Robert Jones London Zoo Gardener killed Battle of Arras April 1917 WW1

April 9, 2017

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

09.04.1917 Robert Jones 9 Royal Fusiliers ZSL Gardener.

As Listed on the ZSL London Zoo WW1 Staff War Memorial

There are two current possibilities for this name, awaiting research:

Private GS/60595 Robert Jones, 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers

This Robert Jones was born in Islington or Highgate, Middlesex around 1881 and was married to Bertha Lewin of Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon around 1905 / 1906 in Camden / Highgate.

He was formerly listed as 23358 6th Middlesex Regiment, having enlisted in Harringay and been resident in Highgate. On the 1901 census he is listed as a Gardener (not domestic) and in 1911 as a Nursery Gardener.

On the CWGC website he is listed as the husband of Bertha Jones of 22 Caxton Street, Little Bowden, Market Harborough. This Robert Jones died of wounds on 7 April 1917 (two days different from the ZSL dates on the war memorial plaque) and is buried in Faubourg D’Amiens cemetery in Arras. His headstone (photographed on the TWGPP website) bears the family inscription from his wife reads: “Thou art not far from us who love thee well”

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Robert Jones ZSL Gardener lies buried at Faubourg D’Amiens CWGC Cemetery, which is  surrounded by some of the names on the Arras Memorial including ZSL Librarian Henry G.J. Peavot. (Image source: CWGC)

The other Robert Jones possibility with the same date as the ZSL war memorial plaque is Robert Jones 472712, 1st / 12th Btn. London Regiment (The Rangers), aged 31 buried in Individual grave A2 , Gouy-en Artois Cemetery, killed or died of wounds on the first day of the Battle of Arras 1917. The CWGC lists him as the brother of Mrs. Clara Shafer, of 37, Cornwallis Rd., Walthamstow, London. He was born in 1886 in Grays, Essex and enlisted in Plaistow. He appears on the 1911 census not to have been a gardener but a coal porter in a gas works.

This coal porter seems less likely to be the ‘Robert Jones ZSL gardener’ but without surviving service or pension papers for either one that I have found so far, even the ZSL staff record cards give few clues as to which one is the ZSL Gardener.

Both deserve to be remembered.

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 – name plaques since replaced or restored.

For more about the Battle of Arras and the Centenary

http://blog.cwgc.org/arras/

ZSL Gardener Robert Jones was not the only April 1917 casualty from London Zoo. Two weeks later, the ZSL Librarian would be killed at Arras.

21.4.1917 Henry George Jesse Peavot, Honourable Artillery Company, ZSL Librarian

B Co. 1st Btn, Honourable Artillery Company, aged 35.

Killed during Battle of Arras period, No known grave, listed on Arras Memorial. Married.

Henry George Jesse Peavot, a 35 year old ZSL Librarian served in B Company, 1st Battalion, Honourable Artillery Company and died on 21st April 1917.

He has no known grave and his name is listed amongst the 35,000 missing men listed on the Arras Memorial alone.

R Jones Faubourg

Like many of these zoo staff, Peavot was married; his widow Maud or Maude Pravot as far as I can discover never remarried and lived to mourn his loss for almost seven decades until 1985. They had one child. Previously a ZSL typist, Maude kept in touch with ZSL for many years, a file of personal correspondence in the ZSL Archive appears to continue from 1917 to about 1932 and is likely to be pension related.

The legacy of absence and injury from the First world war is still ongoing or at least within our working and living memory, in families and professions such as zoo keeping across Europe.

Remembering zoologist Dene Barrett Fry Linnean Society NSW died Arras 1917 WW1

April 8, 2017

Dene Barrett Fry –  Fellow of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales Australia and Zoologist and demonstrator in Zoology at the University of Sydney – was killed fighting at the Battle of Arras 9 April 1917.

The Linnean Society of New South Wales Australia  published a Roll of Honour of serving members. Two were killed – H. Stephens (6 listed amongst Australian forces on the CWGC website) and  D. B. Fry.

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D.B. Fry is buried to the right of the cross of sacrifice in Beaumetz Crossraods cemetery. (Image: http://www.cwgc.org)

Private Dene Barrett Fry, 4992, 3rd Battalion Australian Infantry AIF died on 9th April 1917 and is buried in plot E5, Beaumetz Cross Roads Cemetery, Beaumetz-les-Cambrai, France.

This cemetery which contains around 50 other Australian AIF casualties was begun by fighting units in March 1917.

Fry is listed on the CWGC website as the son of Arthur and Caroline F. Fry of Denegully, Northcote Road, Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia.

There is a short tribute to him in the Proceedings of The Linnean Society of New South Wales, 1920 (Volume XLV):

One of our promising junior members killed in action in France 4 April 1917, aged 23, was the first of our Soldier-members to fall. He was a rising young biologist of great promise, elected a member in 1913. his training began at the Australian Museum as a cadet in 1908 where he remained until 1914. When the war broke out, he was a student at the University and a Demonstrator in Zoology, but he gave up his university work in order to enlist , joining the Army Medical Corps in May 1915.
After two voyages in a hospital ship, he transferred to the Infantry, qualifying for the post of Lieutenant. But as there was no vacancy available, he left for the Front with reinforcements as Sergeant. After some time spent at Salisbury Plains, his regiment was sent to France where he took part in several engagements.

His last contribution to science was a paper printed in the 1916 proceedings, as well as ten other notes or papers about reptiles or amphibians published in journals before his death.

d b fry ANWM

Studio portrait of 4992 Private (Pte) Dene Barrett Fry, AAMC, of Lewisham, NSW. Source Australian National War Memorial

The Australian National War Memorial  has this entry for him and a studio portrait of 4992 Private (Pte) Dene Barrett Fry, AAMC (Australian Army Medical Corps) of Lewisham, NSW.

https://www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls/R1730923/

4992 Private Dene Barrett Fry AAMC

A demonstrator in Zoology at the University of Sydney, and son of the first female graduate of the University, he initially served in the Australian Army Medical Corps.

After one trip on Hospital Ship Karoola he transferred to Infantry and trained at Duntroon. He was allocated to the 3rd Battalion and embarked from Sydney with the 19th Reinforcements aboard HMAT Wiltshire (A18) on 22 August 1916.

Pte Fry served on the Western Front; he was killed in action on 9 April 1917, aged 23. Pte Fry is buried at the Beaumetz Cross Road Cemetery, Beaumetz-les-Cambrai, France. (ANWM)

Sadly Dene was not the only casualty in his family in WW1.

His brother 1340 Pte Alan Fraser Fry, 13th Battalion was wounded on 13 August and died on 14 August 1916 and his uncle Major James Whiteside Fraser McManamey, 19th Battalion, also a graduate of the University of Sydney, was killed in action at Gallipoli on 5 September 1915.  (source: ANWM)

A touching family photo album picture as a child  and letter from  Fry can be seen here online, obviously treasured by his mother and father:

http://ww1.sl.nsw.gov.au/explore/dene-fry-killed-france-9-april-1917-aged-23-12-years

http://ww1.sl.nsw.gov.au/explore/dene-fry-letter-1915-1917

He is pictured here with his brother Alan Fraser Fry https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/people/306355

Dene Barratt Fry, lost zoologist, and other members of the Australian forces at the Battle of Arras 1917 – Remembered.  

Members or Fellows of the Linnean Society FLS  lost in WW1 are remembered here:

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

Blogposted on 9th April 2017 by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Remembering F.T. Pursell Kew Gardens WW1 died 4 April 1917

April 4, 2017

Frederick Thomas Pursell or Purssell, died 4 April 1917
Gunner / Sergeant Frederick T Purssell or Pursell, 51510, Royal Field Artillery, 70th Bty. 34th Army Brigade, died 4 April 1917 in Ypres.

He is buried at Grave Reference IX. F. 16, Vlamerthinge New Military Cemetery, Belgium. Just outside the normal range of German shell fire, the village was used both by artillery units (such as Pursell belonged to) and field ambulances. There is no family inscription on his headstone, pictured on the TWGPP website.
Listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. In the 1911 census Purssell is listed as a Stable Hand (Student Part Time) at the “Royal Gardens Kew”. He was born in Surrey around 1894 to a father Roger Purssell who was a bricklayer, living at Pond Cottage in Kew.

CWGC Graves registration documents reveal that he was killed or died on the same day as 3 others of his 34 Army Brigade Royal Field Artillery colleagues, Wainwright, West and Cronin lie buried alongside him.

Remembered on the Kew Gardens staff war memorial – read more at:

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

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.

 

Laggard Spring 1917

March 21, 2017

Spring 1917 Wartime – March 21st , uncannily like the weather today a century later. Hail and sunshine.

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Homeland A Year of Country Days by PWDI (Percy W. D. Izzard) 1918

Here in the preface, Percy Izzard sets out the structure for his year of inspirational short pieces about country life. These are  made especially poignant or valuable as his work was read not only by “war-workers … men and women of country heart who are pent now for England’s sake in the reek of great towns” isolated from the countryside but also  “amid the cruel distractions of war” by troops in the trenches who obtained a Daily Mail from friends and families.

Based on letters received from soldiers, Percy Izzard realised that his daily entries  provided to “soldier lads in France and Flanders, in rough notes pencilled on the battlefields … glimpses of the Homeland  for which they long and fight.”

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This book of nature writing by Percy Izzard,  reproduced from his nature  column in the Daily Mail, begins unusually not on January 1st but on the first day of spring 1917, the spring equinox, March 21st.

It finishes a year later on March 20th and Izzard’s preface, written after preparing them for publication in book form, was written on April 21st, 1918.

Having checked the obvious date references, like references to Sundays etc, I am fairly sure this is written from March 1917 to March 1918 onwards as the First World War raged across Europe.

It finishes documenting country life in Britain during this year of attrition and killing, on March 20 1918  just as the Western Front collapses with the German onslaught of late March 1918.

The Writer Percy Izzard?

I have previously written about Percy Izzard and this Homeland book on this and a local history blog:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/remembering-william-donald-pascoe-april-1915-primrose-day-and-percy-izzard/

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/remembering-william-donald-pascoe-died-20-april-1915/

Percy W. (William) D. Izzard OBE (September 1877 – 1968) was the well-known gardening correspondent on the Daily Mail newspaper.

He was author of several books on gardening including Grow it Yourself: Daily Mail Practical Instruction Book on Food from the Garden in War-Time (1940), one of the  Dig For Victory books in my collection of WWII gardening books.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Izzard

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 21 March 2017

 

Happy 100th birthday Dame Vera Lynn

March 20, 2017

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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.

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

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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.

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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 A E Baggs Kew Gardens died WW1 1st March 1917

March 1, 2017

Arthur Edwin Baggs, Kew Gardens  staff, died 1st March 1917
Private Arthur Edwin Baggs, service number 129662, 72nd Battalion Canadian Infantry (Canadian Seaforth Highlanders), died on active service in France on 1st March 1917, aged 28.

 

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Vimy Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

He is recorded on the Vimy Memorial to the 60,000 Canadians who died in the First World War.

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/vimy-ridge/100-anniversary

Baggs  appears to be one of 11,000 Canadians from WW1 have no known grave.

Many of them died in the fight for Vimy Ridge during the Battle of Arras the month after Baggs died.

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The day Baggs died – 72 Seaforth Highlanders of Canada War diary 1  March 1917

http://www.canadaatwar.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=2768 

It appears that Baggs’ Battalion conducted a trench raid on 1st March 1917, the day Baggs died.

Arthur was the son of Edwin and Louisa Mary Baggs, of 3605, Knight Road, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

He entered Kew in 1909. Listed as an Old Kewite on active service, Baggs returned to Canada when he left Kew in April 1911.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/72nd_Battalion_(Seaforth_Highlanders_of_Canada),_CEF

Remembering Arthur Baggs and the Kew Gardens staff who died in WW1 and the many Canadian troops remembered on the Vimy Memorial.

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

 

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

Moscow and Warsaw Zoo’s history in pictures

February 28, 2017

http://englishrussia.com/2017/02/23/moscow-zoo-in-early-20th-century/

Interesting blogpost in English with pictures from Moscow Zoo’s history including its role in wartime, through revolution and two world wars and floods.

Interesting picture of “Red Army on Field Trip To Aquarium!”

http://moscowzoo.su/about-zoo/history/   available in English

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

Staying in eastern Europe in wartime zoos –

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Shortly in March 2017, The Zookeeper’s Wife film about the amazing Antonina Zabinski and family who ran Warsaw Zoo in Poland during wartime occupation will be released; trailers can be seen at:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1730768/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Zookeeper%27s_Wife

Should be an interesting film, although the book by Diane Ackerman is difficult and harrowing to read at times.

The controversial figure of German zoo director Lutz Heck features heavily in this film / story, who left his own account in Animals My Adventure of his own German Zoo in Berlin in an Allied air raid.

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

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 28 Feb 2017

 

 

 

 

A question about wartime big cat keeping

January 31, 2017

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London Life, 28 March 1942

28 March 1942. National magazine London Life reader’s questions page –

 Amateur Zooman writes: “I have got a wartime job as attendant to animals in a small zoo, being unfitted for military service through old war wounds and have been told by my employers that there is only one thing to learn, and that is how to lure the animals safely in and out of their cages, as I have been warned against pushing them with a brush as it makes the big cats angry.

Up until now I haven’t had much success and am wondering if the ‘Brains Trust’ can find out for me some easy ways of luring the big cats back again after their cages have been cleaned?

Unfortunately the man who did the job before me has been called up and not been able to train me. I am absolutely single handed so please help! “

This is an intriguing reader’s letter in wartime 1942  from one of the many older men called in to keep zoos going when younger staff joined up or were conscripted. It could equally have been written by one of the many women who stepped temporarily in to fill keeper posts in wartime.

This untrained keeper or ‘Amateur Zooman’ is interestingly an injured veteran from the First World War “being unfitted for military service through old war wounds”.

 

The advice or reply given is from an animal trainer attached to a wartime circus.

“An animal trainer attached to one of the big circuses tealls us that big cats are playful and if you are not careful they will lean on the gate and shut you in, but that any animal will return quickly to a cleaned cage if a titbit of food is placed in the furthest corner. He will associate this titbit with getting back into his den.

Also all big felines like to be talked to! They will do more for an attendant who talks to them  as though they were intelligent than for one who treats them as savage, dumb beasts. Big cats are very curious, and if they see you doing anything unusual, are quite likely to try and get into the cage with you to investigate, so be sure that any intervening door is well closed.

When a big cat is angry, leave him alone. Don’t force any action on him, or he will bear a grudge against you for days. Leave him to himself and he will soon get over his moods.”

I wondered how this 1942 advice would stand up today in the world of modern zoos and big cat conservation, 75 years later.

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I asked my zoo colleagues who are  modern big cat keepers on carnivore section at Newquay Zoo what they thought of this interesting wartime article  and its advice.

Owen, one of our senior keepers responded thus on behalf of the others:

Interesting little read.

The response given isn’t actually a bad one! What the new keeper may not have realised is he is being asked is to positively reinforce the cat to move where he wants by using a small piece of food as a reward, as we currently do with the lionesses here.

The other option that could have been looked into then (albeit not overly common back in the day in zoos) would’ve been to train the animal/animals to go to station or target train them to touch the target to receive a reward (a small piece of meat) which again is a form of positive reinforcement. The target training would have also easily led the cats into moving for him.

The building a relationship by talking and training with the cat is always a good idea. It’s always better to be seen as the ‘good guy’ on a regular basis than the ‘bad guy’.

Some species are more likely to approach you than others and tigers seem to be more pro-keeper than some of the other big cat species, even chuffing at keepers to say hello. Not that they can comprehend our language but it is a way of getting to know you and we, as keepers, talk to the animals on a daily basis.

Although it is dated, the reply to him actually makes a lot of sense. We didn’t necessarily have the knowledge then as we do now but the talk of positive reinforcement and the keeper not wanting to negatively reinforce the animal movement (the brush mentioned) sounds like he wanted to do a good job!

Another thing I would’ve mentioned is not to underestimate them! They’re smarter than what people give them credit for and not to mention very dangerous.

Cheers,

Owen, Senior Keeper, Carnivore section,  Newquay Zoo

This answer from Owen is a longer and more detailed  answer than mine, which  would be write to the Ministry of Labour and ” get another job, any job, especially one  that isn’t going to eat you …”

Owen’s answer  is a brilliant modern keeper interpretation of the original advice using our modern zoo speak, which communicates our modern zoo mission –  enrichment, positive training – and animal  welfare etc.

An interesting article which  works really well as a ‘Then and Now’ piece, what has changed and what has not changed!

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A few more interesting pages and always an excuse for a flash of ankle or pretty face …

 

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More Camouflage ideas for ladies … hide in a bush.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, January 2017

The Silvertown Explosion London 19 January 1917

January 19, 2017

WW1 diarist Edith Spencer recorded in her diary for 19 /20 January 1917:

Terrific explosion at Silverton.

She had recently arrived back from visiting family in Newcastle upon Tyne (‘luggage came’) to her new clerical job at 24 Bishopsgate in London, filing and learning shorthand for the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. No doubt she had filled  a post made free by the call up or conscription of young men for war work or the armed services.

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The Silvertown explosion occurred in Silvertown in West Ham, Essex, (now Greater London) on Friday, 19 January 1917 at 6.52 pm.

The blast occurred at a munitions factory that was manufacturing explosives for Britain’s war effort.

Approximately 50 long tons (50 tonnes) of trinitrotoluene (TNT) exploded.

73 people were killed and 400 injured, as well as causing substantial damage to hundreds of houses across the local area.

Remembering the many men and women war worker casualties of the Silvertown TNT factory explosion. 

The blast could be heard and felt up to a hundred miles away.

The animals at London Zoo a few miles away would clearly have heard it.

The panes of glass in the greenhouses at Kew Gardens would have rattled.

So even if Edith Spencer had travelled back from her new clerical job in London and reached the family home at Wesley Manse, Derby Road  in Watford about 17 miles away, she could clearly have heard the Silvertown explosion.

You  can read more about and by Edith Spencer, one of the diarists in my personal collection of wartime diaries on loan to the World War Zoo Gardens project, at this previous Zeppelin WWI air raid blogpost https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-first-blitz-on-london-from-an-unpublished-ww1-diary/

More about the explosion at:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvertown_explosion

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


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