Archive for the ‘world war 2’ Category

International Women’s Day March 8th – Land Army Girls March 1945 magazine cover

March 8, 2018

my home Cover

WLA Land Girl on front cover of My Home magazine March 1945 price 9d (Author’s collection/WWZG) Note the length of service armband.  

It were never that glamorous! A rather fluffy and idealised portrait of life for a WLA Land Girl is shown on the front cover of My Home magazine March 1945 (price 9d).

Life for the women of the Women’s Land Army was often very different, especially in winter.

Land Girls served in wartime zoos,  such as the team running the ‘Off the Ration’ Exhibition at London Zoo, set up with the Ministry of Information etc, to show householders how to look after simple food animals – pigs, rabbits, chickens.

This linked to a simple model wartime farm and garden which was established, as at Kew Gardens, to give gardening and livestock advice to members of the public and visitors.  Some Whipsnade Zoo paddocks were also ploughed up (by horse and elephant!) to be farmed for the war effort.

land army greatcoat labelThe quite small sized Land Girls woollen overcoat is quite a popular but surprisingly heavy fashion item for visiting schoolgirls to try on during our World War Zoo schools wartime workshop at Newquay Zoo


wartime clothing

Women’s Land Army greatcoat (second from right)in our original wartime clothing section.


Marking International Women’s Day March 8th and the activities of extraordinary ordinary women such as the Women’s Land Army in WW1 and WW2 with this colourful  Land Army Girls March 1945 magazine cover.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 8 March 2018




Remembrance Weekend 2017

November 11, 2017


World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 2016 poppy. 

Remembering the many zoo and botanic Gardens staff and their families affected by the two world wars and conflicts silence.

Remembered at Newquay Zoo and in many zoos and botanic gardens by the two minutes silence at 11 am  Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th November 2017.

We will remember them.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, 11 November 2017

Journal articles about World War Zoo Gardens

October 2, 2017


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


BGEN web article


BGCI Roots journal  


ABWAK Keepers journal March 2014 


IZE journal no. 50 2014 


World War Zoo Gardens Blog   


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





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


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




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

September 28, 2015

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

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


Animals’ Remarkable Escapes.

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

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

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

Reprinted from The West Australian, Saturday 28 December 1940

ZSL 1940 p2

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

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

ZSL 1940 p1

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

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

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

War zoo BOP 1940 1

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

Warzoo BOP 2 1940

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

zsl 40s map BW

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

When Zebras roamed Camden Town during the Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zebra ww2 carel weight

London Zoo Bombsight ww2 website

London Zoo area in the ww2 website

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

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

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



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

September 7, 2015

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering Robert Hurst Cowley RAFVR died 2 September 1940

September 2, 2015

2 September 1940 is the 75th anniversary of the death of Robert Hurst Cowley, RAFVR on air operations in Scotland.

Robert was the  son of garden writer, former Kewite and WW1 veteran Herbert Cowley about whom more can be read on our Wikipedia entry for him:

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guil journal obituary 1968

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guild journal obituary 1968.

Herbert Cowley had survived the trenches of a previous war, but lost many friends, family and colleagues. We wrote about him in a previous blogpost:

Herbert’s unexpected move to the West Country and retirement from garden journalism may be explained by a sad wartime event in late 1940.

It appears that one of his sons, RAF Sergeant Observer Robert Hurst Cowley, 580643, died aged 22 on 2 September 1940 flying with 57 Squadron on Blenheim bombers on anti-shipping patrols over the North Sea from its base in Elgin in Scotland.

Robert is listed on the CWGC website as the “son of Herbert & Elsie Mabel Cowley of East Grinstead, Sussex”.

Runnymede memorial to missing aircrew (Image source: CWGC)

Runnymede memorial to missing aircrew (Image source: CWGC)

Robert Hurst Cowley has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 13 of the Runnymede Memorial to missing aircrew.

Robert is also listed on the St. Thomas a Becket church, Framfield on the War Memorial as ‘of this parish’.

Remembering Robert Hurst Cowley RAFVR, his grieving father Herbert Cowley and mother Elsie.

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:

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.

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.

Remembering the British Chancellor and the bombing of Falmouth Docks 10 July 1940

July 9, 2015

Charles Pears (1873 -1958),  painting “The Bombing of The British Chancellor 10 July 1940”, signed, oil on canvas, a large painting at 80 x 125 cms and presented by the Falmouth Harbour Commission, 1993. Copyright: Falmouth Art Gallery

Charles Pears (1873 -1958), painting “The Bombing of The British Chancellor 10 July 1940”, signed, oil on canvas, a large painting at 80 x 125 cms and presented by the Falmouth Harbour Commission, 1993. Copyright: Falmouth Art Gallery

It is 5 years since we last posted on our blog about the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the British Chancellor and Falmouth Docks on 10 July 1940.

Now on the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz on Britain’s towns, cities and ports, it is interesting to reread the ‘last post’ and postscript from 2010:’s-vegetable-garden-at-newquay-zoo/

I remember hearing David Barnicoat speak in 2010 on BBC Radio Cornwall about the 10 sailors and dock staff killed, the dramatic events at 2.30 /3.30 p.m. on an otherwise “lovely sunny day” and the marking of this anniversary on Falmouth Docks on Saturday 10th July 2010 with the sounding of the Docks siren to mark the 2010 anniversary and commemorate the loss of life and heroic rescue effort.

Read also an account of the rescue here

Remembering the ten sailors and men  killed during this bombing, Falmouth, 10 July 1940.

Local civilians on board SS British Chancellor  or at Falmouth docks:

George Eric Bastian, aged 40

Walter Samuel Knott, 48

Charles Palin

Henry Arthur Pellow, 40

Samuel Prouse, aged 64

Leonard John Tallack

Merchant Navy crew of SS British Chancellor, mostly buried in Falmouth Cemetery:

3rd Engineering Officer John Carr, 26 (buried in Sunderland)

2nd Engineering Officer William Joseph Crocker, 36 (of Portsmouth)

Chief Engineering Officer Charles Halley Lennox, 56 (of Glasgow)

3rd Engineering Officer Philip George Lucas Samuels, 26

Further family information on records can be found for most of these men.





Remembering VE Day May 8 1945 and 2015

May 4, 2015

Our bunting is back out in the World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment garden at Newquay Zoo to remember and mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day on 8th May 1945.

Celebration bunting, cabbages and mascot Blitz Bear out in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo, Summer 2011

Celebration bunting, cabbages and mascot Blitz Bear out in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo, late Summer 2011.

Remembering VE day May 8  1945 – many events are planned around Britain and the world to mark this 70th anniversary on Friday 8th May 2015, as the election news settles. The lists several VE Day 2015 projects.  BBC Radio Cornwall have also been collecting and featuring local memories of  VE Day events in 1945.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo  - blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo – blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

Here is a local Victory Day programme (1946) from our World War Zoo Gardens collections at Newquay Zoo:

Marazion VE day 1945

Some interesting and unusual sports – Tip the Bucket, Slow Cycle race – amongst the familiar egg and spoon and sack races  to celebrate Victory Day programme for the Marazion Victory parade in 1946.


Marzaion VE day 1945 2

Note the last phrase “The public are asked to decorate their houses with Flags and Bunting for the occasion”.

Many local people were interested to see this original Victory parade programme near its origin at the Trengwainton National Trust Gardens 1940s event in June 2014. A copy has now been passed on to the local Marazion school and museum

We will be back at Trengwainton with part of our wartime collection  at its next Sunday June 14th 2015 event  – check the Trengwainton Gardens website for details. They had a fantastic display at their own wartime allotment, including this fetching V for Victory 1940s garden poster:

Wartime poster, Trengwainton NT, Cornwall May 2014 Image: Mark Norris, WWZG.

Wartime poster, Trengwainton NT, Cornwall May 2014 Image: Mark Norris, WWZG.

After VE  day instead of relaxing in the wartime garden and planting flowers,  there was a switch from “Dig For Victory” to “Dig on For Plenty“, realising we had much of Europe to feed.

You can see more of Trengwainton’s wartime ‘victory’ garden and our part in their Victory Day  2014 events here:

However for my family and the nation there was still VJ Day to work towards, an a anxious and tired wait for the end of the war against Japan, which finally happened in August 1945.

This was covered in our zoo keeper and botanic garden staff FEPOW and Burma Star blogpost in January 2015: 

Remembering VE Day 1945 …

Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.

A wartime guide to Edinburgh 1943

April 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

wartime guide 2wartime guide 3

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

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

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

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

“>wartime guide 8

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

wartime guide  10

wartime guide 12

wartime guide 11

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

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

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

wratime guide 1

%d bloggers like this: