Posts Tagged ‘garden museum’

A gardener named Banks, Britain’s first air raid casualty 24 December 1914

December 24, 2014

Did you know that the first bomb from an aeroplane ever to fall on England in 1914 fell in a garden?

“Shortly before 11 o’clock on December 24th [1914] an aeroplane was seen flying down the valley and it dropped a bomb which burst in the kitchen garden of Mr T.A.Terson at the end of Leyburne Road [Dover]. The bomb was probably meant for the Castle and where it burst it did no damage beyond breaking adjoining windows  and throwing a gardener named Banks, who was working at St. James’ Rectory, out of a tree to the ground, slightly injuring him.

The Journalist, 1914

This intriguing story of a “gardener named Banks” makes him Britain’s first air raid casualty, but thankfully one who survived.

It  was featured as the opening panel of the Garden Museum London exhibition on Gardens and War (which ended 19 December 2014).

 

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames,  Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames, Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

Whilst the famous Christmas Truce and football matches of No Man’s Land were unofficially happening in the front line trenches on land, in the air several wartime firsts were about to happen.

The spot (according to the Britain at War history magazine First World War) is now marked by a Blue Plaque from the Dover Society: “Near this spot on Christmas Eve fell the first aerial bomb ever to be dropped on the United Kingdom.”

The plaque is pictured on Ian Castle’s excellent website on WW1 air raids.

Ian is the author of two Osprey books London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace and London 1917-1918: The Bomber Blitz amongst other airship related that I have recently read, researching a 2015 blogpost about how zoos responded to the Zeppelin and aerial threat and featuring air raid related mentions from Edith Spencer’s 1917 civilian diary in our collection.

I am curious to see how people prepared for this new threat. London Zoo and Regent’s Park were in the flight path of several raids but thankfully spared air raid damage in WW1. The London Zoo was spattered with spent shrapnel from the “Archies” (Anti-aircraft guns) on Primrose Hill  and prepared against possible animal escape with firearms trained staff of “a special emergency staff of picked men was always on call. Heavy shutters were fitted to the glass fronts of the poisonous snakes’ cages” (Source: The Zoo Story, L.R.Brightwell, 1952). A long-term outcome of the WW1 air raid preparation was the provision of a First Aid post for visitors continuing after the war (Source: The Zoo, J. Barrington-Johnson, 2005).

Other wartime firsts
Three days earlier on 21st December 1914 a German seaplane dropped bombs in the sea near Dover Beach. However towns on the East Coast of Britain had been bombarded from the sea by German ships  on 16th December 1914 with a number of civilian casualties.

Within weeks on 19 January 1915, the first Zeppelin raid on Britain had taken place, aimed for London but diverted by bad weather to Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. The raids would eventually reach London on 31 May 1915.

The gardener in St James Rectory garden  reportedly pruning a tree for Christmas greenery was called variously James Banks or in some sources John Banks.

I have seen three different pilots named as the pilot responsible for the 24 December 1914 attack. Various sources ranging from Ian Castle, Neil Hanson’s First Blitz book to Dover history sites give a range of often conflicting details about the incident, no doubt down to wartime reporting restrictions and propaganda. The bomb appears to have been a single hand-held 22lb bomb, dropped by hand from 5000 feet  and probably aimed at Dover Castle from a FF29 Friedrichshafen  floatplane of the German Naval Air Service. It fell 400 yards from the Castle and created a crater ten feet wide in the gardens.

Tommy Terson was a local auctioneer and there are a few, no doubt, jokey Christmas references to him picking Brussel sprouts from the patch which was bombed!

The cook at the Rectory was reportedly showered with glass. The garden and window damage is pictured in the http://doverwarmemorialproject website.co.uk

Christmas Truce in the trenches, but in the air?

The next day the 25th December 1914  the same German Navy air force unit attacked again, aiming for London but dropping its bombs on  Cliffe Railway Station. The raid  was seen off over the skies above Erith  by a British Royal Flying Corps Vickers Gunbus from Joyce Green Airfield near Dartford.

This was the first aerial interception of an enemy aircraft over the United Kingdom of the First World War.

On this same day, there was an attack on German Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven on Christmas Day 1914, beyond the range of British air stations. This was known as “The Christmas Raid” with British Royal Navy Air Service RNAS seaplanes from a converted passenger ship HMS Engadine and HMS Empress. Whilst the raid was not that effective, all the pilots and 3 of the 7 seaplanes survived. It was to foreshadow aircraft carrier operations in the next war.

With these two days of bombing, the long road to the Battle of Britain and Blitz in 1940 had begun, with all the chaos that World War 2 caused to the people, animals and plants of British zoos and botanic gardens and in turn to European counterparts.

Aircraft of the period can be seen at air museums like the Imperial War Museum Duxford, RAF Museum Hendon and the Shuttleworth collection.

There is also an interesting and ongoing airfield restoration of a recently listed and most complete surviving WW1 air station at Stow Maries in Essex http://www.stowmaries.org.uk. It’s also home to some very interesting wildlife, the area being used for filming part of the BBC’s The Great British Year in 2013.

Have a peaceful Christmas!

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

A Corner of a Foreign Field: football, gardening, chocolate and an Oxfam allotment for Christmas

December 14, 2014

Once again this year we’ve ‘twinned’ our World War Zoo Gardens wartime zoo allotment at Newquay Zoo with a modern one far, far away, thanks to the fabulous gift service of Oxfam Unwrapped (www.oxfam.org.uk/unwrapped)

oxfam unwrapped ecard

It’s sometimes quite difficult to choose a meaningful gift for Christmas, especially one that lasts or makes a difference.

The Christmas adverts for 2014 are out and I have overheard much chat around Newquay Zoo about whether people prefer Monty and Mabel the John Lewis “kissing penguins” compared to the charitable chocolate merits of the Sainsbury’s advert recreation of the Christmas Day 1914 Football truce in the trenches 100 years ago.

Our gift shop, website  and office at our home base of Newquay Zoo get very busy at this time of year, with people popping in to buy cuddly toys (penguins are it this year – thanks John Lewis!) or phone calls  and emails to arrange last minute memberships,  animal adoptions (penguins and sloths amongst the Christmas 2014 favourites) and Junior or Adult Keeper Experience sessions (penguin encounters again popular). It’s good to know that this money is going to support animal conservation both at Newquay Zoo and our overseas projects as part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The clever Oxfam Unwrapped  E-card service means you can send a gift instantly to someone, even past the last posting date, a period  that I’ve experienced as a mad scramble in the Newquay Zoo office to get late orders completed. It’s also good to know that this clever Oxfam Unwrapped gift service helps support Oxfam, a charity born out of wartime famine relief, provide the training, tools and seeds to make a family self-sufficient in troubled countries like Afghanistan.

In a previous Christmas gift blog post I have written about how zoos and botanic gardens amongst other cultural institutions have struggled to survive natural disaster and civil war in many parts of the world not only in wartime but also over the last 20 years.

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames,  Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames, Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

The Garden Museum in London (www.gardenmuseum.org.uk) had a superb photographic display by Lalage Snow recently  about Paradise Lost: Gardens and War to complement its exhibition on Gardens and the First World War; there were sections on Afghanistan, Gaza and many other areas of conflict. There is an excellent video Artraker interview with Lalage Snow about her gardens photography project which has led to her winning an Alan Titchmarsh ’emerging new talent’  Garden Media Guild Award 2014. The Garden Museum exhibition is well worth a visit before it ends on 19 December 2014.

I found the interviews and photos very moving, photos of gardeners, both men and women, cultivating plants  in these conflict zones by photojournalist Lalage Snow (http://lalagesnow.photoshelter.com/gallery/War-Gardens/G0000msN.x.IMPX8/) .

One interview in particular by an elderly gardener Ibrahim Jeradeh who maintains  a Commonwealth War Graves War Commission cemetery in Gaza struck me as a suitable message (like dogs) ‘for life and not just for Christmas’, so I quickly wrote it down just as The Garden Museum closed for the day:

“I keep this as the best place in Gaza, the cleanest and it’s my responsibility. I’ve worked here since I was 18 and am supposed to have retired but I can’t leave this place. It’s quiet, clean and happy. This is my garden. It isn’t a public garden but people often come to sit and reflect. I make sure the plants at each grave are happy and are well tended, and that the olive trees give shade where needed. 350 graves were destroyed in 2009 but we’ve gradually restored order and peace. War is war, no place is safe.”

“In our country it is a duty to care for both the living and the dead – there are no borders here – so there are Jews, Muslims and Christian graves. This is Palestine. In Islam we don’t usually mark individual graves – it isn’t important. All that matters is that the soul is in Paradise and the people in the graves, they are at peace. No-one can hurt them now.”

“Here in Gaza, it’s a miserable situation. But whatever you can imagine in your head as the best place in the world, it’s Paradise, it’s here in this cemetery.”

quote from Ibrahim Jeradeh, MBE, The British Cemetery, Gaza,  Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Lalage Snow’s exhibition at the Garden Museum  2014

This quote has been especially poignant to me as a result of my World War Zoo Gardens recent research and talks about lost wartime zoo  keepers, botanic gardeners  from Kew Gardens like A.J.Meads and even local names from my  local village war memorial, men buried in Gaza, Egypt, Gallipoli and other distant cemeteries, beautifully maintained and planted, often against the odds of climate or current conflict, buried amongst comrades but far far away from family and home.

Gaza Cemetery (CWGC.org)

Gaza Cemetery (CWGC.org)

There is more about Ibrahim Jeradeh MBE and the Gaza Cemetery in this 2013 Al-Monitor article: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/gaza-english-cemetery-all-faiths.html 

There is more about the Gaza Cemetery on the CWGC website and its restoration www.cwgc.org   and on the Gaza Cemetery Wikipedia page. Ibrahim Jerada is pictured in an interesting interview by Harriet Sherwood in 2013 for a  Guardian article, and an interview with his son, now Head Gardener, Issam Jeradeh.

Christmas 1914 and beyond

By Christmas 1914 many of the men from zoos, botanic gardens, aquariums that we have been tracking throughout this blogpost since 2009 were beginning the journey that would take them to the trenches of the Western front, across the world’s oceans  or the deserts of the Middle East. Not all of them would return.

Some of these volunteered to enlist, others were coerced by peer pressure and employers. Former soldiers, sailors and Territorial reservists were quickly embarked. Already by Christmas 1914, some had been killed. On our research journey, we will be following the careers of these men throughout next year and the www.1914.org centenary until 2019.  Some volunteers like Herbert Cowley (who we posted about in 2013) were embarking for France on Christmas Eve 1914 just as the truce was beginning in the trenches. Others like Kew and RBGE’s Walter Morland would within months be heading for the beaches of Gallipoli, never to return.

Football, Christmas, Chocolate and Gardening

I’ve had some suitably topical christmas gifts so far, including some Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas Truce’ advert Belgian Chocolate bars. My wartime allotment at Newquay  Zoo  is by mid-December usually a suitably muddy enough patch to stage a (very tiny) recreation of the Christmas Truce Football match.

A now very empty Sainsbury's Christmas Truce advert 2104 centenary chocolate bar!

A now very empty Sainsbury’s Christmas Truce advert 2104 centenary chocolate bar!

Football, Christmas, Chocolate and Gardening are all things that should hopefully help to bring  us together or share something in common with our families and others.

It has been interesting to see how different organisations, interests and communities have embraced and engaged with the meaning of the http://www.1914.org First World War centenary, across Britain, Europe and former colonies, from villages and schools to zoos, gardens and sports clubs. The Christmas Truce and football match has been an important part of this connection, whether or not you like the Sainsbury’s advert or indeed football!

There is an interesting micro-site on the CWGC website called Glory Days, which is  part of wider ‘Football Remembers’ events.

Some conservation charities I have come across have cleverly sponsored football matches in partner developing countries  to bring groups together for the benefit of wildlife education.

Football and gardening: mud, weather, success or failure each season,  the state of the pitch / patch, maybe they have more in common than you think!

Like the weather or the ravages of garden pests, home-grown food or memories of Grandad’s allotment, these are all conversations amongst visitors  that I overhear whilst working on our wartime allotment plot in the zoo. I’m told that these are properly called “cross-cultural puncture points” across generations and cultures. To me they are also just friendly chats over the “garden fence”, Mr. Middleton style. We will feature more about Mr. Middleton in 2015, the 70th anniversary of this wartime celebrity gardener’s death.

I hope that you enjoy a peaceful Christmas, wherever you are and however you decide to spend it, playing football, eating chocolate, in the garden or at the zoo!

Look out for a wartime Christmas pudding recipe on our next wartime Chrsitmas blogpost in the next few days …

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo


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