Archive for the ‘wartime farming’ Category

1940s WW2 Farming advert

August 21, 2017

fordson advert

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

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Remembering Charles Whitley killed WW1 Arras 11 April 1917

May 16, 2017

Remembering Captain Charles Whitley, 7th KRRC, brother of Paignton Zoo founder Herbert Whitley, who was killed at Arras,  11 April 1917.

The Battle for Arras finished today 100 years ago on the 16th May 1917.

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Hibers cemetery, where Herbert’s brother Charles Whitley is buried, on the brow of the hill to the left of the cross of sacrifice (Image; CWGC website)

A mistake in blogpost scheduling meant this did not go out on the 11th April on the centenary anniversary as intended.

Captain Charles Whitley, 7th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Military  Cross, died aged 28 on 11th April 1917 during the Battle for Arras (9 April – 16 May 1917).

He is buried at  Grave Reference C. 15, Hibers Trench Cemetery, France.

http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/31605/HIBERS%20TRENCH%20CEMETERY,%20WANCOURT

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website lists him as born at Halewood, Liverpool and as the Son of the late Mr. Edward Whitley and Elizabeth Eleanor Whitley, of Primley, Paignton, Devon.

His headstone personal inscription is a Bible verse chosen by his mother:  “I  thank my God upon every remembrance of you. Philippians Chapter 1 Verse 3”

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KRRC soldiers are buried alongside their Captain Charles Whitley at Hivers Trench Cemetery, Jersey. Surrounding cemeteries at Wancourt and the Arras memorial bear more names of Whitley’s fellow KRRC soldiers.

There are several websites which describe Charles Whitley including portraits, obituaries and pictures of his headstone:

http://www.flintshirewarmemorials.com/memorials/hawarden-memorial/hawarden-sodliers-2/charles-whitley/

In the 1911 census, Charles Whitley aged 22  was  living as the Joint Owner and Occupier of “Weatherstones”, Windle Hill, Neston, Cheshire.  The other Joint Owner and Occupier was Edmund Page.

Both Charles and Edmund were engaged in a similar  type of stock breeding venture as his brothers Herbert and William in their farming and stock ventures in Devon. Charles was partnered with Page in   “a special and scientific line in farming and cattle breeding” (Hawarden Parish magazine, memorial service / obituary 1917 shown in the Flintshire War Memorials website.)

Looking at the portraits of Charles and brother Herbert you can see a strong family resemblance.

The Battle of Arras

For 38 days the Battle of Arras saw the highest average daily casualty rates of any British offensive in a First World War Battle. Over 300,000 soldiers were killed or wounded on the British, Allied and opposing German side.

From 9th April to the 16th May 1917, British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras on the Western Front.

At first it seemed like success, the British and Allied army achieved the longest advance since trench warfare had begun, surpassing the record set by the French Sixth Army on the first day of the Battle of The Somme 1 July 1916, which went so badly wrong for the British Army. This British advance slowed in the next few days, the period when Charles Whitley was killed, as the German defences recovered.

The Battle of Arras soon became a costly stalemate of trench warfare for both sides.

By the end of the Battle of Arras on May the British Third and First armies had suffered about 160,000 casualties and the German 6th Army 125,000 casualties. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arras_(1917)

Several zoo keepers from London Zoo and other zoos were also killed in this same 1917 period and Arras battle. No doubt many of the various Whitley family’s farm and estate workers in Wales and Devon also served and some died.

ZSL London Zoo librarian Henry Peavot

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/remembering-zsl-london-zoo-librarian-henry-peavot-killed-ww1-21-april-1917/

ZSL London Zoo Gardener Robert Jones

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/robert-jones-london-zoo-gardener-killed-battle-of-arras-april-1917-ww1/

J.L. Jennison of Belle Vue Zoo

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/remembering-j-l-jennison-of-the-belle-vue-zoo-jennison-family-died-ww1-3rd-may-2017/

Ralph Stamp of Belle Vue Zoo https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/remembering-ralph-stamp-of-belle-vue-zoo-manchester-died-23-april-1917-ww1/

Charles’ brother Herbert Whitley, a keen zoologist and gardener,  established his Zoological Gardens at Primley, Paignton, Devon in 1923 partly as a Botanic Garden.

Many Botanic garden staff were killed in WW1 including during the Battle of Arras..

Botanic gardeners, naturalists and scientists killed at Arras 

Charles Beswick of  Kew Gardens and Fota

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/remembering-charles-beswick-of-kew-gardens-and-fota-died-ww1-22-april-1917/

F.T. Pursell of Kew Gardens

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/remembering-f-t-pursell-kew-gardens-ww1-died-4-april-1917/

Fred Honey of Kew Gardens

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/remembering-frederick-honey-of-kew-gardens-died-ww1-17-april-1917/

Munro Briggs Scott of Kew Gardens Herbarium

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/remembering-munro-briggs-scott-of-kew-gardens-herbarium-killed-12-april-2017-ww1/

Australian herpetologist Dene Barrett Fry

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/remembering-zoologist-dene-b-fry-aif-fellow-linnaean-society-nsw-died-arras-1917-ww1/

Many of these men who have no known grave are remembered on The Arras Memorial, maintained by the CWGC

http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/82700/ARRAS%20MEMORIAL 

CWGC have also produced an interesting online booklet about the Battle of Arras, including mention of poet Edward Thomas killed on its opening day. http://blog.cwgc.org/arras-intro/

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Herbert Whitley, trademark cigarette in mouth (Image source: Paignton Zoo website)

One wonders what might have happened if Herbert Whitley had been fit enough to fight?

Herbert Whitley was lucky in someways to have had poor enough eyesight to fail an army medical, likewise his brother William was unable to serve, having severely damaged his leg in a riding accident years before. Their contribution to the war effort would be as estate owners, animal breeders and farmers, then a reserved occupation.

‘What If’ History?

Captain Charles Whitley served on the Western Front, gaining a Military Cross for gallantry before being killed in 1917.

If Herbert had been fit to serve, this could well have been his story. A What If? history that would see no Paignton Zoo opened, no Slapton Ley nature reserve was preserved for the nation from inappropriate development and ultimately no Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) was formed on Whitley’s death in 1955.

Read more at:

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

Remembering Charles Whitley, the men of the 7th King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the many casualties of the Battle of Arras on both sides, 100 years on from this 38 day battle ended, 16 May 1917 / 2017. 

Thankfully there is now a lull in the casualty lists amongst zoo and gardens staff until August 1917 when the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium known as Passchendaele dragged on bloodily into the harsh muddy winter months from 31 July – 10 November 1917 (3 months and 6 days) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_

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

May 1917 Eat Less Bread by Royal Proclamation

May 9, 2017

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A Royal Proclamation May 1917 (document  from our wartime collection) 

2 May 1917  a message from the King George R I (George the Fifth) “to be read out in churches and chapels … for four four successive weeks” encouraging “abstention from all unnecessary consumption of grain”

“to practice the greatest economy and frugality in the use of every species of grain”

“to reduce the consumption of bread in their respective families by at least one fourth”

“to abstain from the use of flour in pastry”

“all those who keep horses to abandon the practice of feeding the same on oats and other grain”

Bad harvests and a German submarine blockade was affecting food supplies, followed by food rationing a year later.

Taken from a research blog on a Cornish village war memorial that I have been helping with: https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/life-in-wartime-devoran-in-world-war-1/

Further information about these shortages and dig for victory in the First World War on this, my other research blog

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/dig-for-victory-1917-world-war-1-style-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-and-the-fortunate-herbert-cowley-1885-1967/

Remember -Eat Less Bread!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/23/466956650/save-the-fleet-eat-less-wheat-the-patriotic-history-of-ditching-bread

 

Homeland, Britain March 1917

March 22, 2017

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Percy Izzard, Homeland: A Book of Country Days (1918)

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As a follow up to yesterday’s post on Homeland, Percy Izzard’s book of nature writing on the British countryside during the First World War, here are several more daily entries. A book well worth tracking down second-hand.

 

Some deal with the changing agricultural landscape, such as noticing (March 28th 1917) that “It is interesting to see how quickly the birds have become accustomed  to the motor plough. The strange form and immense noise of the machine …” 

 

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March 25th (1917) “And although the flowers were few when you think what this day has seen in other years, never did they open to a world readier to welcome them”

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welcome to a world weary not only of the long winter, but also the war?

 

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British farming and the countryside was facing difficulties by 1917 from poor harvests and the call up of male farm workers. Add to this the demands of feeding several armies overseas. From early  in the year, the unrestricted submarine warfare of the German U boat blockade of Britain increased the sinking of merchant shipping bound for  Britain with imported food from around the Empire and world.

These were pre-war cheap and plentiful food imports that we had come to rely on, much to the detriment of pre-war British farming.

Both rationing (1918) and a form of WW2 style Dig For Victory in 1917 were eventually organised  in Britain in WW1.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/dig-for-victory-1917-world-war-1-style-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-and-the-fortunate-herbert-cowley-1885-1967/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/country-life-1986-article-on-ww1-wartime-gardening/

We will feature more from Homeland by Percy Izzard in late March / early April 2017, when the quiet world of nature in Britain that he works hard to convey  can be read 100 years on as (directly ? deliberately?) at odds  with events overseas, the Battle of Arras (9 April to 16 May 1917) in France.

This  battle would involve many of Izzard’s audience of  “soldier lads” who read his daily nature column in the Daily Mail in the trenches. Forming a valuable bit of escapism, these short daily columns would be adapted and edited to become his book Homeland: A Year Of Country Days in mid 1918.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arras_(1917)

The Battle of Arras would see the deaths on active service of several of the zoo staff, botanic gardens staff and  naturalists that we have been researching through the World War  Zoo Gardens project.

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

 

Elsie Widdowson and WW2 rationing

August 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Elsie  Who?

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

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

 

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

So who was Elsie Widdowson?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On wartime diaries and Our Land at War by Duff Hart-Davis

August 31, 2015

Duff Hart-Davis has recently released Our Land At War: A Portrait of Rural Britain (William Collins, 2015) an interesting new history book, focussed on the countryside during World War 2.

duff hart davis

The hardback so far has received good reviews:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/11573355/Our-Land-at-War-a-Portrait-of-Rural-Britain-by-Duff-Hart-Davis-review-profoundly-moving.html

The paperback is due for release in February 2016.

Researching  the World War Zoo Gardens project since 2008, I have read many chunky wartime history books by the likes of Juliet Gardiner and others in order to understand more widely what was going on in Britain on the Home Front in WW2. This has helped put the struggles of zoos and botanic gardens into context but also resolved many questions arising from the ongoing work of transcribing and editing a small collection of WW2 civilian home front diaries.

Some of these diary transcripts were used by Duff Hart-Davis in his research for Our Land At War and  I was delighted to see these diary sections appear in print for the first time.

A few of our family anecdotes crept in too, such as my mum being lookout to her evacuee gang in Sussex “scrumping in Vera Lynn’s orchard” (this is not a euphemism!) It was good to take a copy of Duff’s book up recently to show her these memories in print for the first time as well.

There are further snippets from my diary collection such as Home Guard diary entries by Charles G. Bond, apprentice wartime forester in the Forest of Dean. VE day diary entries record a day  of normal farm work from busy farmer and War Ag contractor John Alsop, farming at Longfield House Farm, High Marley Hill on the edge of the Gateshead and Newcastle collieries  (near Beamish Open Air Museum).

VE Day May 1945 carried on as normal for farmer John Alsop at his Marley Hill farm. (Source: Mark Norris private collection)

VE Day May 1945 carried on as normal for farmer John Alsop at his Marley Hill farm. (Source: Mark Norris private collection)

D-Day got scarcely more of a mention in this busy farmer’s diary:

D-Day 1944 entry in John Alsop's farmer's diary. Image source: Mark Norris, private collection.

D-Day 1944 entry in John Alsop’s farmer’s diary. Image source: Mark Norris, private collection.

The most extensive entries used by Duff Hart Davis are from the 1941 diary of Doreen Kippen, buried away in the Worcestershire countryside as a 20 year adult evacuee in the Tenbury Wells area, covering several pages of his book.

Duff was quite taken with Doreen as being “Lively minded, brave, stoical and slightly irreverent, with a strong sense of humour” in his words.

Doreen Kippen's diary entry April 20 1941 (image copyright: Mark Norris, private collection)

Doreen Kippen’s diary entry April 20 1941 (image copyright: Mark Norris, private collection)

It is a shame that I only have one year of Doreen’s  diaries, one of the stray volumes acquired online, compared to four years of farming diaries for John Alsop and six for schoolgirl, student and scientist Peggy Jane Skinner, all down to the vagaries of surviving house-clearances  and online auctions. Other volumes may be scattered in other people’s collections or have simply been lost or destroyed. https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner/

Occasionally a second volume of a diary I have already transcribed turns up, such as a 1944 wartime diary of a Wimbledon lady involved in ARP in 1944 throughout the V1 doodle bug raids the first diary I collected in 2008. A single 1939 volume turned up this year, one I recognised as by the same author from long hours transcribing the handwriting and its cryptic and routine entries. This has given me missing details such as the previously anonymous author’s name and address, setting off a new line of research and editing for future publication. More of this another time …

As well as diary spotting, it was interesting to see how Duff  Hart-Davis  had written about how zoos in rural and city areas  had survived wartime, including how Chessington Zoo during the 1940 Blitz evacuated staff, livestock and miniature railway down to the safer rural seaside Devon site of Primley or Paignton Zoo, our sister zoo. I will feature more about this with some unpublished first hand accounts in our autumn 75th anniversary blogposts. The Slapton area clearances of country villages and disastrous US training exercise surprised by torpedo boats (Operation Tiger) are also mentioned, now the peaceful home to one of our Whitley Wildlife Conservation  Trust nature reserves at Slapton Ley.

Whilst it was fascinating to to be involved in the research for a new book and read the finished outcome, what was equally interesting was to come across new material in Duff’s book that I hadn’t read elsewhere in print.

The  first surprising section was Duff’s own memories of farm work as a small boy just before war broke out in 1939, an era of horses and steam machinery soon to give way to the more mechanised tractor rich intensive farming of wartime and post-war agricultural policy.

There are also fascinating sections about how the Scottish rural landscapes of privilege and country shooting became home to Special Operations Executive secret agent training camps, the gillies among those recruited to teach the silent arts of stalking and killing. Eccentric  naturalists like Gavin Maxwell, more usually associated with otters in his Ring of Bright Water book, were in demand as deadly trackers, readers of the land and the art of spooring.

Another interesting area Duff Hart-Davis  covers is the decline of country estates and later demolition of the more badly damaged country houses, requisitioned for a wide range of evacuated organisations and military bases. Some of these estates became the postwar basis for safari parks and zoos.

Land girls, Lumber Jills, hidden art treasures in Welsh slate mines, fox hunting n wartime and many other interesting areas are covered in this fascinating book.

Well worth a read in hardback or the forthcoming February 2016 paperback.

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


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