Posts Tagged ‘evacuation’

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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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:

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

vera lynn 100

Absent fathers day – a wartime perspective from the World War Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

June 19, 2011

Father’s day in the World War Zoo wartime garden at Newquay Zoo – Blitz Bear, our project mascot
Father’s Day in Britain June 2011 – the nation awoke groggily to the headlines of the Prime Minister’s  offer of pursuing absent fathers and making them pay, making those who ‘abandon’ their children  feel the same  social stigma as drunk drivers.

Father’s day 19 June 2011 at Newquay Zoo –  an event to celebrate with half price entry for dads, free entry for children under 14 with a bear and a field hospital style surgical tent for injured bears.  Nurse “Penny Sillen”, otherwise known as Zoo Events organiser Lorraine Reid, nursed calloused hands from a few evenings cutting up and rolling hundreds of tiny bandages in scenes reminiscent of ladies of the First World War. Busy day! 

In the World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo, our peaceful and productive memorial to wartime zoo staff, during the brief periods between much-neeeded rain showers you could glimpse our project mascot, Blitz Bear, formerly of the Lost Property Department of Newquay Zoo some years ago.

Blitz Bear is usually found in the children’s section of our wartime displays alongside handmade toys, some of which are on show in our wartime display cabinet, others on the BBC / British Museum History of The World in 100 Objects digital online museum (see our blogroll for address). The handmade toys, some by wartime absent fathers for their far off children, are especially poignant. Blitz Bear symbolises all those special toys taken away from home by evacuees or much-loved presents who symbolised home, parents and loved ones.

My mum was evacuated to distant relatives for much of the war and barely saw her dad for the duration of the war, especially during his naval service in the Pacific. Fortunately, unlike many others awarded the Burma Star for their travels, he returned.  There must be many others on Father’s Day who remember ‘absent fathers’, some of whom never came home because of wartime. Many of the zoo keepers who died on active service and who are remembered on the staff war memorials at London Zoo and Belle Vue left young children without a father.

Next weekend is Armed Forces Weekend, and our dig for victory gardening friends at National Trust Trengwainton Gardens, Penzance will be holding a 1940s day on Sunday 26 June 2011 with a later one planned for Open Heritage Saturday 10th September 2011. A chance to glimpse their wartime allotment project  – and of course to remember our many veterans and the current serving forces, many mums and dads who will be way from home this weekend on Father’s Day …  

Keep reading for more about our World War Zoo wartime gardens project on this blog or browse the archive posts since 2009. You can contact us on the comments page here or via the Newquay Zoo website. Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo.

Of Gerald Durrell, wartime gnomes and gardens (and air raid shelters) in zoos … Spain and London latest

March 15, 2011

Our 'missing' wartime gnome sends another postcard home ... from the former air raid shelter tunnels at London Zoo.

Taking shelter at London Zoo September 1939, a sandbagged tunnel under the road (Zoo and Animal magazine, November 1939)


Our missing Gnome Guard-ener  from our recreation of a 1940s wartime zoo gardens project sends a message home. ‘Bert’ mysteriously disappeared over a month ago and reappeared first at Paignton Zoo, then has sent another card back from a wartime site at London Zoo:

They used this tunnel as an air raid shelter during World War 2. Unfortunately there wouldn’t have been this bright light then. It would have been cold dark and scary. Just looking at it makes me feel small! Love from your Gnome Guard!”

In our wartime collection of photos, you can see one end of the tunnel sandbagged, a tunnel usually used for moving pedestrians and elephants (which were evacuated to Whipsnade).  In many zoos, empty animal enclosures (London, Bristol, Edinburgh), slit trenches (Whipsnade),  underground aquariums  (Chester) and visiting Birmingham Botanic Gardens last week, underneath their bandstand! Evacuee Peter Pollard was present at Chessington Zoo when the zoo air raid shelters took a direct hit with many casualties – he’s interviewed on BBC Radio Cornwall (see website link on our blog roll).   

In the peace of Newquay Zoo, we’ve been busy fencing and smartening up our wartime garden at Newquay Zoo in advance of an expected to be busier than normal  weekend this weekend, 19 and 20th March 2011, for  our Locals weekend – £2 entry (with proof of Cornish address) – see our website for details.

Hopefully our wartime Gnome Guard-ener will have returned in the next few months for May is proving busy – a talk at Chester Zoo about wartime zoos for members on Saturday 21st May and  a busy May half term week of activities  at Newquay Zoo celebrating both BIAZA’s Love Your Zoo campaign and our Newquay Zoo wartime garden weekend (May 28 – June 5th 2011 


Have gnome, will travel ... Newquay Zoo's missing wartime Gnome Guard-ener makes it out from Cornwall to Devon and London to Spain! Bioparc Valencia,  March 2011

Have gnome, will travel ... Newquay Zoo's missing wartime Gnome Guard-ener makes it out from Cornwall to Devon and London to Spain! Bioparc Valencia, March 2011

Our roaming gnome has sent a postcard back from Spain – Bioparc Valencia hosted the EZE European Zoo Educators meeting recently, with several British zoo education staff attending. This is probably how Bert got there.

Unusual Bristih visitors in Spain are nothing new. Many unusual British volunteers fought against the ‘fascist’ forces in Spain in 1936, including writer Laurie Lee or observed the fighting  like journalist George Orwell.   

The memory of this civil war time and Franco era is still raw in Spain, as described in Giles Tremletts’ excellent book Ghosts of Spain.  We haven’t yet researched what happened to zoos such as Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War. The bombing of Guernica (famously pictured by Pablo Picasso)  gave British zoo staff planning for the next war a good idea of what to expect from aerial attack.

Whildst this was going on in late 1930s in Spain, not far away the young Gerald Durrell was exploring the animal rich nooks and crannies of the Mediteranean island of Corfu, famously described in My Family and Other Animals.

They also serve, who only sit and read ... Looking a bit like Gerald Durrell, 'Gerald' our replacement wartime Gnome Guard-ener (until the original one returns from his travels, pictured in The Cornish Guardian miniature copy). World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, March 2011

Soon after his return to wartime Britain, Durrell’s time at Whipsnade Zoo in 1945 as a student keeper are described in his other early books. Two mysterious gnomes arrived last week  in our lovely refenced, repaved garden (all work done by zoo builder John Murrell and Mike his garden volunteer). We have a stop-gap Gnome Guard-ener in place until Bert returns, which we have christened “Gerald”.  A slightly more expensive bronze statue of Gerald Durrell can be found at Jersey Zoo.With his cartoonist’s great sense of  humour and his love of travel, we’re sure Gerald would approve of the whole gnome escap-ade, our  wartime garden and its animal enrichment work, not disimilar to the poly tunnel market gardens at Jersey Zoo and now Paignton Zoo.

Wartime Christmas past and presents from the World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

December 12, 2010

1940s toy Ark and toy train, handmade in wartime from any materails to hand, treasured Christmas presents in wartime (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

1940s toy Ark and toy train, handmade in wartime from any materails to hand, treasured Christmas presents in wartime (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

It’s almost Christmas in the wartime zoo garden at Newquay Zoo. The snow and ice has for the moment gone from our ‘Dig For Victory’ allotment veg patch, leaving some plants looking the worse for wear. The spring crops of lettuce, cabbage, spinach and carrots look as if they might pull through as they did earlier this year, surviving the snow and ice in February. Frost is still an ongoing problem and garden fleece hadn’t been invented in the 1940s, whilst growing under glass ‘Cloches versus Hitler’ (to name a topical book of the time) was too expensive or impractical for many.

 The gardener always has a long list of desirable Christmas presents in this quiet time of the garden year, poring over seed catalogues, tool and equipment lists for desirable things. I’ve been looking dreamily at tough old fashioned tools  such as the FSC oak planter tools set from Mit Hus . (Is Father Christmas in his tin hat listening?). Our Zoo director Stewart Muir, a keen gardener at home and in the zoo, has been openly envious of a very tough Dig For Victory 1944 spade acquired for the World War Zoo gardens project on E-Bay as better than any of the several modern ones he’s broken in the last couple of years. All I want for Christmas this year is decent growing weather for next year. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Newquay Zoo’s keeper carol service and Christmas fair takes place this weekend, and we’ve been busy putting up a Christmas Past and Presents Trail about the Victorian customs that now make up much of our modern Christmas. The carols, the tree, food, drinks, games and toys – we owe many of these to the Victorians including the German Christmas tree tradition brought to us by Prince Albert. A later custom dictates that the national Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square each year is a gift from the peoples of Norway to Britain for their wartime assistance. It’s been fascinating seeing where our peacetime and wartime Christmas traditions came from and the feast of Thornton’s chocolate indulgence we are lucky enough to have now (possibly my favourite trade stall at the Zoo’s Chritmas fayre).

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

The first Christmas of the war would have been of all the Christmas in wartime much like others before and since, apart from the blackout, the many evacuated children and serviceman overseas. There would still have been chocs, toys and presents in the shops. Food would not become rationed until 8th January 1940. Resources by Christmas 1940 would become increasingly set aside for wartime production. Toy shops would be increasingly empty (many toys pre-war were made in Germany anyway).  The church bells would not be rung at Christmas for several more years as church bells were one form of invasion warning.

 The enduring morale boosting customs despite the changing nature of this wartime Christmas experience between 1939 – 1945 is well documented and illustrated in Mike Brown’s recent book Christmas on The Home Front (Sutton Publishing, 2007). There is more in A Wartime Christmas by Maria and Andrew Hubert  (Sutton, 1995) and excellent Age Exchange publications on Christmas past and wartime reminiscence. There are some great wartime Christmas recipes in the Mike Brown book, along with Jennifer Davies’ The Wartime Kitchen and Garden (book of the 1990s BBC series, available second hand). 

 If Christmas treats and toys were to be had, they often had to be handmade or obtained second-hand (so Present Sense style gift recycling or Yankee Gift Swaps are nothing new). Wartime magazines were full of ‘eco-tips’ for improving or improvising clothes, toys and Christmas food.

One of our wartime life collection toys is a hand-made sliding puzzle made from an Australian  butter box and old calendar by a serviceman for his child back home. It was the sort of wartime Christmas toy many children would have received. We featured this toy and a hand-made wooden Spitfire in our choices for the digital museum on BBC Radio 4 / British Museum’s  A History of the World in 100 Objects series  this year, which you can still see and hear online (see our links page) or buy the BBC book by Neil McGregor. I’m sure many will unwrap and enjoy a copy this Christmas.

Recently we have been loaned or acquired a fantastic wooden toy train with cocoa tin boiler and cotton reel funnel, a paper Indian Headdress from a wartime Christmas stocking and a beautiful wooden ark and animals hand-made in wartime by teacher Mr Ernest Lukey of Poole for his daughter Wendy Norman. She thought the zoo’s wartime life collection would be a suitable place for this to be looked after.

 Amongst the treasured wartime presents handed down in my own family are 1940s children’s books – often the like the above toys, the main present from service fathers far away. Many were and remain the distracting companions for children on rainy days since.  Inscribed with love, a far away place  and Christmas date, these Enid Blyton annuals, countryside  or nativity books from 1944 through to 1947 show that toys and books were still scarce after 1945. Food rationing carried on until 1954. BBC History Magazine’s Christmas 2010 edition features an article on symbolic Christmas activities amongst DPs (Displaced people and refugees of many nationalities) around Europe in 1946. Some of these DP camps took over empty zoo areas such as Hamburg for a while, these strange photographs being in the Imperial War Museum collection (IWM collections are visible online).

The IWM London’s rationing exhibition Ministry of Food ends on the 3rd January 2011, so still time to catch this! For those who can’t make it, there is the IWM blog, the tempting online shop and a well illustrated book of the exhibition by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall. If you have green-fingered friends, cooks or those interested in history, the RHS have produced a great little DVD called Dig For Victory  and there are plenty of recent reprints of C.H. Middleton’s wartime gardening talks on the radio, wartime cook books or garden writer Twigs Way’s well-edited reprint of Ministry of Food and Farming’s 1945 advice leaflets, all very relevant today.

Seed saving practice for next year's crops at World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Garden writers of the time recommended seeds, tools, livestock or subscriptions as presents, making wartime Britain look a little like a modern Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue. BBC History, Wildlife and Gardeners World magazines aside, there are now plenty of excellent Your Kitchen Garden, Grow Your Own, Amateur Gardening or Smallholder type magazines around for those subscription gifts, not to mention membership of the 1940s Society. Wartime editors of such magazines particularly pleaded with readers to place a subscription as it helped them prevent producing unwanted issues in a time of acute paper shortage. Sadly many magazines never survived the war.

Wartime shortages brought about the animal adoption scheme, to fund the upkeep and feed of zoo animals, started they claim at Chester Zoo but rapidly adopted at others places like London Regent’s Park Zoo and Edinburgh Zoos. Many Christmases in the past at Newquay Zoo have seen our mad scramble to get that last-minute ordered animal adoption or Junior Keeper experience scheme pack out in the last Christmas post. Deatils can be found on many zoo websites or for Newquay Zoo

 Hopefully you will be able to add a World War Zoo gardens book from Newquay Zoo to your present list for Christmas 2011 if all goes well. I have been working for the past few months on editing the wartime pocket diaries of the London Blitz and Home Front life elsewhere in Britain, with fascinating almost Twitter length entries allowed by the space in a pocket diary. Hopefully these should be published later during the year in both schools and adult reader versions so watch this space for details.

Whatever you give or receive for Christmas, we at Newquay Zoo hope you enjoy this family time, sparing a thought for ‘absent friends’ and the many ghosts of Christmas past.

And, although we’d love to see you this Christmas or during 2011, please don’t send your relatives down to see us on Christmas Day – it’s the only day we close to the public each year … 

Enjoy reading this year’s blog entries, we look forward to your company in the next year!

Gardening and garden centres for growing wartime boys, tomboys and garden gnomes. “Go to it, lads!” (The Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940)

August 4, 2010

Bumper August holiday edition of the blog: The World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo celebrates its first anniversary  on August 31st. Packed with extra reading and some fun things to do!

 Happy National Allotments Week 9th – 15th August 2010

Wartime holiday reading - the dramatic front cover (The Altmark story) of Boy's Own Paper August 1940 Price 6d (Image from the World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

August, our first garden anniversary amid school holidays with Newquay Zoo and busy local Cornish beaches, full of children and their families enjoying sunshine, picnics, animal feeding talks and each other’s company (along with the odd temper tantrum and family row). Many stop to look at the fresh veg, flowers and busy bees of the World War Zoo garden, soon to be celebrating its first anniversary at the end of August 2010. Sadly the cares of the office and family back home are never far away, judged by awkward mobile phone conversations. 

 Holidays in wartime were increasingly more of a ‘staycation’ variety, with ‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’ posters and petrol rationing, wired off and mined beaches with troops tensely awaiting invasion and Home Guards watching the shoreline from pillboxes, rather than today’s RNLI lifeguards. 

Spot the pillbox on your Cornish summer holiday. Without camouflage now but still blends in well! Protecting the harbour at Porthleven in Cornwall still, 2010, 70 years on from construction at the height of invasion fears. (Image: World war Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Many of the older generation still loyally return to Cornwall where they were brought as children on family holidays or as evacuees. Newquay has recently seen another anniversary trip by staff and boys of Gresham’s School, 70 years on from the school, like Benenden Girls School, moving from the battlefields of the South Coast to Newquay and Cornwall. The holiday period of this time is vividly captured in Bettye Grey’s reprinted memoir of Newquay life, “Oh Get On!”

Fabulous adverts for childhood toys and boys' careers, August 1940 Boy's Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Already in early August there must be children moaning “I’m bored!” to parents. What would a wartime school child do in their extended holidays, either in their evacuation centres or  increasingly at home returned from  evacuation billets when not much was happening in the ‘Phoney war’ and often with  no schools to go to?

 In a battered and yellowing copy of the Boy’s Own Paper for August 1940 in the Newquay Zoo World War Zoo gardens wartime life archive can be found the following rousing instructions from the Editor for young men (and their sisters):

 “Be British [quoted as the last words of Captain Smith of the Titanic] and summon up your nerve and heart and sinew to carry on with your job – your harvesting, your waste-paper-collecting, the repairing of the school air raid shelters, black out blinds, fire service, first aid.”

“Write home often, and tell those anxious people how jolly all right you are; and let your whole being throb with the almighty unconquerable challenge –“Let them come!” Brace your muscles every time you think of it, let it resound from your spade when you give an extra hefty jab into the earth of the school garden plot. Let your nostrils dilate, your eyes kindle with a fierce gleam as, with fists clenched, you surge out that mighty challenge between set teeth. Go to it, lads!”  (Editorial, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940)

 Never has gardening been so breathlessly described in such “ripping” terms. Another article begins:

 “All of you who have a garden have, I know, been digging for victory, and now your crops are up you can see what can be done by hard work, and penny packets of seed. Every potato, parsnip, carrot, beetroot, every row of peas or beans, every lettuce or tomato on your plot of ground is going to help us win through, and what is more, it is your very own contribution to victory. Having dug for victory, I am now going to talk t you about feeding for victory. I don’t mean by this that you should sit down and eat up all your crops. I mean feeding livestock.”

“Why not keep one or two rabbits, a few chickens or half a dozen bantams? … and some have a large enough garden, perhaps to keep a pig, or there may be adjacent to the garden a rough piece of meadow or waste land to poor to grow crops but where a goat could pick up a living and provide you with milk … How ripping, too, if there was also honey for tea from your own bees … doubly welcomed now we are rationed with sugar …” (“Feeding For Victory”, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940).

Gardening for Boys - Boy's Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

Followed by W. E. Shewell-Cooper’s Garden and Allotment What You Can Do series, August’s article  being ‘How To Get Good Garden Crops’: 

“August is a harvesting month. It isn’t as big a harvesting month as September, of course, but there is lots of harvesting work to do. Take the French beans and runner beans, for instance …” 

Not many years ago, there was a brief nostalgia  flourish of the “Dangerous Book for Boys” genre and not-so-dangerous companion book for girls. Many journalists and childhood experts  lamented the modern safety-obsessed, neglectful or over parenting of the ‘play safe, play at home, computer and text obsessed, short attention spanned, foul-mouthed, under-parented, disrespectful, drunk, promiscuous, overweight and more miserable generation’ of 21st century children and teenagers in Britain than anywhere else in the developed world.  Many in Newquay have  been fighting back recently against  adverse publicity  regarding this generation on holiday without parents for the first time.   

My friend Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, Detoxing Childhood, and 21st Century Boys (all by Orion, see ) would no doubt approve of the vigorous and earnest pursuits suggested or sold to Boy’s Own Paper readers in the August 1940 edition.

There are plenty of activity ideas “for the growing boy” in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 (B.O.P Motto: Quicquid Agunt pueri nostri farrago libelli, or “Whatever boys do makes up the mixture of our little book”)  for boy craft of days gone by. Amongst the rousing tales of daring-do and technical articles on “Submarines: what they are like and how they are operated” (at a time of rationing and increased Merchant shipping loss to Nazi U-boats) are some fascinating adverts.

More activity ideas and "knowledge for the growing boy", adverts page, Boy's Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

What boy could be bored, tempted by naval careers or radio officer training colleges (“A career of national importance in wartime with an assured future in peace-time”), Skywaymen of the BOP Flying League and their aircraft recognition card games, Cold Ovaltine “the best summer drink”, Brylcreem and discreet booklets on “Sex Problems … if you are puzzled about the secrets of birth” in “Knowledge for the Growing Boy” (6d, post free.)

What does the holiday weather matter as wartime boy when there is always the latest model anti-tank gun or make-it-yourself ship or plane models, photographic chemicals, stamp collecting advice care of Stanley Gibbons (in the centenary year of the Penny Black and Penny Post 6th May 1840), cricketing tips, pen pals seeking fellow “aviation enthusiast” or “cricket enthusiast”, explosive chemistry experiments, canoeing or cycling adventures (with blackout shielded headlamps, naturally). There were of course for some, visits to the local zoo, if it had reopened as a morale booster and a touch of normal pre-war life. 

Battle of Britain in your hands for the growing wartime boy! Frog kits were the forerunner of postwar Airfix kits, and taught valuable craft skills and aircraft recognition - friend or foe - for young and old alike! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo.)

Cold Ovaltine! The ultimate summer drink, showing lots of busy boy and tomboy sporting activities to fill the holidays, as advertised in August 1940, Boy's Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

 There was also the salvage of aluminium kitchen goods to collect and sort out, as part of COGS (Children on Government Salvage), during the July and August 1940 appeal by Lord Beaverbrook for saucepans for Spitfires! This campaign features comically in William at War, one of the Just William books reprinted in the 2009 “Still Naughty at Ninety” anniversary of Richmal Crompton’s boy wonder. Find more in the  the A- Z author list.  

The life of a 1940s boy (or tomboy girl) seems exhausting and busy by modern standards! Amongst many memoirs and histories of wartime children, Mike Brown has written a fabulous short Shire Library Book on Wartime Childhood which illustrates the varied activities, challenges and opportunities of my parent’s childhood. Two of our handmade wartime toys – a Spitfire and a wooden sliding puzzle – from the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection can be found on the BBC

 If you want to recapture some of this indoor childhood activity, Airfix are very proudly advertising their kits again through  in the pages of BBC History Magazine  including an anniversary  Battle of Britain range and RAF airfield (just like the one my granddad served on) with proceeds to veterans’ charities. The Airfix Club flies again for a whole new generation of paint-splattered boys and girls!

Setting up our World War Zoo display in the Grow Your Own allotment section of Trelawney Garden Centre, Wartime garden display on right, minibeasts being unpacked on the left.The lavender and Buddleia were alive with bees throughout! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

So “get to it, lads” (and lasses) at your local garden centre!  Newquay Zoo and its World War Zoo wartime gardens display were ‘on tour’ at the weekend of July 31st and August 1st, as guests of  Trelawney Garden Centre at Sladesbridge near Wadebridge. We were very busy for two days showcasing wildlife friendly gardening, helped out by giant minibeasts from the Newquay Zoo collection, along with amazing phasmid leaf and stick insects from Kevin Roberts, Trelawney’s events manager, as an active member of the PSG Phasmid Study Group.

Hopefully some of these children might go on to join  the AES Bugs  Club, junior section of the Amateur Entomologists Society

Amongst many welcome cups of tea from their friendly staff, we chatted to many hundreds of children and adults of all ages, from all over the country along with a puzzled elderly couple of Cornwall’s many German ‘garden tourists’. My German is  a little ‘Rustig’, especially when it comes to explaining the wartime garden display, marginally better on insects, habitats and camouflage (‘Muster unt Tarnung’).    

Gardening was also part of this manly (boyish or tomboyish) existence, amongst the columns of nature notes such as “The Wonders of Crab Life” by H. Chapman Pincher BSc, (surely not the controversial Spycatcher writer of later years?) – and “Through the Hedge and over the Downs” by ‘Hedgerow’. We saw lots of native wildlife such as bees, birds and dragonflies flitting and buzzing around Trelawney Garden Centre and its lakes (with rumours of kingfishers), amid many chats about our live insects, sloughed spider moults, wasp nest sections or dried specimens of Death’s Head Hawk moth.  ‘Hedgerow’ notes topically for August 1940 “What to look out for this month: Hawk moth larvae; Privet Hawk on Privet: Eyed Hawk on willow, Lime Hawk on lime or elm, Elephant Hawk on Willow Herb.  Dunlin or Ox birds by the seashore.  Corn Buntings and yellowhammers by the Cornfields. Butcher Birds’ larders in the hedges. Teazles in Bloom. Wasps’ nests.” A refreshing sight for the sore limbs of many a Land Girl or Victory harvest schoolchild working in the August fields, but also sign of how Britain’s wildlife has changed in 70 years, If you haven’t signed it yet, sign up via   to the RSPB’s Letter to The Future campaign

L.R. Brightwell's cheerful nature notes illustrations to Hedgerow's gnomes and gardens August 1940 column for the Boy's Own Paper. (Image: Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo collection)

This last Boy’s Own Paper article is quirkily illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, cartoonist and illustrator of many zoo and nature books (see our archive blog entries on his Story of London Zoo, August 2009). Our partner college Cornwall College Newquay , quiet without hundreds of degree students for a few weeks, has some original Brightwell paintings. There are several more in the care of  the retired College manager and author Dr. Mike Kent, no doubt vigorously rambling  around the Cornish countryside and coast path collecting materials for his modern hedgerow notes books about Cornwall We were interested to note and already tracking down in detective mode the mention of ‘Next Month! Look out for … Wartime and The Zoos by Sydney Moorhouse FRGS, illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, FZS” promised for Boy’s Own Paper, September 1940. When we track it down, we’ll share it with you on this blog.

“Children’s Gardens” by Edwin L. Howard (the Studio Publications, 2s. 6d.) is favourably reviewed by ‘Hedgerow’ in Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940,  who notes amongst bird and water garden designs that “I expect you boys will like the Zoo Garden best, but your sisters will prefer the Enchanted Flower Garden.” A second hand book to look out for, predating many recent books and seed company’s ranges (such as or for children’s gardening. Suttons have agreat gardening blog too: 

Many of these colourful cartoon packets, much like the Doctor Carrot, Squander Bug  and Potato Pete (see below picture) wartime cartoon figures of “eat more veg”, were excitedly bought by children and parents at Trelawney Garden Centre to help pass the holiday time, many proudly telling me about what they were growing at home or at school. Grow It! Magazine had a good article on children’s gardens by Angela Youngman in the July 2010 issue , whilst the Eden Project books for inspiring child gardeners by Jo Readman are also full of ideas

Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

Our khaki clad Gnome Guard also travelled out to Trelawney Garden Centre at the weekend as part of our wartime garden display. Here he was greeted by many other gnomes awaiting employment and a home, dressed in their civvies and colourful demob suits. The place was like a Victorian hiring fair for gnomes, all with the tools or symbols of their trade.  So far our Gnome Guard member of the LDV, introduced to the World War Zoo gardens to mark the July 1940 renaming of the Home Guard, has not been stolen by gnome liberators. Yet.

Gnome guard on parade. Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

But before anyone questions his willingness to serve or wartime authenticity, gnomes bizarrely feature in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes by ‘Hedgerow’ on fungi, at the height of the Battle of Britain when the Editor worries not only about increasing  paper rationing but about the threatened invasion “By the time you read this that foul fiend Apollyon may have struck at Britain, our land”). The columnist ‘Hedgerow’ whimsically notes: “One of the most handsome and decorative is the Scarlet Fly Agaric. This is copied by those who make garden ornaments and sold with gnomes to furnish a miniature wood or rockery. In my wood they grow freely. As I have a real wood I have no need for china gnomes, for they say there real gnomes in the woods and that they hold their meetings around the little red tables of the Scarlet Fly Agarics. I have never seen them, but as I write my nature notes under the light of an oil lamp in my little house in the wood  I often wonder whether they are playing around outside or spying to see if I am properly blacked out.”   (Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes)

So hopefully, during the summer holidays, you might like to paint your own china gnome, if you don’t have your own real wood and fungi. Wherever you are you could grow one thing, even if it’s in a tiny pot, as part of Garden Organic’s 2010. (Apparently if I encourage several others to sign up, I earn my very own Gardening Guru membership card or badge. How Boy’s Own Paper is that!) More growing advice can be found on the and  BBC Dig In campaign pages. You can also sign up to “do one thing” campaign, part of International Year of Biodiversity  2010, the theme of some of our summer 2010 activity weeks at Newquay Zoo

Finally, if you are in London this August,  look out for wartime chickens and WLA Land girls! There is a Wartime Farm outside the Imperial War Museum 12-15 and 19-22 August (admission free) as part of their Ministry of Food wartime rationing exhibition, (small admission charge to exhibition). These are both mentioned in the August 2010 Grow Your Own magazine  has a well illustrated article by Sara Cork interviewing wartime Land girl Joan Proctor. The main exhibition Ministry of Food continues until early January 2011 and marks the 70th anniversary of rationing and also the Dig for Victory Campaign.

Hopefully there were  lots of bumper holiday ideas on our blog to keep the whole family busy this August (or winter!) Off to try some Cold Ovaltine! 

Hooray We passed our 6000th page view today on 8th August 2010!

For all enquiries or comments re. World War Zoo gardens project, contact us via the comments page below.

If stuck inside, 21st century child style, you might like to check out our past blog entries, look at the macaque monkey webcam on or join our World War Zoo gardens’ official Facebook page (to eventually replace our original world war zoo worldwarzoogardener pages). 

Look out for future blog articles on the Vive la French Marigolds! The Entente Cordiale: Friend or Foe, Garden allies, pests and sympathetic planting – flowers and herbs in wartime garden.

World War Zoo gardens project blog has passed the 5000th reader / web hit mark and is preparing for an award- can you help?

July 4, 2010

Display corner from World War Zoo gardens project June 2010 - Fox Rosehill Gardens, Falmouth, Cornwall display

Hooray! Our World War Zoo gardens project has just passed the 5000 reader mark since we started the blog in Summer 2009. 

We have also recently celebrated our first ‘podcast’ last week – have you heard this? 

We’re now putting the World War Zoo garden project, displays, launch weekend, Facebook & Twitter pages, blog and all forward for a prestigious BIAZA Education (General & Public Visitor) award.(British and Irish Association of Zoos And Aquaria)   The deadline is  July 23rd, 2010. 

We need your help! We always need feedback and comment from users, readers or visitors on such projects. 

Did it surprise you to learn about this neglected aspect of history? 

Did it surprise you to learn that a modern zoo has a wartime Dig For Victory allotment on one of its former lawns? 

Have you enjoyed looking at some of the objects in the zoo’s wartime collection, featured in photographs on the site? 

Did you get the connection? Has World War Zoo  made you think differently about the past and the resource challenges of the future? 

Has it evoked any interesting memories or family stories of the time? Would you like to share them with us? 

Some of our source material - old wartime gardening books by the fabulous Mr. Middleton, Imperial War museum seeds from their Ministry of Food exhibition online shop, 1940s varieties available from modern seed suppliers like Suttons, all in an ARP 1940s tin medical box - World War Zoo gardens display, Newquay Zoo

Many thanks to those of you who have already left comments or sent us emails about our project and its unusual way of communicating sustainability, recycling and grow your own and food miles “with a  Vera Lynn soundtrack” by looking at the experiences of zoos, aquariums and botanic gardens in the 1940s.   

We’d love you to leave us a comment.

You can browse the earlier articles back to July 2009 or look at our blogroll for useful links, including the excellent Imperial War Museum  Ministry of Food exhibition running throughout 2010.

You can comment via our blog direct to the project team.

Talk about fresh! Talk about food metres, not miles! Everyone gets conscripted or enlisted – Kat from our Cafe Lemur washing some of our surplus salad lettuce for use in the zoo cafe, once zoo keepers had used as much as they could! World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo.

The price of oil, paint and big ships of all nations from the Ark to the supertanker. German invasions, budgets, The World Cup and the wartime zoo keeper’s vegetable garden at Newquay Zoo.

June 28, 2010

Charles Pears (1873 -1958), painting “The Bombing of The British Chancellor 10 July 1940”, signed, oil on canvas, a large painting at 80 x 125 cms and presented by the Falmouth Harbour Commission, 1993. Copyright: Falmouth Art Gallery

England vs. Germany, BP, oil  and the “British Chancellor” have all been in the news  over the last week.

Admittedly, we mean respectively for most,

1. not war but World Cup football (though according to some  past England managers and Newquay Zoo staff, not a “game of life and death”, but “more important than that),

2. giant Gulf Coast oil spills and 

 3. British Chancellor George Osborne and the Coalition’s new Austerity budget of national shared pain.

Chatting about the events of the day to zoo visitors and staff over the garden fence at Newquay Zoo’s World War Zoo garden wartime ‘dig for victory allotment’, it seems that oil, the budget and the World Cup have replaced our frustations at Volcanic ash and swine flu.  Volcanic ash this year delayed enough holidays, stranded our zoo staff and disrupted world wide food supplies by plane. Volcanic ash grounded one of our staff heading over to the World Land Trust / BIAZA zoo nature reserve in Brazil whilst Zoo staff have to think about possible alternatives to air travel when travelling to overseas projects and meetings

"Let your shopping help our shipping" was one propaganda message about saving food - grow your own is another, promoted by a typical piece of advertising from a wartime gardening magazine (from the World War Zoo gardening collection / archive at Newquay Zoo).

 The 2001 fuel strike in Britain (Petrol over £1, outrageous?!) saw similar disruption to businesses and food supply, with a similar bit of wartime hoarding during the recent “snow chaos”  and deadly “Swine flu epidemic” beloved by journalists.

In the British and American press, BP is under fire for the PR and physical handling of its clean up operations in the Gulf of Mexico, with several interesting articles in the press. A glimpse at just one Sunday paper last week, The Observer, had pages of coverage of this environmental, financial, diplomatic and political “nightmare“, seemingly threatening the wartime special relationship of America and Britain. 
The analysis of these events in business and comments pages by columnists like Ruth Sutherland and Sir David King (no less than the Chief Scientific Adviser to Blair’s wartime British government from 2000 -2007) reads more like warnings about Peak Oil in Resurgence or The Ecologist green magazines a few years ago. Sutherland and King  argue about  of “a dangerous addiction to Oil”, our “thirst for oil’s inextricable link to conflict and corruption” and David King’s  warning of the imperative need to “end our dependency on petrol”, not just in Obama’s America but around the world.
Satirical press cartoonists don’t quite reach the understated and quiet anger of Zec’s controversial wartime cartoon of a torpedoed merchant seaman clinging to wreckage in a dark stormy sea, beneath which stated simply and unemotionally  “The price of Petrol has increasd by one penny – official“.
 Newquay Zoo amongst others, is not alone as a business considering the price and future of Extreme Oil, transition towns and future food and fuel security.
Newquay is no stranger to tanker disasters, having seen the Cornish coast  coated with oil in the 1967  Torrey Canyon disaster. Reputedly the prospective zoo site which opened two years later in 1969 was the dumping ground for much of the oiled sand from the clean up operation. Oiled birds were frequent ‘first aid’ inmates in the zoo’s Wildlife Hospital operational in the 1990s before passing up the line to experts like Rex Harper of the local RSPCA, author of Otter on the Aga and other animal books.
As for the “British Chancellor”, whilst the rest of the weekend papers were full of World Cup prediction and Budget summary, I was looking at a postcard and a picture on the Falmouth Art Gallery website of tankers on fire in  Falmouth Docks.
From near the Gem fish and chip restaurant up the Hill above Falmouth Art Gallery, both with many  maritime paintings on the wall, you can watch ships heading up river or into the docks. From the nearby National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s observation tower or from the Docks and its viewing area at Castle Drive, from  Pendennis Point and the fabulous rockpools at Castle Beach  or from the wartime gun emplacements of King Henry’s Pendennis Castle or matching St. Mawes Castle (both English Heritage) , whose garrisons once watched  saw Darwin’s Beagle sail home past, you can see still big ships of all nations
There are large cargo ships waiting for  bunkering for low sulphur fuel (an environmental requirement) before heading through the Channel or bulk tankers hanging around for months waiting for the oil or commodity prices to change.  There is the regular friendly invasion of Germans aboard giant cruise ships, heading off to tour the Eden Project or nearer heritage gardens like Trebah, Glendurgan or Trelissick (the latter two both National Trust) whose woodland walk up the Falmouth and Helford  river reaches take you (always by surprise) past huge laid up freighters and cargo ships in the river, a sign of recession in the 1930s, 1980s or of the fuel crisis in the 1950s. Trebah Gardens Trust was mentioned in a previous blog posts for its role as an embarkation beach for US troops in D-Day and its Archive of wartime memories, one featured below from the BBC People’s War website.  Secret resistance and commnmdo operations took place from the quiet waters of the Helford river sneaking in under cover of the French and Breton fishing fleets , whilst HMS Campbelltown and its daring Commando raids on St. Nazaire in 1942 are remembered on the Prince of Wales pier near Falmouth Art Gallery.
A week or two earlier I had been looking at the original big picture of the British Chancellor in Falmouth Art Gallery (viewable online at ) with its Curator, Brian Stewart after an awards tea party. The Gallery was celebrating the fantastic educational and community role of the gallery recognized by another major heritage award received in London for our partnership work on Darwin 200, Darwin having arrived back from his Voyage of The Beagle through Falmouth Harbour. Newquay Zoo and Falmouth Art gallery, like wartime America and Britain, have a ‘special relationship’.
We were talking about how the gallery and zoo could do “Darwin 200 meets Spike Milligan” to celebrate landscape and wildlife painter Edward Lear’s forthcoming bicentenary in 2012 with a suitable “Festival of Nonsense” (other Olympic sized events are available that year). Lear spent two dismal rainy weeks, not quite doing much painting in Cornwall and Devon. 
Surrounded by the plant art of “A Mixed Bunch” on the walls, Brian Stewart was bemused and puzzled by my rambling tales of successes and failures of the World War Zoo ‘dig for victory’ garden at Newquay Zoo (including failing to get last year’s zoo painter in residence Cornish artist John Dyer to paint the fledgling wartime allotment plot during his residency).
Then the painting of the British Chancellor and its 70th anniversary date caught my eye – 10 July 1940. The first day of the Battle of Britain. The first day of serious bombing of Briatin , effectively the start of the Blitz
I asked Brian Stewart whether he and his team would be using the painting for one of his amazing award-winning “across the generations” community projects. There must be many in Falmouth Town and the local area amongst the older generation who grew up there or worked in the Docks when this wartime bombing happened, if the conversations at the world’s best and friendliest fish and chip restaurant The Gem up the hill from the gallery are anything to go by!
I’m sure Falmouth’s  wartime role and this fantastic painting will be featured in a forthcoming book From Sailing Ships to Supertankers by BBC Radio Cornwall regular broadcaster, harbour expert and pilot David Barnicoat (listen out on Wednesdays, 8.35 a.m. BBC Radio Cornwall). Falmouth Docks are 150 years old this year, its story being told in the book with proceeds going to the Mission to Seafarers helping distressed mariners of all nations.
You can read more of Falmouth and Cornwall’s wartime  story in Bob Acton’s two books on wartime Cornwall and Peter Hancock ‘s Cornwall at War 1939-45 (all usually  available on and E-Bay). 
Online or at the gallery in person, you can have a closer look at Charles Pears (1873 -1958) painting “The Bombing of The British Chancellor 10 July 1940”, signed, oil on canvas, a large painting at 80 x 125 cms and presented by the Falmouth Harbour Commission. Not quite as large as the ship though –  built in 1921 by Laing& Sons, Sunderland for The Britsih Tanker Company as one of 47 sister ships, she was about 7,085 gross tons, (10,925 deadweight) 440 x 57 x 34 feet in dimensions, a single screw propellor ship  powered by two steam turbines.   
During World War 2, Brian Stewart told me it was “evident that Falmouth would be a target for German bombers”. On Wednesday 10 July 1940 at 2.30 p.m.  hours, Falmouth  Docks received one of their heaviest raids, being difficult to disguise or camouflage being the third largest natural harbour in the world. The Docks and Harbour were well known to crews and ships from all over the world. Two years earlier, a large German warship the Schleswig Holstein had made a courtesy visit (or closet espionage trip?) to the same harbour. Falmouth streets today are still places to glimpse or hear sailors and crews from all over the world, not just during the Tall Ships event. 
Charles Pears’ dramatic painting shows three vessels ablaze. Three ships were hit, one of which sank.
The first ship,  British tanker TASCALUSA or TUSKALUSA (6499grt) was sunk by German bombing, alongside the Northern Arm of the Docks. TASCALUSA was refloated on 29 August 1940 and beached at Mylor Flats opposite the harbour for scrapping.
Two other ships were burnt out. The second ship, Greek steamer MARI CHANDRIS (5840grt) was in Falmouth in June for repair after a collision. It  was set afire by TASCALUSA but the entire crew of the Greek ship was rescued.
The third ship is the one named in the painting, the British tanker BRITISH CHANCELLOR (7085grt) was damaged by German bombing and set ablaze at Falmouth. She was later dry-docked for  extensive repairs before  being sold in the 1950s, renamed and eventually broken up in 1961.  A dramatic and hard life which ended at only 40!  
In Peter Gilson’s local eyewitness words from the BBC People’s War online archive  “The Docks became the focus of attention for the Germans and on July 10th 1940 the docks were quite badly hit.”
“There were three vessels along the Northern arm, the Maria Chandris, a Greek vessel, the Tuskalusa and The British Chancellor a tanker, fortunately not loaded with oil at the time. These three were hit and after notable acts of bravery notably by one of the Falmouth pilots who managed to dodge the fire to get on board one of the ships. The Maria Chandris was towed away from the burning wreckage of the other two ships to St. Mawes Creek and put on Amsterdam Point where it burned fiercely for three days …”
Strangely, Peter Gilson recalls “even though the whole of St. Mawes was illuminated like day, the ship fiercely burning for a few days 400 yards offshore, [an Air Raid Warden in St. Mawes] went around the village instructing everyone to put out their lights. The Tuskalusa was towed to St. Just Creek and it was allowed to burn out, after which it was broken up and taken away and used for scrap. The British Chancellor was repaired and put back in service and strangely enough, my brother served on it later in the war.”
© Article ID:  A8710210,  CWS 180804D 16:23:57 — 16:25:50 story has been added by CSV volunteer Linda Clark on behalf of the author Peter Gilson. His story was given to the Trebah Video Archive, Trebah Garden Trust,  supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund 2004
Marine paintings such as by Rob Jones the ex-fisherman painter of amazing Cornish seas, or the many paintings at Falmouth Art gallery and National Maritime Museum Cornwall show are often very good on depicting weather, a topic of conversation beloved of sailors and gardeners. Looking  at the sky and sea conditions  in the British Chancellor painting, above the clouds and flames can be seen tiny black  flecks of ‘flak’ (Anti Aircraft fire) from the AA defences at Pendennis Castle.
Does the British Chancellor painting show the following troubled skies?
10th July  1940   Weather Forecast
Overcast with rain over most of Britain. Southeast England and Channel, showery.
Combat Report – first day of The Battle of Britain, July 10 – October 31, 1940
The main Luftwaffe attacks concentrated on shipping. At 1100hrs a convoy was attacked off North Foreland by 1 Dornier (Do17) bomber escorted by Me109s. Spitfires of No: 74 Squadron, scrambled from Manston, engaged the enemy aircraft. At the same time Spitfires of No: 610 Squadron were scrambled from Biggin Hill to intercept Me109’s over Dover. At 1330hrs about 120 enemy aircraft had formed in the Calais area to attack the convoy between Dover and Dungeness. Hurricanes from No: 34, 56 & 111 Squadrons along with Spitfires of No: 74 & 64 Squadrons were scrambled.
Later in the day enemy raids took place along the West, South and East coasts with the largest being nearly 70 bombers attacking Falmouth & Swansea.
During the night, further raids were plotted with bombs dropped on Guisborough, Canewdon, Hertford, Isle of Grain, Isle of Mull (West Coast of Scotland), Colchester, Welwyn and Ely.
Statistics:  Losses include non-combat patrols and accidents
R.A.F. Losses: 8 aircraft damaged or destroyed and 2 pilots killed.
Luftwaffe Losses: 20 aircraft damaged or destroyed, 23 pilots & aircrew killed or missing and 10 wounded

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

In the skies during the ensuing Battle of Britain , from the Newquay / Cornwall  Sector St. Eval, both  Gladiator Squadron  247  and Squadron 234 Spitfires of 10 Group  – there’s more in the book Devon and Cornwall Airfields in World War Two by Graham Smith. This book and airfield near Newquay Zoo was mentioned in our previous post about the Newquay / Watergate Bay Liberator crash relics featured in our Wartime garden weekend, May 2010.

And what became of the British Tanker Company that operated the British Chancellor? Around about 1954, as the ship was being sold, the  worldwide operation of the former  Anglo-Iranian or Anglo Persian Oil Company (hence the Persian national colours of red, white and green on the funnels) and the British Petroleum Company (ironically originally a German firm) finally became known  by the now familiar (or currently notorious in the USA) name of British Petroleum, BP.

We mentioned in our blog post title, From The Ark to the Super Tanker. The Ark always was an unusual boat, probably now aground and Stationary on Jersey. Newquay Zoo’s electrician Mick has an unusual Channel Islands family name, LeFevre, or Mick Le Ferret as he is affectionately known to some, being accustomed to working in small spaces around and under the zoo.  LeFeuvre is mentioned in a list of names amongst the fascinating website

The list tells of many Channel Islanders and ships’ crews feelling to prots just across the Channel, escaping in small ships throughout July 1940 onwards from the German invasion of the Channel Islands –  Alderney,  Jersey and Guernsey (home of the world’s only Tomato Museum) . Some arrived into Falmouth in Cornwall around the time of The British Chancellor’s bombing, Brixham (home area of our sister zoo Living Coasts and the Start Bay area where The Whitley Wildlife conservation Trust has its Slapton Ley Nature Reserve (later events in 1944 there were mentioned in our June 2010  blog entry about D-Day). 

Newquay Zoo and its sister zoo at Paignton has long had a connection or ‘special relationship’ with Jersey, some of our staff from Directors to keepers worked at Jersey Zoo as keepers, others worked there as volunteers or trained at the headquarters of the international Durrell  Wildlife Conservation Trust,  Our partner college Cornwall College Newquay established in 2000 has proudly named one of its new buildings The Durrell Centre, opened by Lee Durrell, the Honorary Director.

Gerald Durrell was and remains a huge influence on the development of conservation minded zoos around the world; had Durrell not failed his army medical through sinus problems, could have been called up.

Luckily Durrell was not killed in World War Two nor indeed was his mischief unleashed on the armed forces of any nation unlike Spike Milligan. Instead he was sent to Whipsnade Zoo in 1945 as  a “student keeper”, experiences later recounted in Beasts in My Belfry and Lucy Pender’s lovely memoir about growing up at Whipsnade. Whipsnade was London Zoo’s home for some of its evacuated animals, keepers and their families.

Keeper Billett of Whipsnade Zoo ZSL in tin hat and gas mask pictured in the shortlived 'Animal And Zoo magazine', November 1939 (magazine / photo from the World War Zoo archive, Newquay Zoo)

Durrell thankfully wasn’t too unfit as his adventures on collecting expeditions after 1945, some with Paignton Zoo keeper the late Ken Smith,  helped restock the empty postwar zoos of the world.

Durrell’s amusing books and television films won animals and conservation many friends in its early days.

His passion for training “Durrell’s Army” as they are known, the many students who have been through the International Training Centre from Durrell’s field projects around the world, have done much to preserve and conserve endangered wildlife and habitats.

I wonder what Durrell or Peter Scott would have made of the Florida oil spill? Without Durrell and others of his postwar generation like Desmond Morris, the late Peter Scott of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and David Attenborough, the natural and human world would be the poorer.  Durrell’s  books prove as challenging as ever, a personal favourite being The Stationary Ark, his image of the zoos of the world working as a Noah style ‘rescue ship’ to breed endangered animals past the ‘floods’  of environmental disaster. That’s one ship I hope is never sunk or scrapped too soon.

So, the high price of oil …Look out for more about the World War Zoo garden project at Newquay Zoo in future blog postings or conatct us via the comments page below.


Sources: 1. Dave Edge, from Middlemas, The British Tankers 


3. Today in World War 2 History http://

The ‘miracle of Dunkirk’ remembered, rare macaque monkey webcam and roughly torn (Jamie Oliver style) wartime leeks and cabbage fresh for the zoo animals from the Wartime zoo keepers’ garden at Newquay Zoo

May 31, 2010

Panzer Tank crew badge, 1940

Symbol of the 1940 Blitzkrieg, Dunkirk and the rapid Nazi occupation of Europe, this German Army Panzer tank regiment metal cap badge features the laurel wreath of victory, Nazi Swastika and eagle symbols and image of an early German Panzer tank. Worn proudly in early years of victory, ironically this badge was found abandoned in Germany at the end of the war in 1945 by Major F.H. Tyler of the British Army. Donated to the World War Zoo gardens project by Major Tyler's family, relatives of a zoo staff member. .

This Dunkirk anniversary weekend,  there have many tearful old men (and not forgetting the women who love them) remembering the hell of the beaches of Dunkirk  and the ‘miracle’ of their escape by sea in small boats back to Blighty 70 years ago. Many were left behind, wounded or imprisoned as Europe was overrun by a Blitzkrieg of Panzer and Stuka, Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe.  

What did Dunkirk and the fall of Europe mean for the zoos and botanic gardens? In 1939, 75% of food in Britain was imported through shipping. This meant that  food from distant Empire or later Commonwealth countries  like India, Australia and Canada in merchant ships had to run the gauntlet of U-Boat submarine blockades, torpedo and aerial attack, despite convoy protection.   

No wonder ‘food miles’ (as they are known today) were a concern  of an early poster slogan,  “Let your Shopping, Help our Shipping” (many wonderful posters viewable or for sale on the Imperial War Museum website and shop  Britain and its zoos lost their food supplies from European countries, especially in the Mediterranean,  and the market gardens of the Channel Islands. Onions, tomatoes and other crops became hard to obtain. Strangely, mealworms, a staple insect food for many zoo animals still today, was mostly obtained prewar from Germany, as one British zoo director regretted.  

Before long, botanic gardens and glasshouses, greenhouses, zoo lawns and empty enclosures would be transformed into tomato farms, veg patches, along with pig, rabbit and chicken enclosures by an enterprising and hungry staff.  

Like those in Poland, many zoos across Holland, Belgium and France fell under German occupation, ironically a nation noted for their great interest in zoos. Many British zoo keepers and directors would have had visited these forward-thinking German zoos and known their staff or sent animals there on breeding loan. Tragically for an international minded profession, this choice and option  did not exist by May and June 1940.  Many surviving and prize animals were spirited away to Germany, a story recounted by  Diane Ackerman in The Zoo Keeper’s Wife about Warsaw Zoo.  

Further stories about what happened to other European Zoos, Aquariums  and Botanic Gardens in wartime we are researching as part of the World War Zoo gardens project for a book due in 2011/12.  

The long-lasting damage that food and fuel shortages inflicted across zoos and botanic gardens in Britain and Europe was eclipsed by the firestorms of aerial bombing by both sides and battlefields raging across Berlin, Dresden, Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia  and parts of Japan. Little was left, for example,  of Berlin Zoo after the fighting for example, under a hundred animals from the many thousands in what was before the war regarded as one of the world’s leading zoo collections.  

Poignant photos in the Imperial War Museum collection show empty looking zoos in Hamburg Zoo (Germany) and Antwerp Zoo (Belgium) being used as DP (Displaced People) camps for Polish and Russian refugees, evacuees and German troops captured as prisoners of war locked into the strongly barred Lion House, all pictures difficult to look at without noticing  the eerie echo of the bars and wire of the concentration camps.  

Where the missing animals were from the lion house and other enclosures suggest its own sad story. Many of these refugee and POW camps  soon had scratch vegetable gardens to feed the inmates and also keep them busy, a tale well told in Kenneth Helphand’s recent book Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in  Wartime  (available through Amazon and other suppliers).  

Our baby boom and red bottomed female Sulawesi Macaque monkey group exploring fresh leeks, enrichment from the World War Zoo wartime zoo keepers' veg garden at Newquay Zoo

The urge to garden and raise new life is something staff at Newquay Zoo share having nursed our fledgling ‘dig for victory’ veg patch on the Lion House Lawn through a poor summer and harsh winter  over the last year. This week, some of the long nurtured vegetables from 2009 have been harvested to make room for more planting. 

Leeks away! Robyn Silcock prepares to launch the first of our freshly dug leeks from our World War Zoo keepers' garden into the rare Sulawesi macaque monkey enclosure at Newquay Zoo, May 2010. Great enrichment, fresh picked with the soil still on the roots!

Leeks away! Robyn Silcock prepares to launch the first of our freshly dug leeks from our World War Zoo keepers' garden into the rare Sulawesi macaque monkey enclosure at Newquay Zoo, May 2010. Great enrichment, fresh picked with the soil still on the roots!

 Leeks (probably Musselburgh, a wartime variety) were  served up to our critically endangered Sulawesi Macaque monkeys within a few minutes and metres of being dug up – not bad counting food miles or for freshness,  still with soil on the roots. The young macaques  played with these, racing through the branches and along ropes, clutched like  a favoured doll or  must-have toy and status symbol, an inspiration to race and play vegetable tag.  The adult macaque monkeys peeled the leafy tips apart but were much more excited about the Perpetual Spinach, again another plant grown in the 1940s by wartime zoo keepers and recommended in the 1940s gardening books.  

Leeks with soil on the roots proved equally attractive (and sneezy!) to our rare (critically endangered) Yellow Breasted Capuchin Monkeys from Brazilian rainforests. Pat and Tux, two brothers,  ripped and tore the leeks about roughly in  a style that Jamie Oliver would approve, along with the enrichment bottles that our Junior Keeper made for them.     

African Pygmy goats in our small farm section demolished these giant leafy Savoy Ormskirk Late Green Cabbages, a wartime variety grown from seed in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo - Robyn serves up fresh lunch almost a year in the making!

African Pygmy goats quickly ate every scrap of the Savoy Cabbage Ormskirk Late Green, a variety recommended in the 1940s gardening books. Our critically endangered Visayan Warty Pigs, the world’s rarest pig from the Philippines, were not so impressed by ‘seconds fresh’  cabbage straight from the nearby earth. Noted for next year! 

Hopefully people visiting the zoo via our new macaque monkey web cam saw this triumph of a Sulawesi Macaque baby boom (four youngsters born into the small group in one year) and patient nurturing of our wartime veg  garden come together at  our 3.15 p.m. ‘playing with your food’ enrichment talk.

Sulawesi macaque monkey, Newquay Zoo

As fresh as they get! One of our youngest Sulawsei Macaque monkeys puzzling over leeks, fallen from the sky, seconds after being freshly harvested with soil on its roots from the World War Zoo gardens zoo keepers' wartime veg garden, Newquay Zoo.

Unusual peacock sized garden pests are becoming a problem, something we’ll blog about in the next week.

Find out more about our project and the year long journey our wartime ‘dig for victory’ garden has taken from seed to Sulawesi Macaque monkey snack by reading past entries from the blog here.

From wartime 1940s allotments to modern times, you can read more about the hi-tech Verti Crop system of growing vegetables showcased by Kevin Frediani and the gardens team at our sister zoo Paignton Zoo Opened in the 1920s, Paignton Zoo survived throughout war in the 1940s and is now at the cutting edge of plant technology in the 21st century.  

We value comments about our project and blog for the World War Zoo gardens project, you can find comment sections on the blog or contact us  via this blog.

Happy gardening!

Shades of Dunkirk, the race for the Channel Ports: No it’s not 1940 all over again. It’s the BBC Dig In Campaign, Icelandic volcanoes, ash and our Dig For Victory garden at Newquay Zoo prepares for our World war Zoo wartime garden event, 1 to 3 May 2010

April 22, 2010

Dig In for victory - BBC Dig in campaign seeds ready for planting in the next few weeks in our wartime garden, getting ready for our Wartime garden weekend at Newquay Zoo 1 to 3 May 2010.

Two of our resourceful zoo managers have just made it back from a European zoo meeting in Hungary  as there were no flights to be had in the last few days. (Another keeper’s planned trip to our BIAZA rainforest reserve project in Brazil didn’t even leave Britain). The Prime Minister ordered British subjects to make their way to the Channel Ports, on the expectation that the Navy or others would somehow get them back to Blighty.Over the last few days one could almost believe that Dunkirk and the fall of the Channel ports in May and June 1940 was being recreated as part of the 70th anniversary. Maybe I’ve spent too much time in the wartime garden and the 1940s preparing our displays  for our World War Zoo gardens event at Newquay Zoo on 1 to 3 May 2010.
This event marks the 70th anniversary of the events of 1940, rationing, dig for victory (or dear life as some wartime wags put it) and the happier 65th anniversary of  VE and VJ day in May and August 1945. Street parties, Spam fritters and the like.
I eagerly awaited a call from the PM on national radio for the owners of ‘small ships’ to make their way to France and bring back as many as they could. Once the channel ports had fallen, U boats and bombers attempted unrestricted blockade and blitz of Britain. Goodbye easy food imports and luxury goods for the duration.  Hello rationing, recycling, gardening (and spivs with suitcases on the black market). I wonder if any of our wartime suitcase ‘display cases’ of wartime objects  that didn’t go through the Battle Of Britain with WAAFs or accompanied evacuees might have belonged to the Private Walkers of the time, full of the Nylons and hard to get items of the time. (We’ve got some of these luxuries in our wartime collection to show you, no coupons or qusetions asked).

Today's headlines are recycled into tomorrow's plant pots while yesterday's Dig for Victory posters and civil defence helmets look on. The fabulous Paper Potters and a successful potting up of sunflowers in practice for visitors to try out at our wartime gardening event 1 to 3 May 2010. Note the vintage fuel can as a reminder of fuel rationing and the modern BBC Dig In campaign leaflet! Paper potters in FSC wood are available singly or in sets from and

Hard to get items in Britain and Europe the last few days include flights, ferry tickets, coach seats  and even hire cars. The last few days of Volcanic ash from Iceland might have cleared international air space but they’ve probably made many people realise how dependent we have become on flying for holidays, business and international trade with a knock on and backlog in many countries and food producers around the world. It also makes you realise the appalling conditions that wartime pilots had to fly in with subsequent losses. We have in our archive a flight dairy of a (bored) flight mechanic in RAF Reykjavik in Iceland, servicing planes which didn’t quite make it over from Canada and America in one piece. Some of these were Liberator bombers.

One of these US planes tragically crashed near Newquay at Watergate Bay on 28 December 1943 with complete loss of life. Relics of this plane and other local stories will be on display at the zoo on our wartime weekend, thanks to Newquay wartime schoolboy Douglas Knight who salvaged some of these relics along with some very impressive shrapnel from the zoo valley at the time.   

St George and the wartime dragon, ready for St. George's day this week - striking Battle of Britain imagery from Carmen Blacker and Joan Pring's wartime design for Newquay War Weapons Week, whilst evacuated with Benenden school to Newquay. Copyright Newquay Zoo

We’ll also have some memories and photos of Benenden girls from that famous school in Kent evacuated to the Hotel Bristol from June 1940 to  December 1945, to accompany the Newquay War Weapons Week salvage and savings poster designed by two sadly now passed away Benenden Girls  Carmen Blacker and Joan Pring. Photos show the girls doing voluntary agricultural work around the Zoo valley area in the 1940s.
We’ll also be highlighting the daring exploits of plant hunters including Frank-Kingdon-Ward, employed secretly during the war to map jungle scape routes, teach survival skills and find crashed aircraft in the jungles of Burma and South east Asia.
A pilot’s silk scarf escape map of these jungles will be on display to illustrate this strange tale.
Silk stockings and scarves aren’t needed to visit the zoo but you could dress to impress in 1940s style to visit us on 1 to 3 May 2010. We’d love to see you … you can take way your little pot of a wildlife gardening sunflower  as part of 2010 Biodiversity Year as well and a few wartime recipes.
Cheerio and TTFN!
Until We’ll  Meet Again …
Mark Norris ,

World War Zoo gardens project team

Spitfires, penguins, science and sowing seeds … getting busy with Spring in the wartime zoo keepers’ garden

March 21, 2010

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo

Finally it has rained! It’s been a busy few weeks on the World War Zoo project following the success of the BBC Radio Cornwall interviews (see previous blogs) . We’ve been up country to Birmingham for the ‘How Science Works’ events  during National Science Week talking ourselves almost hoarse about the penguin breeding programme and genetics in a big hangar of a room.  Hello to all the Year 9 pupils from Birmingham schools that we met and talked to!

"How would you publicise our World War Zoo gardens weekend?" was a question we asked at the recent business studies challenge day at Penrice School. Anya and Cassie came up with this fashion idea and collage on their event poster and leaflet ideas roughed out in a very short time.

I had hoped we’d be downstairs in the Move It! gallery of Thinktank at Birmingham with two fabulous Birmingham and Black Country built icons – the Spitfire and the Hurricane. These are hung low enough to have good look at the wonderfully basic engineering and shapely streamlining.

It would have been great to have been chatting about the camouflage, countershading and aerodynamics of penguins, fish and leopard seals with these two shapely beauties hanging above!

 A few days later back in Cornwall, we were busy  digging in plenty of free muck from the zoo’s lovely compost heaps (a bit less to landfill!) sowing veg and flowers in the wartime garden and signing up for free seed varieties from the BBC Dig In Campaign. Raised beds or terracing from recycled timber around the zoo, more sandbags and an old and rusted Civil Defence helmet now grace the wartime keepers’ garden.

Crop rotation has seen beds shifted around to cut down on disease. Beans, sweet peas and ‘saladings’ are already sown. Sympathetic planting of flowers (Marigolds and Chives) should naturally protect our tomatoes and carrot crops, adding a bit of colour as well. Catmint and other herbs for animal enrichment are germinating ready to go in next to the Lion Enclosure, where we have dug up part of the lawn for our wartime keepers’ garden (Plot No 1.)   Not far for the Catmint to be picked by keepers and used with our retired pair of lions who roll around on this happily and wear a big sleepy grin!  

Last week we were back on the road again. A shorter trip twenty miles away to St Austell to Penrice School and Community College to work with Kate Whetter from the local Education Business Partnership and Penrice’s Business Studies students on ideas to promote the World War Zoo gardens weekend here from 1 to 3 May 2010.

Some chose ideas to publicise our Plant Hunters trail celebrating the many plant hunter links there are with Cornwall, the plants in the zoo and the secret exploits of daring botanists like Frank Kingdon-Ward, Robert Fortune, Francis Masson, ‘Chinese’ Wilson, Joseph Banks and the Cornish brothers Thomas and William Lobb (a few of their relatives were amongst the groups by the sound of the surnames)  and others.

Some great event ideas to store away – from a Ready Steady Wartime Cook style challenge using wartime ingredients (BBC radio’s  wartime Kitchen Front had its own celebrity chefs) to  Forties fashion parades  – lots of ideas to use in future years!  

We’ve included some of their poster and leaflet designs on this blog entry – congratulations to all who took part on a hectic and different day at school.  We also have the equivalent poster designs by Benenden Girls School who were evacuated to Newquay in wartime, to promote Newquay War Weapons Week in wartime.