Archive for the ‘teaching resources’ Category

Journal articles about World War Zoo Gardens

October 2, 2017


Some lovely online journal links to the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo 


BGEN web article


BGCI Roots journal  


ABWAK Keepers journal March 2014 


IZE journal no. 50 2014 


World War Zoo Gardens Blog   


You’re already here! Published since 2009, including centenary posts on the centenary anniversary of each zoo staff or zoo gardener, botanic gardener, gardener, naturalist and associated trades that we are aware of as having been killed in WW1 or WW2.





The original Dig For Victory Teachers Pack from the Royal Parks / Imperial War Musuem 2008 allotment project


Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Monday 2nd October 2017





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.



Battle of Britain Day remembered 15 September 1940

September 15, 2015

Spitfires over Truro: Trafalgar Roundabout, Cornwall. An impressive flight of two floral spitfires with turning propellers over a field of Poppies, planted by Truro's Parks Department. The Pannier market nearby used to be a Spitfire and Hurricane secret aeroplane part repair shop. Image Source: Mark Norris

Spitfires over Truro: Trafalgar Roundabout, Cornwall. An impressive flight of two floral spitfires with turning propellers over a field of Poppies, planted by Truro’s Parks Department. The Pannier market nearby used to be a Spitfire and Hurricane ‘secret’ aeroplane part repair shop. Image Source: Mark Norris

Battle of Britain Day remembered 15 September 1940

“It is marvellous the way the RAF are adding to their cricket score. We put on the wireless at every news to hear how many more Jerries they’ve added to their score. Yesterday it was 180 for 34 of ours (from whom many pilots are safe). Since the beginning of the week excluding today they have brought down over 400.” Peggy Jane Skinner’s Schoolgirl diary, Friday 16 August 1940

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC’s  A History of The World, 2009/10. This very popular object is currently on display  in our Tropical House display cabinet, c. 2015

The Battle of Britain now forms part of the New National Curriculum primary history unit, such as this interesting Year 6 unit from Cornwall Learning studied by many Cornish schools  Inspire Curriculum Year 6 unit The Battle of Britain Bombs Battle and Bravery. inspire yr 6 ww2 doc The 75th anniversary year 2015 is being marked by many memorial events, especially around Battle of Britain Day 15 September 1940. Now commemorated as “Battle of Britain Day”, 15th September  was the day people in Kent and London witnessed large battles between Fighter Command and the Luftwaffe. German casualties were heavy, although not nearly as heavy as was claimed at the time.

There is an interesting Wikipedia entry on this other claimant to the “Hardest Day” (18th August is also cited as a very tough day):

It’s interesting to see the Royal Mail Battle of Britain commemorative stamps , as we did a whole schools stamp project / blog (blending history and science) with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo on Darwin and the Victorians through stamps 2009.

battle of britain stamps 2015

Royal Mail’s recent Battle of Britain tribute stamps 2015

battle of britain The Battle of Britain and Blitz seen through a teenager’s diary, Summer 1940 My collection of mostly civilian WW2 wartime diaries  is the source for many blogposts and anecdotes for teaching our wartime zoo history workshops.

Amongst my favourite is that of teenager Peggy Skinner (1924-2011). Peggy was a London schoolgirl  who was studying in Glasgow as her engineer father was on war work there, probably in the Hillington Rolls Royce or other Clydeside war-related engineering works). We wrote about her in the past on what would have been her 90th Birthday in 2014:

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

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

Here in a new selection of diary entries from her Letts Schoolgirl Diary 1940, Peggy recalls  the bombing in Glasgow / Clydeside and the air battles down South over Surrey and London, where the rest of her family live. I have included some of my research in the Editor’s Notes on what is happening in the diary and the wider war. I have put these dairy entries online to be available to teachers and students; Copyright remains with the Mark Norris /World War Zoo Gardens collection if you quote from or publish these elsewhere. Please contact me via the comments form if necessary.

Peggy Skinner’s diary , Renfrew, Glasgow 1940 Tuesday 11th June 1940 –             Nice early on today but very cloudy and dull later on. The news is very black now with I [Italy] against us, but we’ll win.

Saturday 13th July 1940 –            Lovely afternoon but raining this morning. I went to tennis this afternoon, had one game a singles with Bunty. An air raid warning last night which I slept through, this is the second we’d had.

Sunday 14th July 1940–             Went to church this morning, a terrible lot of people came in late. I went for a walk this afternoon right round the factories.[2] Editor’s Note: ‘factories’ – Hillington, to the southeast of Peggy’s house, was home to an industrial estate built in the late 1930s, including the Rolls Royce aero engine factories, protected by Anti-Aircraft (AA) batteries on Renfrew golf course. This area was bombed again on 24th July 1940.

Friday 19th July 1940–                A bomb was dropped in Yoker which hit a tenement and killed five people (three of them children) and injured a lot of others, and one was dropped in Hillington this morning. No warning was given but the aeroplane and bombs were heard. Editor’s note: The Yoker bombing is widely covered on various Glasgow blitz websites.

Saturday 20th July 1940–            Went to Ninotchka this afternoon with Bunty. It was very funny in parts but it was inclined to be sloppy. We had an air raid last night I slept during [it], time bombs were dropped,  but woke up later on.

Tuesday 23rd July 1940–             Had a raid warning just after dinner time, lasted about an hour. Nothing happened, very disappointing.

Wednesday 24th  July 1940 –       I was woken this morning about 6 o’clock because bombs were being dropped and there was a lot of noise from A-A guns. Factories at Hillington hit. No warning.

Thursday 25th July 1940         Went with Bunty to see damage done at Industrial Estate. Not much at all, one factory or block of factories pretty badly damaged, nothing else except broken windows.

Saturday 10th August 1940 –            Rotten day, very windy tonight. Finished giving book-case first coat of paint, barely enough. Played table tennis at Bunty in afternoon. Editor’s Note:  What was to become known as ‘The Battle of Britain’ was beginning far to the south above the skies of Peggy’s family and old home area of Surrey on this date.

Friday 16th August 1940 –                We listened to Haw-Haw, just as he said Britain never attacked he suddenly closed down, just as though the RAF had decided to pay him a visit.

[Additional note in Memoranda section:] It is marvellous the way the RAF are adding to their cricket score. We put on the wireless at every news to hear how many more Jerries they’ve added to their score. Yesterday it was 180 for 34 of ours (from whom many pilots are safe). Since the beginning of the week excluding today they have brought down over 400.

Editor’s note:  German propaganda radio such as William Joyce (‘Lord Haw Haw’) was broadcast from major cities like Berlin or Hamburg and often shut down when an RAF air raid was in progress in order to avoid the planes homing in radio signals to find the cities – a form of radio blackout – see Roger Moorhouse, Berlin at War 1939-1945. It’s interesting too how Peggy picks up what seems today slightly callous but then popular, media approach of sporting ‘scores’ of planes and lives lost, still  represented in the modern infographic (below).

Sunday 18th August 1940 –             Went to church, saw all the soldiers marching down both from Renfrew and from Moor Park afterwards. Lot more raids along the South Coast.

Editor’s note:  These south coast raids and next day’s German losses are during what is often called the ‘Hardest Da’y of the ‘Battle of Britain’ 18th August 1940 – see inforgraphic below for 18th August 1940.

Monday 19th August 1940 –            Quite a nice day, though chilly towards evening. 140 Jerries brought down yesterday. Walk in evening.

Friday 6th  September 1940 –                  Air Raid Practice yesterday, fire drill today. Played table tennis at Bunty’s tonight. Latin was terribly boring. Made an awful lot of smells in Chem.

Editor’s Note: Air Raid practice for Peggy and her classmates was timely as down South on September 7th 1940, the London Blitz bombing began. From September 1940 to May 1941 40,000 civilians were killed out of the overall 65,000 civilian casualties.

By 27th September, Mrs Skinner is thinking of asking Peggy’s cousins or young relatives up to the relative safety of Glasgow. The bombing of Glasgow continued but the devastating Clydebank Blitz was not to take place until March 1941; sadly we don’t have another of Peggy’s  Diaries until 1943.

Sunday 15th  September 1940  –   Communion, Bible class, evensong. Was round [church] hall this evening when sirens went so I just had to trot home. Warning didn’t last long.

Thursday 19th   September 1940      –   There have been two short raid warnings so far this evening. There was a lot of gun-fire and we think some bombs dropped as we had to get up last night although there was no warning. Four warnings night before last.

Editor’s Note:  The 18th September marked, according to some, the first serious night raid on Glasgow, destroying a building in Royal Exchange Square and setting fire to a cruiser in Yorkhill docks. The nearby Yorkhill hospital had to be evacuated.

Friday 27th   September 1940    –            An awful lot of planes have been brought down today, over 120 so far, I hope it goes past the 200 mark by tomorrow. Mum is thinking of asking Peter and Madge up. Peggy’s diary (which I am currentlyediting) gives a  little glimpse of the civilian experience of the air raids. Peggy went on to work after graduation from Glasgow University in 1944 at RAE Farnborough aircraft research on radio and electronics.

A WW2 fundraising Spitfire clip or pin badge made of metal, possibly the smallest item in our World War Zoo Gardens collection (Image source: Mark Norris)

A WW2 fundraising Spitfire clip or pin badge for your lapel. Made of metal, this is possibly the smallest item in our World War Zoo Gardens collection (Image source: Mark Norris)

Somebody mentioned to me that similar fundraising Spitfire lapel pins are still made from real Spitfire metal “crafted of Duralumin originating from Spitfire X4276”

Flying over the skies of London by day and night, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz affected the life of many in the South. London Zoo, Chessington Zoo, Kew Gardens and the London museums were amongst some of the venues affected by the 1940/41 Blitz.

In future blogposts this autumn we will update what happened to these venues in the Blitz and WW2.

Battle of Britain Day remembered 15 September 1940

battle of britain infographic

Modern 2015 infographic of 18th August dubbed the “Hardest Day” Source: RAF Benevolent Fund. Compare to Peggy Skinner’s cricketing scores dairy entry for Friday 16 August 1940.

Further Battle of Britain sources:

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

Remembering the start of the Blitz 7 September 1940 (and a happy new school term )

September 7, 2015

Remembering the start of the Blitz 7 September 1940 (and a new term starts in school)

Today is the 75th anniversary of the day in the middle of the Battle of Britain that day bombing of RAF airfields and dogfights turned to night bombing of cities like London which went on for months almost without ceasing. The Blitz on London had begun.

There are widespread commemorations online and around the country of these events 75 years including the Battle of Britain Day 15 September, so that the next generation can pay their respects to and learn from the passing generation who lived through WW2.

Thankfully WW2 is still on the Primary School History Curriculum as schools go back in Cornwall.


Small part of a WW2 display in a Cornish School c. 2012

Working out of Newquay Zoo on its Education section, I often get to visit primary and secondary schools and am  usually  impressed by the displays I see and work I hear going on.

This ranges from hearing “Hey Mister Miller”, a medley of 40s music and songs being rehearsed by student teachers with children at Antony School to seeing great mock up Anderson shelters in a 40s corner.

In another school which I think it might have been Devoran whilst taking rainforest animals in c. 2011/12,  I saw this simple WW2 display in its entrance / hall area. This must have been by Year 3 /4 (before the curriculum change that WW2 is now studied in Year 6).



Interesting Year 3/ 4 artwork studies of famous WW2 photos.

Year 3 in the past focussed on evacuation and a child’s view of the war. There is now a different WW2 history curriculum unit for year 6 in the New 2013/14 Primary National Curriculum.

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc

Year 6 now have an  interesting wartime history unit in Cornwall Learning’s Inspire Curriculum Year 6 Battle of Britain: Bombs Battles and Bravery for the Spring Term Year 6

Mark Norris delivering one of our World War Zoo Gardens workshops in ARP uniform with  volunteer Ken our zoo 'Home Guard' (right)  (Picture: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

Mark Norris delivering one of our World War Zoo Gardens workshops in ARP uniform with volunteer Ken our zoo ‘Home Guard’ (right) (Picture: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

You can read more about the wartime history schools workshops that we offer here at Newquay Zoo in two blogposts:

Studying and  Designing WW2 Posters makes an appearance in the Year 6 History Unit – this original 1941 poster design in our collection was designed by two teenage evacuees the late Carmen Blacker and the late Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to the Bristol Hotel Newquay in the 1940s.

WAAF servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at an unidentified  Chain Home Station like RAF Drytree, declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

The importance or miracle  of RADAR – WAAF servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at an unidentified Chain Home Station (like RAF Drytree, Cornwall) declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

Very shortly in the next three weeks we will be blog posting about:

  • the Battle of Britain Day 15 September, stamps  and lots of Spitfires …
  • Peggy Jane Skinner’s teenage 1940 Blitz diary from our collection
  • the bombing of London Zoo 1940/41
  • the bombing of  Chessington Zoo and its partial evacuation to Paignton Zoo (our sister zoo) .  
World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

London Zoo’s ARP shelter pictured on our World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

Remembering the start of the Blitz 7 September 1940 75 years on.

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

Contact us via the comments page or via the Newquay Zoo website.

WW2 at Newquay Zoo and other Primary Workshops ‘Inspire’d by the new curriculum.

January 5, 2015

Breathing New Life into Old Bones and Fossils – The new primary curriculum and the Cornish Inspire Curriculum

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc 

An interesting  development we have seen this year is the new 2013/4  primary curriculum, and specifically the Inspire Curriculum packages being pioneered in Cornwall by Cornwall Learning:

As these four to six week cross-curricular topic based units of the Inspire Curriculum were only launched in September 2014, we had an unseasonably busy start to the Autumn term with lots of unexpected new requests for visits to the zoo or outreach talks to schools, not next term or Summer but this week or at the very latest next week please!

This flurry of activity was coupled with requests to support topics like teeth, food  and skeletons for newly christened workshops like “Why are humans animals too?” (Year 3, Unit 1) and Year 4 Unit 1 “Where Does my Food Go?”  Out of the resources cupboard and back into our everyday workshop box have come  carnivore, herbivore and omnivore skulls or odd objects like a lion-chewed mangled  plastic enrichment ball to illustrate different teeth points. For some of our live encounter animals like African Land Snails  a cheese grater or sandpaper is the best way to show what their microscopically tiny radula teeth are like!

Over the next few months as new topics are being first delivered in class, we will update our curriculum workshops and look for new curriculum opportunities in addition to what we already offer.

Although the full  curriculum topic packages  for schools have to be purchased from Cornwall Learning,  there is a glimpse of available curriculum map summaries in published materials online on Cornish school websites. Published  to inform parents of the new curriculum, they reveal some interesting possibilities to engage schools with Newquay Zoo’s education and conservation mission.

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

World War Zoo Gardens and the new WW2 curriculum links

Whilst popular topics from the old primary curriculum like World War Two evacuation seem at first sight to have disappeared, on closer examination they have morphed into new titles  like Year 6  Unit 5   “The Battle of Britain – Bombs,   Battles and Bravery 1940”. Evacuation crops up in open History questions like “What was it like to be a child during WW2?”

Throughout 2015 we will use this topic and Inspire curriculum map to refocus our existing wartime history talks, still focussed around life in a wartime zoo. You can see our workshop write up for our current wartime zoo workshops.

Below we have put a few interesting zoo links to the new Inspire Curriculum WW2 unit , to which we will add more in future blog posts.

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc

The WW2 curriculum map has some interesting questions to engage learners to read, write and research in different genres – fictional diaries, stories or biographies.  For English links,  there is  for Text Evacuee diaries based around Children’s book Goodnight Mr Tom, or writing war stories with the theme “The Night the Bomb Fell” as well as Biographies of War Heroes. Lots of possible zoo and botanic garden links there, including the short biographies of WW2 wartime careers of Kew staff and London Zoo staff.  

I have heard some fabulous sing-alongs, poster displays and seen some great murals when visiting schools on offsites with animals.  For Music and Media there is the chance to “listen to and sing popular WW2 tunes”, as well as “preparing and broadcasting their own WW2 radio programmes with songs, message and news items”. Hopefully there’ll be some handy gardening advice and kitchen front recipe tips on the radio (see previous blog posts).  It sounds a bit like creating the Kernow Pods wartime garden podcast on our website.

For Art and Design there is a chance to look at examples  and design your own WW2 propaganda poster, as WW2 evacuee Benenden School girls did for a 1941 competition for Newquay War Weapons Week (see poster in the background of our workshop display). I look forward on school visits to seeing many “Large scale murals of London during the Blitz using silhouettes” as the Inspire curriculum WW2 unit suggests, hopefully with London Zoo’s escaped Blitz  zebra somewhere around (famously painted by war artist Carel Weight). And why the London Blitz , not Plymouth or Exeter or many other blitzed towns?

Putting our workshop materials out, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

Centre: The original WW2  Newquay War Weapons Week poster designed by evacuee Benenden girls. Putting our workshop materials out, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo


Another History topic question in the Inspire WW2 Unit is “Why was the Battle of Britain important and how did the use of RADAR help in its victory?” There are many interesting future blog stories to post about around the development of radar, codebreaking and the wartime scientific work of botanists or zoologists like Solly Zuckerman who designed and tested air raid helmets under explosive test conditions on himself and a few unwilling volunteer zoo monkeys.

For Maths  – “Exploring Coding and the Enigma Coding Machine” in the Inspire Curriculum opens up some interesting topics. Senior  zoo staff in WW1 and WW2 such as ZSL’s Peter Chalmers Mitchell, Julian Huxley and Aquarium Curator E.G.Boulenger were involved in wartime intelligence, often at the vaguely named ‘War Office’ and in Boulenger’s case as a  possible codebreaker (often this is not explicitly stated but hinted). Possibly their knowledge of Latin and German as keepers and classifiers of animals, friendly with German zoo directors and scientists, would have been useful.

Woburn Abbey housed a “Wrennery” in its attic, accommodating WRNS women linked to the Wireless Intercept stations as part of the Bletchley Park network. Kew Gardens had some equally ‘secret’ staff  missions such as William W.B. Turrill writing documents on the vegetation of various wartime areas, whilst Herbert Whitley’s Paignton Zoo’s bird collection  housed a secret carrier pigeon loft as part of the National Pigeon Service and Royal Corps of Signals. Other zoos such as Blackpool, Port Lympne, Marwell and Knowsley had interesting wartime pasts (airfields, tank training, crash sites)  as declining  estate gardens before conversion post-war to zoos and safari parks.

WAAF servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at an unidentified  Chain Home Station like RAF Drytree, declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

WAAF or WRNS servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at an unidentified Chain Home Station –  declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

Another Science question in the  Inspire curriculum WW2 unit “How was light important during WW2? (the Blackout, searchlights etc)” and “How does light reach our eyes?” links well with our nocturnal animal / in the dark talks. Animals at Newquay Zoo have some super senses ranging from echo-locating bats at nighttime over the zoo lake to vibrissae (otter whiskers), super-sensing snakes which listen to the ground without ears or ‘ground radar’ cockroaches who listen through their ‘knee ears’. Even the humble carrot reputedly eaten to improve the night sight of fighter pilots like ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham was used as cover story  for the secret development of RADAR. Strange sound locators (below) were widely publicised as cover for the success of this secret invention, such as  this image from our collection:

soundlocator C card

Planthunters and gardens

There are also gardening and plant links that open up interesting possibilities for connecting to our World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment such as  Year 2 Unit 6 – “Sowing and Growing” whilst  planthunters such as George Forrest make a surprising appearance in Year 1 Unit 6 “The Potting Shed – Buried Treasure”. An amazing adventurous  character, George Forrest, as you can see from the RBGE magazine, a real life Indiana Jones like many planthunters!  Time to think about plant trails and workshops for 2015 or 2016, maybe?

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

Cornwall has a rich heritage of plants received from famous planthunters. Some were Victorian figures like William and Thomas Lobb. There were many explorers from the poles to planthunting who  were actively exploring  into wartime such as Reginald Farrar, Frank Kingdon-Ward and George Forrest. Their wartime careers in WW1 and WW2 is something I’m researching for a future blog post. Their amazing adventures in tropical forest and mountain valleys were being reported back through garden journals  magazines alongside news of WW1 which saw many gardeners enlist as we have covered in other blog posts.

elderly plant hunter and wartime secret agent Frank Kingdon Ward in battledress 1940s (taken from his last posthumous book 1960  volume in the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection).

Elderly plant hunter and wartime secret agent Frank Kingdon Ward in battledress 1940s (taken from his last posthumous book 1960 volume in the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection)

Some of the wartime exploits of ageing plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958) included teaching jungle survival, surveying secret escape routes for pilots in Japanese held territory and searching for missing planes through Asian jungles (whilst collecting plants en route). A secret silk escape map of SE Asia in our collection illustrates this story well. 

Evolution, Dinosaurs  and Fossils

There are also other welcome new  titles such as  “A Voyage of Discovery”  (Year 6 Unit 5) bringing Darwin’s life, voyages and discoveries back into the classroom and also a chance to look at fossils and dinosaurs in Year 3 – “Shake, Rock and Roll”. Our Darwin 200 bicentenary resources from 2009 including our Darwin stamp blog with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo have another life with this chance to discuss evolution and extinction, highly relevant to the modern zoo conservation mission of any of our Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust sites at Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo or Living Coasts.

Modern Foreign Languages are embedded in topic maps throughout, so a chance to freshen up our basic Spanish and French offerings about animal names, habitats,  travel and conservation projects. Lots of possible links here – Maybe a ‘crash course’ in French for lost secret agents or downed airmen to survive in occupied France to complement the WW2 unit? Maybe some simple Spanish as  Charles Darwin had to learn to find his way around South America on his Beagle journey?

Other old favourite topics, snappily retitled include these which complement our workshops:

Classification (Year 1 Unit 8 – “Animal Allsorts”)

Habitats (Year 4 Unit 9 – “A Place for Everything”)

Rainforests (Year 4 Unit 7 – “Amazing Amazon”)

Life Cycles (Year 5 Unit 5 – “Round and Round”)  

There are others  well as several focussing on human and animal senses:

(Year 1 Unit 7 – “Brilliant Bodies”)

Sound and sense (Year 4 Unit 6 – “Sounding Off”)

Other slots include current affairs (Year 6 unit 2  – “What’s Happening Now?”) and an interesting ‘The Apprentice’ style  Young Enterprise unit Year 6 Unit 9 “You’re Hired” (a possible link to business studies?)

We also like the links to journeys, navigation, maps, travel  and explorers across many Primary years (such as Year 5 Unit 3 – “Poles Apart”)  whilst “Dragons – Fact and Fiction” in Year 4 Unit 4 might bring some interesting reptile requests!  

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo

Not all Cornish schools have adopted this Inspire Curriculum package yet; some I know intend to use it to develop a Cornish or more regional focus to some aspects of the curriculum, using the local area and history. This was pioneered through the Sense of Place initiative.  

Inspire, Sense of Place and the new primary curriculum  are all good opportunities to spot what old, new or unusual topics we might be asked to support the delivery of during an outreach animal encounter or  school visit to the zoo.

Watch this space! The zoo education team can be contacted on 01637-873342 or via the zoo website.

Happy New Year  from all the Education team!

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, and Education Manager  Newquay Zoo .






Our Zoo: Chester Zoo and the drama of zoo history

September 5, 2014

I have been looking forward to watching this autumn BBC’s “Our Zoo” about the  early days of Chester Zoo, with some excellent links to past and future on the Chester Zoo website –

Researching zoo history is often a “Cinderella” subject, many people wondering why it’s worth it (outside of the zoo history enthusiasts of the Bartlett Society – see blogroll links) and rarely makes it to mainstream television!

Back in May 2011 I spent an interesting couple of days tracking down wartime concrete at Chester Zoo, during a zoo history conference. Here is an edited blog post I wrote at the time tracing an intriguing bit of Chester Zoo’s history and on the way discovered four wartime hippos in Budapest.

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo – memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

May 2011, Chester Zoo: We weren’t sure whether to called this post Zoo Do You Think You Are? (after the BBC TV Family history series), thanks to a quick quip from Richard Gibson at Chester Zoo or maybe  Zoo Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler? (to the theme tune of Dad’s Army) in view of the wartime concrete, Home Guard and Zoo family history connections I was tracking down.

Family history is big business now on the internet and on television, genealogy being the social or leisure side of genetics. Genetics is now the everyday business of zoo breeding programmes. Looking back at baby photos past for a glimpse of a familiar adult expression or looking at your children for a fleeting recognition of family faces, it’s something we all do over time. Like gardening, it’s probably age-related, primal and territorial. My family, my birth place, my tribe. So why should it be any different for zoos to look back at where they came from? Can we catch a glimpse of the future from a look at their past? This is partly what I’ve been researching through the World War Zoo Gardens project.

Chester Zoo history symposium 20 May 2011 from the SHNH website

What are zoos for? How should zoos work together? Why should zoos keep an archive of past events and what should they do with this material? These were some of the many questions raised by the May 2011 Symposium on Zoo history / Zoo future hosted at Chester Zoo “From Royal Menageries to Biodiversity Conservation” and and  a joint celebration of the work of several societies together. The Bartlett Society (, World Association of Zoos and Aquariums   (WAZA) , Linnaean Society and celebrating its 75th birthday, the Society for the History of Natural History (SHNH) The proceedings or symposium was recently published in 2014. It reflected the World of Zoos and Aquariums as it was attended by delegates from Britain, Ireland, Europe, North America and South East Asia / Australasia.

Only 91 animals remained amongst the ruins of wartime Berlin Zoo by 1945 from an old German / US archive press photo (World War Zoo gardens collection at Newquay Zoo)

Dr. Miklos Persenyi, Director General at Budapest Zoo in Hungary showed some beautiful slides of how the once war ravaged zoo in Hungary has been restored, even the 1960s buildings are being ‘restored’ to match the striking Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture of the early 20th Century. Miklos joked that he is employed by the Budapest Tourist Bureau, as the zoo, botanic garden and ‘cultural centre’ that it has become looks well worth a visit. After my short presentation on wartime zoos which mentioned Berlin Zoo being left with 91 animals after air raids and street fighting, Miklos quietly capped this with his story of the 15 animals left alive at Budapest zoo after the freezing winter months of 1944 when the Zoo and city of Budapest became a besieged town and battlefield between the Germans and the Russians. Amazingly, whilst the local people eat anything they could to survive, four or five of these surviving animals were Hippopotami (or Hippopotamuses). These plant eaters survived in the warm waters of the thermal springs there, alongside a handful of ‘singing birds’. The people of Budapest rebuilt their zoo after the war, whilst bombsites of local buildings and churches near the zoo were unofficially commandeered to grow crops for people and animals Miklos has been involved in the writing of an interesting and beautifully illustrated history of Budapest Zoo, with a version in English well worth tracking down.

This comment by Miklos about the last fifteen animals left in Budapest Zoo and the efforts to rebuild it by gave some important human detail to the broad sweep of zoo history, of different groups and associations which eventually became the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) in a reunified Europe after the Berlin Wall and collapse of Communism / end of the Cold War c. 1989  Equally moving was the long slow progression to today’s World Association of Zoos and Aquariums from its late Victorian beginning in Germany, through wartime disruptions, revolutions  to today’s worldwide organisation “United for Conservation” at last! It was long time coming.

One of the Symposium concerns was the lack of original zoo history research being done into the past life of zoos, as often what we read is simply a regurgitation of the same old sources. The published proceedings (available through Chester Zoo’s marketing department) are a good example of this new research.

Newquay Zoo’s wartime roaming ‘gnome gaurd-ener’ in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Chester Zoo the conference host is home itself to an interesting wartime story. As part of my World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo, I have been researching what happened in wartime zoos, with an eye to what lessons we can learn from surviving our wartime past for the management of zoos through future challenges. This work is often hamstrung by the lack of (accessible) archives in many zoos. Not so Chester Zoo which has an excellent and accessible archive, partly scanned and the Chester Zoo News (1930s-1980s) available to buy on CD-Rom from their library!

These magazines must have refreshed memories and dates with lots of detail in June Mottershead’s vividly remembered account Reared in Chester Zoo (written with Janice Madden, Ark Books, 2009) of growing up at Chester Zoo, helping out as it was built by her father and as it struggled to survived through the slump and wartime shortages of the 1930s and 1940s to her marriage to Keeper Fred Williams.

Chester Zoo history timeline banners, Chester Zoo, 2011

This story of George Mottershead and family is well told in banner panels for each decade of the zoo’s 80 years, over near the ‘new’ 1950s Aquarium and the modern Cedar House which houses the library and archive.

My guide for that day in 2011, the then Head of Discovery and Learning archivist Stephen McKeown told me that the concrete pillars of the aquarium were hand-cast by June and Fred, often working into the night by lamplight. So like George Mottershead, they literally did build their zoo by hand. Sadly the original Chester Zoo Aquarist, Yorkshireman Peter Falwasser died of wounds on active service in North Africa, 1942. Before his death, Peter wrote excitedly to Chester Zoo colleagues of all the wildlife and especially fish he was seeing in the Middle East and wondered how to get them back to Chester Zoo. So this new aquarium  in the 1950s was maybe a quiet sort of memorial to ‘gentle’ Peter Falwasser, as June describes him.

In 2013 I received scans from the Chester Zoo archive of letters from and to Peter Falwassser, which I turned into the following blog post, Last Wartime Letters:

Sometimes research does a little back-flip of name recognition in an unexpected place, a little cross-over between themes. Strangely following another wartime gardening lead into 1940s and 50s garden  books linked to Theo Stephens’ little garden magazine, My Garden, I havecome across  a late 1940s garden article that may well have been written by Peter’s older sister Christine Rosetta ( b. 1905, Cawthorne, Yorkshire). She may have been the  C.R. Falwasser, a gardener and writer,  who wrote the article in My Garden’s Bedside Book (1951?)  called “I Swept the Leaves” mentioning “But when you hire yourself during wartime and become part of a staff …” by the 1950s she pops up in the phone book in horticulture at Alltnacree, Connell, Argyll.  Strange coincidence.  I wonder if she would have got on with the Mottershead family of Market Gardeners, including Grandad Albert, Chester Zoo’s first Head Gardener, who fed the animals and people of Chester Zoo in wartime.

Inside June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo May 2011

A quick trip downstairs to the public toilets in Oakfield House today takes you to the site of the ‘old’ or first wartime Aquarium and air raid shelters for staff,  based in the cellars and former kitchens of Oakfield House. This listed red brick building was the big house or mansion of the estate that became Chester Zoo in the 1930s. It was in poor condition after serving as a VAD convalescent home for officers in the First World War as many such houses did around Europe. This must have had strong associations for Private George Mottershead, who  apparently spent several years recovering after the war in a wheelchair.

Looking at the 1930s map by George Williams inside June’s book, it is still possible to glimpse a little of the original zoo, especially starting from the red brick house and stables block, used extensively for temporary animal houses in the first decade or so. Lion scratches and a small plaque by the stables archway give a clue to what once happened here, the nucleus of what has today grown to become Chester Zoo.

The roar of big cats can still be heard across the path from the old temporary ‘pen’, the site of George Mottershead’s lion enclosure that he started to hand-build in 1937 but was delayed by wartime, only finished in 1947. Scratch marks in the brickwork of the stable block, reputedly made by lions, are marked by a simple plaque.

A link to the Chester Zoo lions of the wartime past – within roar of the present. Chester Zoo Stables and Courtyard gateway, May 2011

The stables and courtyard of the big house of another era are closed to the public but very visible from public walkways, the stables now house the works depot and offices.

History in the Chester area is never far away – usually just inches under your feet. The Romans had a garrison town (Deva) here, into whose near-complete buried amphitheatre in town were dug the air-raid shelters for June’s school. Behind Oakfield House, recreated Roman Gardens and new glasshouses now lie where food was once grown in the kitchen gardens and conservatory area by June’s  ‘ Grandfather’ Albert, George Mottershead’s father.

This glasshouse like those in many zoos was a victim of wartime shrapnel, in this case probably anti-aircraft or ack-ack ‘flak’ from nearby AA guns firing at enemy raiders heading for the towns and ports of the Northwest. Friendly fire like this also killed a Coypu, one of the only direct wartime casualties amongst the animals from enemy action (many other zoo animals like penguins slowly declined from wartime substitute feeding). Here in these vanished glasshouses and kitchen gardens, food was once grown for the mansion and for the early zoo. The Mottersheads were nurserymen and market gardeners, originally in the Sale area. ‘Grandad’ Mottershead working well into old age and through wartime to provide food for his son’s zoo animals.

Three of June’s Mottershead uncles and step-uncles from this gardening family were killed in the First World War, two others on her mother’s side, whilst her father George was so badly wounded on the Somme that it took him years to teach himself to walk again. Albert and Stanley Mottershead’s  names are on the Sale War Memorial, recently researched by George Cogswell and pictured here. This could so easily have been George Mottershead. no George, no Chester Zoo.

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

Family photographs of these friendly ghosts can be found in June’s book but also mounted on the walls of the newly opened June’s Pavilion catering area near Oakfield House, next to the Growzone conservatories for today’s Chester Zoo gardeners. Zoos, like armies, march on their stomachs and good food is very important to the human and other animals at the zoo. It is often the make or break of a zoo visit and probably one of the harder things to get right for everyone. I learnt this lesson on day one of zoo management at Newquay Zoo, the afternoon spent with sleeves rolled up and rubber gloves in the sink partly alongside Pete the Ops Manager washing up and KP-ing in the Newquay Zoo café during an afternoon rush and shortage of café staff. So I understand how important June, her sister Muriel, her mother Elizabeth and Grandmother Lucy like all the women in her family were in feeding zoo staff, evacuees and zoo visitors as well as zoo animals before and during the war. [Note: 2014, This is something that comes across strongly in the BBC series Our Zoo broadcast in Autumn 2014 and I interviews with June Williams.]

It is very fitting to have ‘June’s Pavilion’ as not a museum or a memorial but something practical, and fun – a family eating place with family photographs on the wall. George Mottershead in First World war uniform with Elizabeth and baby Muriel, Grandad Mottershead, June and Fred, all look down, alongside many other of the army of Chester Zoo staff of the past, over another generation of zoo visitors tucking in to food before heading off to look and learn about more animals.

Having read June’s account in hindsight and the detailed newsletters month by month during uncertain times gives you chance to relive the early years, month by month, almost to glimpse through the windows of Oakfield House and spot familiar ghosts on the lawn.

Next to Oakfield House beside the lawn in its own small garden stands a small simple memorial plaque to George Mottershead, erected by the zoo members and staff after he died in 1978. George looks out of the photo back towards the stables and the windows of Oakfield House which must have seen so many stories, from the gentry and hunting at the big house to wounded soldiers of his own war, wartime evacuees in the next war, refugee elephants and their mahouts, a place of family weddings and still a venue for an excellent quiet lunch in the panelled dining room.

After the war, things did not become easier straight away. There was still food rationing and materials for building were in short supply.

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Britain had to feed itself, the displaced millions of Europeand repair huge numbers of bombed factories, schools and houses around the country. A short walk away from Oakfield House, you can still glimpse one of George’s practical bits of post-war salvage. Fred Williams, June’s husband, as Clerk of Works carried on this salvage tradition.

At the rear of what was once built as the Polar Bear enclosure can be seen some at first rather plain and ugly concrete pillars. Ironically now part of the Europe on the Edge Aviary, these pillars started life for a very different purpose – heavy concrete road blocks and tank traps from the desperate days of improvisation by the Army and Home Guard against invasion by the armies of Hitler’s Germany after softening up by Goering’s eagles of the Luftwaffe.

The round shapes of these concrete blocks can be seen clearly in Frith picture postcards featured in a recent zoo postcards book by  Alan Ashby ( These pillars  are an unlikely memorial to a past generation, though thankfully June is still (2011/2014very much with us, still interested in the zoo they built and the recently opened June’s new Pavilion.

Stephen McKeown spoke in 2011 about further ideas for developing family history on the way to our Chester Zoo members talk at the Russell Allen lecture theatre at Chester zoo (named after Maud Russell Allen, an early council member or benefactor in the 1930s and 1940s). Chester are thinking about developing the guided or self-guided history tour – so watch the Chester Zoo website for details [including on the Our Zoo BBC related events].

BBC clip about June at wartime Chester Zoo:

Since 2011, I have been sent by Chester Zoo Archive  the scans of many letters to and from George Mottershead to (the late) ex Cheter Zoo staff member Peter Lowe, who became the first curator and designer of my home zoo, Newquay Zoo, something worth a blog post in future. So George Mottershead surviving the Somme to open his own zoo helped indirectly in the early history of my own zoo at Newquay Zoo.  You can read more about our wartime garden project at Newquay Zoo on our blog, contact me via the comments page or check out our zoo website pages about World War Zoo on

The new World War Zoo gardens sign at Newquay Zoo, 2011

World War Zoo Gardens workshops for schools at Newquay Zoo

January 29, 2014

We’ve been busy recently at Newquay Zoo setting up for some primary school workshops about wartime life and what happened in zoos in WW2.

This topic has survived into the new 2013/14 Primary History Curriculum in Year 6 as turning points in history, elsewhere as ‘local history’ and can be seen in the Inspire Curriculum (Cornwall Learning) as Year 6 Spring 2 Unit:  The Battle of Britain:  Bombs, Battles and Bravery. 

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc





A colourful cross-Inspire Curriculum map for this topic can be downloaded via this link.

Schools visit Newquay Zoo from upcountry and around the county for many topics. One recent local school who usually go to a local museum visited to find out the answer to an unusual question. The children asked their teacher – “What happened to animals during the war?” so a trip to Newquay Zoo was the answer. Others book in as the start or finish of their wartime history classroom topic or alongside their more traditional animal studies of rainforest or habitats.

Our wartime zoo trail is quickly set up for visiting schoolchildren around the zoo, a trail that’s been shared with visitors during Armistice weekends and wartime garden weekends.

One of our temporary World War Zoo Gardens trail boards set up for schools workshops, World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

One of our temporary World War Zoo Gardens trail boards around the zoo set up for schools workshops, World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

Display case of wartime memorabilia, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo
Our display case in the Tropical House houses a changing topical collection of wartime Home Front items from civilian and zoo life from WW1 and WW2. There’s an Eye-Spy list to encourage students to look out for and identify some of the more unusual items. They generate interesting history questions: What are they? Who used them and what were they used for?

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy in our display case  for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

Some of my favourites are the handmade items like toy wooden Spitfires or puzzle games from scrap materials, our contribution featured in the BBC digital online museum accompanying the BBC’s “A History of The World in a Hundred Objects”.

The biggest effort is in unpacking and repacking our stored wartime artifacts. These range from large items like heavy wartime civil defence uniform jackets and land girl overcoats to smaller items like steel helmets that are interesting for students to try on and feel the weight. It’s not advisable to try on the different gas masks though, if they still have the filter sections intact or attached. Many of these are everyday wartime items that zoo keepers, their families or zoo visitors would have carried and been very familiar with.

It takes a while to pin up wartime posters and unpack ‘evacuee’ suitcases but the end result looks good so well worth the effort. Alongside our original Newquay War Weapons Week poster design by evacuee Benenden schoolgirls,  the other wartime posters (” weapons on the wall”) are battered old reproduction examples from the Imperial War Museum shop 

' Evacuee' suitcases with original handmade wartime toys, ARP advice and blue WAAF silks!  World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo (Picture: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

‘ Evacuee’ suitcases with original handmade wartime toys, ARP advice and blue WAAF silks! World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo (Picture: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

Different topics such as the outbreak of war and closure of places of entertainment like zoos, preparing and repairing the zoo from air raid damage, feeding the animals when they had no ration books and coping with the call up and casualties of staff are covered through enlarged photographs, newspaper headlines, adverts and posters from our collection to illustrate our talk or answer questions.

Through telling the story of how we are researching wartime zoos and showing the students many of these original source materials, we’re showing them an idea of the process of how history is written and researched, an important skill for future historians.

Rationing and Dig For Victory gardening items being laid out for our World War Zoo Gardens schools workshop, Newquay Zoo  (Photo: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

Rationing and Dig For Victory gardening items being laid out for our World War Zoo Gardens schools workshop, Newquay Zoo
(Photo: Lorraine Reid, Newquay Zoo)

The tiniest items on display are original artefacts like shrapnel and incendiary bomb tail fins that did such damage to zoo and botanic garden glass roofs and hay stores. These small items, along with the bewildering variety of wartime cap badges and buttons, often survive as part of a wartime schoolboy’s souvenir collection of relics.

"What did you Do in the War, Granny?" is partly answered by these poster reproductions on the wall. World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

“What did you Do in the War, Granny?” is partly answered by these poster reproductions on the wall. World War Zoo Gardens workshop, Newquay Zoo

This schoolboy collecting bug often puzzles the female students – “what did girls do during the war?” they ask. This question we partly answer with a range of items from land girl greatcoats, women’s magazines, cookery books, knitted dolls and some highly desirable items such as WAAF issue silk stockings and bloomers. Most of the students know how stockings were faked using gravy browning, coffee and eyeliner pencils for the seams. Our other precious silk item, of course of animal origin, is a pilot’s silk escape map of S.E. Asian jungle islands where many of our  endangered animals come from today.

We try to cover all the senses such as the weight and roughness of uniforms, sandbags and helmets. Smell is not so easy to represent – what did wartime Britain smell like? – but we visit our recreated wartime allotment near the Lion House to harvest (in season) some fresh animal food and herbs.

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Taste is a tricky sense to safely build into a workshop, what with modern concerns over food allergies (did they exist during rationing?) However our fabulous Cafe Lemur staff have in the past helped introduce workshops in the quieter times of the year by cooking up batches of fresh and reasonably edible potato biscuits (recipe below) for students to try, taken from some wartime recipe sheets we have for visitors to take away. It’s always interesting to watch the facial expressions of students as they risk the first bite. Only a few aren’t eaten! (Please note: wartime biscuits not always available in workshops).

Primary history source material -  Keeper Billett of Whipsnade Zoo ZSL in tin hat and gas mask pictured in the shortlived 'Animal And Zoo magazine', November 1939 (magazine / photo from the World War Zoo archive, Newquay Zoo)

Primary history source material – Keeper Billett of Whipsnade Zoo ZSL in tin hat and gas mask pictured in the shortlived ‘Animal And Zoo magazine’, November 1939 (magazine / photo from the World War Zoo archive, Newquay Zoo)

Sound is an important part of the workshop ranging from learning the meaning of the sharp blasts of my ARP whistle to the different sound of air raid sirens – warning and all clear – keyed in from sound effects, as the real hand-cranked sirens are deafening in small spaces and we don’t want to accidentally evacuate the zoo. The gas warning rattle, beloved of football crowds in the past, is a popular and noisy thing to try at the workshop’s end.

Apart from looking at the display and trying on some of the headgear, another popular activity at the end of a workshop is a quick demonstration outside of ‘fire bomb drill’ that older children and zoo families would have learnt on firewatch or fire guard duty using our battered leaky but still working original stirrup pumps. Young arms soon tire from pumping these and thankfully there’s no fire involved but it’s a chance to soak your friends! Many gardeners made use of civil defence ‘war surplus’ stirrup pumps after the war as handy garden sprayers.

If we’re in luck, one of our older zoo volunteers pops in to answer questions about wartime childhood and even bring in their original ration books and identity cards. Sometimes our volunteers and our staff (including me!) dress up as characters using original and replica uniforms showing jobs that zoo staff would have done, often  after  a day’s work ranging from Fire Watch, Fire Service, Air Raid Precautions or Home Guard. There are a few of my family photographs of air raid shelters, harvest and garden work and stories from my evacuee parents that I retell in the talk too!

Paper pot maker in the wartime zoo garden, Newquay Zoo, 2010

Paper pot maker in the wartime zoo garden, Newquay Zoo, 2010

Wartime gardening and schools gardening

In summer we finish off our wartime zoo schools workshops with  making of newspaper pots and potting up of sunflower seeds (good source of animal food in wartime and very wildlife friendly today) for students to take home.  It’s good to hear from children and teachers that school gardens are thriving again as part of  Growing Schools Gardens, one practical follow-up to the ‘Dig For Victory’ history topic and zoo visit.

There is an excellent RHS / IWM Dig For Victory schools pack available online as a pdf   It’s good to see this growing area of the  Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto and network, something  which we’re proudly part of at Newquay Zoo as an accredited or quality learning venue since 2009.

Now that World War Two  is staying in modified form in the new ‘Gove’ 2014 primary school history national curriculum, we look forward to running many more schools WW2 workshops about this remarkable period in zoo and botanic garden history. I’m sure many teachers have enjoyed teaching the old Home Front primary history curriculum elements  and will adapt elements from units like the evacuees.

Each workshop throws up interesting new questions to answer or investigate. “What happened in zoos and associated botanic gardens in World War 1?” is one recent question we’ve been asked and are looking at, ahead of the 1914 centenary. We’ve already blogposted about the war memorials at Kew Gardens and London Zoo – see previous posts. We will be researching a WW1 version of the workshop in 2015.

The next big job is editing some of our research and collection of wartime diaries or letters into a resource pack or blog entries, something we’re working on throughout the next few years.  Some of our North-East wartime farmer’s diaries are on loan to Beamish museum for their new Wartime Farm.

We also run similar history sessions for secondary schools at Newquay Zoo and our sister Zoo Paignton Zoo in Devon. Herbert Whitley’s Paignton Zoo was operational in wartime as a camp site for D-Day US troops and had some strange wartime tales. Paignton also  hosted evacuee staff and animals from the bombed and blitzed Chessington Zoo.

You can find out more about the World War Zoo Gardens project, schools workshops and local offsite talks and our contact details on our schools webpage


Wartime Savoury Potato Biscuit recipe 

Sometimes cooked up  to be served on World War Zoo Gardens workshop days (Please note: wartime biscuits not always available in workshops).

* N.B. Leave out cheese if you have dairy allergy, the pepper is enough to make the taste ‘interesting’.

Adapted from the original Recipe from Potatoes: Ministry of Food wartime leaflet No. 17 

Makes about 24 approx 3 inch biscuits


2  ounces margarine

3  ounces plain flour

3 ounces cooked mashed potato

6 tablespoons grated cheese*

1.5 teaspoons table salt

Pinch of cayenne or black pepper

Cooking instructions

1. Rub margarine into flour

2. Add potato, salt, pepper (and cheese if using*)

3. Work to a stiff dough

4. Roll out thinly and cut into shapes

5. Bake in a moderate oven, 15 to 20 minutes.

Of zoo gardens and zombies: why Brad Pitt will (not) be appearing in our World War Z – oo garden at Newquay Zoo

August 21, 2011

Of zoo gardens and zombies: why Brad Pitt will (gnot) be appearing in our World War Z-oo  garden  at Newquay Zoo (but only as a gnome, gnot as a zombie slayer)

Don’t be confused. World War Zoo has  a big budget rival and star cast who have been filming in Cornwall and elsewhere in the last few weeks.

World War Z is a blockbuster zombie movie  with Brad Pitt set in an apocalypic future.

World War Zoo gardens is a small budget recreation of a typical wartime Dig For Victory zoo keepers allotment set in the 1940s with a well travelled star cast of … gnomes and vegetables.  

You could argue that both look at dealing with the threats of an uncertain future …. and the garden looks at sustainable options such as local food.

You could argue that getting the ‘look’ right is important in period gardens and zombie  movies – right old posters, right old tools etc.

As for zombies … this is probably my fellow keepers and zoo staff who have led very early morning zoo tours at 5 am and 7am for ‘wild breakfasts’ . We feel quite half dead if not undead by the end of the day … great fun but thankfully that was the last one this year. Until we do halloween tours (see our Newquay Zoo events page). But for now – Zzzzzz….

As for catching a glimpse of ‘Brad’ at the zoo, one of our jolly bearded gnomes now has  g-name! You can see Brad’s jolly beard on the BBC Radio Cornwall footage below.

For lots of jolly garden tips, check out the August job lists: and

After writing our wartime zoo gardens book, we could write ‘Zombie Gardening’ … you heard it here first. I can see it now on the bookshelves. it makes creepy scarecrows look almost tame.

No time to be bored? Wartime childhoods, the long summer holidays, gnomes, wartime children’s books and gardens: Boy’s Own Paper stuff! from the wartime garden update August 2011

August 8, 2011

Bumper August holiday edition of the blog: The World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo celebrates its second  anniversary  on August 31st 2011. Packed with extra reading and some fun things to do!


Wartime holiday reading – the dramatic front cover (The Altmark story) of Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 Price 6d (Image from the World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

I’ve been reading again for the first time since childhood Robert Westall’s The Machine Gunners, set in the same area where he grew up. This has been really useful background for help in editing a 1941 diary of a teenage girl from Tynemouth which I’m working on in evenings at the moment (deciphering the spidery handwriting etc.) and typing this up for schools publications / general readership.  There is more on the Tyneside area at war in set up by Brian Peers and Roy Ripley and more on Robert Westall at Robert Westall’s work is featured in the excellent new exhibition on wartime children’s stories at Imperial War Museum London with lots of events in the August holidays. Once Upon A Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children runs from 11 February to 30 October 2011 at Imperial War Museum London.

We’ve updated last August’s bumper post as we’ve had lots of comments and contacts about it. So here goes …

August, our second garden anniversary amid school holidays with Newquay Zoo and busy local Cornish beaches, full of children and their families enjoying sunshine, picnics, animal feeding talks and each other’s company (along with the odd temper tantrum and family row). Many stop to look at the fresh veg, flowers and busy bees of the World War Zoo garden, soon to be celebrating its second anniversary at the end of August 2011. Sadly the cares of the office and family back home are never far away, judged by awkward mobile phone conversations by fraught vistors back home to the office. Was life simpler and easier in the days before mobile phones? 

 Holidays in wartime were increasingly more of a ‘staycation’ variety, with ‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’ posters and petrol rationing, wired off and mined beaches with troops tensely awaiting invasion and Home Guards watching the shoreline from pillboxes, rather than today’s RNLI lifeguards. 

Spot the pillbox on your Cornish summer holiday. Without camouflage now but still blends in well! Protecting the harbour at Porthleven in Cornwall still, 2010, 70 years on from construction at the height of invasion fears. (Image: World war Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Many of the older generation still loyally return to Cornwall where they were brought as children on family holidays or as evacuees. Newquay has recently seen another anniversary trip by staff and boys of Gresham’s School, 70 years on from the school, like Benenden Girls School, moving from the battlefields of the South Coast to Newquay and Cornwall. The holiday period of this time is vividly captured in the late Bettye Grey’s reprinted memoir of Newquay life, “Oh Get On!”

Fabulous adverts for childhood toys and boys’ careers, August 1940 Boy’s Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Already in early August there must be children moaning “I’m bored!” to parents. What would a wartime school child do in their extended holidays, either in their evacuation centres or  increasingly at home returned from  evacuation billets when not much was happening in the ‘Phoney war’ and often with  no schools to go to?

 In a battered and yellowing copy of the Boy’s Own Paper for August 1940 in the Newquay Zoo World War Zoo gardens wartime life archive can be found the following rousing instructions from the Editor for young men (and their sisters):

 “Be British [quoted as the last words of Captain Smith of the Titanic] and summon up your nerve and heart and sinew to carry on with your job – your harvesting, your waste-paper-collecting, the repairing of the school air raid shelters, black out blinds, fire service, first aid.”

“Write home often, and tell those anxious people how jolly all right you are; and let your whole being throb with the almighty unconquerable challenge –“Let them come!” Brace your muscles every time you think of it, let it resound from your spade when you give an extra hefty jab into the earth of the school garden plot. Let your nostrils dilate, your eyes kindle with a fierce gleam as, with fists clenched, you surge out that mighty challenge between set teeth. Go to it, lads!”  (Editorial, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940)

 Never has gardening been so breathlessly described in such “ripping” terms. Another article begins:

 “All of you who have a garden have, I know, been digging for victory, and now your crops are up you can see what can be done by hard work, and penny packets of seed. Every potato, parsnip, carrot, beetroot, every row of peas or beans, every lettuce or tomato on your plot of ground is going to help us win through, and what is more, it is your very own contribution to victory. Having dug for victory, I am now going to talk t you about feeding for victory. I don’t mean by this that you should sit down and eat up all your crops. I mean feeding livestock.”

“Why not keep one or two rabbits, a few chickens or half a dozen bantams? … and some have a large enough garden, perhaps to keep a pig, or there may be adjacent to the garden a rough piece of meadow or waste land to poor to grow crops but where a goat could pick up a living and provide you with milk … How ripping, too, if there was also honey for tea from your own bees … doubly welcomed now we are rationed with sugar …” (“Feeding For Victory”, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940).

Gardening for Boys – Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

Followed by W. E. Shewell-Cooper’s Garden and Allotment What You Can Do series, August’s article  being ‘How To Get Good Garden Crops’: 

“August is a harvesting month. It isn’t as big a harvesting month as September, of course, but there is lots of harvesting work to do. Take the French beans and runner beans, for instance …” 

Not many years ago, there was a brief nostalgia  flourish of the “Dangerous Book for Boys” genre and not-so-dangerous companion book for girls. Many journalists and childhood experts  lamented the modern safety-obsessed, neglectful or over parenting of the ‘play safe, play at home, computer and text obsessed, short attention spanned, foul-mouthed, under-parented, disrespectful, drunk, promiscuous, overweight and more miserable generation’ of 21st century children and teenagers in Britain than anywhere else in the developed world.  Many in Newquay have  been fighting back recently against  adverse publicity  regarding this generation on holiday without parents for the first time.   

My friend Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, Detoxing Childhood, and 21st Century Boys (all by Orion, see ) would no doubt approve of the vigorous and earnest pursuits suggested or sold to Boy’s Own Paper readers in the August 1940 edition. Recently in July 2011 Diarylea have published a report on rethinking childhood by Tim Gill

There are plenty of activity ideas “for the growing boy” in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 (B.O.P Motto: Quicquid Agunt pueri nostri farrago libelli, or “Whatever boys do makes up the mixture of our little book”)  for boy craft of days gone by. Amongst the rousing tales of daring-do and technical articles on “Submarines: what they are like and how they are operated” (at a time of rationing and increased Merchant shipping loss to Nazi U-boats) are some fascinating adverts.

More activity ideas and “knowledge for the growing boy”, adverts page, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

What boy could be bored, tempted by naval careers or radio officer training colleges (“A career of national importance in wartime with an assured future in peace-time”), Skywaymen of the BOP Flying League and their aircraft recognition card games, Cold Ovaltine “the best summer drink”, Brylcreem and discreet booklets on “Sex Problems … if you are puzzled about the secrets of birth” in “Knowledge for the Growing Boy” (6d, post free.)

What does the holiday weather matter as wartime boy when there is always the latest model anti-tank gun or make-it-yourself ship or plane models, photographic chemicals, stamp collecting advice care of Stanley Gibbons (in the centenary year of the Penny Black and Penny Post 6th May 1840), cricketing tips, pen pals seeking fellow “aviation enthusiast” or “cricket enthusiast”, explosive chemistry experiments, canoeing or cycling adventures (with blackout shielded headlamps, naturally). There were of course for some, visits to the local zoo, if it had reopened as a morale booster and a touch of normal pre-war life. 

Battle of Britain in your hands for the growing wartime boy! Frog kits were the forerunner of postwar Airfix kits, and taught valuable craft skills and aircraft recognition – friend or foe – for young and old alike! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo.)
Cold Ovaltine! The ultimate summer drink, showing lots of busy boy and tomboy sporting activities to fill the holidays, as advertised in August 1940, Boy’s Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

 There was also the salvage of aluminium kitchen goods to collect and sort out, as part of COGS (Children on Government Salvage), during the July and August 1940 appeal by Lord Beaverbrook for saucepans for Spitfires! This campaign features comically in William at War, one of the Just William books reprinted in the 2009 “Still Naughty at Ninety” anniversary of Richmal Crompton’s boy wonder. Find more in the  the A- Z author list.  

Rainy summer’s day inside ? You could design or update a wartime poster for the New Home Front campaign www.newhomefront.orgclosing date September 2011 (see previous posts).

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo

The life of a 1940s boy (or tomboy girl) seems exhausting and busy by modern standards! Amongst many memoirs and histories of wartime children, Mike Brown has written a fabulous short Shire Library Book on Wartime Childhood which illustrates the varied activities, challenges and opportunities of my parent’s childhood. Two of our handmade wartime toys – a Spitfire and a wooden sliding puzzle – from the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection can be found on the BBC

 If you want to recapture some of this indoor childhood activity, Airfix are very proudly advertising their kits again through  in the pages of BBC History Magazine  including an anniversary  Battle of Britain range and RAF airfield (just like the one my granddad served on) with proceeds to veterans’ charities. The Airfix Club flies again for a whole new generation of paint-splattered boys and girls!

Setting up our World War Zoo display in the Grow Your Own allotment section of Trelawney Garden Centre, August 2010
Wartime garden display on right, minibeasts being unpacked on the left.The lavender and Buddleia were alive with bees throughout! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

So “Go To IT!” down your local garden centre! Gardening was also part of this manly (boyish or tomboyish) existence, amongst the columns of nature notes such as “The Wonders of Crab Life” by H. Chapman Pincher BSc, (surely not the controversial Spycatcher writer of later years?) – and “Through the Hedge and over the Downs” by ‘Hedgerow’. We saw lots of native wildlife such as bees, birds and dragonflies flitting and buzzing around Trelawney Garden Centre and its lakes (with rumours of kingfishers) last August, amid many chats about our live insects, sloughed spider moults, wasp nest sections or dried specimens of Death’s Head Hawk moth.  ‘Hedgerow’ notes topically for August 1940 “What to look out for this month: Hawk moth larvae; Privet Hawk on Privet: Eyed Hawk on willow, Lime Hawk on lime or elm, Elephant Hawk on Willow Herb.  Dunlin or Ox birds by the seashore.  Corn Buntings and yellowhammers by the Cornfields. Butcher Birds’ larders in the hedges. Teazles in Bloom. Wasps’ nests.” A refreshing sight for the sore limbs of many a Land Girl or Victory harvest schoolchild working in the August fields, but also sign of how Britain’s wildlife has changed in 70 years, If you haven’t signed it yet, sign up via   to the RSPB’s Letter to The Future campaign

L.R. Brightwell’s cheerful nature notes illustrations to Hedgerow’s gnomes and gardens August 1940 column for the Boy’s Own Paper. (Image: Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo collection)

This last Boy’s Own Paper article is quirkily illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, cartoonist and illustrator of many zoo and nature books (see our archive blog entries on his Story of London Zoo, August 2009). Our partner college Cornwall College Newquay , quiet without hundreds of degree students for a few weeks, has some original Brightwell paintings. There are several more in the care of  the retired College manager and author Dr. Mike Kent, no doubt vigorously rambling  around the Cornish countryside and coast path collecting materials for his modern hedgerow notes books about Cornwall We were interested to note and already tracking down in detective mode the mention of ‘Next Month! Look out for … Wartime and The Zoos by Sydney Moorhouse FRGS, illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, FZS” promised for Boy’s Own Paper, September 1940. When we track a copy  down, we’ll share it with you on this blog.

“Children’s Gardens” by Edwin L. Howard (the Studio Publications, 2s. 6d.) is favourably reviewed by ‘Hedgerow’ in Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940,  who notes amongst bird and water garden designs that “I expect you boys will like the Zoo Garden best, but your sisters will prefer the Enchanted Flower Garden.” A second hand book to look out for, predating many recent books and seed company’s ranges (such as or for children’s gardening. Suttons have agreat gardening blog too: 

Many of these colourful cartoon packets, much like the Doctor Carrot, Squander Bug  and Potato Pete (see below picture) wartime cartoon figures of “eat more veg”, were excitedly bought by children and parents at Trelawney Garden Centre to help pass the holiday time, many proudly telling me about what they were growing at home or at school. Grow It! Magazine had a good article on children’s gardens by Angela Youngman in the July 2010 issue , whilst the Eden Project books for inspiring child gardeners by Jo Readman are also full of ideas

For lots of jolly garden tips, check out the August job lists: and

Garden Organic’s website

Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

Our khaki clad Gnome Guard didn’t holiday at home this year. He  travelled in 2010 /11 out to many displays such as Trelawney Garden Centre, but then vanished by unknown hand off to Paignton Zoo, London Zoo, Bioparc Valencia in Spain sending postcards gn-home back to the zoo. He was back in time for a conference on zoo history  at Chester Zoo in May 2011 (see May blog post 2011).  He’s stayed put (so far!) since as part of our wartime garden display.  “So far our Gnome Guard member of the LDV, introduced to the World War Zoo gardens to mark the July 1940 renaming of the Home Guard, has not been stolen by gnome liberators. Yet.” we wrote last August … we spoke too soon!

Gnome guard on parade. Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

But before anyone questions his willingness to serve or wartime authenticity, gnomes bizarrely feature in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes by ‘Hedgerow’ on fungi, at the height of the Battle of Britain when the Editor worries not only about increasing  paper rationing but about the threatened invasion “By the time you read this that foul fiend Apollyon may have struck at Britain, our land”). The columnist ‘Hedgerow’ whimsically notes: “One of the most handsome and decorative is the Scarlet Fly Agaric. This is copied by those who make garden ornaments and sold with gnomes to furnish a miniature wood or rockery. In my wood they grow freely. As I have a real wood I have no need for china gnomes, for they say there real gnomes in the woods and that they hold their meetings around the little red tables of the Scarlet Fly Agarics. I have never seen them, but as I write my nature notes under the light of an oil lamp in my little house in the wood  I often wonder whether they are playing around outside or spying to see if I am properly blacked out.”   (Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes)

So hopefully, during the summer holidays, you might like to paint your own china gnome, if you don’t have your own real wood and fungi. Wherever you are you could grow one thing, even if it’s in a tiny pot, as part of Garden Organic’s 2010. (Apparently if I encourage several others to sign up, I earn my very own Gardening Guru membership card or badge. How Boy’s Own Paper is that!) More growing advice can be found on the and  BBC Dig In campaign pages.

Hopefully there were  lots of bumper holiday ideas on our blog to keep the whole family busy this August (or winter!) Off to try some Cold Ovaltine! 

“Hooray We passed our 6000th page view today on 8th August 2010!” We are now up to 20,000 plus readers in the last two years, and many hundreds of thousnads who have visited the zoo and seen the garden for real since 2009. They also pinch the strawberries, and then tell me later how nice they tasted … 

For all enquiries or comments re. World War Zoo gardens project, contact us via the comments page below.

If stuck inside, 21st century child style, you might like to check out our past blog entries, look at the macaque monkey webcam on

Hope you enjoyed appy National Allotments Week in August

September we’re off to talk to local Garden Societies, starting with Goonhavern Garden Society on the 21st September, then to Twycross Zoo in November 2011 for the big BIAZA ACE meeting … Have (wartime) gnome and garden, will travel!

Absent fathers day – a wartime perspective from the World War Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

June 19, 2011

Father’s day in the World War Zoo wartime garden at Newquay Zoo – Blitz Bear, our project mascot
Father’s Day in Britain June 2011 – the nation awoke groggily to the headlines of the Prime Minister’s  offer of pursuing absent fathers and making them pay, making those who ‘abandon’ their children  feel the same  social stigma as drunk drivers.

Father’s day 19 June 2011 at Newquay Zoo –  an event to celebrate with half price entry for dads, free entry for children under 14 with a bear and a field hospital style surgical tent for injured bears.  Nurse “Penny Sillen”, otherwise known as Zoo Events organiser Lorraine Reid, nursed calloused hands from a few evenings cutting up and rolling hundreds of tiny bandages in scenes reminiscent of ladies of the First World War. Busy day! 

In the World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo, our peaceful and productive memorial to wartime zoo staff, during the brief periods between much-neeeded rain showers you could glimpse our project mascot, Blitz Bear, formerly of the Lost Property Department of Newquay Zoo some years ago.

Blitz Bear is usually found in the children’s section of our wartime displays alongside handmade toys, some of which are on show in our wartime display cabinet, others on the BBC / British Museum History of The World in 100 Objects digital online museum (see our blogroll for address). The handmade toys, some by wartime absent fathers for their far off children, are especially poignant. Blitz Bear symbolises all those special toys taken away from home by evacuees or much-loved presents who symbolised home, parents and loved ones.

My mum was evacuated to distant relatives for much of the war and barely saw her dad for the duration of the war, especially during his naval service in the Pacific. Fortunately, unlike many others awarded the Burma Star for their travels, he returned.  There must be many others on Father’s Day who remember ‘absent fathers’, some of whom never came home because of wartime. Many of the zoo keepers who died on active service and who are remembered on the staff war memorials at London Zoo and Belle Vue left young children without a father.

Next weekend is Armed Forces Weekend, and our dig for victory gardening friends at National Trust Trengwainton Gardens, Penzance will be holding a 1940s day on Sunday 26 June 2011 with a later one planned for Open Heritage Saturday 10th September 2011. A chance to glimpse their wartime allotment project  – and of course to remember our many veterans and the current serving forces, many mums and dads who will be way from home this weekend on Father’s Day …  

Keep reading for more about our World War Zoo wartime gardens project on this blog or browse the archive posts since 2009. You can contact us on the comments page here or via the Newquay Zoo website. Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo.

%d bloggers like this: