Archive for the ‘ZSL London Zoo’ Category

Happy 100th birthday Dame Vera Lynn

March 20, 2017

vera lynn signature

One of my treasured books that I tracked down, because it had been signed by Vera Lynn!

Happy Birthday Dame Vera Lynn, 100 years old today 20 March 2017, from all at the World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

I watched an excellent new BBC documentary at the weekend shown to mark Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th Birthday on 20 March 2017. Many famous people and Burma veterans talked about their personal connection with Vera Lynn and her music in person or through her radio broadcasts.

I was very happy to see a brief momentary glimpse in Vera’s post-war home movies of her family garden and orchard.

Dame Vera Lynn has long been a treasured part of my family memories, growing up with wartime evacuee parents who played many of the old wartime songs.

Little did I realise until I started the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo back in 2008/9 that my late Mum would reveal a strange wartime connection to Vera Lynn, that she had had as a tiny and unhappy evacuee in Ditchling, Sussex where Dame Vera Lynn lived:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/scrumping-apples-in-vera-lynns-garden/

I was very proud to show Mum a copy of the book when this experience of Mum’s  was briefly written up in Duff Hart-Davis’ Our Land At War.

Last year my brothers scattered Mum’s ashes from Ditchling Beacon out over the Sussex countryside where Mum  had lived as an evacuee and had been an unwilling look out for an evacuee scrumping gang in Vera Lynn’s orchard.

Coming from similar parts of London and not that far apart in age, Mum and Vera Lynn also had a few spoken phrases in common, that watching Vera Lynn interviewed reminds me of my late Mum.

Whilst I never planted an apple tree in the World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment, we now have two container planted English apple trees in my home garden, one named Vera and the other named after my Mum.

This Vera Lynn story is a family one  with photos that I tell school children who are visiting Newquay Zoo for our Wartime Zoo / Life schools workshop.

World War Zoo exhibition photos and garden launch Vera Lynn 1 30310809 058

Part of our August 2009 wartime garden launch exhibition display – sheet music and “Sincerely Yours” BBC  original press 1940s photos of Vera Lynn.

vera lynn book cover

An excellent book written by Vera Lynn, well worth tracking down (1990)

Whilst we tend to think of Dame Vera singing to servicemen, she also had an important role through her radio broadcasts in the lives of wartime women, at home and in the services. She wrote a fabulous book about it, Unsung Heroines, cleverly titled, alongside her own autobiography Some Sunny Day.

vera lynn intro 1

vera lynn intro 2

Dame Vera Lynn pictured centre with Dutch resistance heroines Joke Folmer GM and Nel Lind, Utrecht, July 1990.

 

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Lovely pic of Dame Vera Lynn Burma 44 surrounded by nurses, the unsung heroines of the Forgotten Army.

Vera Lynn, The Forgotten Army and the Burma Star

Dame Vera Lynn is much praised for her front line ENSA concerts to the Forgotten Army in Burma, where many of the proud Burma Star veterans had served that I was privileged to meet at Newquay Zoo one day.

Sadly my wartime zoo researches also reveal that some of the London Zoo and Kew and Melbourne Botanic Gardens staff serving in the Far East never survived, dying in the Burma and Singapore jungles or in the infamous Far East Prisoner of War camps:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/remembering-zookeeper-and-gardener-far-east-pows-70-years-on-2015/

I believe that my navy grandfather helped transport many of these skeletal POW survivors  home on his aircraft carrier. My Mum did not see him for most of / during the War due to her evacuation and his naval service.

Dame Vera will be much in the thoughts today  of many of the Burma Star veterans like those interviewed for the BBC programme at the weekend.

 

Happy 100th Birthday Dame Vera Lynn! May you have good health and many more birthdays!

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

and a link to Dame Vera’s special charity https://dvlcc.org.uk/

vera lynn 100

Remembering William Dexter, ZSL London Zoo Keeper died Somme 23 October 1916

October 23, 2016

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William Dexter, ZSL London Zoo keeper killed in WW1 (Photo: Courtesy of Nova Jones, digital clean up Adrian Taylor ZSL)

Remembering today 100 years on ZSL Keeper William Dexter who died on 23rd October 1916 during the Somme battles.

You can read more about him at:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/remembering-lost-wartime-staff-of-zsl-london-zoo-in-ww1/

One of the things I remember most poignantly about Dexter is that he was finally identified by his number or initials in “a piece of boot” (according to his pension and service records) ‘19841 R.B.’ (for Rifle Brigade)

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Burial details of how William Dexter was identified. Source: CWGC

Remembered also by his granddaughter Nova Jones whom I met at London Zoo’s war memorial whilst researching there:

nova jones ZSL war mem

Nova Jones, Dexter’s granddaughter, inspects his name on the new panels at the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial. (Image: Mark Norris)

The old brass plaques are so well polished they were replaced in 2014 at the start of the WW1 centenary:

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Names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010 (panels now replaced by new ones in 2014)

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/remembering-ww1-in-zoos-and-gardens/

Remembered by his family and his workplace 100 years on.

 

Remembering G.P. Patterson, ZSL London Zoo staff died Somme 5th October 1916

October 5, 2016

 

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

Remembering G.P. Patterson of ZSL London Zoo staff who died 100 years ago today on The Somme on 5th October 1916.

His name is remembered on the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial as

05.10.1916 Gerald P Patterson 19th County of London Regt ZSL Helper

The 19 County of London Regiment may be an error or his first regiment. A ‘Helper’ was a younger Keeper working his way up the ranks of London Zoo staff.

This is likely to be 43689 Private Gerald Phillips Patterson of the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was killed on 5th October 1916 during the Somme fighting.

He is buried in an individual grave XI. C. 4. in Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, Somme, France. There is no family inscription on his headstone, pictured on the TWGPP website.

The life of his battalion during the Somme battles is well set out in the Somme school visit site

http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?app=core&module=attach&section=attach&attach_id=2956

It is likely that Patterson went into action with the Norfolks on the 1st of July 1916, the first day of the Somme as part of the 18th (Eastern) Division as part of K2, Kitchener’s 2nd Army Group of New Army volunteers.

Patterson was most likely killed during the attack and capture of the Schwaben Redoubt on the 5th October 1916. The next day his battalion went back for rest out of the line.

Somme poppies, Thiepval area, 1992

Somme poppies, Thiepval area, France taken on my first trenches tour, 1992 (Copyright: Mark Norris)

Many of Patterson’s 8th Norfolk battalion who were killed and whose bodies or graves were not found are remembered on the nearby Thiepval Memorial on the Somme, alongside other ZSL staff like Albert Dermott.

Read more about him and the other ZSL London Zoo staff on their WW1 memorial at our blogpost:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/remembering-lost-wartime-staff-of-zsl-london-zoo-in-ww1/

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Names of the fallen ZSL staff from the First World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010. This well polished metal plate was replaced by a newer more  legible one  in 2014, the start of the WW1 centenary. 

G.P. Patterson, remembered.

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens project, 5 October 2016.

Remembering the Somme Battle of Thiepval 1916

September 26, 2016

 

cwgc thiepval

Routledge is one of several British zoo staff with no known grave are remembered amongst thousands on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme (Image: CWGC website)

Remembering today the thousands who died on each side of the Somme Battle of Thiepval  including 100 years ago today on 26 September 1916:

Wilfred Omer Cooper, writer and naturalist,  FLS Fellow of the Linnean Society, died Somme 26 September 2016

Alfred Routledge, Belle Vue Zoo Manchester staff, died 26 September 2016  September 1916

1. Wilfrid Omer Cooper
Born 1895, he was killed in 26 September 1916. He had been involved with the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, studying isopods.

Elected to the Linnean Society only in Spring 1915, Cooper  was still a private G/40113 in the 12 Battalion Regiment, Middlesex Regiment when he died aged 21. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme battles.

He is listed on the CWGC website as the son of the late John Omer Cooper (died 1912) and Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Thompson Cooper, 6 Queensland Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth.

On the listing for Soldiers Died in The Great War (SDGW) he is listed as born at Boscombe, Bournemouth, Hants and resident at Bournemouth. He enlisted at High Beech, Loughton and was originally listed as formerly B/23290 Royal Fusiliers. He is the author of several papers and books including The Fishing Village and other writings (Literary and Scientific) posthumously published in Bournemouth by H.G.Commin 1917, the author one Wilfrid Omer-Cooper.

Read more about Cooper and the Linnean Society losses in WW1 here:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/lost-fellows-the-linnean-society-roll-of-honour-1914-1918/

http://thebournemouthian.co.uk/2016/07/01/bournemouth-school-and-the-battle-of-the-somme/

wilfred-omer-cooper

Taken from the ‘Bournemouth School and WW1’ website

 

 

2. Alfred Routledge, Belle Vue Zoo Manchester staff, died 26 September 2016

He died serving with the 11th Battalion Manchester Regiment on The Somme, aged 23 on 26 September 1916. He was killed in an attack on Mouquet Farm which was part of the final and successful British attempt to capture the village of Thiepval.

The village occupied high ground in the centre of the battlefield and had been a British objective on the first day of The Battle of The Somme on 1 July 1916.

Alfred Routledge is one of the many “Missing of the Somme”  listed on the Thiepval memorial, having no known grave. Routledge was  killed in the  final days of taking Thiepval village, one of the original objectives of the 1st July 1916, the first disastrous day of the Battle of The Somme two months earlier.

CWGC lists him as the son of the late Alfred and Emily Barton Routledge of 504 Gorton Lane, Gorton. Married. Routledge and fellow Belle Vue Zoo staff Sidney Turner and Ralph Stamp are remembered on the St. James Parish Church war memorial at:  http://gortonphilipsparkcemetrywargrave.weebly.com/st-james-church-gorton.html

Read more about Routledge and the Manchester men of Belle Vue Zoo in WW1:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/remembering-the-lost-ww1-staff-of-belle-vue-zoo-manchester/

http://gortonphilipsparkcemetrywargrave.weebly.com/belle-vue-war-memorial.html

Late September  and early October 1916 was a bad few weeks for British zoo and botanic gardens staff. No doubt the zoo and gardens community was equally affected by the losses in Germany.

Kew Gardens staff

The follwing Kew Gardens men will also lose their lives in the closing months of the 141 days of the Somme fighting:

Sergeant Sydney George Cobbold, S/12906, 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died on the 3rd October 1916, aged 28. He has a known grave in a small Somme cemetery.

Sydney Cobbold (Kew Guild photo)

Sydney Cobbold of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died 3rd October 1916, Somme area (Kew Guild photo)

Rifleman John Divers, service number 7056, 1st / 9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria Rifles) and also County of London Cyclists, died on 9th October 1916.

kew divers

June 2016: Kew staff commemorate  John Divers near where he was killed on the Somme  in 1916.  

 

Rifleman / Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, “Essex Regiment”  is most likely to be Rifleman 3844, 1st / 5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), died 9 October 1916.

Herbert is commemorated on Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 D, Thiepval Memorial, along with fellow Kewite John Divers.

I will blog post 100 years on the anniversary of each of their deaths. In the meantime, read more about them at:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/such-is-the-price-of-empire-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-the-first-world-war/

London Zoo

ZSL London Zoo lost the following young keeping staff (‘Helpers’)  in the latter part of the Somme battles in September and October 1916.

15.9.1916        Arthur G. Whybrow      2547, 19 Bn. County of London Regt.  ZSL Helper.

05.10.1916      Gerald P Patterson       19th County of London Regt.     ZSL Helper

and an older Keeper whose grand-daughter I met whilst researching at London Zoo:

23.10.1916      William Dexter  Kings Royal Rifles, Rifleman    ZSL Keeper 

I will blog post 100 years on the anniversary of each of their deaths. In the meantime, read more about them at:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/remembering-lost-wartime-staff-of-zsl-london-zoo-in-ww1/

A lucky wounded survivor  who went on to found an amazing zoo …

George Mottershead (of the BBC ‘Our Zoo’ fame) of the Manchester Regiment will be severely injured on the 15th October 1916, surviving a spinal wound that nearly killed him and left him paralysed for several years bfeore he struggled to walk again and create Chester Zoo in the 1930s. He would lose several brothers or family members in WW1.

Remember all these men and their families  100 years on.

Scheduled blogpost for 26 September 2016 by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens project.

Remembering Albert Dermott ZSL Somme 10 July 1916

July 10, 2016

 

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

Remembering those killed on the Somme 10 July 1916 including:

Albert A. Dermott of London Zoo staff, ZSL Messenger 

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/remembering-lost-wartime-staff-of-zsl-london-zoo-in-ww1/

T. Percy Peed  nurseryman, S.Staffs Regiment

Geoffrey Watkins Smith, FLS

Printed in the Proceedings of The Linnean Society for 1918/9 is a short roll of honour listing eight fellows or employees who died in the First World War. Amongst them Geoffrey Watkins Smith, is described as “one of the most brilliant of the younger generation of Zoologists” (proceedings, 1916-17, page 64-65).https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/09/

Remembered all at:

https://wordpress.com/post/worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/77631

Remembering Leonard Peachey London Zoo staff killed in RAF crash 18 December 1940

December 18, 2015

From Zoo Clerk to Air Gunner …

75 years ago today on 18 December 1940 one of London Zoo’s young clerks Leonard James Peachey was killed in an RAF air  crash during WW2.

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

 

The first of ZSL’s five WW2 casualties, ZSL London Zoo  Clerk Leonard Peachey  is buried among the RAF graves at North Coates (St Nicholas) Churchyard, Lincs.

ZSL Clerk Leonard Peachey,  RAF Volunteer Reserve,  died aged 32 as Sergeant Wireless Operator / Air Gunner in an air  crash, serving with 22 Squadron in Lincolnshire at RAF North Coates / Cotes (various spellings exist!).

He is buried in North Coates (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, Lincs alongside the rest of his crew from 22 Squadron, and buried alongside in adjoining graves in the same row:

  • Sergeant Pilot Dennis George How, RAFVR (aged 23)
  • Sergeant Observer Paul Victor Renai (aged 22, from Wellington, New Zealand) 
  • Sergeant Wireless Operator / W.E. Mechanic Ralph  Gerald Hart (22).
The roles involved – pilot, observer, wireless operator / mechanic and Peachey’s own role as Wireless Operator / Air Gunner suggest that this is an entire Beaufort crew of 4.
There is more about Bristol Beaufort  and the roles of its crew of four  at this site:
http://www.pilotfriend.com/photo_albums/timeline/ww2/Bristol%20Beaufort.htm
You can see inside the cramped cockpit of one of these Bristol Beauforts of Peachey’s 22 Squadron here: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212625
Peachey’s air gunner post can be seen here in this 22 Squadron Beaufort photo around December 1940 (sadly not his individual aircraft) http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205208658. The caption reads:
Air gunners at their positions on board a Beaufort Mark I, L4461 ‘OA-J’, of No. 22 Squadron RAF at North Coates, Lincolnshire. One gunner occupies the Bristol Mark IV turret, mounting a single .303 Vickers K-type gas-operated machine gun. For added protection against beam attacks, 22 Squadron has installed another K gun, mounted in the port entry hatch. IWM photo CH 637

Peachey’s headstone can be seen at http://twgpp.org/information.php?id=4066060

Leonard Peachey in the London Zoo staff records

ZSL London Zoo has not only a fine library but an amazing archive including staff records cards dating back to Victorian times.

Leonard was born on 19 October 1909. He joined the zoo as a young Office Boy on July 17 1927 on 27 shillings and 6d a week, promoted to Messenger by 1928 and finally Clerk on 20th December 1935.

His Pay increases and records then tended to be in mid December eerily almost on the date or  day of his air crash. On the 17th December 1938, his Clerk’s pay went up a further 5 shillings to 95 shillings a week.

The following year, he would be dead in an air crash.

His record card mentions that he was a ‘Territorial called  RAF  16 September 1939′ two weeks into the war (presumably the RAF VR Volunteer Reserve). His record card simply recalls 18.12.40 Killed in Air Crash North Coates Lincs.

A married man, his family address like many London Zoo staff shifts around the North London area, in his case  finishing at Woodhouse Road Finchley (with a temporary address in 1936 curiously at Veyges, Bystock, Exmouth, Devon; a long journey to work!)

634px-Royal_Air_Force_Coastal_Command,_1939-1945._CH639

Royal Air Force Coastal Command, 1939-1945. Aircrew of No. 22 Squadron RAF walking away from their Bristol Beaufort Mark 1s after a mission, at North Coates, Lincolnshire. Wikipedia Public Domain source via Daventry B J (Mr), Royal Air Force official photographer – http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//51/media-51626/large.jpg Photograph CH 639 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

From zoo clerk to air gunner … Peachey’s life in the wartime RAF

Peachey’s 22 Squadron brought the Bristol Beaufort into operational service in 1939/ 1940: a preserved Beaufort can be seen at the RAF Museum Hendon  RAF Museum Bristol Beaufort In their illustration, Peachey’s exposed position as a dorsal (mid to back of plane) ‘rear gunner’ can again be seen.

There is an interesting Wikipedia Bristol Beaufort article describing and picturing  the Beaufort.

Several of the first production Beauforts were engaged in ‘working-up trials’ and final service entry began in late November 1939 / January 1940 (according to different sources) with 22 Squadron of RAF Coastal Command.

After this intense work up at RAF North Coates in Lincolnshire, the Squadron resumed operations in April 1940, beginning with mine-laying sorties.

The Squadron’s torpedo operations against enemy shipping used several bases during the war including RAF North Coates, RAF Thorney Island Sussex, RAF Abbotsinch and RAF Portreath and RAF St Eval in Cornwall, only a few miles from where our project base at Newquay Zoo for the World War Zoo Gardens allotment is based.

It was presumably during  these operations that ZSL London Zoo clerk and RAFVR Sergeant Leonard Peachey and his fellow Sergeants in the crew were killed on 18 December 1940.

22 Squadron was re-formed at RAF Thorney Island in 1955 as a Search and Rescue Helicopter Squadron and was finally stood down from Search and Rescue duties with the Bristow privatisation in October 2015. Further squadron information from http://www.22squadronassociation.org.uk/Hist1546.html

Peachey’s airfield is now home to the North Cotes Flying Club but the main concrete runways that Peachey’s 22 Squadron have now been removed for agriculture. Photos of the now discontinued airfield can be found on various sites including http://i388.photobucket.com/albums/oo322/Ossington_2008/NorthCoates39-94.jpg

These photos are amongst  others on the informative Airfield Information Exchange website: http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/archive/index.php/t-1068.html

I came across the Airfield Information Exchange website whilst researching a  forthcoming 2016 blogpost on British zoos that were once wartime airfields. Watch this (landing) space.

The circumstances around his air crash 18 December 1940

Researching the crash there appeared to be one most likely candidate (right type of plane, right squadron, right date) for Peachey’s fatal air crash.

Leonard Peachey and crew were the crew of 22 Squadron’s Bristol Beaufort L4516 OA-W which crashed on 18 December 1940 listed as “Marshchapel  – Engine Failure after take off for Wilhelmshaven, aircraft stalled and crashed.” (Source: http://www.bcar.org.uk/1940-incident-logs)

This plane L4516 OA-W is photographed around the same time in the Imperial War Museum archive by official RAF  war photographer  Flight Lieutenant Bertrand John Henry Daventry in 1940.

The caption for one IWM photo  (CH 1851) offers some interesting additional information:  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210000 :

Mark XI aerial torpedoes being taken out on trolleys towards a Bristol Beaufort Mark I, L4516 ‘OA-W’, of No. 22 Squadron RAF at North Coates, Lincolnshire. Shortly after this photograph was taken, L4516 was destroyed when it stalled after a night take-off from North Coates and hit the ground near Marshfield, detonating the mine it was carrying.© IWM (CH 1851)

Is this Peachey’s crew and aircraft? A helpful aircraft historian at the RAF Museum sent me the following helpful infomation from the first volume of Coastal Command Losses by Ross McNeill confirming that the crew of L4516 is that resting in the churchyard at North Coates after taking off at North Coates at 20.10 for the target of  Wilhelmshaven

Stalled due to an engine failure shortly after take-off and crashed at Marshchapel, Lincolnshire. The Time Impact Mine exploded setting the aircraft on fire and killing all the crew. Sergeant Renai of Wellington, New Zealand and the other crew members (Hart, How and Peachey) rest locally in St. Nicholas Churchyard, North Cotes, Lincolnshire.

Wilhelmshaven was a German naval base and port, hence the mines and torpedoes that these 22 Squadron Coastal Command aircraft were pictured carrying.

Leonard Peachey and crew / colleagues are mentioned in this RAF North Coates related blogpost, showing the original preserved airfield gates that Leonard and crew would have known.

http://2ndww.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/raf-north-coates-lincolnshire.htmlhttp://2ndww.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/raf-north-coates-lincolnshire.html

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Names of the five fallen ZSL staff from the Second World War, ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, 2010 – these worn original plaques have now been replaced with new ones.

Peachey is also remembered on the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial WW2 plaque.

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

Leonard Peachey and his Crew L4516 OA-W remembered, each November by London Zoo staff and 75 years on by the World War Zoo Gardens project online.

Posted in remembrance by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

 

 

Harry and Billy or Napoleon the penguin remembered in our most popular blogpost so far

November 5, 2015

Harry Munro, the now named 'Keeper with King Penguin 1914' (as described on a recent London Zoo postcard I was given) Copyright ZSL / London Zoo/ F.W. Bond

Harry Munro, the now named ‘Keeper with King Penguin 1914’ (as described on a recent London Zoo postcard I was given) Copyright ZSL / London Zoo/ F.W. Bond

The poignant story of Harry Munro ZSL London Zoo keeper killed or missing in action on 29 September 1915 and the King Penguin (nicknamed ‘Billy’ in the press) has touched many people and received over 1500 hits or readers over  its first few days  around the world.

Thanks to all of you who read it or passed it on to others. Harry Munro is definitely not forgotten 100 years after his death.

This has become our new highest most read story in the shortest time since Armistice in November each year.

Since posting on the 29 September (the centenary anniversary) I have been tracing the penguin’s story, starting with  an interesting picture of Princess Mary with a King Penguin was taken in 1911 by the photographer (possibly Lewis Medland) of this image from Queen Mary’s Album in the Royal Collection. It has also,  like Harry Munro the Keeper With King Penguin, been used as a postcard by ZSL London Zoo.

This Princess Mary and Penguin photo is published on page 246 in London Zoo from old photographs  1852-1914 (2nd edition) by Bartlett Society member  and zoo historian John Edwards. This fascinating 2012 book is still available from ZSL London Zoo’s online shop on Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers, well worth buying.

Interestingly the picture of Harry Munro and Penguin doesn’t feature in John Edward’s book as his book is designed to complement the historic photos already published in  Golden Days (Duckworth 1976) the photographic history of London Zoo covering 1914 to 1939 (also still available second hand via Amazon and others)

The photo (possibly from Queen Mary’s Album) shows King George V and Queen Mary on a Royal  Visit with Princess Mary on 4 June 1911, greeting London Zoo’s only King Penguin.

This King Penguin appears to be named and identified by John Edwards as “Napoleon”, a grander name than the news picture of Keeper Munro with “Billy the famous Zoo Penguin” shown in the 16/11/1915 Daily Graphic reprinted picture of the missing Keeper Munro.

The ZSL London Zoo postcard of Harry Munro that started this story off for me. On display in our Tropical House display case for the World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, below a short panel about Harry Munro's life.

The ZSL London Zoo postcard of Harry Munro that started this story off for me. On display in our Tropical House display case for the World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, below a short panel about Harry Munro’s life.

henry munro

John Edwards notes on p.246 of London Zoo from Old Photographs:

“the King Penguin known as Napoleon was the only one in the Zoo at that time, having been presented on 11 February 1911 by Dr Clemente Onelli, the very capable director of Buenos Aires Zoo (1904-24). He died on 15 September 1914.”

So this seems to be the same King penguin pictured with Harry Munro.

Was the King Penguin called Napoleon or Billy?

Is this a press invention or keeper nickname, different from his official house name?

The naming of animals goes back traditionally  as far as Genesis and Adam, and No-ah doubt it went on in the Ark too.

I know from long working in zoos that this is still very common, what a keeper nicknames an animal can be quite different from what the official record keeper, previous zoo or enterprising press and marketing department have christened this same animal. Its name in the Crib Room or keeper’s staff room may vary quietly from that used in the Marketing Office.

Princess  Mary (1897- 1965) shown in the photograph with ‘Napoleon’ was well known in WW1 for her interest in nursing, women’s services and the comforts of soldiers.

There is a short Wikipedia biography: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_Princess_Royal_and_Countess_of_Harewood

This was expressed most famously through the Princess Mary’s Christmas Boxes sent in December 1914  to each serving sailor, airman or soldier like Harry Munro.

Wikipedia / Simon Speed picture of a Princess Mary 1914 box.

Wikipedia / Simon Speed picture of a Princess Mary 1914 box.

So hopefully Harry enjoyed the smokes and chocolate out of his Christmas tin in the last year and Christmas of his life, away from home  a week or so before he embarked for France

Napoleon or Billy was sadly dead by then, reputedly on the 15th September 1915, around the time of Harry’s enlistment and absence from the zoo.

Harry Munro would be missing or dead just over a year later.

Harry’s  name stayed – hopefully? – as ‘missing’ on the typed list that  I saw pasted into the London Zoo Daily Occurrences Book (now in the ZSL archive). It remained as ‘missing’ well into the 1916 typed list of staff on active service.

Reactions to the  photograph

I have been interested in how different people react to this photograph from amongst zoo staff and animal management students, so have been dropping the picture into conversations and teaching recently. The equality of eye level and ease or affection between them are often what are commented on, unprompted.

I put it up on screen between talks at a recent bird keepers meeting at Newquay Zoo, so Harry Munro and his penguin were there in spirit 100 years on. Sadly on a busy day I didn’t get a chance to ask the bird keepers from other zoos what they thought of it.

You can use the comments form to contact us with your thoughts on the photograph, we’d love to hear from you.

Suitable Memorials

If I named a rose, it would be for Walter Morland of Kew Gardens and RBGE Edinburgh, lost at Gallipoli (1915), mentioned in this previous 2013 WW1 blogpost:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/such-is-the-price-of-empire-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-the-first-world-war/

If I had the price of a zoo statue, it would probably be of Harry Munro with his King Penguin (pictured on the postcard) or on the Daily Graphic photo watering his Penguin.

Something along the lines of the Winnie Statue, now relocated near the ZSL War Memorial.

Along with the Animals in War memorial statue in London has no human figures, just a wartime ark if different companion animals large and small.

A similar lovely statue of Man and animal can be found in the Wojtek the WW2 Soldier Bear statue near Edinburgh Zoo http://www.wojtekmemorialtrust.com/

ZSL London Statue of Winnie the Bear donated as a WW1 Regimental Mascot (inspiration for Winnie the Pooh) and his Canadian handler. Image: Mark Norris, 2014.

ZSL London Statue of Winnie the Bear donated as a WW1 Regimental Mascot (inspiration for Winnie the Pooh) and his Canadian handler. Image: Mark Norris, 2014.

Harry Munro and Billy or Napoleon, Remembered.

London Zoo staff will be remembering Harry Munro and other  lost colleagues of WW1 and WW2 during the Armistice / Remembrance silences this November: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/remembering-lost-wartime-staff-of-zsl-london-zoo-in-ww1/

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


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