Posts Tagged ‘Biggles’

BBC A History of the World in 100 Objects – sliding puzzles, Spitfires, penguins and poppies. Which one of the zoo’s objects in its wartime collection to nominate?

January 24, 2010

Our 1940s ‘wartime handmade sliding  puzzle’  is now featured in the BBC’s online museum for the BBC ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ series,  You can see pictures of the front side of the puzzle online.  It’s in good company alongside the treasures of the British Museum in London and many other national and regional musuems. Search for it  under categories ‘war‘, ‘family‘ and ‘entertainment‘ in the 20th century time slot.
We could have listed it under ‘trade‘ as well, because of what it is made out of

Back of the wartime handmade sliding puzzle toy, showing Australia Butter brand on the wooden box

“This toy was handmade from an Australian butter box as a Christmas present for a wartime child in the 1940s. It is a sliding puzzle with numbers and a Father Christmas head (both cut from a calender) on the tiles. It is part of the ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach to resource shortages during World War Two. Toys were scarce on the shelves during Christmas later in the war.  Simply made and timeless in appeal, it was highly treasured by the child concerned. (We sadly don’t have a name for the child or whether the father was away from home on active service).

Made from butter box wood, this butter and its box would have run the U-boat blockade on convoys to reach Britain and the contents been on ration. Australia was part of the British Empire, under threat in wartime and the butter must have been refrigerated to survive the journey showing how food and trade links had changed. Newquay Zoo houses it in its World War Zoo 1940s wartime life collection in its archive.”

The puzzle will be on  display at certain wartime garden events such as the World War Zoo wartime garden weekend 1 to 3 May 2010 at Newquay Zoo, alongside other toys such as a handmade wooden Spitfire (below).

If we had to describe this handmade wooden Spitfire  and  list this for the BBC 100 objects site, ‘war‘, ‘family‘ and ‘entertainment‘ would be obvious categories. When this plane has been on display outside of a display case, it has been a magnet for adults and children of all ages to pick up. They’d fly it round the exhibition room given the chance, probably making ‘dugga dugga dugga’ noises too.

A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

How would we list this object for the BBC site?  “The Spitfire is such an iconic object of the Battle of Britain and of Allied resistance in wartime. The wartime bombing of British airfields after the 1940 fall of Europe 70 years ago came to an end when bombing switched to the ‘Blitz’ of cities and civilian targets, including zoos and botanic gardens.

Just as much food was scarce and rationed in wartime, Hence the wartime zoo keeper’s ‘dig for victory garden’ project at Newquay Zoo, toys would be scarce and often handmade with little, if any metal or rubber parts. Many toy factories making toy soldiers switched to making munitions and machinery. Plastic wasn’t used for toys until after the war.”

I love the ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach to making your own toys. It is a beautiful object to hold. The Peace Pledge Union with its famous white poppy campaign and invaluable archive on conscientious objection would no doubt raise the ‘war toy’ issue about whether such toys encourage aggression and ultimately, the furtherance of war?

On our Facebook site worldwarzoo, you’ll find a link to Alicia Gilbert’s proposed Blitz Memorial site mentions the civilian and pro-peace side of conflict. Some of our wartime life collection of diaries will be featured as part of this.

One toy plane could raise whole numbers of questions, discussions and hold its rank amongst all the other treasures, military and civilian, ancient and modern in the British Museum and A History of the World in 100 Objects series. But we put forward the wartime handmade sliding puzzle toy  instead!

Off to go and ‘chit’ some Home Guard variety of potatoes for the wartime garden until shooted ready enough for planting for Spring … or maybe just fly this toy Spitfire round the office making ‘dugga dugga dugga’ dogfight noises.

One of our  recent blog and Facebook entries mentions the ‘Newquay Spitfire’ at Spitfire Corner on the road near the Newquay airport, belonging to a local aviation artist. We have been bizarrely and gracefully interrupted during a penguin feeding time talk at Newquay Zoo back in 2000 by the Battle of Britain memorial flight   of Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane roaring beautifully overhead.

Just as wartime gardeners must have craned their necks to watch the dogfights high in the sky, every head, penguin, keeper, visitor and meerkat,  was raised skywards. Flightless birds, however sleek their shape, must have been envious that day.

For the purposes of balance, we have to point out that many fine German city zoos were incidentally flattened by Allied bombing by such planes as the Lancaster during wartime. Many zookeepers and zoo directors from Germany, across Europe and Britain would have known each other and worked together in peacetime. This is the tragedy of war.

Who knows what you’ll see at Newquay Zoo! We can’t guarantee Spitfires but we  look forward to seeing you at wartime garden events, getting your email comments via the blog and  hope you enjoy looking at all the other  ‘BBC History of the World’ objects online.

Happy gardening! (dugga dugga dugga)

Biggles does Double Trench Digging, Biggles Does Gardening … and other strange discoveries.

October 29, 2009

We’ve picked the first leaves of Pak Choi from the Wartime Garden at Newquay Zoo, ready and fresh for our Junior Keeper today to scatter feed as enrichment for our very rare Sulawesi Macaque monkeys.

You can read more about our award-winning Junior Keeper and adult Keeper for a Day scheme on the Newquay Zoo website

World War Zoo garden items Oct 09 026

W.E.Johns garden article "The Passing Show" January 1940 issue Our Garden magazine

We’ve had some good comments on the World War Zoo project blog and emails from fellow zoo gardeners, so please pass on our garden blog address. The more people read it, the more strange things we will uncover.

Discoveries such as this wartime gardening magazine, with features on gardening in the early months of the war (probably hastily rewritten as most magazines have several months in hand as we found out today). The gardening article is written by no less than Captain W.E. Johns, author of the famous Biggles flying stories (recently reissued) with such daring-do titles as Biggles Defies the Swastika. These would wile away the long hours in the Anderson Shelter or for keepers on night-time  fire watch.

Maybe Biggles does Double Trench Digging never made it further than the waste bin of history.   W.E. Johns (a former pilot) also wrote Worrals of the WAAF to inspire girls with air stories. But I never knew about his other life as a gardener …

We have acquired steadily at Newquay Zoo a small archive of wartime gardening and cookery books to help us with our modern recreation of a wartime zoo keepers’ garden, so we will share with you some of the tips and recipes over the next few months. You can buy powdered eggs still from the 1940s Society website, to attain that truly authentic (and revolting) flavour! (Revolting, according to our visitors at the garden launch weekend in August). Home cooking and ‘grow your own’ food together, history you can eat!

World War Zoo Pak Choi and  garden archive items Oct 09 016

Our first Pak Choi fresh picked at Newquay Zoo for endangered macaque monkeys alongside a wartime gardening magazine from our Newquay Zoo archive

Excitingly we have had our first article about the wartime garden accepted in the BGEN Botanic Gardens Education Network and Botanic Gardens Conservation International BGCI magazine Roots for 2010, so we have a few weeks to get this together for a January copy deadline and then wait a few months for this to appear.

Maybe some exciting Biggles style passages would be welcome?

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