Archive for the ‘WW1’ Category

Remembering ANZAC Day 2019

April 25, 2019


Helles memorial to the missing British and Empire  soldiers of Gallipoli (Image: CWGC) 

Remembering the Australian and New Zealand  zoo staff and gardeners who served in  WW1 and WW2

As well as Australian and New Zealanders, many Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff and those of Kew Gardens serving in WW1 were heavily involved in the Gallipoli campaign in 2015 which is commemorated on ANZAC day.

Driver A.W. Bugg from Melbourne Botanic Gardens is commemorated by a staff memorial tree, a Box Brush planted in the Gardens by his brother.


You can find out about ANZAC day here:

Not forgetting the lovely ANZAC biscuit tradition with recipes here

Remembering the Australian and New Zealand zoo staff and gardeners who served in WW1 and WW2

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project (Newquay Zoo)   on ANZAC Day 2019 25 April 2019 


Food, allotments and rationing in WW1

March 27, 2019

Interesting WW1 centenary legacy from Richmond in London with this snippet about wartime gardening and rationing in WW1. An attractive website worth looking at.

richmond allotments

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens, 27 March 2019

Remembering Albert Wright of Kew and Birmingham Botanic Gardens died WW1 25 February 1919

February 25, 2019



Albert Wright of Birmingham and Kew Botanic Gardens Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Remembering Albert Wright, Gardener of Kew and Birmingham Botanic Gardens who  died from pneumonia in hospital as a result of the effects of service with the 2/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment in WW1 on 25 February 1919.

Private Albert Wright, 201656, 2nd /7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died on 25 February 1919, aged 29. He is remembered at Grave Reference Screen Wall B10. 9. 661A, Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery, presumably where he is buried


Birmingham Lodge Cemetery and Screen Wall where Wright’s name is recorded.

He has no individual headstone. A photograph of his screen wall entry is on the TWGPP website. The cemetery contains 498 First World War burials, most of them in a war graves plot alongside Wright in Section B10. The  screen wall panels of names are linked to numbered stone panels in the ground in front of the cross.

Wright’s name on the screen wall Source image: TWGPP

Born in Birmingham, Albert Wright worked at Birmingham Botanic Gardens as an Outdoor Foreman from April 1914 to February 1916, leaving Kew Gardens where he studied from May 1912 to April 1914 (being there an Assistant 1st Class).


Birmingham Botanic Gardens, 2010 (photographed during my last visit)

His Kew Guild Journal obituary 1920/21 lists him as joining the 5th Warwickshire Regiment, moving with them to France in May 1917.


In 1917 he was invalided home with fever before returning to France where he was wounded in the leg whilst wiring out in front of the trenches. Sent to hospitals in Glasgow, Irvine and finally Liverpool, he died of influenza and pneumonia in hospital, three months after the war ended.

In the Kew Guild Journal 1920, p.482, the article on the Kew War Memorial mentions that “Two additional names have to be added to the Tablet. Pte. Albert Wright and L.Cpl. Sidney Cockcroft.”

Wright is also remembered in the unusual round Hall Of Memory of all those Birmingham citizens lost as civilians or service people since 1914.

The First World War saw four important hospitals, besides many smaller ones, located at Birmingham with over 7000 beds. It appears that Albert died of wounds or ill health back in his home city, hopefully amongst family.

Albert Wright is the last named Kew Gardener on the staff war memorial but by no means the last Kew man to die as a result of WW1. As far as we can tell, several more of the Kew staff died from the effects of war service after Albert Wright in 1919.


It has been a few months since my last Centenary Memorial Blog Post and there has been thankfully a pause, reflecting the end of fighting, although war wounds and Spanish influenza continued to claim victims well after November 1918.

It has been over ten years since I visited Birmingham Botanic Gardens where Albert Wright  worked, whilst working for Newquay Zoo during National Science Week in Birmingham. I spent a spare day at the Gardens and time in the City Library Local Records  researching through the Birmingham Botanic Garden Archive records  to see how the Gardens survived wartime challenges.

Not only live animals were evacuated from London in WW2

November 13, 2018


nhm snakes

Cartoon by Bill Tidy from “Would You Believe It About Animals?” (Futura, 1977)

Not just live animals were evacuated from zoos in air raid areas to other zoos in the safer countryside or seaside. Chessington Zoo sent animals to Paignton Zoo in Devon, London Zoo sent animals to its country zoo, Whipsnade.

Art treasures were moved from museums in London, or hidden away, as were  the zoological collections of books and specimens from London Zoo’s Library  and natural history museums.

The Natural History Museum has an interesting webpage about life in the wartime museum throughout WW1 and WW2.

As the photographs show, neatly ordered museum collections are sadly the complete opposite  of the chaos of bombing.   

Visitors can still see two plaques memorialising the efforts that Museum staff played in both world wars. The first (located in Hintze Hall) honours the 68 men from the Museum who served in the First World War, 13 of whom did not return.

The second (found outside the Mammals Gallery) remembers the men and women who worked for the top secret spy network SOE (Special Operations Executive) in WW2.

As the web pages show, even a dead rat or an animal dropping in a museum collection can play its part in war if you read the SOE section.

More interesting archive material and articles here about dispersing their bug collection to country houses:

There is also  a recent new book out by  Karolyn Shindler who chronicles Natural History Museum life during the First World War in her book A Museum at War, drawing on records and letters from the Museum archives. Sounds like an interesting read. 

A more general book is now out of print – Museums and the First World War: A Social History by Kavanagh Gaynor published by Leicester University Press in 1994.

No doubt similar books account for the lost collections of German and European Natural History Museums and Zoo Museums.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 13 November 2018

100 Years On We Remember …

November 11, 2018

british legion stamp 1968

Men and women of WW1 – British Legion 50th Anniversary stamp from the 1971 in my collection.

Remembering on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice

the brave men and women of many nations affected by war,

including the many zoo staff,  zookeepers, botanic gardens staff and others we have featured on our blog since 2008.

We will remember them.

Even  though the war was over (until 1939), there were still many zoo and botanic gardens staff who died after November 11th 1918 from wounds and the effects of war service.

We will post a blog entry on the centenary of their deaths as we have done throughout the 2014-2018 Centenary of WW1.


Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo, 11 November 2018.



Cora Cornish Ball QMAAC 24 November 1918 WW1 Unremembered?

November 9, 2018



Cora’s plaque from  The Unremembered Project


I am very pleased to be involved with one of the WW100 projects remembering the often forgotten and ‘unremembered’ WW1 international army of workers and women war workers.


Previously we have been involved with the WW1 100 Living Memory project in 2016


Cora Ball and her plaque for the Unremembered project photo tribute

I was delighted to be given Cora’s name to hold up.

plaque front

plaque back

cora ball

Cora Cornish Ball d. 24 November 1918

I first came across Cora Cornish Ball on what was then my local war memorial in Truro and Kenwyn about twenty years ago.

Women on WW1 war memorials are reasonably rare. I was thinking of  researching a possible book on Cornwall in WW1.

Having met a well-known local historian, who said that “nothing much happened in Cornwall in WW1”, I was put off following up the project.,%20CORA%20CORNISH

Cora’s story is featured in Pete London’s interesting book on Cornwall in WW1

Pete London: “Born in 1896 to a large family, for a time Cora lived in Kenwyn village near the city. Her father had various jobs and the family moved around the local area. Despite that, Cora kept up her schooling until she was 14 or so, and in 1917 the slim young girl volunteered for service with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.”

This website shows her name on the memorials in Boscawen Street Truro and the smaller Kenwyn Parish memorial.

Pete London: “Cora received two medals recognising her war service: the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal. Sadly though, only 11 days following the Armistice she died, perhaps a victim of the terrible flu pandemic sweeping Europe at the time. Cora Ball was laid to rest in Les Baraques Military Cemetery at Sangatte, near Calais; she was just 22.”


Image Copyright TWGPP

ball 1 Les Baraques Military Cemetery (4)

Les Baraques Military Cemetery at Sangatte, near Calais (Image Copyright


Cora Cornish Ball – ‘Trura maid’ as Bert Biscoe once described her in a poem.

Cora Cornish Ball – no longer unremembered.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.



Flu and The Zoo – remembering Norman Jennison Belle Vue Zoo died WW1 30 October 1918

October 30, 2018


jennison crop photo

Norman Jennison (Image Source: Old Wrekinian WW1 Website)

Remembering Norman Lees Jennison of Belle Vue Zoo Manchester who died close to the end of WW1 on 30 October 1918 on the Italian front – of influenza. 

Jennison (1)

Norman Jennison’s headstone (Image: Copyright TWGPP )

His family founded and ran the Belle Vue Zoological gardens in Manchester in Victorian and Edwardian times.

Jennison (2)

Staglieno Cemetry, Genoa, WW1 section (Image source: TWGPP )

A Territorial Army soldier before the war, Norman Jennison served from 1914 onwards in Egypt, France (on the Western Front) and finally on the Italian Front where he died in hospital from Influenza.

He is buried in the remarkably vertical Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa

The Italians entered the war on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria, in May 1915. Commonwealth forces were at the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918, and rest camps and medical units were established at various locations in northern Italy behind the front, some of them remaining until 1919.

From November 1917 to the end of the war, Genoa was a base for commonwealth forces and the 11th General, and 38th and 51st Stationary Hospitals, were posted in the city. Staglieno Cemetery contains 230 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. (CWGC information source)

Norman was one of two young members of the family that were killed in WW1, the other being his cousin James Leonard  Jennison (1917)

I wonder what effect these deaths of younger Jennison family members and potential future owner / managers  had on the zoo’s operations and eventual handing over in 1924 of Belle Vue Zoo by the Jennison family to new owners and operators (who under the Iles family took it through WW2) .


Two Jennisons on the Belle Vue Zoo war Memorial Manchester WW1

You can read more about the memorial and the staff casualties of WW1 here:

You can read more about Norman Jennison’s life, military service and death here on his old school website WW1 page:


It was good to put a face to a name  finally.

jennison crop photo

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 30 October 1918 / 2018

Post Script 

In case the Old Wrekinian WW1 website section is ever lost, here is the text of it for reference:



Norman Jennisons’ name appears on the Wrekin School WW1 Memorial (Image Source: Old Wrekinian WW1 Website)

Norman Lees Jennison was born in Gorton, Lancashire on 23rd April 1895 to Jane Porritt Jennison [née Ardern] and her husband Angelo Jennison. Angelo and his brother ran the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in Manchester. This was a large zoo, amusement park, exhibition hall complex and speedway track opened in 1836 by John Jennison. During the First World War the gardens were used by the Manchester Regiment for drill and a munitions factory, complete with railway sidings, was also built.

After completing his education Norman left Wellington College in 1912 where he had spent five years in the Officers Training Corps [OTC] and was then employed as a clerk at the engineering firm of Schloss Bros, at their premises on Princes Street, Manchester.

Norman joined the army’s Territorial Force on 19th March 1914 as Private 2009 Norman Jennison with the 1/6th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, and on the outbreak of war on 4th August he was fully mobilised the following day, agreeing to serve overseas as required. Together with his Battalion they left for Egypt on 10th September and arrived in Alexandria two weeks later, on 25th September.

In March 1915 his application for a commission was successful and he returned to England and joined the 20th (Service) Battalion (5th City), The Manchester Regiment, one of the city’s ‘Pals’ battalions, as a Second-Lieutenant at their base in Grantham, Lincolnshire where he remained for five months.

In September that year the Battalion moved to Larkhill and prepared for embarkation, arriving in France on 9th November 1915 aboard the ‘SS Princess Victoria’, which followed a rather wet and stormy crossing from Folkestone to Boulogne.

Several months were then spent in various aspects of training before Norman and his Battalion moved up to the front lines in February 1916 at which point they were part of 22nd Brigade, 7th Division.

In March 1916, the light Stokes2 batteries left battalion control and came under brigade command. On 14th April the 22nd Trench Mortar Battery [TMB] was formed and two weeks or so later Norman was attached to the Battery, where he achieved the rank of temporary Captain on 31st August.

At some point during that year Norman made an impact that brought his name to the attention of the GOC as he was recognised with the award of a ‘Mention in Despatches’, gazetted in January 1917. Six months later he was awarded the Military Cross, but the surviving records give no hint of his bravery in action.

In November 1917 the 20th Manchester’s and the 22nd TMB moved with their Division to Italy. This was a strategic and political move agreed by the British Government as part of the effort to stiffen Italian resistance to enemy attack after a recent disaster. Originally the idea was that they would be moved to the mountainous area of the Brenta, but the orders were changed and they ended up in the line along the River Piave.

Nothing is publicly known about Norman’s time in Italy for the following year but life here would have been very different to the conditions they had all experienced on the Western Front. It was often described as being “like another world”.

On 28th October 1918 Norman’s father received a telegram from the War Office which advised him that his son was seriously ill at No.11 General Hospital, although no mention was made as to the nature of his illness. We know today that the wording indicated that this was not war-related, although whether this was apparent to his family is unclear.

A further telegram was received by the family in Manchester the following day advising them that Norman was now ‘dangerously’ ill; again no specific mention of the nature of the illness. It also specifically mentioned that “permission to visit not granted” which at the time gave a further clue as to it being non war related but potentially contagious.

Had permission been granted it would have been too late as on Wednesday 30th October 1918 Captain Norman Lees Jennison, M.C., 20th (Service) Battalion (5th City), The Manchester Regiment; att. 22nd Trench Mortar Battery, died of influenza in No.11 General Hospital in Genoa at the age of 23. He was later buried in the city’s Staglieno Cemetery.

The telegram that advised Angelo Jennison of the death of his elder son arrived on 2nd November 1918.

It is also believed that during his period of military service Capt. Norman Jennison was awarded both the Meritorious Service Medal [MSM] and the Territorial Force Efficiency Medal [TFEM].

A cousin of Norman’s, Second-Lieutenant James Leonard Jennison, fell at the Battle of Vimy Ridge on 3rd May 1917.

Both were also remembered on the Belle Vue War Memorial at Gorton, Manchester and the Jennison family memorial at St Mary’s Parish Church, Cheadle.

Norman’s brother, Sydney Angelo Jennison, himself an OW, served with 14th (Service) Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment). He later transferred to the 3rd Skinner’s Horse, a cavalry regiment of the British Indian Army where he finished the war with the rank of Captain. He died in 1975.

The Manchester Regiment is perpetuated today in the 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (King’s Lancashire and Border).


Remembering James Craythorne Keeper at Belle Vue Zoo Manchester died WW1 20th October 1918

October 20, 2018



Belle Vue Zoo staff war WW1 memorial, Gorton Park Cemetery, Manchester

Private James G Craythorne, 1/6 Manchester Regiment, killed aged 19, on 20th  October 1918.

Craythorne (1)

TWGPP image copyright 

This Belle Vue Zoo (Manchester) Keeper was ironically in the fighting for Belle Vue Farm, buried at Belle Vue (Farm) Cemetery, France.

Craythorne (2).jpg

Belle Vue Farm Cemetery (TWGPP copyright image)

Three or four generations of the Craythorne family worked as small mammal and reptile keepers at Belle Vue Zoo. Another relative James Craythorne followed his own father into zoo work, was employed aged 12 from the 1880s to retirement in 1944 and was then replaced  by his son Albert!


Two Manchester local history sites mention the Belle Vue Zoo dynasty of keepers from the Craythorne family and J. G. Craythorne’s death:

J. G. Craythorne – Remembered 100 years on from his death 20 October 1918, so close to the Armistice Day.

Read more about:

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 20 October 2018.

Remembering Robert Service of Kew Gardens Canadian TMB Artillery Died WW1 28 September 1918

September 28, 2018

Robert Service, 28th September 1918


Robert Service of Kew Botanic Gardens – Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Gunner Robert Service, 1257927, 4th Canadian Trench Mortar Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, died 28th September 1918.

robert service

Robert Service was born in Maxwelltown, Dumfries in 1891. He previously worked at Messrs J. and R. Service, Dumfries (a family Nursery business?).

He was at Kew Gardens from October 1912 to May 1914, leaving to work as Horticultural Superintendent in the Department of Science and Agriculture, British Guiana.

He enlisted in the Canadian Army in January 1917 and served in the TMB Trench Mortar section, Canadian Artillery, 4th Canadian Division.

service bourlon

Almost all the graves in this Bourlon Wood cemetery are men of Canadian Regiments, many killed in late September 1918; some of them like Robert Service are born in Scotland.

He is buried at Grave Reference I. D. 18, in the small Bourlon Wood Cemetery. There is no family inscription on his headstone, which is pictured on the TWGPP website.
Bourlon Wood  and the village were the scene of desperate fighting in the Battle of Cambrai 1917 (where fellow Kewite George Douglas died). At the end of the Battle of Cambrai, British troops were withdrawn from Bourlon.

The wood and the village were ultimately retaken by the 3rd Canadian and 4th Canadian Divisions on the 27th September 1918, the day before Service died.


Image Copyright TWGPP

Bourlon Wood Cemetery has nearly 250 burials – Service is surrounded by mostly Canadian regiment casualties – and was started by the Canadian Corps Burial Officer in October 1918, burying the mostly Canadian dead of this action.


Image Copyright: TWGPP

274 metres South-West of the cemetery is a Battlefield Memorial erected by the Canadian Government to recall the forcing of the Canal du Nord by the Canadian Corps on the 27th September 1918 and the subsequent advance to Mons and the Rhine.

His name features on the striking  Maxwelltown and Troqeer War Memorial.

MaxwelltownWM1 Service


service canadain war memorial

His name is also remembered in the First World War Book of Remembrance  in Canada.

You can read about other Kew Gardens casualties in WW1 at

Robert Service, Remembered 100 Years on 28 September 1918 / 2018.

Remembering Sidney George Comer of Kew, Killerton and Boconnoc Gardens , Died WW1 22 September 1918

September 22, 2018


Kew Guild Journal Obituary 1919

Sidney George Comer, September 22 1918

Private Sidney George Comer, Machine Gun Corps and Tank Corps, USA

This Kew trained gardener had gone out to work in the USA in February 1914 after working at Kew from February 1911 as Sub-foreman in the Propagating Pits at Kew.

He is listed as a boarder at 1 Gloucester Road, Kew in the 1911 census, alongside two other young gardeners, Joseph Sharps of Ness, Chester and Edward Plummer Heim of Purton, Wilts. All three young gardeners grandly signed their 1911 census returns as “Gardener, Royal Gardens, Kew“.

Sidney Comer was born in February 1889 to a Mary J. Comer. His father J. C. Comer was a wheelwright on the Killerton Estate, Exeter, Devon (now run by the National Trust).

His Kew Guild Journal obituary of 1919 notes that he was “one of 6 sons … all serving in the forces”. Although many Comers are listed as casualties on the site, I have thankfully not so far found any other of his five brothers listed as killed.

Sidney is also listed with odd dates (1916 death)  on the Broadclyst War Memorial in Devon.

According to his Kew Guild Journal obituary, Comer died of pneumonia on September 22, 1918 whilst in training at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, after enlisting in the US army once America entered the war in 1917.


Many serving troops and civilians died during the Spanish Flu / Influenza pandemics which swept around the world in the chaos at the end of the war.

As well as service at Killerton, before going to Kew the Kew records suggest Comer had also worked  at Boconnoc near Lostwithiel, home today to a famous spring garden in Cornwall.

s g comer

Married in 1916, his wife predeceased him  in America (for which I have no records access).

However researcher Jan Gore found  him “via Ancestry. His wife was Rosalie, b 7 August 1878 and d. 19 June 1917. They married on 26 July 1916 in New York. She is buried in St John’s Cemetery, Yonkers, Westchester, New York, as is he. He died of broncho-pneumonia.”


Sidney George Comer, Gardener, Remembered. 

To read more about the other Kew Gardeners who died in WW1 visit our blog post

Blog posted on the centenary of Sidney Comer’s death by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 22 September 1918 / 2018.



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