Posts Tagged ‘1941’

Plymouth Blitz diary 1941

March 20, 2016

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April 1941 entries (anonymous Plymouth Blitz diary, c/o Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project)

Plymouth Blitz 1941 diary

‘Awful Blitz’ – Last year this anonymous diary of a Plymouth civilian turned up in an online auction and is now part of my collection of wartime civilian diaries.

I feel fairly sure the anonymous author is a woman, a health worker, health visitor or district nurse. Some of the handwriting in ink and pencil is cramped or smudged and difficult to read in the small section allotted to each day in this small personal diary.

Two excellent books by Gerald Wasley Devon at War (Halsgrove) and the Plymouth:  A Shattered City  (Halsgrove, 2004) describe and illustrate the effects of the Plymouth Blitz very well.

Here is an edited selection covering the March and April Plymouth Blitz weeks of 1941, my small tribute to the people of Plymouth and of Blitzed Britain 75 years on.

Where I cannot make out the smudged or cramped ink handwriting, I have put best guesses in brackets or dots if not sure […] and will add details as they become clear over time.

 

This section of the diary opens with the royal visit after a quiet unblitzed night.

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March 1941 Blitz entries (anonymous Plymouth  1941 diary, c/o Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project)

Thursday 20 March 1941

King and Queen in Plymouth. Peace all night.

Dull morning. Down Beaumont, lovely day later. Dev(onport) dips then town in [?blazing?] Sunshine. To Salisbury Road Schools then Dr. Harrison in Princess Square. Home, tea. Cookery school and Easter Cake. Siren 4.30 and again 8.30pm Awful blitz.

Ended midnight. Lay on bed.

Fri 21 March 1941

Up early and out Swilly. Down town lunch hour. Spooners gone. St Andrews burning via ?ove? street to collect marmalade and cake. House craft. Home, lunch and out Swilly. Then [w..] Hawkes to tea. To CH (City Hospital), had bath – could not see Mac. Packed bag. Put oil away. Awful blitz 8.30 till midnight but felt calmer than on Thursday.

[Editor’s note: CH is the abbreviation for City Hospital. Love Street is in Plymouth. St Andrews Church was lost in the Plymouth Blitz. Beaumont maybe Beaumont Road in the St. Jude’s area of Plymouth.Swilly (now North Prospect) was the original official name (and still known to many as Swilly) given to the first council estate built in Plymouth during the 1920s. There was also a hospital there who dealt with many blitz victims.Spooner’s department store was destroyed in the  bombing (‘gone’) – see photos and more information at Derek Tait’s website: http://plymouthlocalhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/spooners.html

Sat 22 March 1941.

Up early and out Beaumont, Dentals. Town Hall staff moving into Beaumont. After Dentals went market and then home and cleaned flat. Sun came out. Icky arrived. Had lunch. Went via Drake’s Circus to market and looked at ruins. Firemen still playing hose on smouldering parts. To Stoke House and then walk via Peverell to Hartley Vale and [???] Kelly. Bus home, tea then saw Icky off in awful crowd. Lovely sunny afternoon. To CH  City Hospital – found Mac evacuating and saw ruins of Children’s ward. Home. Supper down with J’s

[Editor’s note: Icky and Mac a nurse of some rank are two friends of the writer who recur throughout the diary entries.
It is possible that Mac is Dr Allison McNairn, who won the George Medal for her bravery at the Children’s Ward of the City Hospital during the Blitz.

http://www.dnw.co.uk/auction-archive/catalogue-archive/lot.php?auction_id=94&lot_id=53991

The Daily Emergency Bulletin No. 1 March 1941 mentions the “12. Public Health Department has been transferred from the Town Hall Stonehouse to Beaumont House, Beaumont Park, Plymouth Telephone Plymouth 2821, Ext. 249.” Bulletin shown on p. 116, Plymouth – A Shattered City by Gerald Wasley.

This Bulletin also mentions “List of Rest Centres open: Mount Gold Methodist, Mount Gold Road; Salisbury Road Baptist, Plymouth; Clarence House, Clarence Place, East Stonehouse; St. Jude’s Hall, Beaumont Road; St. Gabriel’s, Hyde Park Road; Swarthmore Settlement, Mutley Plain; All Saints, Harwell Street; St Peters Hall, Wyndham Street, Plymouth; Central Hall, Saltash Street; YMCA Hostel, Union Street; St. George’s Road, Ryder Road”. The diary writer mentions several of these locations and Rest Centres which were for “Food and Shelter for those rendered homeless”.

From the 1930s, Stoke House became known as Devonport Guardians’ Children’s Home.

See section 4040 http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/archivescatalogue?criteria%3D4040%26operator%3DAND%26toNo%3D40%26accno%3Dyes

The bombing of the City Hospital children’s ward and loss of several nursing staff and young children is remembered in a plaque in Derriford Hospital. It is mentioned in several websites such as the BBC People’s War and also:

http://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/ourorganisation/newsandpublications/pressreleases/Pages/AirRaidMemorialService.aspx

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/99/a7185099.shtml 

Sunday 23 March 1941

Peace all night but difficult to sleep. To CH City Hospital and Swarthmore. Then back Eggbuckland. Walk Stonybridge, Plymbridge, Estover. Jerry siren and guns. Shown over Estover farm 172 cows. Walk George Hotel. Bus CH (City Hospital), did washing and shampoo. Then out Miss Jago. Home with J’s. Cold.

Monday 24 March 1941

Peace all night. Dull drizzle. On [Mutley] Plain and the Salisbury Road. Siren 11 am. To Beaumont and Cobourg with reports. Home, lunch. Walk out Swilly via Peverell. Quiet clinic. Mist and rain. To Stoke House. Mill bridge to see […] Vine via Odeon to Housecraft then home. Siren 6.30. Washed and wrote. Knitted, J’s.

[Editor’s Note: Cobourg Street in Plymouth was also home to Plymouth City High School for Girls, where the writer seems to go for lunch on her rounds. The High School served “Communal Meals will be served at Portland Square, Treville Street School and Plymouth Girls High School between 12 and 2 pm at a cheap rate. open Sunday” according to a Ministry of Information Plymouth Circular 25-4-41 (p. 165, Plymouth – A Shattered City by Gerald Wasley.]

Tuesday 25 March 1941

Quiet night. Rain and drizzle. Mutley Plain, Central Park and Devonport. Home via Hoe and saw Miss Coburn. Back lunch and out Dev[onport] via Cobourg Street, called Stoke House then Beaumont and saw Mrs Robert Walker. Raining. Muddy. CH City Hospital for bath and saw Mac. Dinner etc and eve[ning] with J’s.

Wednesday 26 March 1941

Quiet night. Mist and rain. Up Henders Corner then Salisbury Rd School to Virginia House and Housecraft. Home lunch. Bank and Peverell Dr Johnstone. V. Wet. Saw smashed up Jerry outside CH City Hospital. Out Stoke House [??] Dev(onport). Walk home via Manadon. Lovely evening. Parcel from Jo and letter. Cleaned. Cooked. Wrote letters. Darned, J’s.

[Editor’s Note: the  Virginia House Settlement were welfare and community buildings in former church and community buildings on Looe Street and Batters Street developed with the help of Plymouth MP Nancy Astor between the wars.]

Thursday 27 March 1941

Good sleep and nice quiet night. Lovely a.m. To Housecraft and Barbican. Then Beaumont. Saw Thynne re. billeting children. To Devonport  Dips then Miss Glover. Lost bag. Hot day out Laira Green School – finished early. Nice walk [??] Marsh Mills, Stonybridge, Estover …Miss ??son, Aerodrome, Stonybridge Eggbuckland and back. Inoc typh: made Easter biscuits. Jenkins gone. Sirens and guns 9pm [??]

[Editor’s note: Inoc typh – See “free inoculations against Typhoid: Persons wishing to avail themselves of this service should go to Prince of Wales Hospital, Greenbank, between 9.30 am – 11 am or 2.30-5pm” according to a Ministry of Information Plymouth Circular 25-4-41 (p. 165, Plymouth – A Shattered City by Gerald Wasley.]

Friday 28 March 1941

Wet. Swilly via Swarthmore and St. Gabriel’s. Home. Lunch via Peverell and to Compton Lodge and saw delicious flat. Walk out Milehouse and did clinic. Rain in through Lukes roof. Home via town. Parnell called. To CH City Hospital, bath. Home and cooked Easter biscuits and saw Jenkins. Knitting and darning.

Saturday 29 March 1941

Cold and dull. Restless night ac/o

To Beaumont no D.S. to town found Dingles and Town Hall Devastation awful. Beaumont billeting Thynne. St Jude’s Rest Centre. after lunch walk over moors Moorland Links. Saw Dr and Mrs Harrison. Bus home from Derriford. CH City Hospital for ironing. Dinner etc Siren 8.45. V.cold talked mrs Montague on steps.

[Editor’s Note: Dingles was a major department store which was damaged like the Town Hall during the Blitz].

Sunday 30 March 1941

Lovely sunny a.m. Up CH City Hospital and saw [???] MacN? Icky arrived. Walk Mount Gold and saw babes then Rest Centre. Then Stonybridge,  Plymbridge. Lunch, pine wood in baking sun ….

[Editor’s note: Mount Gold was a hospital in wartime Plymouth. Rest Centres were part of the WRVS, civic and Civil Defence responses to displaced or bombed out people – see previous note.]

Monday 7 April 1941

Brilliant sun but very cold. Town v. Late then punctured so reached Plymouth at noon. Letters and lunch then stopping in lovely sun up Swilly. Back Plain bus and cleaned up flat. Raid 9.30 – 12.30 then again 1.30 – 4.30 am. Dressed in cupboard. Fire watched at Rand and Co.

Tuesday 8 April 1941

Up early for good bath CH City Hospital incendiaries ++ Hartley and HE at Swilly. Devonport via Hartley bus v. Tired all day. Had tea Stoke House then in lovely sun to flat, did ironing and had dinner CH then sewing at Sellecks. Peace all night.

[Editor’s note: ++ is probably the diarist’s symbol for many. HE is High Explosive bombs].

Wednesday 9 April 1941

Cold raw morning. Out school St. Budeaux, shopping and to Communal Dinner [at] High School. Back Devonport and called Stoke House with Rawlin. Back flat and did good clean up. Siren 11 pm just as in bed. Quiet at first then planes and guns. In Sellecks and out firewatching till late.

Thursday 10 April 1941

To CH bath early. Lovely sunny morning. Down Beaumont, fetched luggage from flat > Devonport Dips to [???] Lunch, lovely sun. Throng in shattered Plymouth to Sussex Street Re. patient. Home, flat, cleaned up then caught 3.45 bus Exeter. Coffee Dellars [???] See Whole City. Home. Supper. Planes + Siren in [???] Incendiaries. House burned out Copplestone.

[Editor’s Note: according to website http://www.exetermemories.org.uk, “Deller’s became a favourite venue after the outbreak of war for the many who were displaced, or had been evacuated to Exeter. Members of the Women’s Land Army were guests at the café, along with evacuated children, and of course, service men meeting their sweethearts.” It was damaged by bombing and fire damage in 1942 in the Exeter Blitz.]

 

Friday 11 April 1941 Good Friday

Did not hear all clear. Nice morning. Walk […] Copplestone and St. [???] road. Incendiaries + Then [???] Home and to 3 hours [church] service. After walk [Radford or Redditch] lake, St. Johns and Ex??? Then home same way. Tea guesthouse St. Johns. Apples, tour round Ralditch. Dinner in drawing room. Sirens. Played piano + + all clear 5 am.

 

Saturday 12 April 1941

Lovely sunny morning V. Hot walk Exmouth and met DB there and home by bus Littleham. Cycled Marley, Lympstone, Woodbury village, Hogsbrook Rise [in] afternoon. Tea bungalow and home. Dull and cold. Nice ride home. Knitting eve. Siren, noisy, planes + Bombs at Exmouth. Got to bed 12.30.

 

Sunday  13 April 1941 Easter Sunday

Lovely morning . Up 5.30 and to 6 am service then home and breakfast etc. then walk Littleham church. Packed. Sat on font. Home over cliffs and fields. In afternoon to Exmouth on cycle, see bomb on beach. V. Cold windy Home rain […] Rd. tea and took run out up Knowle. Washed hair. Potato cakes.

 

Monday 14 April 1941 Bank Holiday

Siren on and off all night. Common on fire and bombs? […] Up breakfast and out before on bike collecting news. Then bus Exeter RB and on Plymouth. Sun came out Ivybridge. To flat. Looked dilapidated after Budleigh. Tea Mrs. Hynes. Home and cleaned then took luggage Mrs H. and slept there night v. Comfy. Siren about 5am.

 

Tuesday 15 April 1941

Lovely morning. Up dressed and down flat then out Devonport. Down Town and OU Comm Church, did shopping Town and out Dev(onport) – slack ish. Home eve[ning] via Peverell and Mutley. Note Rands re sleeping there. Up Hynes – lovely eve. […] knitting […] Long raid 9.30 to 5.20 am.

Wednesday 16 April 1941

Lovely morning v. Tired. Down flat and baked cake, Sellicks then town and Stoke House and lunch High School. Glorious day. Devonport Park afternoon (crossed out section – up to see Mrs O’Sullivan who was v. Depressing) Think no air raids. Put advert in paper for flat.

Thursday  17 April 1941

Lovely morning. Out to St. Budeaux for A.N. [AnteNatal?] clinic. Lovely day. Home and cleaned flat and to CH City Hospital for tea. Then Dr Hynes. Shoals of adverts from flat, spent week inspecting them.

Friday 18 April 1941

Swilly as usual. To High School, lunch and met [? at ? ?] City Hospital. Caught 3.45 bus Exeter, v. long and crowded journey. Home night perfect peace. Good sleep.

Saturday 19 April 1941

Lovely morning. On bicycle to Exmouth for some margarine. Lovely ride home. In afternoon cycled with DB to Tidwell, Bicton and Yettington. Then to find bomb craters near Blackberry ??farm?? Lost DB. Started to rain. Went home. DB arrived later and lively debate ensued re leaving her. In evening did much cooking ac/o Mick’s injured hand. Peace night. Mick from Skinners [???]

Sunday 20 April 1941

Lovely morning but cold. To Littleham. Church DB home over cliffs. After lunch walk ?? To cliffs in sun. Caught 3.35 bus Exeter and Plymouth. Back to flat prepared supper. To Hynes and peace all night.

Monday 21 April 1941

Down flat early then to School Clinic. Lovely sun. Met Thomson. To town and flat there flat lunch and out [to] Hynes [in] evening. Air raid 9.30 pm Fires planes ++ ended 4.30 am. Devonport attacked and rest of Plymouth.

Tuesday 22 April 1941

Up early and down flat. Still intact. Then out Devonport. Time bomb near Stoke House, much damage Albert Road. Lunch High School and back Devonport. Visited Welcome Rest Centre. Back there afternoon then Yelverton to see Black. Lovely.

Air Raid all night 9.30 to 3a.m. Devonport badly attacked and Police Station and terrace by Hospital. All Town roped off.

Wednesday 23 April 1941

To St. Budeaux school dull and wintry walk Eggbuckland vicarage and Wideycourt. Could not get [to] High School for lunch. Out Devonport – time bomb near [???] Back Stoke House burned out. Then to Gratton [… Fayre …] And to see […] Bus home. To flat and out [to] Hynes.

Thursday 24 April 1941

Air raid 9.30 to 1 a.m. Devonport again and oil tanks Torpoint. To Beaumont Dips and then Town Hall. High School lunch. Lovely sunny day. To Stoke House children in a school and then school inspect[ion] St. Budeaux. Home and cleaned flat. Then [to] Hynes. Shampoo. Lay down and slept 2am.

Friday 25 April 1941

Good rest. Lovely evening. To Swilly via Peverell, Beacon Park. Seized with renal colic before lunch at High School. Could not do clinic. Home. Saw Mrs. Collier. Bed. Down for news and then long good night. Lovely day. Siren 10pm and 1.30am.

Saturday 26 April 1941

Up early and down to get breakfast. To Town Hall, Stoke House, Rest Centres etc. Home lunch. Finished Rest Centres and Ben lovely sunny walk [???] Tralee and back to flat. Then to another Rest Centre then home,  washed stockings. Icky rang up. Pleasant evening. Siren 6pm.

Sunday 27 April 1941

Dull and v. cold wind. Down flat and did rest centres. Visited Smellie. Home lunch and up [to] Hynes and down out Holbeton. Walk along Hill Drive into Holbeton […] home to flat and started packing. Walk [… ] Eggbuckland and home.

Monday 28 April 1941
Lovely morning out St Budeaux and Swilly then home flat. Called Marshall’s in Cornwall. Up Mrs. Hynes. Siren 10 to 10 and v. intensive raid. Finished about 1.30 am. Dreadful damage St. Budeaux and Saltash.

Tuesday 29 April 1941
Lovely sunny morning. Out to Devonport – still time bombs. Then to Stoke House children – Matron going Clovelly. Walk out [Linkelly?]
then to High School lunch. Out Swilly afternoon. Tea Mrs. Kennedy. Packed up and went Hynes. No go at [Coll …] Dreadful raid 10 to 10 – 2 a.m.

 

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[Editor’s note: Our local NFS Newquay Fire Crew were lost attending the 27/28 Plymouth April fires.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/the-plymouth-blitz-70-years-on-and-newquays-lost-wartime-afs-firecrew-remembered/

The diary continues for the rest of the year. Another notable entry is on “May 1 1941 evacuation school children” and “Friday 9 May Evacuation Exam” along with “Saturday 3rd May Churchill Visit” but that is another story for another post.

Children from Stoke House Children’s Home and the related Scattered Homes were evacuated to Clovelly in Devon – see Plymouth Archive catalogue 4040 http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/archivescatalogue?criteria%3D4040%26operator%3DAND%26toNo%3D40%26accno%3Dyes

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

If you wish to reuse or quote extracts from this Plymouth 1941 Blitz diary, please credit it back to the above and this website. I can be contacted through the Reply / Comments page on this  blog.

 

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Plymouth Marine Biological Association blitzed 20 March 1941

March 18, 2016

Remembering Stanley Wells Kemp and the fire teams in the Plymouth Blitz

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

The Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association on the Hoe in Plymouth was severely damaged on the evening of 20 March 1941 in the Plymouth Blitz. It also suffered HE bomb damage to its extensive glass on 28 December 1940.

The 1941 bombardment is described in the obituary of Stanley Wells Kemp who was the director of the MBA at the time. He sacrificed his living quarters to the flames in order to try and save his ‘aquarium’ laboratories.

imageObituary

http://sabella.mba.ac.uk/1303/01/Obituary_Stanley_Wells_Kemp.pdf

More resources on the MBA in the Plymouth Blitz can be found on the MBA website including a typed description of the damage, republished in the journal Naturehttp://www.mba.ac.uk/nmbl/projects/history/125laboratory/resources/blitz

1941 grimmest year of the war 75 years on

January 1, 2016

italldependsoneme1941

‘It All Depends on Me’ playing card sized propaganda for your pocket diary, from the Brewers Society, 1941/42 (image from the World War Zoo gardens collection, Newquay Zoo)

On the 70th anniversary of 1941, the “grimmest year of the war” according to some, I posted the following blogpost about our World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/1941-the-grimmest-year-of-the-war-sowing-saved-seed-solving-shorthand-clues-and-editing-wartime-diaries-for-the-world-war-zoo-gardens-project-at-newquay-zoo/

2011 / 2016: We are still hard at work on the wartime diaries project as new diaries come into our collection.

2011 also sadly saw during  the 70th anniversary of the dark days of 1941   the death of ‘Betty Turpin’, much loved British soap actress who in the 1940s was  better known as wartime singing star Betty Driver:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/it-all-depends-on-me-or-you-betty-driver-rip-potato-pete-mr-chad-and-propaganda-of-the-1940s/

Rereading these 5 year old blogposts from 2011  is sad in some ways, as David Lowe’s wonderful BBC music nostalgia programmes finished in 2012, still much missed.

1941 was also the year of the Plymouth Blitz where a Newquay AFS fire crew was lost, something to remember in April 2016 on the 75th anniversary. https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/the-plymouth-blitz-70-years-on-and-newquays-lost-wartime-afs-firecrew-remembered/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/of-zoos-and-fire-fighting-today-and-in-wartime/

WWZ gardens June 2011 002

World War Zoo gardens graphic sign Summer 2011

Our Graphics sign for the project produced by Stewart Muir, graphic designer Michelle Turton and myself arraived in 2011. Still looking good five years later and would have been read by hundreds of thousands of people.

wartime garden BIAZA award, Mark Norris

Newquay Zoo’s wartime gardener and blogger Mark Norris with the BIAZA award for best plants in a landscape feature and design.

2011 was the year of our BIAZA Zoo Gardening award in November: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/world-war-zoo-gardens-at-newquay-zoo-wins-a-zoo-oscar-national-biaza-2011-gardening-award/

http://www.biaza.org.uk/plant-care-management/awards-and-commendations/world-war-zoo-gardens/

2011 also saw me talk about wartime zoos at the Chester Zoo / WAZA / SHNH /  Bartlett Society zoo history conference in May 2011, the talk now published as a journal article in the proceedings.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/zoo-do-you-think-you-are-tracking-down-family-history-and-wartime-concrete-at-chester-zoo/

gnome ZSL war memorail

Our wartime Gnome Guard-ener pays his respects at London Zoo’s staff war memorial, March 2011

2011 was also the year our wartime garden gnome or ‘Gnome Guard’ disappeared, popped up at Paignton Zoo and did a European zoo tour with postcards home before reappearing one day. Still haven’t found how or who aided and abetted this … https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/one-of-our-gnome-guards-is-missing-from-newquay-zoo/

LR Brightwell's wartime panda poster London Zoo 1942

L.R. Brightwell’s wartime panda poster for London Zoo 1942

December 2016 will also see the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the USA into the war on the Allied side. This was marked in 2011 by a topical blogpost on Giant Pandas of all things:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/panda-tourism-and-pearl-harbor-a-wartime-perspective-from-world-war-zoo-gardens/

 

Chester Zoo June's Pavilion Oakfield House gardens May 2011 014

George Mottershead in uniform with wife Elizabeth, World War One, one of many family photos in the lovely June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo 2011

The First World War Centenary was still in the planning in 2011. This year 2016 sees the anniversary of conscription in the UK and the battles of Verdun and the Somme in July 1916.

The Somme and 1916 saw the deaths of several more British zoo keepers and botanic garden staff and no doubt many of their French and German colleagues.

We will post 1916/2016 centenary blogs closer to the time on the effect these battles had on these men and their families and colleagues, not least George Mottershead. George survived a serious disabling injury at the Somme to found Chester Zoo in the 1930s, something celebrated since 2011 in the BBC series “Our Zoo”.

2011 was a busy year of anniversaries and gardening.

Happy New Year for 2016 and thanks for reading.

I wonder what we’ll be looking back on in another 5 years?

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

Panda Tourism and Pearl Harbor – a wartime perspective from World War Zoo Gardens

December 4, 2011

 

LR Brightwell’s wartime panda poster for London Zoo 1942

What colour are Giant pandas? Black, white … and in wartime, grey, blue or possibly green?

Pandas were amongst some of the larger and famous London Zoo animals which were evacuated to or kept safe at rural Whipsnade as war loomed in 1939, with bamboo shipped regularly by the train load from the West Country at several points in the 1940s (and 1960s) to feed them (according to many local stories from zoo visitors, railway buffs and former boy scouts in Cornwall).

After the 1940/1 Blitz,  the surviving panda(s) returned to the comparative safety and quiet of London Zoo in 1942 alongside the Off The Rations exhibition as witnessed in the morale boosting wartime publicity poster by L.R. Brightwell. It is reproduced in his 1952 The Zoo Story London Zoo history book.

It’s a beautifully detailed cartoon, reminiscent of the First World War troops off to the trenches where Brightwell and other London Zoo staff served,   but with  the modern 1940s touches of  bamboo food ration book, identity card, keeper’s ARP steel helmet and gas mask box. Some animals may have had gas masks, but generally animals had no ration books, hence the victory gardens dug in many British  zoos to feed animals, which our award-winning World War Zoo Gardens project recreates at Newquay Zoo.

Britain’s wartime Pandas helped to draw the crowds back to London Zoo and so glimpse the “Off The Rations” exhibition and ‘dig for victory’ model allotment gardens.

Pandas are on the move and in the news again, from China to Edinburgh Zoo – and best of luck to all involved http://www.rzsspanda.org.uk Whatever the arguments for and against ‘Panda tourism’ that will be rehearsed as a ‘conservation con-troversy’ in the media,  hopefully these iconic animals will draw many people through the gates to visit RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and find out about all the other endangered animals, both native (at the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park) and exotic species at the zoo and its many conservation projects, including overseas projects such as the Falkland Islands.

Red panda conservation poster, Newquay Zoo, 2011 (designed by Cornwall College students)

Bill Conway, a major American zoo figure, argued that good zoos are ‘a place to turn recreation dollars into conservation dollars’. Here at Newquay Zoo we don’t have Giant pandas, but we do have their rare cousin the Red or Lesser panda, with its own conservation problems of habitat loss and hunting for its vivid red fur. In the same tradition as Brightwell’s cartoon panda poster, a contemporary student banner from our partner college CornwallCollege sums up one problem that zoos can highlight for action to its visitors: “Conservation not deforestation”.

Panda ‘Peace Ambassadors’  Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the Giant Pandas from China arrived at  Edinburgh Zoo today on 4th December 2011. They will be on show to the public from 16th December 2011. For details of how to get Panda Viewing tickets, visit http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk .

It’s been almost twenty years since Pandas have been seen in British zoos. I’m told I saw them as a 1970s child but have no memory of this.  I was lucky enough to see several pairs of panda ambassadors  in American Zoos, including a pair at San Diego Zoo in California c. 2002. These were part of a long-running relationship between American zoos and China stretching back to the 1930s.

The Roosevelt family played an important role in making  Pandas – dead or alive –  more well known in the West.

Two pandas were caught in transit when the events of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place, on 7th  December 1941,  a “date which will live in infamy”, according to President Roosevelt.

Another strangely comic wartime story about pandas cropped up recently on the email network of the Bartlett Society www.zoohistory.co.uk. Richard Reynolds recalls:

“Before there was any national TV in USA, there was a national Sunday radio broadcast from the Bronx Zoo. I recall hearing several episodes on our radio here in Atlanta in the fall of 1942.

“One of them dealt with the struggles to get the two giant pandas to the zoo just as war was breaking out in the Pacific. The animals had to be  flown over Japanese occupied China to the Philippines. They were on the high seas  en route to California from the Philippines when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor …”

“While at sea (after War broke out) the ship had to be painted in camouflage. The pandas were on deck for exercise and one of them got into the paint.  I can recall that as vividly as though it were it were yesterday though 68 years have elapsed” (with thanks to  Richard Reynolds, Atlanta, GA, 2009 for his memories).”

So pandas are indeed black, white and  grey (or  blue and green) whatever disruptive coloration was in emergency use on US naval ships in 1941.

Camouflage is one useful contribution of zoologists in wartime, and HMS Belfast still bears the ‘Western Approaches’ colour scheme invented by Sir Peter Scott, founder of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust but then a well known wildlife artist and young naval commander. Peter Scott helped set up the international World Wildlife Fund in the 1960s (Patron: another young wartime Naval commander, the Duke of Edinburgh). WWF has of course  as its logo the  iconic Giant panda.

Gas masks for Japanese zoo elephants on the cover of Mayumi Itoh Japanese zoo wartime book

The sad anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war by the Japanese on Allied countries 70 years ago will be marked  with many events this Wednesday. Within a month, many British, American and Allied outposts were captured by a triumphant Japanese Army and Navy. As we pointed out in our January 2011 blogpost, 1941 was seen by some as the “grimmest year of the war” forBritain and the Allies.

The rubber plantations, zoos and botanic gardens of Singapore and other colonies of the British Empire were quickly overrun. Rubber became a scarce and salvageable commodity. Zoo keeper’s wellington boots and rubber hoses became difficult to replace. In Britain the ladies of the WVS and WI dragged village ponds for scrap rubber tyres. In America, zoo animals patriotically gave up their rubber tyre swings for the war effort in publicity salvage drives.

Eleanor Roosevelt the President’s wife ordered a Dig for Victory garden to be dug in the White House lawns as an example to her nation to save , make do and mend and give their all for the war effort. (A modern organic version of the victory garden has been recreated by President  Obama’s family).

American zoos, especially on the coast, would have gone rapidly onto a war footing as British zoos had done in 1939; some closed, never to reopen.  One sad consequence of the declaration of war and very real fear of an invasion of Americaby the Japanese was the internment of ‘enemy aliens’ including Japanese-American families in harsh and remote places. Several generations of Issei, Nissei, Sansei and Yonsei responded by transforming their prisons and barrack blocks with beautiful stone gardens, a story told in Kenneth Helphand’s book Defiant Gardens.

Some of the ‘ghost marks’ of these ephemeral gardens at Manzanar CA are now national memorials, whilst many Japanese gardens erected after the war became peace gardens of reconciliation after the horrors of war ended at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I sometimes take Kenneth Helphand’s book down to our quiet Oriental gardens here at Newquay Zoo to read on quiet or difficult days.  Defiant Gardens is at times a difficult but ultimately inspiring book to read about this little known chapter of the war– a real argument for the peaceful urge to garden and plant, create rather than destroy. It would make a good present for the Christmas stocking for the quiet indoor months for your gardening friends.  http://defiantgardens.com/ Defiant  Gardens  flourished in the most unlikely places including ghettoes and POW camps.

Percy Murray Adams ZSL Whipsnade Keeper (from Animal and Zoo Magazine)

Percy Murray Adams ZSL Whipsnade Keeper (from pre-war Animal and Zoo Magazine)

Three  of London Zoo and Whipsnade’s keepers, Henry Peris Davies (d. 21.12.1941, listed Singapore memorial)  and Albert Henry Wells (d. 25.01.1945, Burma)   perished through the long and bloody years of fighting in the Far East or in Japanese POW camps Percy Murray Adams (died in Japanese POW camp, 28.07.1943)  – Many of these keepers would have known or worked with the Giant pandas at London Zoo and Whipsnade. Read our November 2010 and 2011 blog post about ZSL London Zoo’s staff war memorial for more details.  I used to meet many old sweats of the the Burma Star Association and POWs on their visits to Newquay Zoo on their West Country reunions, a peaceful place  they said, despite the unnnerving  and evocative jungle scent in our Tropical House.

A Bamboo memorial garden to Far East POWs has been created through http://www.captivememories.org.uk/ with local schools at Ness Botanic Gardens near Liverpool http://www.bgen.org.uk/index.php/who/22/345-ness

No doubt many US, Indian and Australian zoo staff also died, were wounded or served in the Far East, as did members of my own family who held the Burma Star. Part of our World War Zoo Gardens research involves tracking down the effects of wartime on zoos, their staff and animals so any details of memorials or casualties are very helpful.

Mayumi Itoh’s recently published book Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy puts the other side of the story, describing the difficulties experienced by Japanese zoo animals and staff in wartime. Many Japanese zoo vets were called up to serve in the veterinary corps, keeping healthy that vital machine of war, the mule.

Not far from where Percy Murray Adams is buried, Sasanuma Tadashi, Ueno Zoo Tokyo keeper was killed. Despite the language differences, I’m sure these two keepers, like the two soldiers in Wilfred Owen’s First World War poem Strange Meeting,  would have had much common ground.

Mayumi Itoh comes out strongly to the conclusion that zoos need peace to flourish, whether in wartime, during the 1960s Panda and chess games of Cold War diplomacy or in today’s recessionary and uncertain world where zoos and wildlife are engulfed or sidelined by conflict in places likeLibya, Africa and the Middle East.

The sheltered woods and quarries of Paignton Zoo (our sister zoo in Devon), our nature reserve at Slapton Ley and much of the area of Cornwall around Newquay Zoo (where the World War Zoo Gardens is based) were once temporary home and training ground to thousands of young GIs from all over America who shipped out to D-Day from our now peaceful West Country beaches.

Some of them returned home to America, with many a Cornish or Devon ‘GI bride’ on their arm. Others never returned as they perished on the beaches of Slapton in Devon (remembered by Ken Small’s Sherman tank memorial), Normandy or the Pacific.  Our own World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo is a peaceful and productive memorial garden to the men, women, children and animals of all nationalities who have been affected by war around the world.

So maybe we should celebrate the peace, ‘sweetness’ and ‘sunshine’ that Tian Tian and Yang Guang (in translation) the Giant Pandas will hopefully bring (despite the crowds) to Edinburgh Zoo and the world. If you can’t make it toEdinburgh, you could visit your local zoo or spend a few quiet hours in the garden.

We’ll be busy getting ready for our Christmas weekend on 10 and 11th December 2011, and carol service on the 11th – see http://www.paigntonzoo.org.uk – and closed only on Christmas Day. We’ll be busy fundraising for the conservation of rare South-east Asian birds from those Far-East jungles in our Gems of The Jungle aviary project throughout next year.

So finally, a peaceful Happy Christmas and (Chinese) New Year (or Happy Panda Hogmanay) to all our blog readers over the next few weeks!

Stuck for presents or stressed by Christmas, you can read our  last December 2010 blog post (much pingbacked)  where we reflected on ‘make do and mend’ wartime Christmas presents and a few modern ideas for presents. Panda adoptions for Christmas presents maybe?

The Plymouth Blitz 70 years on and Newquay’s lost wartime AFS firecrew remembered ..

April 21, 2011

AFS / NFS crews like those of the Newquay AFS rushing to action – pictured by fireman artist Reginald Mills from “In the Service of the Nation” a wartime publication for the NFS Benevolent Fund (image from the World War Zoo gardens project collection).

The 23rd April 1941 saw another Blitz night on Plymouth.

Racing to assist, the Newquay wartime fire crew were hit by a bomb as they arrived at Plymouth.

Reposted from our blog of 22/2 March 2011 (see our Archive posts), Newquay lost 5 of its volunteer fire crew  out of a total of 9 crew. 2 more were badly wounded.

The details of the 5 casualties are  from the Commonwealth War Graves site http://www.cwgc.org/search

GUY IVOR CAMERON  FEATHERSTONE, Age: 40 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Featherstone, of Green Gables, Pentire, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

ERNEST STANLEY  OLD, Age: 37 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Old, of 9 Trenance Road, Newquay, Cornwall, and of the late J. Old; husband of V. Old, of Endberry House, Berry Road, Newquay. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

BENJAMIN ARTHUR  PHILLIPS, Age: 32 Date of Death: 24/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. C. Phillips husband of Amy Phillips, of 63 Ulalia Road Newquay, Cornwall. Injured 23 April 1941, at Plymouth; died at Prince of Wales Hospital, Greenbank.

 STANLEY VINEER,Age: 38 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Husband of Gladys I. Vineer, of 9 Robartes Road, Newquay, Cornwall. Died at Market Street.

FREDERICK ROBERT ELFORD WHITING, (‘Bob’ Whiting)  Age: 28 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. R. M. Whiting, of Chumley, Porth Way, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

Pathe Newsreel 27 June 1940 ID No. 1290.27 features film  of  a ‘Robert Whiting’ of Newquay making puppet caricatures of topical personalities: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/puppets-2/query/smith

Photos of them are still proudly displayed alongside a memorial plaque at Newquay Fire station.

Lest we forget …

Of zoos and fire-fighting, today and in wartime …

March 22, 2011

Newquay Zoo Keeper Nicole Howarth doing fire training, Action Fire Protection training, Newquay Zoo, March 2011

Newquay Zoo Keeper Nicole Howarth doing fire training, Action Fire Protection training, Newquay Zoo, March 2011

Listening to the excellent coverage on BBC Radio Cornwall of the Plymouth / Cornwall Blitz material over the last few days, I was interested to hear that a Saltash or local SE Cornish fire crew had been killed attending the Plymouth Blitz, as this also happened to the Newquay AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) crew despatched to help Plymouth crews on 23 April 1941.

An up-country fire crew was despatched to replace them in Newquay afterwards. It is briefly mentioned in the late Bettye Grey’s book Oh Get On! http://www.narehotel.co.uk/about/book  all about Newquay tourism / life in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. I’m told by veteran BBC journalist (reired), Newquay Voice columnist and local boy Chris Blount that Bettye died only a couple of weeks ago but her memories live on in this lively little paperback.

I believe there is a memorial fire bell to the lost crew at Newquay Fire station.

I came across this Newquay fire crew story researching more for the World War Zoo project gardens here at Newquay Zoo. We’re busy preparing for our wartime garden display week in May half term (beginning 28th May for the half term week 2011) which will feature  amongst other areas this aspect of zoos, botanic gardens in wartime and their fire watch / fire training.

Training manual for AFS wartime fire staff, featuring the Coventry made pumps from another blitzed city and the much feared incendiary bomb. (Images: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

 

Fire is still something to be planned for in today’s zoo, with stores of hay and straw. Natural and man-made disasters affecting  zoos and aquariums are not unknown, and many zoo keepers thoughts are with their collegues in Japan at the moment:  http://http://www.waza.org/en/site/pressnews-events/press-releases/zoos-and-aquariums-affected-by-earthquake-and-tsunami-in-japan  gives more details. The response to wartime difficulties in Japanese zoos  is described   in the recently published book by Ms. Mayumi Itoh, Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War II, 2010, Palgrave MacMillan, New York (available via Amazon).

No stirrup pump here! Newquay Zoo bird keeper Gary Ward doing modern fire training with Action Fire Protection, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, March 2011

Ironically, the entire Newquay Zoo staff have just done our fire extinguisher and fire awareness training, so it is still something we  think about.

We have for the future ‘wartime zoo’ schools workshops and illustrations for the wartime zoo book and events displays an old stirrup pump (used post war by gardeners for watering and pest control), incendiary bomb and shrapnel, fireman’s tunic, helmet, axe, canvas bucket and other material. All this kit zoo staff would have used in their wartime role or part time work as firemen.  Much of the material will be displayed at our May half term wartime garden week (May 28th to June 5th 2011) – see the Newquay Zoo website for details (blog roll / links opposite) .

The details of the 5 casualties are  from the Commonwealth War Graves site http://www.cwgc.org/search

GUY IVOR CAMERON FEATHERSTONE, Age: 40 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Featherstone, of Green Gables, Pentire, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

ERNEST STANLEY  OLD, Age: 37 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Old, of 9 Trenance Road, Newquay, Cornwall, and of the late J. Old; husband of V. Old, of Endberry House, Berry Road, Newquay. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

BENJAMIN ARTHUR  PHILLIPS, Age: 32 Date of Death: 24/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. C. Phillips husband of Amy Phillips, of 63 Ulalia Road Newquay, Cornwall. Injured 23 April 1941, at Plymouth; died at Prince of Wales Hospital, Greenbank.

 STANLEY VINEER, Age: 38 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Husband of Gladys I. Vineer, of 9 Robartes Road, Newquay, Cornwall. Died at Market Street.

FREDERICK ROBERT ELFORD WHITING, (‘Bob’ Whiting)  Age: 28 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. R. M. Whiting, of Chumley, Porth Way, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

Pathe Newsreel 27 June 1940 ID No. 1290.27 features film  of  a ‘Robert Whiting’ of Newquay making puppet caricatures of topical personalities: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/puppets-2/query/smith

Lest we forget …

POSTSCRIPT

Two weeks ago the Newquay Voice newspaper and columnist Chris Blount produced a whole page feature on the lost 1941 Newquay Fire Crew. I also turned up more information  from Cornwall At War 1939-1945, Peter Hancock, Halsgrove,  2002:

Page 93

“From December 1940 Plymouth became one of the targets for so called Baedeker Raids, cathedral cities listed in the German’s pre-war Baedeker Tourist Guides. These reached their most devastating in March and April 1941. In towns as far away as St. Austell and Newquay people looked to the east to the glow of the blazing city lighting up the night sky. To help deal with the infernos, fire crews were dispatched to Plymouth from stations throughout Cornwall, as well as from the South of England. After a cold journey riding on the sides of the fire tenders, exposed to the elements, the men stayed as long as a week before they were stood down. The crews ate and slept when they could. They were assisted by the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), though they might not have been considered equals. These volunteers, men and women, worked either full time or part time. In Mid 1941 the AFS was combined with the regular fire service to form the National Fire Service under the Fire Services (Emergency Provision) Bill. The problem of incompatible hoses and standpipes was also addressed, as Cornish brigades had found themselves impotent when their hoses would not connect to some Plymouth water mains.”

 “Tragically on 21 April 1941 five volunteer firemen from Newquay were killed, while two others lost limbs. One of the survivors is recorded as saying, ‘It was strange, because nine of us were there and the explosion killed every other one in the line. Each alternate person was all right.” [Quote from the late Albert Trembath, quoted in The Cornish Guardian, 26 April 2001, p.28.]

“On the same night, an underground shelter in Portland Square, Plymouth received a direct hit from a high explosive bomb. 72 people were killed, with only two survivors. Six Saltash AFS men were killed whilst fighting a fire in King Street, Devonport … Between 21-25 April, during what became known as the ‘Five-Night blitz’ on Plymouth, 590 people including 17 firemen were killed. On 23 April 1941 Mount Edgcumbe House was gutted when it was struck by incendiary bombs.  The fire brigades were hampered through a lack of water, as well as by a UXB [Unexploded Bomb] that was reported at the Torpoint Ferry Entrance, causing all traffic to be stopped, proving to be a “serious handicap for Fire Brigades from Cornwall many of whom were stopped at Liskeard and diverted to Saltash”

[Quote from History of Incidents, S.E. Cornwall (Incident No. 61), Cornwall Record Office, Truro.]

An up country fire crew was despatched to replace the AFS crew  in Newquay afterwards. It is briefly mentioned in the late Bettye Grey’s book Oh Get On!  http://www.narehotel.co.uk/about/book  all about Newquay tourism / life in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Bettye Grey’s book excerpt, from pages 91 -92; this is taken from the first hardback edition known as Oh My Dear Life!, 2000, privately published, now available in paperback as: Oh Get On!

“In April 1941 with the blitz at its height the Newquay detachment of the AFS was sent for. By the time they arrived the city was ablaze and they had not even reached the pumps before their fire tender received a direct hit and five Newquay members of the crew were killed … The whole of Newquay grieved for those five brave local chaps. That night 1000 bombs incendiary bombs rained on Plymouth. The whole city burned. In all 17 firemen were killed and the centre of Plymouth had finally been completely destroyed.”

1941 the grimmest year of the war? Sowing saved seed, solving shorthand clues and editing wartime diaries for the World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo

January 9, 2011

1941 – the grimmest year of the war

 “1941 was the grimmest year of the war for Britain. On land, Allied forces were defeated in every theatre of war in which they were fighting.”

quoted from Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (Harper, London, 2010, p. 267)

Seed saving: Saved Broad bean seed from our wartime allotment 2010 and wartime gardening magazines. "Food Production is Vital ...as Vital as the Guns!"

I have spent the quiet winter moments in the wartime zoo garden at Newquay Zoo editing several wartime pocket diaries, as there is not much to do in the winter garden in late December, except  planning next year’s crops and early planting.

I’ve sowed saved seeds from last year’s crops such as the Sutton broad bean noted (a pre-war 1923 Sutton’s seed variety of ‘Exhibition Longpod’ , according to Christopher Stocks in Forgotten Fruits, Windmill press, 2009, one of my Christmas presents). We saved some pods but used the others – as animal food. Last year, spare salad in glut months went to everything from rare tortoises to the zoo cafe and barbecue!

Newquay Zoo’s  animals, especially our rare ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi Macaque monkeys, enjoyed shelling these broad bean pods and eating the entire plants. We will be celebrating a new birth amongst these rare monkeys and our Selamatkan Yaki conservation programme at Newquay Zoo this year (see our Yaki monkey events and webcam on our page on the Newquay Zoo website. Newquay Zoo closes only on Christmas day so no zoo visitors that day, but I was otherwise too busy with family to plant on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. This was probably a traditional escape route of allotment gardeners to avoid relatives and get some peace. 

These beans have been sown undercover in ‘recycled’ cardboard tube planters to get a head start, the date of planting noted in a small pocket diary for garden notes for 2011.

Not all our wartime garden allotment produce was saved for seed last year: rare Yaki Sulawesi macaque monkeys at Newquay Zoo tucking into fresh Broad bean pods (photo: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

Hopefully keeping such a diary with its tiny daily entry space will give me an insight  into the often anonymous lives of the diary keepers. Sometimes there are clues, inscriptions and addresses mentioned to give in these brief Twitter length entries to give some clue to the writer’s age, gender, work and family life.  

The war was entering its 17th month when Eileen’s pocket diary starts in January 1941. It was to be a grim year for Britain. Eileen worked in the Civil Service in London, possibly for London Transport or the GPO General Post Office but  late in 1942 transferred to the Post Office Savings Bank. Engaged in September 1941, it seems likely that she married young, aged around 20 / 21  – however her diary finishes in December 1942.

January 1941

1 Wed       Was in bed when New Year came.

2 Thur       Went to Commodore with Freddie. Air Raid but very quiet. Beautiful clear night.

5 Sun         2nd Great Fire of London. Blazes all round. Cornwall Hse hit. Hilda will not have to go to work.

6 Mon        Hilda sent home, sending for her when needed.

9 Thur      Hilda starts work again.

10 Fri         Hilda goes to Wren House for the day. More incendiaries & HEs. Dad driving and dodging oil bombs.

Many histories of the Blitz note that mercifully after a short Christmas truce, the weather was bad or cold enough for thirteen nights in January to see no Luftwaffe bombing.

30 Thurs    Work as usual. Told we are to do night duty at office for fire duty. Air Raid Imminents all day.

31 Fri         On duty all night. No raid alerts during evening. Played darts & table tennis till 12pm …

The air raids got worse again throughout March 1941.  This raid (mentioned below) is known in London Blitz terms simply as ‘The Wednesday’ with over 1,180 people killed, especially in the ARP services, and 2230 injured – part of a terrible week including ‘The Saturday’.

March 1941

16 Weds   Worst Blitz of the War. Land Mine at Cranmer Court. 3 bombs in Sydney St. & Womens Hospital. Hit Chelsea Old Church down to ground. Pensioners hit again …

1941 – a year of Blitz, defeat and new allies

Not much is said about the war overseas in Eileen’s diary, which focuses mostly on the Home Front, bombing and life in wartime London. Occasionally friends are reported ‘missing’ on active service.

1941 was a difficult year for Britain and the Allied troops. Overseas in late 1940, Britain and Allied forces had fought successfully against the Italians on land and sea in Greece, Egypt, East and North Africa.  Early in 1941 as the diary begins, Germany begins to reinforce its unsuccessful ally Italy with German troops in Greece, Yugoslavia and North Africa, leading to a series of victories over British and Allied troops which continued into late 1942.

 It was not until Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 that Russia became an ‘ally’, followed late in December 1941 by America, when the USA was bombed by Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7th. Britain and USA declared war on Japan the next day. The USA declared war against Italy & Germany (and vice versa) on the 11th December 1941.  Japan successfully began its invasion of many British, US and Allied colonies and islands in South-east Asia throughout December 1941.     

Eileen’s diary is not all doom and gloom – it is full of an eighteen year old’s social life, family events and everyday jobs. What makes this diary more interesting is the sense of the routine, mundane everyday tasksbirthdays, cinema trips, holidays as an important and familiar “investment in normality became crucial …unlike soldiers in battle, for civilians ordinary life in familiar surroundings went on in the intervals between raids”  according to Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (p. 183)

July 1941

7 Mon        Another lovely day. Sin to be at work. Went over the allotment in the evening.

There are many other references throughout Eileen’s diary to food. 1941 was the year when the famous “Dig For Victory” poster appeared with the hobnail booted foot of Mr W.H. McKie of Acton, London (in the area where Eileen lives or  works).

“Dig For Victory” allotments have been  recreated in various forms here at Newquay Zoo, at Trengwainton (National Trust, Penzance, Cornwall) and in preparation at Occombe Farm, near our sister zoo at Paignton in Devon. You can read more about this national campaign in Twigs Way and Mike Brown’s new Dig For Victory book on wartime gardening (2011) or in Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Ministry of Food book to accompany the rationing exhibition that has just closed  at the Imperial War Museum. 1941 saw further restrictions including clothes rationing introduced in June, important enough to be noted in a teenage girl’s diary.

“Food rations were lower in the first months of 1941 than at any other time during the war … meat rationing fell from 2s. 2d in autumn 1940 to 1s, 2d in January 1941 and hardly rose again for the rest of the war, while the cheese allowance plummeted to one ounce per person and jam went ‘on the coupon’ …” quoted from Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (Harper, London, 2010, p. 268)

The last weeks in Belfast and Northern Ireland have seen frozen water supply problems. This was common in wartime Britain alongside   low gas pressure from damaged gas mains and a shortage of coal and wood for domestic use and cooking. All this made  everyday  wartime life difficult for many British families.  Juliet Gardiner notes that freezing conditions made life difficult for bombed-out families and firemen in Britain with hoses freezing, most famously pictured on 3rd January 1941 in Bristol. Mercifully after a short Christmas truce, the weather was bad or cold enough for thirteen nights in January to see no Luftwaffe bombing.  Bombing was also shifting to ports like Bristol (3rd January) and Cardiff (2nd January).

So this puts into perspective the recent cold snaps of 2010 that once again destroyed or damaged lots of our early crops in the World War Zoo gardens. Cloche gardening was a relative novelty in the 1940s, leading to one company producing the strangely titled wartime booklet Cloches versus Hitler. We were  thankfully spared the obvious ‘Cloches versus Boches alternative title. It might not have seemed so in 1941, but the cloches were to win. Glass itself was in short supply (as many repairing bombed botanic gardens and zoo enclosures found) with the urgent need to repair wartime damage, although I’m sure wrecked windows were reused to make cold frames by enterprising wartime gardeners.

What next for 2011 and the World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo?

Patrol diary summary page of the Blitz activities of a London scout group based in Rotherhithe at St. Katherine's church (destroyed in the London Blitz) Copyright: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo

We have a London woman’s 1944 diary of The Little Blitz and life on her allotment, already typed up and being edited to match Eileen’s diary. There are also passages from a young scout patrol leader’s diary of London 1939 – 40, including the Blitz. We’ll then start work on a Merseyside girl’s diary for 1939 – 1943 (which has sections in shorthand to decipher first), to match a Mersey River Pilot’s diary of his pilot-boat work in the Liverpool docks and stormy love affair with a WREN throughout 1943.

Newquay Zoo being built on former wartime farming land, it’s also appropriate that we’re also working on a wartime Farmer’s diary from the Sunderland area from 1944 to 1946 and excerpts from many civilian wartime letters.

We hope to produce a version of each of the diaries for use in the classroom with teaching notes and suggestions, as well as an adult / general reader version.

We look forward to announcing a publication date in future when sections of Eileen’s Blitz diary and also the Little Blitz 1944 diary will be available to buy from the zoo by post, all profits going towards the ongoing wartime garden and schools workshops, amongst our other conservation and education work such as the Gems of The Jungle Aviary and Selamatkan Yaki .

For further details of the wartime garden, publications, schools workshops or  comments, contact us via the Newquay Zoo website.

You can subscribe for further blog posts on this blog page, and also find on Twitter.  

Wishing you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year!


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