family members in WW1.

Remember all these men and their families  100 years on.

Scheduled blogpost for 26 September 2016 by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens project.

Remembering Leonard Peachey London Zoo staff killed in RAF crash 18 December 1940

December 18, 2015

From Zoo Clerk to Air Gunner …

75 years ago today on 18 December 1940 one of London Zoo’s young clerks Leonard James Peachey was killed in an RAF air  crash during WW2.


Leonard Peachey, ZSL Clerk is buried among these RAF graves at North Coates (St Nicholas) Churchyard, Lincs. Image:


The first of ZSL’s five WW2 casualties, ZSL London Zoo  Clerk Leonard Peachey  is buried among the RAF graves at North Coates (St Nicholas) Churchyard, Lincs.

ZSL Clerk Leonard Peachey,  RAF Volunteer Reserve,  died aged 32 as Sergeant Wireless Operator / Air Gunner in an air  crash, serving with 22 Squadron in Lincolnshire at RAF North Coates / Cotes (various spellings exist!).

He is buried in North Coates (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, Lincs alongside the rest of his crew from 22 Squadron, and buried alongside in adjoining graves in the same row:

  • Sergeant Pilot Dennis George How, RAFVR (aged 23)
  • Sergeant Observer Paul Victor Renai (aged 22, from Wellington, New Zealand) 
  • Sergeant Wireless Operator / W.E. Mechanic Ralph  Gerald Hart (22).
The roles involved – pilot, observer, wireless operator / mechanic and Peachey’s own role as Wireless Operator / Air Gunner suggest that this is an entire Beaufort crew of 4.
There is more about Bristol Beaufort  and the roles of its crew of four  at this site:
You can see inside the cramped cockpit of one of these Bristol Beauforts of Peachey’s 22 Squadron here:
Peachey’s air gunner post can be seen here in this 22 Squadron Beaufort photo around December 1940 (sadly not his individual aircraft) The caption reads:
Air gunners at their positions on board a Beaufort Mark I, L4461 ‘OA-J’, of No. 22 Squadron RAF at North Coates, Lincolnshire. One gunner occupies the Bristol Mark IV turret, mounting a single .303 Vickers K-type gas-operated machine gun. For added protection against beam attacks, 22 Squadron has installed another K gun, mounted in the port entry hatch. IWM photo CH 637

Peachey’s headstone can be seen at

Leonard Peachey in the London Zoo staff records

ZSL London Zoo has not only a fine library but an amazing archive including staff records cards dating back to Victorian times.

Leonard was born on 19 October 1909. He joined the zoo as a young Office Boy on July 17 1927 on 27 shillings and 6d a week, promoted to Messenger by 1928 and finally Clerk on 20th December 1935.

His Pay increases and records then tended to be in mid December eerily almost on the date or  day of his air crash. On the 17th December 1938, his Clerk’s pay went up a further 5 shillings to 95 shillings a week.

The following year, he would be dead in an air crash.

His record card mentions that he was a ‘Territorial called  RAF  16 September 1939′ two weeks into the war (presumably the RAF VR Volunteer Reserve). His record card simply recalls 18.12.40 Killed in Air Crash North Coates Lincs.

A married man, his family address like many London Zoo staff shifts around the North London area, in his case  finishing at Woodhouse Road Finchley (with a temporary address in 1936 curiously at Veyges, Bystock, Exmouth, Devon; a long journey to work!)


Royal Air Force Coastal Command, 1939-1945. Aircrew of No. 22 Squadron RAF walking away from their Bristol Beaufort Mark 1s after a mission, at North Coates, Lincolnshire. Wikipedia Public Domain source via Daventry B J (Mr), Royal Air Force official photographer – Photograph CH 639 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

From zoo clerk to air gunner … Peachey’s life in the wartime RAF

Peachey’s 22 Squadron brought the Bristol Beaufort into operational service in 1939/ 1940: a preserved Beaufort can be seen at the RAF Museum Hendon  RAF Museum Bristol Beaufort In their illustration, Peachey’s exposed position as a dorsal (mid to back of plane) ‘rear gunner’ can again be seen.

There is an interesting Wikipedia Bristol Beaufort article describing and picturing  the Beaufort.

Several of the first production Beauforts were engaged in ‘working-up trials’ and final service entry began in late November 1939 / January 1940 (according to different sources) with 22 Squadron of RAF Coastal Command.

After this intense work up at RAF North Coates in Lincolnshire, the Squadron resumed operations in April 1940, beginning with mine-laying sorties.

The Squadron’s torpedo operations against enemy shipping used several bases during the war including RAF North Coates, RAF Thorney Island Sussex, RAF Abbotsinch and RAF Portreath and RAF St Eval in Cornwall, only a few miles from where our project base at Newquay Zoo for the World War Zoo Gardens allotment is based.

It was presumably during  these operations that ZSL London Zoo clerk and RAFVR Sergeant Leonard Peachey and his fellow Sergeants in the crew were killed on 18 December 1940.

22 Squadron was re-formed at RAF Thorney Island in 1955 as a Search and Rescue Helicopter Squadron and was finally stood down from Search and Rescue duties with the Bristow privatisation in October 2015. Further squadron information from

Peachey’s airfield is now home to the North Cotes Flying Club but the main concrete runways that Peachey’s 22 Squadron have now been removed for agriculture. Photos of the now discontinued airfield can be found on various sites including

These photos are amongst  others on the informative Airfield Information Exchange website:

I came across the Airfield Information Exchange website whilst researching a  forthcoming 2016 blogpost on British zoos that were once wartime airfields. Watch this (landing) space.

The circumstances around his air crash 18 December 1940

Researching the crash there appeared to be one most likely candidate (right type of plane, right squadron, right date) for Peachey’s fatal air crash.

Leonard Peachey and crew were the crew of 22 Squadron’s Bristol Beaufort L4516 OA-W which crashed on 18 December 1940 listed as “Marshchapel  – Engine Failure after take off for Wilhelmshaven, aircraft stalled and crashed.” (Source:

This plane L4516 OA-W is photographed around the same time in the Imperial War Museum archive by official RAF  war photographer  Flight Lieutenant Bertrand John Henry Daventry in 1940.

The caption for one IWM photo  (CH 1851) offers some interesting additional information: :

Mark XI aerial torpedoes being taken out on trolleys towards a Bristol Beaufort Mark I, L4516 ‘OA-W’, of No. 22 Squadron RAF at North Coates, Lincolnshire. Shortly after this photograph was taken, L4516 was destroyed when it stalled after a night take-off from North Coates and hit the ground near Marshfield, detonating the mine it was carrying.© IWM (CH 1851)

Is this Peachey’s crew and aircraft? A helpful aircraft historian at the RAF Museum sent me the following helpful infomation from the first volume of Coastal Command Losses by Ross McNeill confirming that the crew of L4516 is that resting in the churchyard at North Coates after taking off at North Coates at 20.10 for the target of  Wilhelmshaven

Stalled due to an engine failure shortly after take-off and crashed at Marshchapel, Lincolnshire. The Time Impact Mine exploded setting the aircraft on fire and killing all the crew. Sergeant Renai of Wellington, New Zealand and the other crew members (Hart, How and Peachey) rest locally in St. Nicholas Churchyard, North Cotes, Lincolnshire.

Wilhelmshaven was a German naval base and port, hence the mines and torpedoes that these 22 Squadron Coastal Command aircraft were pictured carrying.

Leonard Peachey and crew / colleagues are mentioned in this RAF North Coates related blogpost, showing the original preserved airfield gates that Leonard and crew would have known.

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Names of the five fallen ZSL staff from the Second World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010 – these worn original plaques have now been replaced with new ones.

Peachey is also remembered on the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial WW2 plaque.

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

Leonard Peachey and his Crew L4516 OA-W remembered, each November by London Zoo staff and 75 years on by the World War Zoo Gardens project online.

Posted in remembrance by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo



Remembering Henry Munro London Zoo Penguin Keeper missing 29 September 1915

September 29, 2015

Remembering Billy and Harry.

The Zoological Society of London war memorial bears the inscription:

In memory of employees who were killed on active service in the Great War 1914-1919

Staff casualties are listed on the plaque in order of date of death. The first of these is:

29.9.1915 Henry Munro 4 Middlesex Regt ZSL Keeper

I first saw Henry  pictured on a postcard from London Zoo given to me by a zoo colleague and I became intrigued by the unnamed “King Penguin with Keeper 1914”.

Harry Munro, the now named 'Keeper with King Penguin 1914' (as described on a recent London Zoo postcard I was given) Copyright ZSL / London Zoo/ F.W. Bond

Harry Munro, the now named ‘Keeper with King Penguin 1914’ (as described on a recent London Zoo postcard I was given) Copyright ZSL / London Zoo/ F.W. Bond

The Photograph

Look at the photograph again. Really look at it. Look at it carefully in detail. What attracts your attention?

It would be fascinating to know how different people react to this photo – a photographer from a technical point of view or that of another zoo keeper?

On a recent Twitter #ThrowbackThursday @zsllondonzoo 30 January 1914 release of this picture by ZSL, there were a few brief comments including someone who misread the caption: “King Penguin with keeper Harry Munro (1914), who was sadly lost in action during WWI” to reply (hopefully tongue in cheek) that “He was a brave penguin who fought valiantly for his country” !!!

Maybe  you can use the comments box at the end of the blogpost to tell me your view of this picture, I’d be interested to hear.

To me this is a fantastic photograph, considering the photographic technology of the time. It’s one of my favourite zoo archive photos.

Having myself spent around 20 years working with zoo animals, having on many occasions sitting with them and other keepers to keep the animal still enough to be photographed, I know how difficult this is today, let alone with the cameras of 1914.

I have looked at this photograph many, many times since I first started the World War Zoo Gardens research project. What do I find so fascinating about it?

It is beautifully framed, the keeper at the same height as the penguin, so somehow equal. Many photographs emphasise the height or short size of penguins measured against a keeper bending down to it. Height implies dominance or mastery. It is a species photo of a penguin, but with the photographer’s choice to include the keeper. This photo can be read as being about equality or friendliness.

The Penguin

We should not forget that in 1914 this is almost certainly a wild caught King Penguin, one of few that would have been around in European zoos at the time. These were usually brought back from Salvesen whaling or from polar expeditions, such as the famous penguin groups established at this time at Edinburgh Zoo in its first year.

In  1914, the year that this was taken, Ernest Shackleton was still on his Antarctic expedition, Captain Scott was only a year or two dead from the race to the Pole in 1912, and the extreme journey of Apsley Cherry Garrard to retrieve Emperor Penguin Eggs from the South Polar sea ice nesting grounds nearly cost him has life, recounted in his book The Worst Journey in the World.

This was a box office animal, a very topical and popular unusual bird, worthy of a photograph. A King Penguin (possibly the same one?) is pictured on another London Zoo postcard meeting royalty and Princess Mary around this date.

Getting down to penguin level holds some risks. Putting your shiny eyes near or at penguin beak height is unwise. Many press photographers have asked myself  or other zoo colleagues to hold penguins or other injured seabirds at our face height to get a better cropped head shot. This is something we have to warn them against, if we value our eyes against that powerfully muscled head and neck with fish-hook of a beak.

The Keeper’s hand is blurred with movement, perhaps caught in the act of either stroking the Penguin to reassure it in this unfamiliar setting, or to keep it in place for the photograph and at a safe distance.

Is it a portrait of the Keeper as well as the Penguin? It is to me a very purposeful gaze – the Keeper’s attention is fully focussed on this bird, rather than smiling to the camera. Difficult to tell what mood the keeper is in – has he been kept too long doing this by the photographer, as sometimes happens? Is the penguin being cooperative? What mood is the penguin in? It’s also difficult to judge the keeper’s character from the photograph, but F.W. Bond as London Zoo’s  photographer and staff member would have known the other staff reasonably well.

The clothes

I like the slightly naval look to the informal uniform, not the usual keeper double breasted suit and peaked cap that London Zoo staff were pictured in at the time, but a much more relaxed waistcoat, scarf, and the oddly modern looking boots.  Was it a hot day the picture was taken?

I have seen these boots  advertised in garden magazines of the period, very similar to the clogs worn by working gardeners and no doubt good in the wet slippery conditions a penguin or sea lion keeper would work in. They are pretty much the Edwardian / Georgian equivalent to today’s steel toe-capped keeper safety boots.

It is also resonant as a picture of a youngish man in uniform in 1914. Soon many such photographs would be taken in different circumstances, once war was declared in August. Their jobs in many workplaces, including London Zoo, would increasingly be taken by women until the war ended (see the Mary Evans picture blog below for an early WW1 female keeper).

The background

Looking into the background, unlike in many zoo photos of the time, there are no crowds of visitors around in the background. Nobody is  sitting on the ornate metal bench, the path is swept clear of litter. Is this photograph taken before the zoo day begins, the end of a long day or a quiet Sunday when the zoo was mostly the preserve of ZSL fellows rather than public?

Another photograph

I was excited looking at London Zoo’s Zoo at War 2014 exhibition in their old elephant tunnel under the road (put together by Adrain Taylor) to see another photograph of Harry and his favourite penguin.

henry munro

The Daily Graphic coverage of a “Missing Soldier-Keeper”, 16 November 1915 mentions more about this keeper – penguin relationship. It reads:

“Billy” the famous King Penguin at the Zoo died shortly after his keeper, Munro, enlisted at the beginning of the war. Munro is now reported missing from his regiment. It is hoped he may be a prisoner.

So we have a name for the King penguin as well as the keeper too.

The Keeper

But who was this  ‘unnamed’ Keeper with King Penguin?

Henry Munro was the first of the London Zoo staff to be killed on active service, 29 September 1915.

On the CWGC site and UK Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919 database (1921), ZSL Keeper Henry Albert or ‘Harry’ Munro is registered as born in the St. Pancras Middlesex area and enlisting in the Army in Camden Town, Middlesex (the area near Regent’s Park Zoo).

Quite old in military terms, Harry appears to have volunteered or enlisted most likely in 31 August 1914; conscription for such older men was only introduced in 1916.

Munro served as Private G/2197 with the local regiment, 4th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own).

Henry (Albert) Munro served in France and Flanders from 3rd January 1915 and died  aged 39 in action on or around 29th September 1915.


 The Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

The Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

Harry has no known grave, being remembered on panel 49-51 amongst the 54,000 Commonwealth casualties of 1914 to 1917 on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Flanders, Belgium.,%20HENRY

His death occurred a few days after September 25th 2015 saw the British first use of poison gas during the Battle of Loos after the first German use in April. The Battle of Loos took place alongside the French and Allied offensive in Artois and Champagne, following the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April to May 5th 1915 onwards).

Henry Munro served from 31 August 1914 to 5 January 1915 in Britain, and then with the 5th and then 4th Middlesex Regiment as part of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) from the 6th January 1915 in France until his death on 29th September 1915

Much of the detail for this story comes from his Military History Sheet, and WW1 Army Service Papers (“Burnt Documents”) that fortunately have survived. Here he is listed as a “Zoological Attendant” This early service gained him the 1915 star, along with the standard Victory and British medal.

According to his service record, Henry enlisted at Camden Town on 31 August 1914. Posted as a Private, 5th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment GS (General Service) on 2 October 1914, by the 6 January 1915, Henry was posted to the 4th Battalion with whom he fought and was posted missing 29 September 1915.

Land, air and sea 

I first came across the keeper’s name as ‘Harry’ Munro as it is listed in Golden Days, a 1976 book of London Zoo photographs (ZSL image C-38771X?) This same book also lists Harry as intriguingly being involved in “the army, airships and anti-submarine patrols”. Airships from coastal bases were used for anti submarine patrols because of their longer range and stamina than the flimsy aircraft of the time.

Nothing more appears on his service papers about this air and sea activity. I have little more information on this intriguing entry at present but the London Zoo typed staff lists of men of active service list him as ‘missing’ well into their 1917 Daily Occurence Book records. Many of the identifications of staff in the photographs in Golden Days were from the memory of long retired staff.

Names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010

Harry Munro’s name is the first of the names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010

Harry Munro is pictured with a King penguin but is listed on his staff record card as a keeper of sea lions. Intriguingly, several London Zoo histories list secret and unsuccessful attempts made early in the war to track submarines using trained seals or sealions. Airships were also used for U-boat spotting. I wonder if and how Harry was involved?

On the Mary Evans Picture blog “London Zoo at War” there features an interesting reprinted picture from the Mary Evans archive:

“In March 1915, The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News featured this picture, showing a zookeeper in khaki, returning to his place of work while on leave to visit the seals, and to feed them some fish in what would be a rather charming publicity photograph.”

This soldier, according to Adrian Taylor at ZSL, working on their WW1 centenary exhibition, is George Graves, one of Munro’s keeper colleagues in khaki who survived the war and returned to work at London Zoo.

Family background

Henry Munro was born in Clerkenwell, in 1876, not far from Regent’s Park zoo (London 1891 census RG12/377) and may have worked initially as a Farrier / Smith, aged 15. His family of father William J Munro, a Southwark born Printer aged 42 and mother Eliza aged 43 (born Clerkenwell) were living in 3 Lucey Road, (Bermondsey, St James, Southwark?)

Private Henry or Harry Munro was 39 when he died, married with three children. He had married (Ada) Florence Edge on 20th November 1899. His service papers record along the top clearly written that half his pay was to be allotted to his wife.

They had three children, born or registered in Camden Town (near the zoo) by the time he was killed on active service. Hilda was 14 (born 29th March 1901), Albert Charles was 9 (born 5th June 1906, died 1989) and Elsie, 7 (born 17 August 1908, died 1977), all living at 113 Huddleston Road, Tufnell Park to the north of the zoo in London in 1915. 2 other children died in infancy according to the 1911 Census.

Interestingly, maps list Regent’s Park as having a barracks on Albany street (A4201).

Sadly Ada Florence his wife died in 1919, his later medal slips amongst his service papers being signed for by Hilda, his oldest daughter. Hilda was then around 19 in 1920 and no doubt responsible for her younger brother Albert Charles by then around 14 and of school leaving age and much younger sister Elsie, by then 12.

Staff record card information

I was lucky enough in 2014 in the ZSL Archive to look through the 1914 Daily Occurrence Book that recorded daily life and works in London Zoo, handwritten in a huge ledger each day. After many mentions thought preceding years, Munro’s name disappear from the keeper’s list in August 1914.

Even more revealing and intimate was his staff record card, an index card listing his career:

Henry Munro. Married. Born February 18 1876.

January 18 1898 Helper at 15 shillings per week.

February 21 1899 Helper at 17 shillings and 6 pence a week.

February 6 1900 Helper at 21 shillings per week.

February 6 1903 Helper at 24 shillings and 6 pence per week.

May 19 1906 Helper at 25 shillings per week.

August 15 1909 Junior Keeper on staff Antelopes at  £6 per month.

December 15 1913 Senior Keeper on staff Sea Lions at £6 10 shillings per month.

Entered Army September 15th 1914.

Missing 29 September 1915.

Enlisted for war 1914, balance of pay given to wife.

Addresses listed include 177 Gloucester Road, Regent’s Park, NW (crossed out) 113 Huddlestone Road,Tufnell Park, N. (Date stamped April 23 1913)

A Helper is the lowest or youngest  rank of Keeper, this phrase crops up on the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial for young staff.

(Many thanks to Michael Palmer the archivist and library team at ZSL for their help during my visit.)




Middlesex Regimental War Diary

On 29 / 30 September 1915, the number of officers and other ranks killed, wounded and missing is listed after an account of the preceding few days of battle. Harry Munro would have been amongst these missing.

Remembering Billy and Harry, 100 years on.

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


London Zoo in the Blitz 26 / 27 September 1940 from magazines and press articles

September 28, 2015

This week sees the anniversary of the London Blitz affecting London Zoo, not just on the 26/27th September but for many anxious nights to come. Slowly press coverage and press releases trickled out, reassuring people that not much harm or damage had been done.

Our first report is from an Australian newspaper archive, itself reprinting a South African source? World news indeed!


Animals’ Remarkable Escapes.

In London’s famous zoo elephants and monkeys, zebras and parrots have had remarkable escapes from indiscriminate Nazi bombing. The keepers (according to the “Cape Argus” Cape Town), have become amateur salvage men. The zoo suffered the disastrous effects of nearly 100 incendiaries and 14 other bombs recently, and while most of them fell either on paths or open spaces, a few hit buildings.

Monkey Hill, the ostrich and crane house, the restaurant, zebra house, aquarium, one of the aviaries and the antelope house have all been damaged. The aquarium keeper has been unofficially made foreman of the salvage gang. He has other keepers to help him. Jubilee and Jacky, the chimpanzees who were born at the zoo, are both still at the Zoo, with George and Chiney. They have been moved from the “chimp” house into the monkey house. So far the only animals which have escaped from the quarters through bombing are some monkeys and zebras and three humming birds.

There was great excitement the night a bomb fell on the zebra house. The building received a direct hit, and every one expected to find the animals dead. Not only were they alive and fit, but one ran a mile, as far as Gloucester Gate, with keepers in chase. One of the monkeys enjoyed a long spell of freedom. For three days it explored the Park, but towards the end of the third it returned to the Hill for food. There were about 30 monkeys set free by a hit scored on the Hill, but the keepers knew that if the animals were left alone they would soon return for food, and they did so. Although half a ton of concrete was blown over a parapet by the bomb, none of the monkeys was hurt. Fortunately, all the fish had been removed from the aquarium at the beginning of the war, so that none of them was hit when a bomb went through the roof.

Reprinted from The West Australian, Saturday 28 December 1940

ZSL 1940 p2

This magazine article in our collection is again a reprint of another paper – The Times – but with exclusive photographs for The War Illustrated magazine and makes interesting reading.

The zebra house shown is wrecked and its escaped zebra is ‘pictured’ later in our blog post in an unusual way, painted by a war artist.

ZSL 1940 p1

“The Zoo is in fact a microcosm of London. Hitler’s bombs cause a certain amount of damage to it, and a considerable amount of inconvenience; but they have not destroyed the morale or the routine of its inhabitants, animal or human, and it continues to function with a very respectable degree of efficiency”

In our August blogpost on the August 1940 edition of Boy’s Own Paper, we mentioned an article by Sydney Moorhouse advertised for the following month on London Zoo and zoos at war, September 1940.  The kind donation of this September issue to me  from Norman Boyd, a fan of the zoo artist L.R. Brightwell  means that I can now share this piece with you.

It should be read like The Times / The War Budget article on London Zoo’s blitz above as a reassuring bit of wartime propaganda in itself.

War zoo BOP 1940 1

The Boy’s Own Paper account of zoos at war was published the month that London Zoo was blitzed but written well before September 1940.

Warzoo BOP 2 1940

London Zoo’s preparation for War can be seen in some photographs taken from their Animal and Zoo Magazine in November 1939 in their library and archive blog :

zsl 40s map BW

The wartime /mid 1940s map we have for London Zoo in our collection  mentions the  Camel House “as damaged by enemy action” but it’s still standing today!

When Zebras roamed Camden Town during the Blitz

One of the remarkable sights of wartime London in the 1940 Blitz was an escaped zebra during the London bombing raid of 26/27 September 1940.

There is an excellent personal account of it by London Zoo Director Julian Huxley in his memoirs and snippets of what the Blitz was like for zoo staff on duty:

One night about 11 o’clock we heard a stick of bombs exploding nearer and nearer to our shelter, until the last bomb shook the foundations of the building.

I put on my tin hat and went across the Zoo to find that five bombs had hit the grounds, the Zoo’s water main had been cut and the restaurant was burning …

Firemen soon turned up and I conducted them to the Sea Lion Pool, the only source of water left, which they nearly drained before the flames were under control …

taken from Julian Huxley, Memories. Julian Huxley was the Director of the Zoo at the time.

The incident has been remembered also in a painting by war artist Carel Weight, now in the Manchester City Art Gallery.

zebra ww2 carel weight

London Zoo Bombsight ww2 website

London Zoo area in the ww2 website

The amazing  blitz map for 1940/41 also shows where bombs fell in and around the zoo, a website well worth exploring.

The Blitz on Britain’s cities and its zoos,  remembered.

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



Remembering zookeeper and gardener Far East POWs 70 years on 2015

January 23, 2015

January 24th 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the death in 1965 of Winston Churchill, wartime prime minister and coiner of many memorable phrases including, most notably for our wartime gardens project, “War is the normal occupation of man. War – and gardening” (speaking to Siegfried Sassoon in 1918).

January 25th 2015 and 7th February 2015 are the less well-marked 70th anniversaries of several zoo and botanic garden casualties who died as FEPOWs (Far East Prisoners of War) or in the vicious fighting of what was called the ‘forgotten war’ in the jungles and oceans of the Far East. For many, the Burma Star was hard won.

G H Spare from the Kew Guild Journal obituary c. 1945/6

G H Spare from the Kew Guild Journal obituary c. 1945/6

Remembering Albert Henry Wells, London Zoo keeper killed in action, Burma, 25 January 1945

Remembering Gordon Henry Spare, Old Kewite / former Kew Gardens staff who died as a Far East POW (FEPOW), Borneo, 7 February 1945

Amongst the family medals I saw from childhood and that I now look after is a Burma Star belonging to my maternal grandfather, who died before I was born. A naval holder of the Burma Star for his service on aircraft carriers in the Far East, he survived several Kamikaze attacks. We still have some of the dramatic photographs in our family album.

My grandfather Len Ansell's Burma Star for naval service, with two portraits and his photos of life on board deck of an RN aircraft carrier from kamikaze attacks and seaplane prangs to deck hockey c. 1944/45 Source Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens Collection.

My grandfather Len’s  Burma Star for naval service, with two portraits and his photos of life on board deck of an RN aircraft carrier from kamikaze attacks and seaplane prangs to deck hockey c. 1944/45 Source Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens Collection.

So one day about fifteen years ago, I knew I would meet some amazing people with tales to tell when I was told that the Burma Star Association were visiting Newquay Zoo (home of the World War Zoo Gardens project) during a holiday gathering. I met them all by accident whilst I was clambering around our indoor rainforest in the Tropical House at Newquay Zoo, doing a feeding talk and rainforest chat.

Part of our Tropical House at Newquay Zoo.

Part of our Tropical House at Newquay Zoo.

As they entered the heat and humidity of our Tropical House, I heard a different reaction to the usual “what’s that smell?” White haired old men remarked amongst themselves and to their wives that the smell “took them back a bit”. They were all transported back in memory to the tropics by that wet damp jungle smell.

As I scattered mealworms to attract the birds, pointed out various species of plants or animals then introduced some snakes and insects, I was surprised to be asked by one of them “if I knew what all the animals tasted like?”

The Burma Star embroidered: Embroidered hassock cushions, Zennor Parish Church Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris /WWZG

The Burma Star embroidered: Embroidered hassock cushions, Zennor Parish Church Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris /WWZG

I should have realised why he asked  when I saw the Burma Star proudly embroidered on some of their blazers and the regimental ties. These tough old men soon told me how they survived as soldiers or prisoners in the jungle, eating whatever they could catch or collect. For some of the prisoners amongst them, it literally saved their lives.

I quickly gave up talking and allowed our zoo visitors to listen to their jungle survival stories. From what I remember, to these hungry men, everything from snakes to insect grubs tasted “like chicken!” Having eaten a few unappetising invertebrates in the past, and those mostly dipped in chocolate, it only proves that hunger is the best sauce to unusual food!

Burma Star Association window, Zennor Parish Church, Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Burma Star Association window, Zennor Parish Church, Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

We do many rainforest talks for schools and visitors in our evocative and atmospheric Tropical House at Newquay Zoo, home to many interesting jungle animals including rare birds like the critically endangered Blue Crowned Laughing Thrush.

I  often think of those Burma Star veterans (who would now all be in their nineties, if still alive) and tell their “bushtucker” story whilst working or talking to people in the Tropical House.

Part of our Tropical House at Newquay Zoo.

Part of our Tropical House at Newquay Zoo.


I thought of them recently when passing the Portscatho Burma Star memorial overlooking the harbour in Portscatho in Cornwall. I was puzzled why of all places it was there, but recently found more on the BBC archive about the unveiling of this here in 1998.  This memorial is especially dedicated for the missing who have no known grave, people like G.H. Spare of Kew or Henry Peris Davies of ZSL London Zoo. It is “dedicated to the memory of 26,380 men who were killed in Burma 1941-45 and who have no known grave, thus being denied the customary rights accorded to their comrades in death.

I wonder if the dedication of this memorial was the reason for the Burma Star Association gathering and social visit to Newquay Zoo, where I memorably met Burma Star veterans? This would have been around 1998.

I especially think of these men whenever I look at the Burma Star window in the beautifully rugged coastal church at Zennor in Cornwall.

I have inscribed the name of my Grandfather in the Burma Star memorial book at Zennor, along with the names of some of the casualties amongst London Zoo and Kew Gardens staff who died on active service in the Far East.

Burma Star memorial book, Zennor Parish Church, Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Burma Star memorial book and lectern, Zennor Parish Church, Cornwall. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Close up of the Burma Star memorial inscription, Portscatho, Cornwall  Image: Mark Norris

Close up of the Burma Star memorial inscription,
Portscatho, Cornwall
Image: Mark Norris


Dedication on the Burma Star Memorial Portscatho Cornwall, opened by Field Marshall Slim.  Image: Mark Norris.

Dedication on the Burma Star Memorial Portscatho Cornwall, unveiled by Viscount Slim, 1998  . Image: Mark Norris.

I  also thought of these men when displaying books and a silk jungle escape map in a display about another old man in the jungles of Far East Asia, plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward.

Frank Kingdon Ward in WW2 from a trail board from a past Newquay Zoo plant hunters trail. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Frank Kingdon Ward in WW2 from a trail board from a past Newquay Zoo plant hunters trail. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

If any prisoner had escaped or aircrew crashed down in these jungles, silk escape maps like these would have been a life saver. After the war, explorers like Frank Kingdon-Ward helped the US government find their missing aeroplanes (and crew) in these dense jungles and mountains. In this connection, see our postscript about missing aircrew on the Melbourne Botanic Gardens staff memorial tree: Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins, RAAF 1944.

The lower part of Borneo on a secret WW2 silk escape map in the World War Zoo Gardens collection. Labuan Island POW camp where G.H. Spare died is off the map,  further up the coast on the left-hand side (now in modern Malaysia).

The lower part of Borneo on a secret WW2 silk escape map in the World War Zoo Gardens collection. Labuan Island POW camp, Sabah, Borneo  where G.H. Spare died is off the map, further up the coast on the left-hand side (now off the coast of modern Malaysia).

From the Kew Gardens staff war memorial:

G.H. Spare, 7 February 1945
Gordon Henry Spare, Private 6070 SSVF Straits Settlements Volunteer Force / 3rd Battalion (Penang and Province Wellesley Volunteer Corps), Singapore Volunteers, died at Labuan, Borneo as a Japanese POW.
According to CWGC records Spare is remembered on column 396 of the Singapore or Kranji Memorial, as he has no known grave. He was the son of Harry and Grace Spare, Wallington, Surrey, and husband of Rose Ellen Spare, Worthing, Sussex. His wife, young son and daughter were evacuated clear of danger before the Japanese invasion.

Singapore Memorial (image copyright CWGC website

G.H. Spare of Kew and Henry Peris Davies of ZSL London Zoo are remembered on the Singapore Memorial (image copyright CWGC website

John Charles Nauen, 10 September 1943
J.C.Nauen was Assistant Curator, Botanic Gardens Singapore from 1935. Nauen served with G.H. Spare as a Serjeant 5387, volunteer in the 3rd Battalion, (Penang and Province Wellesley Volunteer Corps) SSVF Straits Settlement Volunteer Force.

His botanic skills were of help gardening and collecting plants from the local area to help keep fellow prisoners alive. Nauen died as a Japanese POW prisoner of war aged 40 working on the Burma-Siam railway in September / October 1943 of blood poisoning. He is buried in Thanbyuzayat CWGC Cemetery in Burma, alongside 1000s of fellow POW victims from the Burma-Siam railway. He was the son of John Jacob and Clara Nauen of Coventry.

Some of Nauen’s plant collecting herbarium specimens survive at Kew, whilst he has an interesting obituary in the Kew Guild Journal 1946 (alongside G.H. Spare) and The Garden’s Bulletin Singapore September 1947 (XI, part 4, p.266).

Percy Adams, ZSL Whipsnade keeper who died as a Japanese POW is buried here at THANBYUZAYAT WAR CEMETERY, Image:

John Charles Nauen of Kew and Percy Murray Adams, ZSL Whipsnade keeper who  both died as Japanese POWs are buried here at THANBYUZAYAT WAR CEMETERY. Image:

Many Botanic gardens and Herbariums were looted by invading forces, Singapore Botanic Gardens only surviving through the efforts of botanist Edred Corner.

More about Kew Gardens staff in WW2 can be found on this blog post.

An interesting Kew Gardens archives blog post on the vital nutritionist role of tropical botanists in keeping fellow POWs alive in internment camps has been recently written by James Wearn and Claire Frankland.

Ness Botanic Gardens FEPOW Bamboo Garden launch with Elizabeth and Zoe,  pupils from Pensby High School and Merle Hesp, widow of a FEPOW Harry Hesp, 2011.  Image source: Captive Memories website.

Ness Botanic Gardens FEPOW Bamboo Garden launch with Elizabeth and Zoe, pupils from Pensby High School and Merle Hesp, widow of a FEPOW Harry Hesp, 2011.
Image source: Captive Memories website.

A Far East Prisoner of War memorial garden was created in 2011 at Ness Botanic Gardens in Liverpool, linked to http://captive There is more about this garden at the Waymarking website FEPOW garden entry

Names of the five fallen ZSL staff from the Second World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010

Wells, Adams, Davies: three of the five fallen ZSL staff from the Second World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010 (plaque since replaced with a more legible one, 2014)

London Zoo staff names killed in the Far East 

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

Lieutenant Davies 164971, Royal Artillery, 5th Field Regt, died aged 27. His name is listed on the Singapore memorial, like that of Gordon Henry Spare of Kew

According to his ZSL staff record card, Peris was born on 29th March 1913, he joined London Zoo as an accounts clerk on 2 September 1935. Four years later, he was called up as a Territorial on the 1st or 2nd September 1939.

Taukkyan Cemetery, Burma.  Image Source: CWGC

Taukkyan Cemetery, Burma.
Image Source: CWGC

2. Albert Henry Wells (Gunner RA) ZSL Keeper: Killed in action, Burma 25.01.1945

Gunner Wells 1755068, Royal Artillery, 70 H.A.A Regiment is buried in an individual grave in Taukkyan Cemtery, Burma, a concentration of thousands of battlefield graves from the Burma campaign. He was aged 36, the son of Henry and Mary Wells and husband of Doris Hilda Wells, Hendon, Middlesex.

According to his ZSL staff card, Albert Henry Wells was born on the 15 or 25 April, 1908. He was first employed at London Zoo in January 1924 as a Helper, the most junior keeper rank. He had worked his way up to 3rd Class Keeper  by 1937.

On January 11 1941 he was called up for military service and his staff card reports him as killed in action in Burma January 25 1945.

The rest of his staff card involves details of the pension being paid by ZSL London Zoo to his wife Mrs. Wells including additional amounts for each of his three children until they reached 16 in the 1950s.


3. Percy Murray Adams (Gunner RA) ZSL Whipsnade Keeper: Died in Japan POW 28.07.1943 aged 26. Gunner 922398, Royal Artillery, 148 (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) Field Regt.

According to his ZSL staff card, he was born on 15 July 1917 and joined ZSL Whipsnade on 24 May 1932. Like Henry Peris Davies at London Zoo, he was called up as a Territorial on September 3rd 1939. Adams was unmarried. In March 1942, his staff record card reports him as “Reported as Missing at Singapore. In 1945 reported died of dysentery in Japanese POW camp somewhere in 1943.”

Only  a few rows away from  Kew’s J.C.Nauen, Adams is also buried in Thanbyuzayat CWGC Cemetery in Burma.

Percy Murray Adams ZSL Whipsnade Keeper

Percy Murray Adams, ZSL Whipsnade Keeper, Animal and Zoo Magazine c. 1937/8

These three men are all remembered on the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial WW2 plaque. I also inscribed their names  in the Burma Star Association memorial book in Zennor Church on my last visit.

I will be updating the entries on ZSL London Zoo WW2 staff casualties later in 2015.

The grim story of what happened to Japanese zoo staff, vets and animals is well told in Mayumi Itoh’s recent Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy.

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

Further reading about POW gardening can be found in Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardening book and extension website

You can read more about the Burma Star and its assocaition on this website: 

It’s probably appropriate to end with the Kohima prayer or Burma Star epitaph, which I didn’t realise came from WW1 but was used on the Kohima Memorial to the dead of the Burma Campaign in WW2. The words are attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 -1958), an English Classicist who had put them together among a collection of 12 epitaphs for World War One in 1916:

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

Rest in peace, Gunner Wells and  Gunner Adams and the many others who never returned.


Melbourne Botanic Gardens Australia staff memorial tree.

Melbourne Botanic Gardens Australia staff memorial tree.

Later this year I will blogpost about the staff memorial tree at Melbourne Botanic Gardens which remembers a Gallipoli / Middle East campaign casualty and an airman from the Far East Campaign in WW2.

Planted in memory of members of the staff who died in Active Service.

Driver A.W. Bugg, AIF 1915.

Flight Sergeant E.J. Hiskins, RAAF 1944.

10th September 1946

The original memorial tree website said that “information regarding E.J. Hiskins would be welcomed“. His CWGC records list him as Flight Sergeant Ernest Joseph Hiskins, Royal Australian Air Force, 410058, who died on the 15 April 1944.

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

Northern Territory Memorial, Australia  (Image CWGC website)

Northern Territory Memorial, Australia (Image CWGC website)

The Northern Territory Memorial stands in Adelaide River War Cemetery and is one of several memorials erected to commemorate 289 men of the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Merchant Navy who have no known grave and lost their lives in operations in the Timor and Northern Australian regions and in waters adjacent to Australia north of Latitude 20 South.

More to follow!

Blog post by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo




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