Archive for the ‘wartime cookery’ Category

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.

“Zoo Do You Think You Are (Kidding Mr Hitler)?” Tracking down family history and wartime concrete at Chester Zoo

June 12, 2011

Tracking down wartime concrete in zoos … an intriguing bit of Chester Zoo’s history, a vanished zoo in Brighton and four wartime hippos inBudapest.

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

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 Gnome Guard-ener bit at the end. Decide for yourself! 

Tracking down wartime concrete in zoos …  an intriguing bit of Chester Zoo’s history, a vanished zoo in Brighton and four wartime hippos inBudapest.

Family history is big business now on the internet and on television. Looking back at baby photos past for a glimpse of a familiar adult expression today or looking at your children today for a fleeting recognition of family faces, it’s something we all do in 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?

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 recent 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). 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.[backPid]=23&cHash=7d7c748eec

 Proceedings or copies of these talks are in preparation. Meanwhile, the list of talks and delegates can be seen for  while at

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 ofBudapest 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

 This comment by Miklos gave a little 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! Hoorah! 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. There were many fine presentations which will be available in due course in the Symposium Proceedings, and some ‘Eureka’ moments. (or “Mary Jane Hawkins!” moments as they are strangely called in the film of Robert Harris’ Enigma).  One of these slowly managed revelations was Dr. Graham Rowe’s talk on his research into the very short life in months of the failed Brighton Zoological Gardens in the 1830s. Did it ever happen except on paper? Graham led us through newspaper clues, paintings of early Cricket, faded scans and enlargements of ancient prints, to reveal at the end his starting point – a pair of ornamental gate pillars adorned with lions in a wall in a street in the Park Crescent back areas of  Brighton, near several cricket named pubs. Proof that the short-lived Brighton Zoo had really had existed for few months, rather than being a plan on paper. Excellent detective work and a story well told. Mary Jane Hawkins! Graham pointed out that if ‘Brighton Zoo’ had survived, it would likely have been flattened by Luftwaffe bombing that hit other listed buildings in the area.

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)

If being intrigued by one lump of stone was enough, Chester Zoo our host was home to another interesting 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!

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 the day, 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. Sdaly 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 quite sort of memorial to ‘gentle’ Peter Falwasser, as June describes him.

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 of Oakfield House. This listed red brick building was the big house or mansion of the estate that became Chester Zoo in the 1930s after serving for a short while 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.

A link to the Chester Zoo lions of the wartime past - within roar of the present. Chester Zoo Satbles 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, RomanGardensand glasshouses now lie where food was once grown in the kitchen gardens and conservatory area.

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. 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, June’s ‘Grandad’ Mottershead working well into old age and 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 badly wounded on theSomme. 

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, 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 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.

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, 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.Britain

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)

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 against invasion by the armies of Hitler’sGermany after softening up by Goering’s eagles of the Luftwaffe.

 The round shapes of these 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 Fred and June are still very much with us, still interested in the zoo they built and recently opened June’s new Pavilion. 

Stephen McKeown spoke about furtehr 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). They are thinking about the occasional guided or self-guided history tour – so watch the Chester Zoo website for details.

BBC clip about June at wartime Chester Zoo:

More pictures of our World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo next week. 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

Of flower shows in wartime and today …

April 10, 2011

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

“Money spent on flowers, in moderation, is never wasted”

C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 26, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010) 

 “For the moment potatoes, onions, carrots and so on must receive our full attention: but we may look forward to the time when this nightmare will end, as end it must – and the morning will break with all our favourite flowers to greet us once more, and, who knows perhaps my next volume of talks will be of roses, mignonette, daffodils and lilies.” C.H.M, June 1941

C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 5, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010) 

 Our local Spring village flower shows in our Village Hall in Cornwall is one of our last important surviving celebrations of community, now our village post office and shops have gone. It’s a riot of daffodils, carefully tended blooms, cakes, Lego models, vegetable animals, cups of tea, children’s art from the preschool, cubs, school and Sunday school … oh, and the entrance is guarded by scarecrows!

Some of the Mother's Day posies at Newquay Zoo's first flower show, April 3rd 2011

A similar riot of colour and festival of goodwill happened this weekend at  the first Newquay Zoo Mother’s Day flower show. This was only two weeks after a very busy £2 for Locals Weekend with thousands and thousands checking us out before the season starts. Not since the decorated Easter bonnet parades through our Zoo Dragon Maze of the mid 90s have we seen such a crafty variety of hand-made posies,  tissue and egg-box paper flowers. These were all made by both boys and girls keen to get themselves in free to Newquay Zoo alongside their half-price (but priceless) mums at this Mother’s Day 2011 event.

It helped the ‘feel good’ mood that it was a beautiful sunny Cornish spring day, so hopefully there weren’t too many disappointed children at judging time.  We had some difficulty choosing ‘winners’ amongst the 54 posies on the competition table. Apparently my limited experience of judging WI competitions was what qualified me for this role, reprised when I was the guest of the very friendly St Stephen in Brannel WI this week. It was equally as difficult as judging the WI posies or animal photos when I go out to talk about the World War Zoo project and the other varied work of Newquay Zoo. (I always fear that some of the militant wing of the WI will let my tires down if I get the wrong result. Tony Blair learned to his cost not to mess the WI around).

Four posies as a whole family effort at the Newquay Zoo Mother's Day flower show.

Many more than 54 posies were carried around the zoo and back home (to houses with the lingering smell of burnt breakfast toast) by proud mums. A few posies ended up (accidentally?) in the mouths and paws of our zoo animals. I’m sure it would have done them no harm. We already grow or harvest buckets of fallen cherry blossom, willow sticks with catkins and leaves, unsprayed flowers and sunflower heads, especially for our monkeys. This year, we’ve planted Borage in the World War Zoo gardens for its edible flowers (both blue and the white Alba variety), sourced along with some “Tiger Mint” for our lions (it’s really ‘Cat Thyme’) from Jekka McVicar’s amazing herb farm  Richard our ‘proper’ zoo gardener was looking a bit concerned about Borage’s successful self-seeding habits.  

My own lovely mum is going to be appearing soon as an exhibit at Newquay Zoo. Admittedly, she will be seated on top of her wartime Anderson shelter in my Grandad’s back garden in 1939. It is a treasured family photo, scanned for inclusion on the new interpretation sign being designed by Michelle Turton of Studio71  alongside the newly fenced, sandbagged, paved and spruced up wartime zoo keeper’s garden. The photo will do one important job for now, as I haven’t yet found a suitable Anderson shelter to erect alongside the wartime garden, much to Stewart Muir the Zoo Director’s relief. 

We hope that the sign will be in place for  our wartime garden event from May 28 to June 5th  2011 , running alongside our BIAZA Love Your Zoo! week of events You can come along and follow our wartime garden trail, visit our “dig for victory garden” and display cases, and take home your very own wildlife garden sunflower in a recycled paper pot.  

Hopefully our roaming Gnome Guard-ener (mentioned on recent blog posts) will be back on duty from his travels to London, Spain, Devon … who g-nows where!

Wartime Mother's Days would have been familiar with the hand-crafted posy. These two recycled blooms (straws and scraps of tissue paper) were made by children for our first zoo flower show at Newquay Zoo April 3rd 2011.

And not forgetting dads – we’re aiming to beat our “1000 bears picnicking in the zoo” record of last year. This year’s Father’s Day Teddy Bear’s Picnic is on Sunday 19th June 2011 at Newquay Zoo. Dads get in half price, bears can get their under-14 owners in to the Zoo for free that Sunday. So bring your picnic rug, tasty treats and of course, favourite  bear along to the zoo.

Our wartime evacuee “Blitz Bear” will be lurking on duty in the World War

Wartime recycled handmade toys and Blitz, our re-enactor bear have got the squander bug surrounded - surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection.

Zoo garden that weekend …

New Home Front ‘design or reimagine a poster’ campaign 2011

March 29, 2011

New Home Front Design Competition – Closing date: 6 May 2011

Wartime recycled handmade toys and Blitz, our re-enactor bear have got the squander bug surrounded - surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection.

New Home Front 

(“How we can learn from Britain’s war time past in the age of dangerous climate change and energy insecurity”) are launching a competition to find the best ways in which the wartime poster and public education campaigns can be re-imagined to help today’s society understand the dangers of climate change, and what they can do to help. Wartime slogans such as “Is your journey really necessary?” remain relevant today when so much business travel could be replaced by video conferencing, for example. New Home Front is supported by UK Green MP Carolyn Lucas and a pdf report and audio press coverage can be found on their website.  

For more information see

Wartime posters can be seen on website

So what is The New Home Front?

Lessons from the wartime generation for the modern world’s changes.

wartime posters and a forgotten skill - seed saving practice for next year's crops at World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Over the past two years at Newquay Zoo in our World War Zoo wartime garden project, I have been researching how we can learn from the wartime experience of zoos in surviving shortages and uncertainty as a way of preparing for the future. Editing personal diaries of wartime life or talking directly to older zoo visitors and WI groups of roughly my wartime evacuee parents’ generation about their experiences of rationing and allotments, “making do and mend”, has been as fascinating as chatting over the ‘garden fence’ to the smallest primary children who have ‘done the war’ at school and are proudly growing things to eat at home or in their schools gardens.  

Occasionally zoo staff and visitors are puzzled why I’m working on a wartime dig for victory allotment, surely a ‘history and heritage’ project looking back in a forward-looking, modern zoo / ‘environmental park’.    

So I was really interested to read the short New Home Front report by Andrew Simms (commissioned by Caroline Lucas UK Green MP) which is available to download free on pdf on

I’d be very interested to hear what you think of their ideas (and so would they). This is not the first time I’ve read ‘like minds’ on the subject. Several other recent books you might enjoy (all available on Amazon): 

 “Suppose such shortages arose again, maybe as a result of climate change, would the experiments of the past help ordinary people to survive? Better still, could we adapt some war-time methods of saving and sharing food and fuel with a generous spirit of neighbourliness?”

Introduction to Katherine Knight, Spuds, Spam and Eating for Victory: Rationing in the Second World War (Tempus, 2007)

 “In wartime the can-do community spiritedness of the propagandists instructions to ‘Make Do and Mend’ and ‘Dig for Victory’ fired the public’s imagination. Post-war, however, bald bossy exhortations seemed an insult to a people who had endured six years of wartime working and wanting, only to experience, with peace, an apparent decline in living standards … who, at times of national crises, could swing together. Britain did so in 1940 and I believe would do so again should a future global crisis threaten the essentials of our national life and culture. Should that need arise, our leaders today could do far worse than look back to 1940, to our nation’s darkest hour, to learn form our grandparents – and how they fought their way back towards peace and prosperity.” 

Patricia Nicol,  Sucking Eggs: What your Wartime Granny could teach you about Diet, Thrift and Going Green (Chatto, 2009)

 Covering everything from recycling to recipes, from fuel saving, food miles to fashion as well as gardening and holidaying at home, these books are as fascinating as the Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm TV series (Lion TV, when are you going to make Wartime Farm?) or the original BBC Wartime Kitchen and Garden (Please, please Acorn Media / BBC, please release this 90s classic on DVD) .

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

It’s also worth tracking down the recent ‘exhibition book’ for the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition Ministry of Food by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, 2010.

 Despite recently reading the beautifully presented and written Digging for Victory by Mike Brown and Twigs Way (Sabrestorm, 2011), I have yet to find a better gardening book on the urge to live and garden in extreme circumstances than Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardens.

In a world of nuclear accident, natural disaster, recession and political upheaval, I keep coming back to these ‘old and new’ books for facts, recipes, inspiration and challenge when I occasionally tire of reading the jovial and down to earth C.H. Middleton’s radio gardening talks (reprinted recently by Aurum Press as Digging For Victory, Dig on For Victory and Your Garden in Wartime), a Titchmarsh before his time.  

 You can find out more about our World War Zoo wartime garden project online on our website and our events section, or by looking at past entries on the blog archive here.

Of Gerald Durrell, wartime gnomes and gardens (and air raid shelters) in zoos … Spain and London latest

March 15, 2011

Our 'missing' wartime gnome sends another postcard home ... from the former air raid shelter tunnels at London Zoo.

Taking shelter at London Zoo September 1939, a sandbagged tunnel under the road (Zoo and Animal magazine, November 1939)


Our missing Gnome Guard-ener  from our recreation of a 1940s wartime zoo gardens project sends a message home. ‘Bert’ mysteriously disappeared over a month ago and reappeared first at Paignton Zoo, then has sent another card back from a wartime site at London Zoo:

They used this tunnel as an air raid shelter during World War 2. Unfortunately there wouldn’t have been this bright light then. It would have been cold dark and scary. Just looking at it makes me feel small! Love from your Gnome Guard!”

In our wartime collection of photos, you can see one end of the tunnel sandbagged, a tunnel usually used for moving pedestrians and elephants (which were evacuated to Whipsnade).  In many zoos, empty animal enclosures (London, Bristol, Edinburgh), slit trenches (Whipsnade),  underground aquariums  (Chester) and visiting Birmingham Botanic Gardens last week, underneath their bandstand! Evacuee Peter Pollard was present at Chessington Zoo when the zoo air raid shelters took a direct hit with many casualties – he’s interviewed on BBC Radio Cornwall (see website link on our blog roll).   

In the peace of Newquay Zoo, we’ve been busy fencing and smartening up our wartime garden at Newquay Zoo in advance of an expected to be busier than normal  weekend this weekend, 19 and 20th March 2011, for  our Locals weekend – £2 entry (with proof of Cornish address) – see our website for details.

Hopefully our wartime Gnome Guard-ener will have returned in the next few months for May is proving busy – a talk at Chester Zoo about wartime zoos for members on Saturday 21st May and  a busy May half term week of activities  at Newquay Zoo celebrating both BIAZA’s Love Your Zoo campaign and our Newquay Zoo wartime garden weekend (May 28 – June 5th 2011 


Have gnome, will travel ... Newquay Zoo's missing wartime Gnome Guard-ener makes it out from Cornwall to Devon and London to Spain! Bioparc Valencia,  March 2011

Have gnome, will travel ... Newquay Zoo's missing wartime Gnome Guard-ener makes it out from Cornwall to Devon and London to Spain! Bioparc Valencia, March 2011

Our roaming gnome has sent a postcard back from Spain – Bioparc Valencia hosted the EZE European Zoo Educators meeting recently, with several British zoo education staff attending. This is probably how Bert got there.

Unusual Bristih visitors in Spain are nothing new. Many unusual British volunteers fought against the ‘fascist’ forces in Spain in 1936, including writer Laurie Lee or observed the fighting  like journalist George Orwell.   

The memory of this civil war time and Franco era is still raw in Spain, as described in Giles Tremletts’ excellent book Ghosts of Spain.  We haven’t yet researched what happened to zoos such as Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War. The bombing of Guernica (famously pictured by Pablo Picasso)  gave British zoo staff planning for the next war a good idea of what to expect from aerial attack.

Whildst this was going on in late 1930s in Spain, not far away the young Gerald Durrell was exploring the animal rich nooks and crannies of the Mediteranean island of Corfu, famously described in My Family and Other Animals.

They also serve, who only sit and read ... Looking a bit like Gerald Durrell, 'Gerald' our replacement wartime Gnome Guard-ener (until the original one returns from his travels, pictured in The Cornish Guardian miniature copy). World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, March 2011

Soon after his return to wartime Britain, Durrell’s time at Whipsnade Zoo in 1945 as a student keeper are described in his other early books. Two mysterious gnomes arrived last week  in our lovely refenced, repaved garden (all work done by zoo builder John Murrell and Mike his garden volunteer). We have a stop-gap Gnome Guard-ener in place until Bert returns, which we have christened “Gerald”.  A slightly more expensive bronze statue of Gerald Durrell can be found at Jersey Zoo.With his cartoonist’s great sense of  humour and his love of travel, we’re sure Gerald would approve of the whole gnome escap-ade, our  wartime garden and its animal enrichment work, not disimilar to the poly tunnel market gardens at Jersey Zoo and now Paignton Zoo.

Bert our Gnome Guard-ener goes AWOL and turns up at Paignton Zoo’s VertiCrop – latest

February 24, 2011

LDV gnome gone AWOL ... Bert our World War Zoo Gnome Guard-ener checks out hi-tech hyrdroponic gardening at VertiCrop, Paignton Zoo. The bearded one on the right is Kevin Frediani, Paignton Zoo's Curator of Plants and Gardens. (Image: Paignton Zoo)

Received from the Press Office,  Paignton Zoo (before the gnome went AWOL):

A garden gnome in military uniform has gone missing from Newquay Zoo in Cornwall.

And now the member of the Gnome Guard has turned up 80 miles away at Paignton Zoo in Devon!

 The gnome went missing from Newquay Zoo’s World War Zoo garden exhibit, which shows the affect of war on zoos, their animals and their staff. He has now been found inspecting Paignton Zoo’s Verticrop Facility in the company of Curator of Plants and Gardens Kevin Frediani.

 Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Education Manager, who started the World War Zoo project, said: “I think he’s gone to find out about gardening at other zoos. US troops were stationed on land at Paignton Zoo during the war. And it’s appropriate that he stopped off to look at the VertiCrop vertical growing system, as it’s said that the American army pioneered hydroponics to help feed soldiers during the war.”

“We hope he’ll be back in time for Newquay Zoo’s wartime zoo garden week during May half term. He’s also going to Chester Zoo for a conference in May, where the Newquay Zoo education team will be giving talks on zoos and wartime garding during the war.’’

For more information on the World War Zoo garden project, and education at Newquay Zoo, please visit the official website

We look forward to hearing more of Bert’s exploits and to his eventual safe return …

Wartime Christmas past and presents from the World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

December 12, 2010

1940s toy Ark and toy train, handmade in wartime from any materails to hand, treasured Christmas presents in wartime (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

1940s toy Ark and toy train, handmade in wartime from any materails to hand, treasured Christmas presents in wartime (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

It’s almost Christmas in the wartime zoo garden at Newquay Zoo. The snow and ice has for the moment gone from our ‘Dig For Victory’ allotment veg patch, leaving some plants looking the worse for wear. The spring crops of lettuce, cabbage, spinach and carrots look as if they might pull through as they did earlier this year, surviving the snow and ice in February. Frost is still an ongoing problem and garden fleece hadn’t been invented in the 1940s, whilst growing under glass ‘Cloches versus Hitler’ (to name a topical book of the time) was too expensive or impractical for many.

 The gardener always has a long list of desirable Christmas presents in this quiet time of the garden year, poring over seed catalogues, tool and equipment lists for desirable things. I’ve been looking dreamily at tough old fashioned tools  such as the FSC oak planter tools set from Mit Hus . (Is Father Christmas in his tin hat listening?). Our Zoo director Stewart Muir, a keen gardener at home and in the zoo, has been openly envious of a very tough Dig For Victory 1944 spade acquired for the World War Zoo gardens project on E-Bay as better than any of the several modern ones he’s broken in the last couple of years. All I want for Christmas this year is decent growing weather for next year. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Newquay Zoo’s keeper carol service and Christmas fair takes place this weekend, and we’ve been busy putting up a Christmas Past and Presents Trail about the Victorian customs that now make up much of our modern Christmas. The carols, the tree, food, drinks, games and toys – we owe many of these to the Victorians including the German Christmas tree tradition brought to us by Prince Albert. A later custom dictates that the national Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square each year is a gift from the peoples of Norway to Britain for their wartime assistance. It’s been fascinating seeing where our peacetime and wartime Christmas traditions came from and the feast of Thornton’s chocolate indulgence we are lucky enough to have now (possibly my favourite trade stall at the Zoo’s Chritmas fayre).

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

The first Christmas of the war would have been of all the Christmas in wartime much like others before and since, apart from the blackout, the many evacuated children and serviceman overseas. There would still have been chocs, toys and presents in the shops. Food would not become rationed until 8th January 1940. Resources by Christmas 1940 would become increasingly set aside for wartime production. Toy shops would be increasingly empty (many toys pre-war were made in Germany anyway).  The church bells would not be rung at Christmas for several more years as church bells were one form of invasion warning.

 The enduring morale boosting customs despite the changing nature of this wartime Christmas experience between 1939 – 1945 is well documented and illustrated in Mike Brown’s recent book Christmas on The Home Front (Sutton Publishing, 2007). There is more in A Wartime Christmas by Maria and Andrew Hubert  (Sutton, 1995) and excellent Age Exchange publications on Christmas past and wartime reminiscence. There are some great wartime Christmas recipes in the Mike Brown book, along with Jennifer Davies’ The Wartime Kitchen and Garden (book of the 1990s BBC series, available second hand). 

 If Christmas treats and toys were to be had, they often had to be handmade or obtained second-hand (so Present Sense style gift recycling or Yankee Gift Swaps are nothing new). Wartime magazines were full of ‘eco-tips’ for improving or improvising clothes, toys and Christmas food.

One of our wartime life collection toys is a hand-made sliding puzzle made from an Australian  butter box and old calendar by a serviceman for his child back home. It was the sort of wartime Christmas toy many children would have received. We featured this toy and a hand-made wooden Spitfire in our choices for the digital museum on BBC Radio 4 / British Museum’s  A History of the World in 100 Objects series  this year, which you can still see and hear online (see our links page) or buy the BBC book by Neil McGregor. I’m sure many will unwrap and enjoy a copy this Christmas.

Recently we have been loaned or acquired a fantastic wooden toy train with cocoa tin boiler and cotton reel funnel, a paper Indian Headdress from a wartime Christmas stocking and a beautiful wooden ark and animals hand-made in wartime by teacher Mr Ernest Lukey of Poole for his daughter Wendy Norman. She thought the zoo’s wartime life collection would be a suitable place for this to be looked after.

 Amongst the treasured wartime presents handed down in my own family are 1940s children’s books – often the like the above toys, the main present from service fathers far away. Many were and remain the distracting companions for children on rainy days since.  Inscribed with love, a far away place  and Christmas date, these Enid Blyton annuals, countryside  or nativity books from 1944 through to 1947 show that toys and books were still scarce after 1945. Food rationing carried on until 1954. BBC History Magazine’s Christmas 2010 edition features an article on symbolic Christmas activities amongst DPs (Displaced people and refugees of many nationalities) around Europe in 1946. Some of these DP camps took over empty zoo areas such as Hamburg for a while, these strange photographs being in the Imperial War Museum collection (IWM collections are visible online).

The IWM London’s rationing exhibition Ministry of Food ends on the 3rd January 2011, so still time to catch this! For those who can’t make it, there is the IWM blog, the tempting online shop and a well illustrated book of the exhibition by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall. If you have green-fingered friends, cooks or those interested in history, the RHS have produced a great little DVD called Dig For Victory  and there are plenty of recent reprints of C.H. Middleton’s wartime gardening talks on the radio, wartime cook books or garden writer Twigs Way’s well-edited reprint of Ministry of Food and Farming’s 1945 advice leaflets, all very relevant today.

Seed saving practice for next year's crops at World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Garden writers of the time recommended seeds, tools, livestock or subscriptions as presents, making wartime Britain look a little like a modern Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue. BBC History, Wildlife and Gardeners World magazines aside, there are now plenty of excellent Your Kitchen Garden, Grow Your Own, Amateur Gardening or Smallholder type magazines around for those subscription gifts, not to mention membership of the 1940s Society. Wartime editors of such magazines particularly pleaded with readers to place a subscription as it helped them prevent producing unwanted issues in a time of acute paper shortage. Sadly many magazines never survived the war.

Wartime shortages brought about the animal adoption scheme, to fund the upkeep and feed of zoo animals, started they claim at Chester Zoo but rapidly adopted at others places like London Regent’s Park Zoo and Edinburgh Zoos. Many Christmases in the past at Newquay Zoo have seen our mad scramble to get that last-minute ordered animal adoption or Junior Keeper experience scheme pack out in the last Christmas post. Deatils can be found on many zoo websites or for Newquay Zoo

 Hopefully you will be able to add a World War Zoo gardens book from Newquay Zoo to your present list for Christmas 2011 if all goes well. I have been working for the past few months on editing the wartime pocket diaries of the London Blitz and Home Front life elsewhere in Britain, with fascinating almost Twitter length entries allowed by the space in a pocket diary. Hopefully these should be published later during the year in both schools and adult reader versions so watch this space for details.

Whatever you give or receive for Christmas, we at Newquay Zoo hope you enjoy this family time, sparing a thought for ‘absent friends’ and the many ghosts of Christmas past.

And, although we’d love to see you this Christmas or during 2011, please don’t send your relatives down to see us on Christmas Day – it’s the only day we close to the public each year … 

Enjoy reading this year’s blog entries, we look forward to your company in the next year!

London Zoo’s war memorial – recent pictures

November 21, 2010

Back view of the ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 11 November 2010 (Photo: Kate Oliver, ZSL Education)

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

As a follow up to our previous article about war memorials in zoos and botanic gardens, Kate Oliver at ZSL London Zoo and other colleagues sent me recent photographs of the plaques and memorial itself on a suitably grey November day at London Zoo, Regent’s Park. The stories behind the names are outlined in our previous blog and research continues, using some material from the ZSL archives.

After last Sunday, the memorial will have some  poppy wreaths at the base from the ZSL staff. It will also be featured on an interactive map at the excellent website of London statues and memorials.  Lest we forget…

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


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

In our next blog about life in the wartime zoo gardens, how to celebrate a wartime Christmas and how people made their own toys, a little different from the Victorian way we will be celebrating Christmas at Newquay Zoo this year 

For more about London Zoo past and present, visit

For more about the World War Zoo gardens project, read our previous posts or contact us via the comments page.

“LOST IN THE GARDEN OF THE SONS OF TIME”: Remembering the fallen zoo staff from wartime zoos onRemembrance Sunday and Armistice Day 2010 in the wartime zoo gardens.

November 9, 2010



Two poppy crosses in memory of zoo staff of all nations lost or injured worldwide in 1914-18 and 1939-45 amongst the growing food plants of the World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

November 2013 and March 2014: please see the updated information on ZSL London Zoo casualties from WW1 from this blog post which has been updated with new research


is always a bit of a solemn month for me in the garden with the darker days earlier, the lost hour of summer time, leaves fallen; it is also Remembrance Sunday, poppies and Armistice Day.

One of many overwhelming lists of names in stone. Arras Memorial to the missing with no known graves from the Arras offensive of 1917 and (foreground) CWGC individual graves Image:

At Newquay Zoo, there is one of the noisier two minutes silence in the nation if the maroon bangs go off at 11 o’clock in Newquay, as this sets off all the zoo animals calling out.

At London Zoo, at memorials and churches all over Britain and Europe, people will stop and gather, think and reflect on the extraordinary, almost incomprehensible loss of life in wartime which affected so many walks of life including zoos and botanic gardens.


Belle Vue zoo’s sadly vandalised war memorial, Gorton Cemetery. Manchester lists their First World War dead – a tiny glimpse of the losses of men from zoos on active service in both world wars. Image:

Heligan Gardens

near Mevagissey in Cornwall, only about twenty miles from Newquay Zoo, is a garden restoration unlike many others I have visited, as it is haunted by the loss of the generation of garden and estate staff. They left their names under the penciled graffiti “Come not here to sleep nor slumber” in the “Thunderbox”, the primitive bothy toilet for estate staff. Many of these staff did not survive their service in the First World War in mind or body. The estate and garden without its usual labour force, as the Heligan staff today simply describe it, “quietly went to sleep” until the story was uncovered along with the overgrown gardens in the early 1990s. A beautiful little book tracing the staff named and signed in pencil on that wall and on the estate books has recently been published The Lost Gardens of Heligan – Heligan History: Lost Gardens, Lost Gardeners, being a Commemorative Album of Heligan through the Twentieth Century, featuring the Tremayne archive and the stories of staff who were lost in the Great War (published by Heligan Gardens Ltd and available on their online shop for about £3.95)


A small memorial at Newquay Zoo to the many zoo keepers, families and visitors worldwide who have been affected by wartime since 1914 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Zoos, aquariums and botanic gardens suffered similar losses of staff, as poignant as the effect on estates like Heligan or large organisations like the Great Western Railway (West country stations like Exeter still have the long list of the dead on their platform walls).

Few records survive for zoos, I have so far frustratingly found.  I have been researching the wartime effects on a few typical British zoos operational in the First world war and what that generation learnt in preparation for surviving the Second world war (when our wartime dig for victory garden project at Newquay Zoo is set) for a forthcoming article in The Bartlett Society Journal  The few records so far can stand in for a whole generation and zoos across the world.

On Armistice Day Thursday 11th and on Remembrance Sunday 14th, spare a thought for the keepers and zoo staff remembered on the ZSL war memorial at London Zoo. 12 names are listed from the staff  out of 54 who served in the forces or munitions work in the First World War out of a staff of 150.

Poppies will be laid at the ZSL War Memorial, a Portland Stone memorial designed  by architect John James Joass in 1919, based on a medieval Lanterne des Morts memorial  to the dead at La Souterraine,  Creuse Valley, France. The memorial was moved from the main gate area in 1952 after the 1939-45 names were added and is now near to the Three Island Pond area.

Reading the names means these men are not forgotten.

Read the names and spare a thought for these lost zoo staff from both wars.

Researching and reading a few of these background stories puts a more personal face on the scale of the losses, especially in the First World War. I shall feature a few more of these stories over the next year as information is discovered. The impatient reader can check the site.  Many thanks to Kate Oliver at ZSL who transcribed or guessed the names on the very well polished brass name plates.

strong>November 2013 and March 2014: please see the updated information on ZSL London Zoo casualties from WW1 from this blog post which has been updated with new research.

ZSL London Zoo war memorial

 The Zoological Society of London

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

29.9.1915        Henry D Munro            4 Middlesex Regt                ZSL Keeper (Transcribed details on this need to be checked)

18.03.1916      William Bodman           (Buffs) 6th Btn, East Kent Regt, Private            ZSL Helper. Age unknown. Commemorated on the Loos Memorial, no known grave.

10.07.1916      Albert A Dermott         13th Btn. Rifle Brigade, Rifleman   ZSL Messenger, aged 22, killed on Somme, no known grave, listed on Thiepval Memorial

15.9.1916        Arthur G Whybrow      2547, 19 Bn. County of London Regt , ZSL Helper. Killed aged 23 during Somme battles, probably in the clearance of High Wood by 47 (London) Division, 15 September 1916. Individual grave at London cemetery, Longueval. Married.

05.10.1916      Gerald P Patterson       19 County of London Regt                   ZSL Helper (Transcribed Regiment details on this need to be checked)Probably Private G P Patterson of the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was killed on 5th October 1916, no age given, during the Somme fighting. Individual grave. Buried in Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, Somme, France.

23.10.1916      William Dexter  Kings Royal Rifles, Rifleman      ZSL Keeper2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade. Aged 31.  Individual grave at Bienvillers Cemetery. Married.

09.04.1917      Robert Jones            9 Royal Fusiliers       ZSL Gardener

Two possibilities exist for this casualty, firstly Private GS/60595 Robert Jones, 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers was born in Islington or Highgate, Middlesex around 1881. He was married to Bertha Lewin of Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon around 1905 / 1906 in Camden / Highgate. He was formerly listed as 23358 6 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.

The second possibility is 472712, 1st / 12th Btn. London Regiment (The Rangers), aged 31. Individual grave,  Gouy-en Artois Cemetery, killed first day of the Battle of Arras 1917. Listed on the 1911 census as a coal porter gas works, rather than a gardener. Hopefully the ZSL staff records will help to determine the correct Robert Jones. Both casualties deserve to be remembered.

21.4.1917        Henry George Jesse Peavot      Honourable Artillery     Co       ZSL Librarian    B Co. 1st Btn, aged 35.  Killed during Battle of Arras period, No known grave, listed on Arras Memorial. Married.

23.9.1917        Albert Staniford            Royal Field / Garrison Artillery  ZSL Gardener  174234 216 Siege Battery. RGA   Individual grave, Maroc British cemetery, Greany, France.  Period of Third Battle of Ypres / Passchendaele, July to November 1917

03.10.1917      William Perkins      Royal Garrison Artillery     ZSL Keeper 115806, Bombardier, 233rd Siege Battery.  Buried in individual plot, Belagin Battery Corner Cemetery, Belgium. Aged 39. Married.

29.11.1917      Alfred? L? Day                2 Rifle Brigade                          ZSL Helper
At first sight 19.1.1918 may apprar to be a wrong date transcribed on a well polished brass plate; the most likely casualty for this name is Alfred Lomas Day, S/20305 2nd Bn, Rifle Brigade, killed 29 November 1917 and buried in an individual grave (1841) Rethel French National Cemetery, Ardennes, France. However March 2014 research on ZSL staff record cards suggests that this casualty may be an R Day or Richard Day who died on 19 January 1918 as a German POW. Further research is required to find out if this man is the same or different from Alfred L Day.

10.9.1918        Charles William Dare    County of London Regt                        Helper, 245116, London Regt (Royal Fusiliers),  Vis-en-Artois memorial, no known grave. Killed during period of the “Adavnce to Victory” (August to November Armistice  1918)


Zoological Society of London

In memory of employees killed by enemy action during the war 1939-45

Regent’s Park

Davies. Henry Peris (Lieutenant RA)    ZSL Clerk: Killed in action Far East 21.12.1941   164971, Royal Artillery, 5th Field Regt, died aged 27. Listed on the Singapore memorial.

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

Peachey. Leonard James (Sergeant RAF)    ZSL Clerk: Killed in air crash Lincs 18.12.1940

Wells.  Albert Henry (Gunner RA)         ZSL Keeper: Killed in action, Burma 25.01.1945 Gunner 1755068, Royal Artillery, 70 H.A.A Regiment

Whipsnade Park 

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

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

Checking with the excellent Commonwealth War Graves Commission records site under ‘search for a casualty’ shows that Albert Henry Wells is buried in the Taukkyan War Cemetery in Myanmar (Burma). Percy Adams in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, Myanmar / Thai border. The CWGC website notes of this cemetery: “The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery was created [postwar] by the Army Graves Service who transferred to it all graves along the northern section of the railway, between Moulmein and Nieke.”

ZSL Clerk Leonard Peachey,  RAF Volunteer Reserve,  died aged 32 as Sergeant Wireless Operator / Air Gunner in an air training crash serving with 22 Squadron in Lincolnshire at RAF North Coates / Cotes. He is buried in North Cotes (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, Lincs alongside what are presumably his crew from 22 Squadron, killed on the same day:  Sergeant Pilot Dennis George How RAFVR (aged 23) and Sergeant Observer Paul Victor Renai (aged 22, from Wellington, New Zealand) and Sergeant Wireless Operator / W.E. Mechanic Ralph  Gerald Hart (22). 22 Squadron brought the Bristol Beaufort into operational service; receiving the first aircraft in November 1939 and, after an intense work up at North Coates in Lincolnshire, the Squadron resumed operations in April 1940, beginning with mine-laying sorties. It moved to RAF Thorney Island where torpedo operations were resumed in August. In order to cover a wider area of sea the Squadron sent out detachments, to RAF Abbotsinch  then to St Eval, Newquay in Cornwall  being the most regular posting. 22 Squadron was re-formed at Thorney Island in 1955 as a Search and Rescue Helicopter Squadron. Information from

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

William Leney at 65,  old enough to have served in the First World war, was killed alongside his wife Kate Jane Leney (also 65) at 59 King Henry’s Road (Hampstead, Metropolitan Borough) by flying bomb. Several flying bombs are recorded as having fallen around the London Zoo area, close neighbour of RAF Regent’s Park.

Kate Oliver of   ZSL London Zoo’s current education team kindly transcribed the well polished names. She thinks that Helpers were young staff who had not attained keeper rank, something I will be following up in researching their backgrounds through the census, National Archives, London Zoo archive and National Archives. .

I am interested in hearing from anyone who has further information about these men or of other wartime zoo, aquarium or botanic garden related gravestones or rolls of honour. I can be contacted at Newquay Zoo.

Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, war memorial stories

Belle Vue’s war memorial, Gorton Cemetery, Manchester on its unveiling 1926. Image:

The only other well documented zoo one is for Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester at Gorton cemetery in Manchester, now sadly much vandalized.  Much has been written about this early zoo and leisure gardens collection, which survived from the 1830s to 1977/8.

Spare a thought for the men listed on the monument, and their families. To read more of their stories, Stephen and Susan Cocks have follwed up information in the book The Belle Vue Monument (or Memorial)- with information on the website and others for  the blog entry at

More about the memorial, press articles from its dedication in 1926 and its current vandalized state can be found at and more from Stephen Cocks at

Belle Vue Zoological Gardens  staff killed on active service 1915-1918

1915 deaths

Private Henry Mulroy, 12th Battalion. Manchester Regiment, killed Ypres, 16 August 1915. Buried Ridge Wood Military cemetery.

Private Frederick Lester  Reid, 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancs Regt, died aged 31, 25 September 1915, battle of Loos, no known grave, listed Loos Memorial. Married.

1916 deaths

Private William Morrey, died 27 June, 1916, Manchester Regiment / 1st Battalion, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers (probably a gas unit), buried Beauval cemetery, France. (Several William Morreys from the Cheshire, Lancashire and Manchester area are listed on the site, obviously a local name).

Private Alfred Routledge, 11th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, killed on The Somme, aged 23, 26 September 1916. Married. Listed on the Thiepval memorial, no known grave.

Routledge is one of the many “Missing of the Somme” (in Geoff Dyer’s words),  killed in the  final days of taking Thiepval village, one of the original objectives of the 1st July 1916, the first disastreous day of the Battle of The Somme two months earlier.

1917 deaths

Second Lieutenant James Leonard Jennison, 15th, Battalion West Yorks Regt (Leeds Pals) killed Arras, 3 May 1917 – no known grave, listed Arras Memorial. Son of James, one of the two Jennison brothers who owned Belle Vue zoo. His father James died later that year, possibly as a result of this loss. His cousin Norman, son of Angelo Jennison, also died on active service.

Private Ralph William Stamp, 18th battalion, Manchester Regiment, died aged 23, 23 April 1917, no known grave, listed on the Arras memorial, the same as J L Jennison.

Sergeant John E Oliver, 21st Battalion, Manchester Regiment, killed 24 October 1917, Passchendaele battles, no known grave, listed Tyne Cot memorial. Married.

Stoker First Class T J Tumbs, aged 40, killed HMS Drake, 2 October, 1917, convoy duty off coast of Ireland in U79 U-boat torpedo attack.

Private Harold?  Heathcote, 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment died in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), 19 October 1917, buried Baghdad war cemetery.

1918 deaths

Sergeant J Fuller, Devonshire Regiment / Pioneer Corps, died 14 April 1918. Buried Amiens, France. Married

Private James G Craythorne, 1/6 Manchester Regiment, killed 20 October 1918 ironically in the fighting for Belle Vue Farm, buried at Belle Vue (Farm) Cemetery, France.  (Three or four generations of the Craythorne family worked as small mammal and reptile keepers at Belle Vue, including James Craythorne who follwed his own father into zoo work, was employed aged 12 from the 1880s  to retirement in 1944, replaced then by his son Albert!

Private Sidney Turner, Welsh Regiment, died aged 18, Welsh Regiment, buried in Gorton Cemetery (site of the Belle Vue Zoo war memorial). Several others who died after the war are also individually buried here.

Captain Norman L Jennison, MC (Military Cross) , 6th Manchester Regt (territorials), died of flu, Genoa, Italy 30 October 1918 serving with a trench mortar battery. Son of Angelo, one of the two Jennison brothers who owned Belle Vue zoo. His cousin James Leonard also died on active service.

Belle Vue Zoological Gardens staff died from the effect of war after 1918.

Zoo owner Angelo Jennison unveiling in 1926 the Belle Vue memorial in Gorton Cemetery to his son, nephew and zoo staff lost in the First World War. Image:

This unusual addition gives a little glimpse of what must have happened to many zoo, aquarium and botanic garden staff who never recovered from the effects of active service in wartime.

Private WM Wheatcroft, 3rd Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment, died aged 28, 10 July 1919, buried in Gorton cemetery.

Sergeant Robert Hawthorne, died 24 June 1922, buried in Gorton cemetery.

Rifleman / Lance Corporal William Croasdale, Belle Vue’s baker, served Army Service Corps (bakery) and Kings Royal Rifle Corps, served overseas 1915 to 1919, aged 32, died 1922, (possibly Stephen Cocks suggests in a mental hospital, Prestwich but others have disputed this).

Private Joseph Cummings, died 9 May 1926.

First Class PO Matthew James Walton DSM, fought Battle of the Falklands naval action, 1914, died 1926.

Private Bernard A Hastain (name almost unreadable) Rifle Brigade, formerly a scene painter at Drury Lane and Belle Vue for their Firework spectaculars, died of effects probably of gas, 1933.

Belle Vue Zoo’s now vandalised war memorial – luckily the names, although hard to read, are inscribed in stone as the brass statue has been stolen. Image:

Tracing service men who died after service is more difficult, not registered on the CWGC site and one for future research in the National Archives medal and pensions records (the ‘burnt documents’) if they have survived.

There are sadly many more names to add to these wartime casualty lists from zoos, botanic gardens and aquariums as our World War Zoo gardens research project continues. We would be interested to hear of any more names or memorials you know of.

So buy a poppy (there’s a box in the Newquay Zoo office if you’re visiting) and spare a thought for these men and their families on Remembrance Sunday, and also for the many people not listed who were affected by their war service, men and women not just from  Britain but all over the world.

Afternoon autumn light on the poppies, plants and sandbags of the wartime zoo keeper’s garden at Newquay Zoo

And then enjoy the noisy peace of the zoo gardens or wherever you find yourself …

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