Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Commemorating The Great War in Ireland’s Zoos and Gardens

May 22, 2016

Remembering Major Reginald Thomas Ball-Acton, killed in action in Ypres on May 22 1916.

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Charles Annesley Ball-Acton (from Kilmacurragh website)

With the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Charles Annesley Ball-Acton, heir to the Kilmacurragh estate in Ireland and many of his gardens staff  headed for the battlefields of France and Flanders.

On September 25th 1915, Charles Acton, while trying to assist a fellow soldier, was mortally wounded by an explosion at Loos. He was only 39.

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Reginald Thomas Ball-Acton (from the Kilmacurragh website)

Kilmacurragh estate house and gardens in Ireland then passed to Charles’ only surviving brother, Major Reginald Thomas Ball-Acton, who was father of the late Charles Acton (a well known music critic for the Irish Times).

On May 22nd 1916, just eight months after his brother’s death at Loos, Reginald Ball Acton was killed in action in Ypres.

Few others of the Kilmacurragh gardeners came home from the war.

In eight years from 1908 to 1916,  Kilmacurragh had three consecutive owners inflicting death duties amounting to 120% of the value of the estate. This placed enormous financial pressures on the family and, after two centuries, the Actons left Kilmacurragh House.

Kilmacurragh can be described as the Irish ‘Heligan’ gardens.

Before the war eleven men and two boys maintained the grounds.  Following the deaths of Charles and Reginald, the gardens were maintained single-handedly by the old Head Gardener. Kilmacurragh for me neatly symbolises the steady decline of the old Irish estates from death duties and also from the unrest of the Irish Civil War.

Last month we posted a blogpost about horticulturalist Allan Livingstone Ramsay, one of the first British officers to due during the Easter Rising in April 1916.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/alan-livingstone-ramsay-died-easter-rising-24-april-1916/

“Problematic”, that’s what I’d been told, “not something that could be so easily done in Ireland.” I’d been talking about commemorating The First World War and our World War Zoo Gardens project that  uses history to engage visitors  with plants at the Botanic Gardens Education Conference at Paignton Zoo in November 2014.

So what else happened in Ireland to zoo and botanic gardens staff during the First World War?

RZSI Dublin Zoo and the Great War

Seven L. Doyles are listed amongst the Commonwealth dead of the First World War.

Thankfully the Dublin Zoo staff member L. Doyle who joined up in 1914 is not (as far as records show) amongst these Canadians and Dublin Fusiliers of the same name. His employers, The Council of The Royal Zoological Society of Ireland RZSI / Dublin Zoo, generously kept his job open and paid his wife his wages in his absence. A patriotic gesture, and after all, it was popularly believed and expected that it would be a short war, all over by Christmas.

By Christmas 1914 with its famous football matches and spontaneous truce between the trenches, the RZSI Council which ran Dublin Zoo already had sorry cause to write with condolences and note in October 1914 the death in action of Lieutenant Victor Lentaigne, the 21 year old nephew of a long standing member of the Dublin Zoo Council, Joseph Nugent Lentaigne.

Victor Lentaigne

Lieutenant Victor Aloysius Lentaigne, 2nd Battalion, Connaught Rangers died on 14 September 1914 and has no known grave. From this early death date, he was probably involved in the Battle of the Aisne, as the fast flowing war of movement of the early months of the war rapidly stagnated and became entrenched. Lentaigne is commemorated amongst the 3739 names on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre memorial to the missing British Expeditionary Force soldiers of the first three months of the war.

Reading through the rich detail in Catherine de Courcy’s excellent and well-illustrated history of Dublin Zoo, it is possible to see the deflected effect of war on Dublin Zoo.

Whilst they would have no staff war memorial like London Zoo or Belle Vue Zoo Manchester, there would be losses amongst the professional families, the wealthy patrons, the great and the good of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy who established and supported Dublin Zoo from its early  19th Century beginnings.

The great changes of the war years and immediate aftermath would see Dublin Zoo and its Council survive civil war, a war of independence and the establishment of an Irish Republic.

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Helles Memorial to the missing of the Gallipoli campaign, Dardanelles, Turkey. (Image: CWGC website)

Frank Brendan  O’ Carroll, Gallipoli 1915 

The wealthy citizens and Dublin Zoo council members living in Merrion Square in Dublin had their own family losses, many of them amongst the young officer class.

One such was the son of Joseph O’Carroll MD FRCPI of 43 Merrion Square, Dublin. Second Lieutenant Frank Brendan O’Carroll, 6th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers died on 10 August 1915, aged 20 as part of the Gallipoli and Dardanelles campaign. He is remembered on panel 190-196 of the Helles memorial to the missing, Turkey.
The circumstances of O’Carroll’s death are recorded in the 6th Battalion war diary: http://www.dublin-fusiliers.com/battaliions/6-batt/war-diaries/1915-08/1915-08-trans-htm

7 August 1915  Suvla Bay. Made landing at C Beach on Anafarta Bay at 18.00. Battalion in reserve under Brig General Hill. Took up position at Entrance to Salt Lake. 6th and 7th Dublins attached to 31st Brigade.
8 August Suvla Bay. Battalion on water and ammunition fatigue for the Brigade

9 August 1915  Suvla Bay. Battalion attached to 33 Brigade (General Maxwell), Moved from beach about 02.30 to Hill 50. A Coy detached to support the right flank of the Brigade. Battalion ordered to support firing line near Ali Bay Chesme point 105-H-8.

Officers killed Lt Doyle, wounded believed killed 2nd Lt Stanton, 2nd Lt Mc Garry. Wounded and missing Major Jennings. Wounded Capt Luke, Capt Carrol, Lt Martin, 2nd Lt Carter, 2nd Lt Mortimer, 2nd Lt O’Carroll. Missing Lt Clery. Killed wounded and missing Other Ranks 259

The Europeana website has a poignant letter from father Joseph as he worries over four sons including another fighting in Gallipolli. http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en/contributions/3619

O’Carroll is pictured on www.irishmedals.org/gpage56.html

Mrs Barrington the manager of Dublin Zoo’s Houston House lost her husband in 19151916. There are several Barringtons listed as casualties in this period.

William Thornley Stoker Woods

In November 1916, the RZSI Council sent condolences to its Vice-President, later President, Robert H Woods,  a neighbour of O’ Carroll,  of 39 Merrion Square, Dublin whose son had died in action in France. Second Lieutenant William Thornley Stoker Woods, 62nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, died aged 20 on 27 October 1916. He is buried in grave IIE8 in the Guards Cemetery, Lesbouefs, Somme, France.

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Arras Flying Services Memorial (Source: CWGC)

Thomas Pim

RZSI Council member Cecil Pim’s son Thomas died on 28 August 1918, serving as a Lieutenant in 13th Squadron, Royal Air Force (and previously the Royal Field Artillery). He is remembered on the Arras Flying Services Memorial to 1000 missing aircrew with no known grave on the Western Front.

Kilmacurragh Gardens the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland

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These Ginkgo trees at Kilmacurragh are a strange war memorial (Kilmacurragh website) 

The Acton family, their Gardeners and estate  have a strange war memorial – a bed of interwoven Ginkgo trees and a spread of red rhododendron petals each year, like blood red poppies. Their story is well told on the Kilmacurragh website. http://www.botanicgardens.ie/kilmac/kilmhist.htm

There are other reminders of this wartime period at Kilmacurragh.

In the walled garden grow a line of mature maidenhair trees, Ginkgo biloba, planted just over a metre apart. Tradition has it that this was a nursery bed and since the garden staff believed that the war would last only a few weeks, the young trees were left in-situ with the belief that they would be placed in their permanent positions when staff returned that autumn. No one came home from those bloody battlefields and the maidenhair trees still grow in their nursery positions.

Glasnevin, Gallipoli  and Charles Ball

C.F.Ball the assistant editor of Irish Gardening and senior staff at Glasnevin has an unusual memorial – an Escallonia C.F.Ball widely used in hedging. His story is told in the Kew WW1 section. He was killed at Gallipoli.

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

Fota and Charlie Beswick

The story of Kew trained Irish son of the Head Gardener of Fota is also told in the Kew WW1 section, where he is remembered on the Kew staff war memorial. He was killed in 1917.

http://fotahouse.com/collections/charles-beswicks-school-atlas/

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

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A riot of vegetable colour in Newquay Zoo’s wartime garden

May 17, 2016

chard 2016

Just a few photographs to celebrate our World War Zoo wartime garden project here at Newquay Zoo, May 2016, entering its eighth summer.

A 1940s stirrup pump lies hidden amongst the colourful  Chard and Garlic, rusty but  still in fine working order.

The gardener’s  wartime steel helmet hangs on the garden gate, ready to grab in case the air raid siren sounds …

chard stirrup pump 2016

Bright Lights, a collection of colourful Chard overwintered and ready to cut as colourful edible bouquets for enriching our monkey diets. Delicious.

chard artichoke 2016

Another year of Globe Artichokes awaits, another monkey favourite, complete with earwigs.

The strange bird table affair is not mounting for an air raid siren but where we place our portable speakers for the 2.30 Lion  talk a few yards away.

Sparrows dustbathe between the Broad bean rows. The Meerkat section Robin follows the hoe or watering can. Pesky Peacocks nibble emerging shoots.

Rosemary, Curry Plant, Thyme, Mint, Lemon Balm, Nasturtiums,  Leeks and Broad Beans  are all waiting their turn, their moment and their edible or sensory enrichment use.

Dig for Victory, Dig For Plenty and  ‘Hasten slowly’ as Mr Middleton would say. Happy Gardening!

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 17 May 2016.

 

More wartime garden in bloom pictures and a little Mr. Middleton

August 23, 2015

We have had some great positive responses from people who’d seen our photos from the World War Zoo Gardens Wartime allotment at Newquay Zoo.

Here as promised are some more photos, including more flowers for a bit of wartime colour.

More photos of our poppies in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015 

More photos of our poppies in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015

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Flowers in a wartime garden?

18th September 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the sudden death in 1945 of Mr. Middleton the celebrity wartime garden broadcaster and writer.

One of my favourite quotes from him is extra poignant in that sadly Mr Middleton never lived to fulfil or see this postwar return to flowering gardens:

In happier days we talked of rock gardens, herbaceous borders and verdant lawns; but with the advent of war and its grim demands, these pleasant features rapidly receded into the background to make way for the all important food crop … Presumably most of my old friends still listen when I hold forth on Leeks, Lettuces and Leatherjackets, instead of Lilac, Lilies and Lavender … These are critical times, but we shall get through them, and the harder we dig for victory, the sooner will the roses be with us again …

Quoted on the back of Duff Hart-Davis’ new book Our Land At War: A Portrait of Rural Britain 1939-45 (William Collins, 2015) – review forthcoming on this blog soon.

More nasturtiums in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015 

More edible nasturtiums in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015

“Money spent on flowers, in moderation, is never wasted”

quoted in C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 26, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010)

“For the moment potatoes, onions, carrots and so on must receive our full attention: but we may look forward to the time when this nightmare will end, as end it must – and the morning will break with all our favourite flowers to greet us once more, and, who knows perhaps my next volume of talks will be of roses, mignonette, daffodils and lilies.” C.H.M, June 1941

C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 5, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010)

More pictures of colourful and often edible flowers in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015.

Perennial sweet peas - as the edible peas failed to germinate this year -  in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015 

Perennial sweet peas – as the edible peas failed to germinate this year –  in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015

The alternate baking and soaking weather this August has really brought out the strong colours in this veg such as this Ruby / Rhubarb Chard.

Rhubarb chard  in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015 

Rhubarb chard  in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015

Perennial sweet peas overlooking the emptying summer beds, produce harvested.

Proof of good eating! One of the Globe artichokes picked with our Junior Keepers this week at Newquay Zoo and thrown into the rare ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi Macaque Monkeys becomes enrichment – unusual food, plaything, must-have toy …

This is food for our animals so fresh it travels food metres, not miles, and is still almost growing when eaten, foods seconds or minutes from allotment ground to animal gourmets.

Young Sulawesi Macaque Monkey and a Globe Artichoke almost as big as him from our wartime garden allotment, Newquay Zoo, August 2015

Young Sulawesi Macaque Monkey and a Globe Artichoke almost as big as him from our wartime garden allotment, Newquay Zoo, August 2015

We hope Mr Middleton would approve of our edible garden with flowers and vegetables, even though not everything has gone well this year.

The harvest of a Macaque and Capuchin monkey favourite  – broad beans in fresh pods and on the stem / haulm – has been very poor this year. They were saved seed and seemed to show no better progress on the Growmore fertiliser side of the plot than the organic green manure side. These will soon be harvested, the haulms dug in and planting for next spring begun.

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Sulawesi macaque monkeys on our zoo graphics sign for the garden, tucking into broad beans.  Top photo: Jackie Noble. 

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo World War Zoo Gardens project August 2015

The Wartime Garden in Bloom 2015

August 6, 2015

Our first memorial poppy, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, July 2015

Our first memorial poppy, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, July 2015

August 2015 – our first memorial Poppy finally flowers after two years of seeds!

This is particularly poignant as 2015 is the anniversary of the writing of John MacCrae’s famous WW1 Poppy poem In Flanders Fields.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/poppies-poem-anniversary-written-3-may-1915/

The Wartime zookeepers’s garden allotment at Newquay Zoo is coming into ‘Bloom’, thankfully around the time that Britain / SW / Newquay in Bloom judges visited the zoo and Newquay itself recently.

It has been a year for poppies – not all of them real, such as the silk poppies from our Red White  and Blue VE day 70th anniversary  …

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo  - blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo – blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

Tower Poppies

Tower Poppies – the  famous, unexpectedly popular and very moving ceramic poppies at The Tower Of London in Autumn 2014.

to the famous, unexpectedly popular and very moving ceramic poppies at The Tower Of London in Autumn 2014.

Many of the blooms are on edible or scented plants, such as these Thyme herbs for animal scent enrichment at Newquay Zoo, great for enriching carnivore and big cat enclosures.

Thyme coming into flower, a good and edible bit of scent enrichment for the animals.

 

Fantastically  fiery colour and taste of nasturtium flowers and leaves

Edible white borage flowers

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More dark red ‘Empress of India’ Edible Nasturtiums  and some surprising Garlic seed heads, much loved by bees and macaque monkeys –

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Alongside queues to see our lively trio of lions, garlic flowers bloom and attract plenty of butterflies, bees and other insects.

Alongside queues to see our lively trio of lions, garlic flowers bloom and attract plenty of butterflies, bees and other insects.

It is BIAZA Big Bug Bonanza week this week (3 to 9 August 2015) in UK in zoos,  celebrating insectsand invertebrates; these edible flowers and garden plants are usually alive with insects.

A disappointing (too dry?) year for Broad Beans, whose simple flowers and smell I love. Many of these beans were saved seed from previous years.

However it’s been better for  colourful Swiss or rainbow chard, often mistaken by visitors for young Rhubarb:

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Thyme in flower and colourful Rainbow chard

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Finally another fantastic small crop of Globe Artichokes, again much loved by our Sulawesi Macaque monkeys. This is their fifth year growing. I tried these for the first time myself this year and wasn’t overwhelmed by them but the monkeys love them.

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Back to my first real Poppy – a flower of remembrance –  posted today 6th August 2015 on the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

Remembering the many lives lost, changed and saved by this event.

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Mr. Middleton’s February and March Gardening Advice 1943

February 6, 2015

middleton calender cover

February and March gardening advice from Mr Middleton from the “Sow and Reap” 1943 calendar in our World War Zoo Gardens collection at Newquay Zoo. Happy Gardening!

middleton january week 3

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

 

feb2

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Some bird-friendly advice about pest control.

Time to order your seeds now! Soon time to get sowing.

feb3

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

Spinach, lettuce, broccoli, carrots – sow!

march1

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

 

march2

All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

We’ll finish March with Mr Middleton’s late March advice, as he was a man who knew his onions …
You can read more about Mr. Middleton and his January 1943 advice in our previous post.
All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.

WW2 at Newquay Zoo and other Primary Workshops ‘Inspire’d by the new curriculum.

January 5, 2015

Breathing New Life into Old Bones and Fossils – The new primary curriculum and the Cornish Inspire Curriculum

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc 

An interesting  development we have seen this year is the new 2013/4  primary curriculum, and specifically the Inspire Curriculum packages being pioneered in Cornwall by Cornwall Learning:  http://theinspirecurriculum.co.uk/

As these four to six week cross-curricular topic based units of the Inspire Curriculum were only launched in September 2014, we had an unseasonably busy start to the Autumn term with lots of unexpected new requests for visits to the zoo or outreach talks to schools, not next term or Summer but this week or at the very latest next week please!

This flurry of activity was coupled with requests to support topics like teeth, food  and skeletons for newly christened workshops like “Why are humans animals too?” (Year 3, Unit 1) and Year 4 Unit 1 “Where Does my Food Go?”  Out of the resources cupboard and back into our everyday workshop box have come  carnivore, herbivore and omnivore skulls or odd objects like a lion-chewed mangled  plastic enrichment ball to illustrate different teeth points. For some of our live encounter animals like African Land Snails  a cheese grater or sandpaper is the best way to show what their microscopically tiny radula teeth are like!

Over the next few months as new topics are being first delivered in class, we will update our curriculum workshops and look for new curriculum opportunities in addition to what we already offer.

Although the full  curriculum topic packages  for schools have to be purchased from Cornwall Learning,  there is a glimpse of available curriculum map summaries in published materials online on Cornish school websites. Published  to inform parents of the new curriculum, they reveal some interesting possibilities to engage schools with Newquay Zoo’s education and conservation mission.

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

World War Zoo Garden, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

World War Zoo Gardens and the new WW2 curriculum links

Whilst popular topics from the old primary curriculum like World War Two evacuation seem at first sight to have disappeared, on closer examination they have morphed into new titles  like Year 6  Unit 5   “The Battle of Britain – Bombs,   Battles and Bravery 1940”. Evacuation crops up in open History questions like “What was it like to be a child during WW2?”

Throughout 2015 we will use this topic and Inspire curriculum map to refocus our existing wartime history talks, still focussed around life in a wartime zoo. You can see our workshop write up for our current wartime zoo workshops.

Below we have put a few interesting zoo links to the new Inspire Curriculum WW2 unit , to which we will add more in future blog posts.

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc

The WW2 curriculum map has some interesting questions to engage learners to read, write and research in different genres – fictional diaries, stories or biographies.  For English links,  there is  for Text Evacuee diaries based around Children’s book Goodnight Mr Tom, or writing war stories with the theme “The Night the Bomb Fell” as well as Biographies of War Heroes. Lots of possible zoo and botanic garden links there, including the short biographies of WW2 wartime careers of Kew staff and London Zoo staff.  

I have heard some fabulous sing-alongs, poster displays and seen some great murals when visiting schools on offsites with animals.  For Music and Media there is the chance to “listen to and sing popular WW2 tunes”, as well as “preparing and broadcasting their own WW2 radio programmes with songs, message and news items”. Hopefully there’ll be some handy gardening advice and kitchen front recipe tips on the radio (see previous blog posts).  It sounds a bit like creating the Kernow Pods wartime garden podcast on our website.

For Art and Design there is a chance to look at examples  and design your own WW2 propaganda poster, as WW2 evacuee Benenden School girls did for a 1941 competition for Newquay War Weapons Week (see poster in the background of our workshop display). I look forward on school visits to seeing many “Large scale murals of London during the Blitz using silhouettes” as the Inspire curriculum WW2 unit suggests, hopefully with London Zoo’s escaped Blitz  zebra somewhere around (famously painted by war artist Carel Weight). And why the London Blitz , not Plymouth or Exeter or many other blitzed towns?

Putting our workshop materials out, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

Centre: The original WW2  Newquay War Weapons Week poster designed by evacuee Benenden girls. Putting our workshop materials out, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

 

Another History topic question in the Inspire WW2 Unit is “Why was the Battle of Britain important and how did the use of RADAR help in its victory?” There are many interesting future blog stories to post about around the development of radar, codebreaking and the wartime scientific work of botanists or zoologists like Solly Zuckerman who designed and tested air raid helmets under explosive test conditions on himself and a few unwilling volunteer zoo monkeys.

For Maths  – “Exploring Coding and the Enigma Coding Machine” in the Inspire Curriculum opens up some interesting topics. Senior  zoo staff in WW1 and WW2 such as ZSL’s Peter Chalmers Mitchell, Julian Huxley and Aquarium Curator E.G.Boulenger were involved in wartime intelligence, often at the vaguely named ‘War Office’ and in Boulenger’s case as a  possible codebreaker (often this is not explicitly stated but hinted). Possibly their knowledge of Latin and German as keepers and classifiers of animals, friendly with German zoo directors and scientists, would have been useful.

Woburn Abbey housed a “Wrennery” in its attic, accommodating WRNS women linked to the Wireless Intercept stations as part of the Bletchley Park network. Kew Gardens had some equally ‘secret’ staff  missions such as William W.B. Turrill writing documents on the vegetation of various wartime areas, whilst Herbert Whitley’s Paignton Zoo’s bird collection  housed a secret carrier pigeon loft as part of the National Pigeon Service and Royal Corps of Signals. Other zoos such as Blackpool, Port Lympne, Marwell and Knowsley had interesting wartime pasts (airfields, tank training, crash sites)  as declining  estate gardens before conversion post-war to zoos and safari parks.

WAAF servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at an unidentified  Chain Home Station like RAF Drytree, declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

WAAF or WRNS servicewomen and an RAF sergeant at an unidentified Chain Home Station –  declassified photo 14 August 1945 (from an original in the World War Zoo gardens archive)

Another Science question in the  Inspire curriculum WW2 unit “How was light important during WW2? (the Blackout, searchlights etc)” and “How does light reach our eyes?” links well with our nocturnal animal / in the dark talks. Animals at Newquay Zoo have some super senses ranging from echo-locating bats at nighttime over the zoo lake to vibrissae (otter whiskers), super-sensing snakes which listen to the ground without ears or ‘ground radar’ cockroaches who listen through their ‘knee ears’. Even the humble carrot reputedly eaten to improve the night sight of fighter pilots like ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham was used as cover story  for the secret development of RADAR. Strange sound locators (below) were widely publicised as cover for the success of this secret invention, such as  this image from our collection:

soundlocator C card

Planthunters and gardens

There are also gardening and plant links that open up interesting possibilities for connecting to our World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment such as  Year 2 Unit 6 – “Sowing and Growing” whilst  planthunters such as George Forrest make a surprising appearance in Year 1 Unit 6 “The Potting Shed – Buried Treasure”. An amazing adventurous  character, George Forrest, as you can see from the RBGE magazine, a real life Indiana Jones like many planthunters!  Time to think about plant trails and workshops for 2015 or 2016, maybe?

Frank Kingdon Ward in WW2 from a trail board from a past Newquay Zoo plant hunters trail. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Frank Kingdon Ward in WW2 from a trail board from a past Newquay Zoo plant hunters trail. Image: Mark Norris / WWZG

Cornwall has a rich heritage of plants received from famous planthunters. Some were Victorian figures like William and Thomas Lobb. There were many explorers from the poles to planthunting who  were actively exploring  into wartime such as Reginald Farrar, Frank Kingdon-Ward and George Forrest. Their wartime careers in WW1 and WW2 is something I’m researching for a future blog post. Their amazing adventures in tropical forest and mountain valleys were being reported back through garden journals  magazines alongside news of WW1 which saw many gardeners enlist as we have covered in other blog posts.

elderly plant hunter and wartime secret agent Frank Kingdon Ward in battledress 1940s (taken from his last posthumous book 1960  volume in the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection).

Elderly plant hunter and wartime secret agent Frank Kingdon Ward in battledress 1940s (taken from his last posthumous book 1960 volume in the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection)

Some of the wartime exploits of ageing plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958) included teaching jungle survival, surveying secret escape routes for pilots in Japanese held territory and searching for missing planes through Asian jungles (whilst collecting plants en route). A secret silk escape map of SE Asia in our collection illustrates this story well. 

Evolution, Dinosaurs  and Fossils

There are also other welcome new  titles such as  “A Voyage of Discovery”  (Year 6 Unit 5) bringing Darwin’s life, voyages and discoveries back into the classroom and also a chance to look at fossils and dinosaurs in Year 3 – “Shake, Rock and Roll”. Our Darwin 200 bicentenary resources from 2009 including our Darwin stamp blog with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo have another life with this chance to discuss evolution and extinction, highly relevant to the modern zoo conservation mission of any of our Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust sites at Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo or Living Coasts.

Modern Foreign Languages are embedded in topic maps throughout, so a chance to freshen up our basic Spanish and French offerings about animal names, habitats,  travel and conservation projects. Lots of possible links here – Maybe a ‘crash course’ in French for lost secret agents or downed airmen to survive in occupied France to complement the WW2 unit? Maybe some simple Spanish as  Charles Darwin had to learn to find his way around South America on his Beagle journey?

Other old favourite topics, snappily retitled include these which complement our workshops:

Classification (Year 1 Unit 8 – “Animal Allsorts”)

Habitats (Year 4 Unit 9 – “A Place for Everything”)

Rainforests (Year 4 Unit 7 – “Amazing Amazon”)

Life Cycles (Year 5 Unit 5 – “Round and Round”)  

There are others  well as several focussing on human and animal senses:

(Year 1 Unit 7 – “Brilliant Bodies”)

Sound and sense (Year 4 Unit 6 – “Sounding Off”)

Other slots include current affairs (Year 6 unit 2  – “What’s Happening Now?”) and an interesting ‘The Apprentice’ style  Young Enterprise unit Year 6 Unit 9 “You’re Hired” (a possible link to business studies?)

We also like the links to journeys, navigation, maps, travel  and explorers across many Primary years (such as Year 5 Unit 3 – “Poles Apart”)  whilst “Dragons – Fact and Fiction” in Year 4 Unit 4 might bring some interesting reptile requests!  

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

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

Not all Cornish schools have adopted this Inspire Curriculum package yet; some I know intend to use it to develop a Cornish or more regional focus to some aspects of the curriculum, using the local area and history. This was pioneered through the Sense of Place initiative.  

Inspire, Sense of Place and the new primary curriculum  are all good opportunities to spot what old, new or unusual topics we might be asked to support the delivery of during an outreach animal encounter or  school visit to the zoo.

Watch this space! The zoo education team can be contacted on 01637-873342 or via the zoo website.

Happy New Year  from all the Education team!

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, and Education Manager  Newquay Zoo .

 

 

 

 

 

Not just zoo animals get adopted, even wartime allotments get Christmas presents …

December 14, 2013

oxfam unwrapped ecardChristmas is often a challenge to find the right gift, which is why we do lots of Christmas experience gifts and animal adoptions at Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo. Many zoos do this gift scheme – you can find your local BIAZA zoo in Britian and Ireland on the BIAZA website.

Animal adoptions were one innovative wartime solution to shortage of funding to feed the animals especially when zoos closed at the outbreak of war for weeks or sometimes months in 1939. Both Chester Zoo and London Zoo claim to have first set this up in 1939/40, a scheme which was picked up by other zoos and has never stopped.

Our wartime allotment has just received another Christmas card this year again in 2013 – by email! It was a lively Oxfam Unwrapped allotment gift e-card with a little Christmas message: “This Xmas gift of an allotment is one way of linking the allotment and project work of the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo with what is happening in troubled parts of the world today.” Maybe a new Oxfam  allotment in Afghanistan is our first informal twin.

It is very appropriate twinning as Oxfam itself was born out of a humanitarian response to wartime famine in Greece in the 1940s. You can find out more about the allotment gifts at Oxfam’s  website http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped/gardeners/plant-an-allotment-ou7026ag

As the Oxfam e-card went on to say – “More budding UK gardeners are discovering the joys of growing their own. But for many poor women and men an allotment isn’t just a way of saving on the weekly shop, it’s how they feed their families and earn a bit extra to buy other essentials. And this gift will supply the tools, seeds and training to create working allotments that will produce a lot more.”

I was really pleased to hear that “As part of this project in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, Oxfam is helping women to establish kitchen gardens on their land to supplement their income and their family’s diet. Oxfam provides the training and distributes the seeds for the women to grow a variety of vegetables and crops. The extra produce that the family cannot eat is sold at local markets.”

Shirin Gul is one gardener who has been reaping the benefits after Oxfam distributed seeds in her village: “It’s very expensive to buy vegetables here in the mountains. I am lucky as I have a plot of land. Our family has always grown vegetables on this plot – but the Oxfam seeds mean the amount and variety of vegetables that I grow has increased. It used to just be potatoes, onions and egg-plants but now I have tomatoes, beans, squash, lettuce, cucumber – oh, everything.”

Zeinab, from the nearby village of Sah Dasht, is also a lady with green fingers. Her garden is full of produce. There are beans, potatoes, okra and tomatoes all ready to be picked. “I had never really done much farming before though I did grow potatoes but Oxfam gave me some training to help me grow the maximum amount of vegetables.”

I’m very pleased that one  Oxfam project area is Afghanistan. Each year at Newquay Zoo’s Christmas carol service (which ran for almost 20 years until this year),  the retiring collection was usually for our conservation projects at the zoo and overseas, some of them in former war-afflicted areas like Vietnam. Ten years or more ago in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001/2, I can remember asking visitors for contributions to the global zoo effort to support the recovery of  Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan which had suffered under the Taliban. There also can’t be many of us who don’t know a service family with relatives who have served there in the last ten years or are spending a wartime christmas away from home on active service.

In the next few days I will be posting about the 70th anniversary of the Mucks Mauler Liberator US aircraft crash on he Newquay coast on 28 December 1943. Relics of the plane were exhibited at Newquay Zoo’s wartime displays in the past.

It will soon be time to plan the spring planting to provide a small amount of fresh food for our zoo animals as they did in wartime. It’s time to flick through plant catalogues and plan planting schemes. You can also read through previous Wartime Christmas blog posts on this website.

2014 will be a busy year with the start of the commemoration of the Great or First World War http://www.1914.org We will continue posting about zoos, botanic gardens and allotment gardening in the First World War throughout the year.

I wish all a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year 2014  to our blog readers, zoo visitors, zoo staff, their animals and gardeners everywhere.

Dig for Victory 1917 (World War 1 style), the lost gardeners of Kew and the fortunate Herbert Cowley (1885 – 1967)

March 22, 2013

There is still a great deal of labour employed for example, in pleasure grounds and bedding out which in the present circumstances should be put to better account

(The Garden, editorial No. 2359, 3/2/17)

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guild journal obituary 1968

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guild journal obituary 1968

Corporal Herbert Cowley returned from the trenches in 1915 to his editing desk at The Garden magazine, walking with a stick from a shrapnel wound to his knee cap. In this he was somewhat lucky as 37 of his former Kew Gardens colleagues were killed (see  blog post on the Lost Gardeners of Kew WW1 ).

This was a generation of gardeners for whom ‘digging trenches’  had a deadly double meaning. Active in the Kew Guild for Old Kewite staff as its secretary, he also edited the Kew Guild Journal, recently placed online. After four years as journal editor from 1909 to 1914 and time off for military service, he became editor of The Garden in 1915/16 and carried on as a gardening writer until the late 1930s.

Unlike his fallen Kew colleagues, Herbert Cowley lived to the grand age of 82, dying in Newton Abbott in Devon in November 1967. There is a lovely description of him at Dartington as:

“that eighty-year-old gentleman with the vivid blue eyes, who retired from the world of horticultural journalism in 1936, yet who still remembered everyone and everything from those days”

recalled a researcher who had tracked him down to talk about his friendship with Gertrude Jekyll (quoted on pg. 79, Beatrix Jones (1872-1959):Fifty Years of Landscape by Diane K. McGuire)

The Garden 1917, edited by Herbert Cowley.

The Garden 1917, edited by Herbert Cowley.

In my collection of wartime gardening books at Newquay Zoo as part of the World War Zoo Gardens project,  I have a slightly musty bound year’s copy of The Garden magazine from 1917, an edition  that Cowley edited. This is one of the wartime volumes I’ve bought whilst researching  the wartime history of zoos and associated botanic gardens.  Leafing through its yellowing pages, it is sometimes hard to believe at first that there is a war on. Only when you begin to read between the lines or look at the adverts do you begin to pick up glimpses of the upheavals caused by war on an Empire of pioneer plant hunters, foresters, farmers and botanists called back from around the world to defend their mother country.

I will feature more in detail from this random 1917 edition in a future blog post. The Garden magazine can be read online for free at https://archive.org/details/gardenillustrate7915lond – search by year – and other sites.

Herbert Cowley as Editor at The Garden magazine was no desk gardener. As a career gardener he had risen through the ranks. His father Henry was a ‘domestic gardener’. Herbert studied at Swanley College for two years, one of the last eight men students before it became a female horticultural college around 1902. Swanley then trained many lady gardeners who dug for victory in both world wars. He worked at Lockinge Gardens in Berkshire before studying at Swanley, at some point for the royal garden at Frogmore and after Swanley for the famous nursery family of Veitch’s at Feltham. One of that same family, Major John Leonard Veitch MC (Military Cross) of the Devon Regiment would be killed on 21 May 1918, one of Cowley’s Old Kewite & Veitch’s nursery family.

cowley 007Cowley joined Kew Gardens and appears always to have been a popular colleague. The Kew Guild Journal describes him in 1915/16 as having been much sought after by different departments, eventually settling in the Orchid department in 1905, probably from his experience with Orchids at one of the Veitch’s nurseries’ specialities. Veitch’s employed several famous plant hunters to collect exotic plants from around the world for the conservatories and gardens of Victorian and Edwardian Britain in one of the ‘golden ages’ of British estates, big houses and impressive gardening schemes. It was the Downton Abbey age. All this would go into decline after the war as it poignantly did at Heligan Gardens in Cornwall and many places elsewhere as a result of rising costs, loss of labour, fortunes or heirs. By the time of Herbert Cowley’s death in 1967, many of these country houses, their gardens  and their gardeners would have vanished into memories and yellowing  pages of his gardening magazines and Country Life in bound volumes in archives.

From early on Herbert Cowley was active in learning, sharing and passing on information, a quality that any good gardening writer needs, through Kew’s Mutual Improvement Lectures in 1906/7 season. Sadly the prewar lecture lists contain the names of some of the Kew staff including C.F. Ball who would soon be killed on active service. Cowley left Kew around 1907 to join The Gardener magazine as a subeditor (later called Popular Gardening).

Herbert Cowley  became Assistant Editor at a different title, The Garden in 1910. This was the magazine he was to return to as Editor in 1915/6 until 1926; this is the magazine that I have a 1917 edition in my collection. Cowley then edited Gardening Illustrated from 1923-26, another success in a long career as a gardening journalist and writer.  At some point he worked for Wallace & Co of Tunbridge Wells, nursery-men and landscape architects. He wrote his final (?)  book The Garden Year from Tunbridge Wells in 1936;  March & April excerpts of his advice are included at the end of this blog post:

“In my capacity as editor of gardening journals I have many times been asked for a practical book containing reminders for garden work all the year round. This book is specially written to supply that want – it is in fact a modern gardening calendar in book form … 

Reminders for each department – utilitarian as well as ornamental – from the kitchen garden to the orchid house – will be found in these pages.  

It is hoped that this book will be given a place in the front row of the gardener’s bookshelf and that it will prove useful all the year round.

The information given is based on generally accepted practice and the season for doing things in any well-ordered garden” (Preface, The Garden Year, 1936)

Frontispiece to The Garden Year 1936, written by Herbert Cowley.

Frontispiece to The Garden Year 1936, written by Herbert Cowley.

“Well-ordered”,  “practical”, “each department” of the garden, this is the voice of the Kew-trained gardener from the Edwardian age . Cowley writes in a clear, no-nonsense advice style about gardening. At first sight there is very little personal material, so it is hard to glimpse from his writing what he made of his wartime experiences as a temporary warrior. Like many of his generation, he got on with life after the war and probably didn’t talk or write about it much.

His army records (available on genealogy sites like ancestry.co.uk) reveal that he enlisted early in the war on 7th September 1914 as No. 2477 in the 12th County of London Regiment (the London Rangers). He very quickly embarked for France by 25 December 1914, just after the famous Christmas Truce and football matches in No Man’s Land. He may well have been a Territorial Army soldier to have enlisted and embarked so swiftly. His brother Charles Cowley  (b. 1890, Wantage, Berks – d. 1973, New Zealand) served in the same regiment from 1915 and became a Sergeant, invalided out with trench foot to become a musketry instructor in devon.

In one of Herbert Cowley’s  postwar letters in his  National Archives British Army Service records, he complains to the Army authorities in 1920 from his residence at Curley Croft, Lightwater, near Bagshot :

I have received so far no medals whatsover for services rendered at the Front in 1914/15. I was in the 12th London Regiment and went to Belgium with the 1st Battalion on Christmas Eve.”

He would eventually be awarded the ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ trio of medals for soldiers who served so early in the war. He was also awarded the War Badge by 1916, a useful public symbol which showed others that he had been injured and demobilised, protecting him from the comments and white feathers of the ignorant or unknowing. Cowley had got what was known as a ‘Blighty’ wound, serious enough to get him invalided out of the army but one that allowed him to live an active life. He was to suffer other family tragedies though.

Ever the gardener, he wrote for The Garden a letter on March 28 1915 about plants in France whilst overseas with the BEF, published 10 April, 1915 about a need for a  “seeds for soldiers” scheme,

“The suggestion re. quick-growing seeds is excellent. Delightful instances are now to be seen of dug-outs, covered with verdant green turf, garden plots divided by red brick and clinker paths suggestive of an Italian Garden design. Some plots are now bright with Cowslips, Lesser Celandine and fresh green leaves of the Cuckoo-Pint, wild flowers obviously lifted from meadows and ditches nearby. Yet the roar of heavy guns and the roll of rifle fire is incessant. Verily the Briton is a born gardener.”   The Garden, 10.04.1915

This is an area extensively  covered in Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardens chapter on Trench Gardens.

Alongside part of an RHS lecture from the RHS journal April 1915 by James Hudson on the “Informal and Wild Garden”,  The Garden’ s Editor F.W. Harvey has printed an evocative article by Herbert Cowley on “A Garden in the War Desert”  about a war damaged village and famous chateau garden at Zonnebeke near Ypres in Belgium.

“Our Sub-Editor at the Front”, Cowley is recorded in the 1916 Kew  Guild Journal as being “wounded twice” in the spring battles of Ypres in 1915. He was slightly wounded in late April 1915, reported in The Garden of 8 May 1915:

” For the past eight days we have been in severe battle. I am slightly wounded by shell – only a bruised rib and am in hospital. Dreadful warfare is still raging … we must win!” 

Looking through his army and pension records, he was more seriously wounded on May 4 1915, as GSW Right Knee (either Gun Shot Wound or shrapnel wound?). His medical  entry is hard to read on the ‘burnt documents’ as these Blitz damaged records are known. The circumstances are reported in The Garden on 15 May 2015:

“Rifleman H. Cowley … has again been wounded in action and is now in hospital at Oxford … wounded in the knee whilst bandaging another soldier in the trenches … Rifleman H. Cowley 2477, Surgical 7, 3rd Southern General Hospital , Oxford”  

Over the next few days of fighting on the Frezenberg Ridge in the Second Battle Of Ypres, it is recorded at 1914-18.invisionzone.com website entries about the 1st Battalion, that the fighting “brought about the end of the original battalion.” The battalion had also been involved in the first German poison gas attack on 22 April 1915.

Cowley was lucky to be alive, if injured; only 53 of his original battalion comrades survived unscathed  after this action at Ypres, an area soon to become as sadly well known as the Somme. The Kew Guild Journal 1916 notes his absence from the 1915 Kew Guild dinner speeches as “Our Secretary Rifleman H. Cowley (cheers) in hospital at Oxford, wounded at the knee.” Obviously a popular man as the ‘cheers’ shows. In an uncanny or eerie coincidence, the 1911 census lists his sister Annie (b. 1887) as being a nurse in domestic service to the Prentice family of the oddly named Ypres House, Rye in Sussex.

By the end of the 1915,  Herbert Cowley would be invalided out of the Army, be recovering from wounds and married to Elsie Mabel Hurst on 8th December 1915 in Kingston. By the end of this same year, several more of his Kewite gardening colleagues would be dead. Herbert Cowley went on to have at least one son. Many of his Kew colleagues who died in the First World War left many children fatherless.

A walk in the trench cemeteries in my early twenties past rows of teenage soldiers’ graves  made me feel both prematurely old and also fortunate to have a life ahead of me. Searching through book auction websites reveals Cowley to have made good use of his extra lease of life, a life  denied to so many of his generation.  Cowley very quickly returned his gardening and writing talents  to produce many books of practical, no-nonsense advice for the gardening enthusiast, in his own way helping the war effort in the First World War’s version of Dig for Victory.

In the 1917 journal,  his own book Vegetable Growing in Wartime is reviewed. His  article on this topic appears soon after, amidst many articles on vegetable allotments for the novice gardener, some written by women. Cowley’s book quickly went into a second edition as the First World War Home Front food situation in Britain appeared more and more worrying.  Bad  harvests and the increasing German submarine attacks on merchant shipping was causing shortages, price rises  and uncertainty over future supply. Rationing was introduced in Britain in the last years of the First World War. In Germany the Allied blockade was to have even greater effects on the wartime population and eventually its fighting ability.

Herbert Cowley continued to practical small pamphlets on Storing Vegetables and Fruit (1918), Cultivation with Movable Frames (1920) and a short book on The Modern Rock Garden (a book still available as print on demand online). His largest book The Garden Year appeared in 1936, when some sources suggest his garden journalism career came to an end.

He had not given up plants though in 1936. For a well-known gardener  with a dodgy knee in his fifties, a new element to his career was beginning, away from the deadlines of editing  and publishing. In Theo A. Stephen’s My Garden magazine, a 1936 volume lists Cowley as leading:

“Garden Tours – starting from London on the evening of Saturday 20th, Mr. Herbert Cowley will conduct a party to the Swiss Alps. The tour will take fifteen days,returning on Sunday July 5th to London …”

So Cowley was still energetically going abroad in his fifties, despite his shrapnel wounds. Alpine plants were to remain a passion of Herbert Cowley to the end of his life in 1968. He was an honorary life  member of the British Alpine Society and his Modern Rock Garden remains in print to this day.

His Kew Guild Journal obituary in 1968 mentions other plant hunting trips to the Dolomites and a notable visit to Bulgaria as a guest of King Ferdinand in the company of Kew contemporary C.F.Ball of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin in Dublin. (Ball was killed as a Private in the Royal Dublin Fusilers on 13 September 1915 as part of the Gallipoli campaign).

Cowley wrote interesting accounts early in his editorship of the Garden in late 1915, around the time his obituary appeared for Charles Ball  about their shared Bulgaria trip in the special “Rose issue” of The Garden, 23 October 1915 and in the The Garden November 6 , 1915 

In a future blog post, I will look at the gardening and writing career of Theo Stephens in war and peace. Owned and edited by Stephens from 1934 to 1951, My Garden  was an unusual survivor amongst small magazines throughout the paper shortages of World War 2.

Cowley had a long  working relationship with Gertrude Jekyll, to whom she records her thanks in A Gardening Companion:

and lastly to her devoted friend and colleague, Mr. Herbert Cowley, editor of The Gardening Illustrated during the period of her contribution to it, for many of the photographs which materially enhance such value as this book may possess.”

The Fate of The South Border, Gertrude Jekyll, January 20, 1917, The Garden magazine

The Fate of The South Border, Gertrude Jekyll, January 20, 1917, The Garden magazine

An entry in the 1917 The Garden  magazine describes how Miss Jekyll dug up the South Border, one of her flower beds at Munstead to plant potatoes (photograph by Cowley?). Many of the famous postwar photographs of Jekyll’s Munstead Wood and Miss Jekyll are attributed to Cowley. Judith Tankard in a recent beautifully illustrated Country Life article launching her Gertrude Jekyll book (27 April  2011 pdf reprinted at judithtankard.com):

in her articles published before the First World War she supplied most of the pictures herself, but after that, she relied on photographs taken by Herbert Cowley, who became Country Life‘s Gardens Editor after the departure of E.T. Cook in 1911“.

Many of Cowley’s early booklets were published by the Country Life magazine publishers / George Newnes. They produced small and useful booklets throughout the Great War well into the Second World War as part of  the ‘dig for Victory’ efforts.

Cowley, according to Tankard, “was a frequent guest at Munstead Wood [and] snapped the famous picture of Jekyll strolling in her Spring Garden in 1918.” He is remembered as a prolific photographer in his Kew Guild Journal 1968 obituary by A.G.L Hellyer, a noted editor of Amateur Gardening and garden writer (1902-1993) in the Second World War period:

throughout the 1920s he was always a prominent figure at shows – with close-cropped hair and always a large wooden camera and stand. He seemed to do all his own photography as well as being editor.”

By Spring 1918 when he had snapped these famous photographs, Cowley would have undertaken a more unpleasant task.  As oldest surviving Cowley brother, he was busy of sorting out the probate or estate on 12 March 1918  of his older brother Henry William Cowley. Brother Henry had died whilst training on military service on 14 September 1917. Lance Corporal Henry W. Cowley TR9/76191 (his trainee / regimental number) 26th Reserve Training Battalion died in a comatose state of a cerebral haemorrhage at Napsbury Hospital St Albans. Cowley’s brother is buried near Heathrow airport at Heston (St. Leonard) Churchyard as the family lived in Isleworth, Middlesex.
Brother Henry’s service and pension records still contain the urgent  telegrams from medical staff to his wife that Henry was dangerously ill in hospital. Among other records are a list of his surviving possessions to be returned, poignant personal items such as pipes, tobacco, whistle, cigars. A schoolteacher, Henry W. Cowley attested on 22 November 1915 and was mobilised for training on 16 July 1917, called up in the 34/35 year old age range. His wife Olive was awarded a pension of 26/3 a week for herself and her three children Henry F G Cowley (born 23/08/1906, d. 1986 Newton Abbott, Devon), Ivy Cowley (b. 6/01/1908)  and Eric Jack Cowley (b. 24/2/1911, . 1984), all born at Heston, Middlesex. Later Herbert Cowley would again be listed professionally as ‘editor’ when he sorted his father Henry’s will or probate after his father died on 3 April 1930 at Easton, Portland, Dorsetshire.

Richard van Emden’s recent 2011 book The Quick and The Dead gives a much fuller account of how the burials, search for the missing and impact on the surviving families affected the now passing generation of surviving children and their own families right up to the present day. Some of the long-serving Kew staff such as C.P. Raffill, A.B. Melles and others worked in the Graves Registration Unit and for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission; in this way Kew was involved in planning the planting of these cemeteries with suitable plants for the climate.

Herbert Cowley’s side of the family was not the only one to lose a relative. Two years earlier on the first day of Battle of the Somme, his wife Elsie Mabel (nee Hurst) lost her 30 year old brother Percy, a clerk. Rifleman 4278 Percy Haslewood (or Hazlewood) Hurst of the 1st /16th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles) was
killed on the 1st July 1916, during his battalion’s diversionary attack on Gommecourt. Percy left a wife Geraldine of 18 Teddington Park, Middlesex. His widowed clerk / accountant father Samuel and typist sister Elsie Mabel was left grieving for his loss. Like Herbert’s Kewite colleagues Rifleman John Divers and Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, Percy H. Hurst is listed on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing of The Somme (Pier / face 13C). Several other Kew Gardens staff are listed in the Kew Guild magazine ‘Roll of Honour’ section as serving in Percy Hurst’s local London Regiment but thankfully survived.

The Kew Guild journal obituary ends with an unusual coda to Herbert Cowley’s gardening career. According to an (obituary?) article it quotes from the Western Guardian on November 9th 1967, Cowley left journalism to move to Withypool on Exmoor to run a riding school for 20 years throughout what must have been the wartime period 1940s up to the late 1950s. I wonder what this old soldier, who had seen the widespread call up and loss of horses, their grooms and riders  in the Great War, made of Exmoor’s famous mounted Home Guard patrols in a very different
war, a war that would cause him more family grief.

Cowley and his wife made a final move to the Brixham area in the early 1960s, growing camellias, nerines and alpine plants. (His Western Guardian obituary notes him as an honorary life member of the Alpine Garden Society). This is where he was encountered at Dartington in his eightieth year, with his “vivid blue eyes” and excellent recall.

Herbert’s unexpected move to the West Country and retirement from journalism may be explained by a sad wartime event in 1940. His Kew Guild Journal 1968 obituary concludes that he is survived by his wife Elsie (b. 1893?  d. 1969) and a son (name as yet undiscovered). However it seems one possible son is likely to have been killed in World War Two.  RAF Sergeant Observer Robert Hurst Cowley, 580643, died aged only 22 on the 2nd September 1940. His 57 Squadron was flying Blenheim bombers on anti-shipping patrols over the North Sea from its base in Elgin in Scotland at the time before converting to Wellington bombers in November 1940. Robert is listed on the CWGC site as the son of Herbert & Elsie Mabel Cowley of East Grinstead, Sussex. Like many of his father’s Kew Gardens colleagues from the previous war, Robert Hurst Cowley has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 13 of the Runnymede Memorial to missing aircrew, one amongst 20327 names. Robert is also listed on the St. Thomas a Becket church, Framfield on the War Memorial as ‘of this parish’. Kew Gardens itself would lose several of its 1940s staff as aircrew during the Second World War (see future blog post), recorded on their war memorial.

I will end with some of Herbert Cowley’s March vegetable gardening advice from The  Garden Year (1936). The advice in some areas would soon be out of fashion or obsolete as rationing and Dig For Victory took hold again in Cowley’s lifetime. No doubt his 1917 Vegetable Gardening in Wartime booklet would be found on the shelves or second hand bookstall, dusted off and referred to many times again.

We’ve just started planting some 1930s / 1940s varieties of veg that Cowley would be familiar with in the World War Zoo Gardens project allotment at Newquay Zoo, despite the rain, frost and soggy ground. Heritage varieties such as The Sutton broad bean  seedlings, Early Onward peas and Ailsa Craig onions are all in, planted on the odd dry warm March  day.  By late summer they will be ready as fresh unsprayed  food for our zoo animals, especially our monkeys.

GARDEN OPERATIONS FOR MARCH (1936)

from The Garden Year 1936 by Herbert Cowley

Fruit & Vegetables

Wall fruit will require protection from frost.

Gooseberries are best pruned now and sprayed to keep birds at bay.*

Fruit tree planting must be completed.

Gaps in the Strawberry beds should be filled and Strawberry plants in pots for forcing should be taken inside.

Autumn-fruiting Raspberries need cutting down

Black Currants infected with ‘big bud’ require spraying.*

Grape Vines, Peaches, Nectarines and Figs require attention.

Main crop potatoes should be planted, also Jerusalem Artichokes, Shallots and Asparagus.

The main sowings of all vegetable crops are necessary this month.

The Garden Year, illustrationTomatoes will require potting on.

Celery must be sown in gentle heat.

Herbs can be planted.

A seed bed can be sown for the cabbage tribe.

GARDEN OPERATIONS FOR APRIL (1936)

from The Garden Year 1936 by Herbert Cowley

Fruit & Vegetables

Apples and Pears should be sprayed with lime-sulphur and lead arsenate*,  and bark ringed if necessary.*

Gooseberries should be sprayed with  derris.*

Raspberries and Loganberries need mulching.

Melon beds should be made and seed sown.

Peaches and Nectarines should be disbudded.

Grape Vine flowers should be pollinated.

Onions should be planted out.

Carrot and Beet   main crops should be sown.

Celery trenches should be prepared.

Mushroom beds can be made this month.

Vegetable Marrows and Ridge Cucumbers should be sown in the greenhouse.

Peas, Beans, Spinach, Lettuce should be sown.

* Many of these sprays are now wisely banned (2013).

March 1936 tasks The Garen Year

March 1936 tasks
The Garden Year

April 1936 tasks, The Garen Year

Not just zoo animals get adopted, even wartime allotments get Christmas presents …

December 18, 2012

oxfam unwrapped ecardChristmas is often a struggle to find the right gift, which is why we do lots of Christmas animal adoptions at Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo. Many zoos do this gift scheme – you can find your local BIAZA zoo in Britian and Ireland on the BIAZA website.

Animal adoptions were one innovative wartime solution to shortage of funding to feed the animals especially when zoos closed at the outbreak of war for weeks or sometimes months in 1939. Both Chester Zoo and London Zoo claim to have first set this up in 1939/40, a scheme which was picked up by other zoos and has never stopped.

Our wartime allotment has just received another Christmas card this year again in 2013 – by email! It was a lively Oxfam Unwrapped allotment gift e-card with a little Christmas message: “This Xmas gift of an allotment is one way of linking the allotment and project work of the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo with what is happening in troubled parts of the world today.” Maybe this new allotment in Afghanistan or Africa is our first informal twin …

It is very appropriate twinning as Oxfam itself was born out of a humanitarian response to wartime famine in Greece in the 1940s. You can find out more about the allotment gifts at Oxfam’s  website http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped/gardeners/plant-an-allotment-ou7026ag

As the Oxfam e-card went on to say – “More budding UK gardeners are discovering the joys of growing their own. But for many poor women and men an allotment isn’t just a way of saving on the weekly shop, it’s how they feed their families and earn a bit extra to buy other essentials. And this gift will supply the tools, seeds and training to create working allotments that will produce a lot more.”

I was really pleased to hear that “As part of this project in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, Oxfam is helping women to establish kitchen gardens on their land to supplement their income and their family’s diet. Oxfam provides the training and distributes the seeds for the women to grow a variety of vegetables and crops. The extra produce that the family cannot eat is sold at local markets.”

Shirin Gul is one gardener who has been reaping the benefits after Oxfam distributed seeds in her village: “It’s very expensive to buy vegetables here in the mountains. I am lucky as I have a plot of land. Our family has always grown vegetables on this plot – but the Oxfam seeds mean the amount and variety of vegetables that I grow has increased. It used to just be potatoes, onions and egg-plants but now I have tomatoes, beans, squash, lettuce, cucumber – oh, everything.”

Zeinab, from the nearby village of Sah Dasht, is also a lady with green fingers. Her garden is full of produce. There are beans, potatoes, okra and tomatoes all ready to be picked. “I had never really done much farming before though I did grow potatoes but Oxfam gave me some training to help me grow the maximum amount of vegetables.”

I’m very pleased that one  Oxfam project area is Afghanistan. Each year at Newquay Zoo’s Christmas carol service (which ran for almost 20 years until this year),  the retiring collection was usually for our conservation projects at the zoo and overseas, some of them in former war-afflicted areas like Vietnam. Ten years or more ago in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001/2, I can remember asking visitors for contributions to the global zoo effort to support the recovery of  Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan which had suffered under the Taliban. There also can’t be many of us who don’t know a service family with relatives who have served there in the last ten years or are spending a wartime christmas away from home on active service.

In the next few days I will be posting about the 70th anniversary of the Mucks Mauler Liberator US aircraft crash on he Newquay coast on 28 December 1943. Relics of the plane were exhibited at Newquay Zoo’s wartime displays in the past.

It will soon be time to plan the spring planting to provide a small amount of fresh food for our zoo animals as they did in wartime. It’s time to flick through plant catalogues and plan planting schemes. You can also read through previous blog posts on this website.

I wish all a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year 2014  to our blog readers, zoo visitors, zoo staff, their animals and gardeners everywhere.

War Horse, War Elephant, War Ferret? The wartime role of zoo and other animals from Tommy’s Ark and the World War Zoo gardens?

January 15, 2012

 With all the publicity surrounding the film of War Horse this week, I was interested over Christmas to be given and read Richard Van Emden’s book on soldiers and their animals in the Great war, called Tommy’s Ark (Paperback, Bloomsbury), the animal equivalent of Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardens book.


 Last week at Cornwall College Newquay, I delivered one of their varied programme of  research seminars by outside speakers, talking  about my research  into the role of zoos, zoologists, (botanic) gardens and nature in wartime.


Throughout the talk and questions, the value of nature and the natural world in extreme times kept cropping up. Peter McGregor the Professor who organises the seminars mentioned he had been surprised when he traced the famous research into Blue tits pecking cream through  tops milk bottles was published in and dates back to 1940, when he thought minds would be more  focussed on the Battle of Britain and threat of invasion.


The respect for and value (or lack of value) of wildlife in the midst of the strange life and death world of the trenches and wartime came up in conversation after the seminar too.  I was busy answering questions and  chatting whilst students looked through a small display afterwards of wartime memorabilia, wartime gardening and wildlife books and magazines from our collection. During this and other sessions, I’m often asked by students what they ‘could or should be reading and so I mentioned this new book by Richard van Emden to several students, alongside the older, more wide ranging books Jilly Cooper’s Animals in War (recently reprinted in paperback) and Juliet Gardiner’s The Animal’s War (IWM). Jilly’s book helped fundraise for a memorail to these animals in London.





Whipsnade elephants ploughing for victory (Animal and Zoo magazine Sept.1940) . In WW1, German zoo elephants did similar farming and forestry work. 

We had talked in the seminar about the known cases of keepers killed from London and Belle Vue Zoo (Manchester), many of them serving in the artillery either as hardy physical labour or more probably for their large animal handling skills of the horses and mules with the guns.


Alongside the War Horse type material of the suffering of horses and mules, Tommy’s Ark is full of unusual details about the mascots, pets and wildlife spotting, even the occasional spot of hunting and angling that officers and soldiers in the trenches recorded in diaries, letters home and in the oral history archive that Richard Van Emden and the Imperial War Museum have collected. Lieutenant Philip Gosse, RAMC, the son of a famous naturalist family, toured the trenches on the lookout for local small mammal specimens to be sent (stuffed) to the Natural History Museum in London. There is a roll of honour / war memorial of their staff killed in action near the NHM entrance.  Newquay’s doctor / director of health (or his relative?) Major AGP Hardwick RAMC crops up in the book, from an account in the IWM archives, of his smuggling ferrets back to the trenches for ratting duties. 


Tommy’s Ark  is a rich, rewarding, sometimes unsettling and well organised book by Richard Van Emden, http://www.richardvanemden.co.uk/ one to match his oral history The Last Fighting Tommy about Harry Patch  whose medals can be seen on display not far from our base in Newquay Zoo at Bodmin’s DCLI Museum   http://cornwalls-regimentalmuseum.org/specialfeatures.html


Why do the troops on both sides  notice animals, befriend them, make mascots of them? Several of these more unlikely or unruly mascots ended up in zoos, including the role model for Winnipeg the bear at London Zoo, better known as Winnie the Pooh in AA Milne’s books. The answer is probably the same as why the students I was talking to had staked their time and money (especially when tuition fees increase next year) in a course and career that will likely not make them rich. Probably not famous  either, except for some  budding wildlife film makers, photographers, potential presenters and journalists on the Wildlife Education and Media course.


It’s perhaps something in the blood, a vocation, a passion, a different view or value of the world that makes a professional or  amateur naturalist,  zookeeper, or aquarist  of one person, but seem a strange career choice to another. E.O. Wilson calls it biophilia, a love of living things. Richard Mabey has written very movingly about this, especially in his darkest days battling depression. Kenneth Helphand’s recent book Defiant Gardens, much mentioned in our wartime zoo gardens blog, covers much the same from a planting and gardening angle.  


The wartime pages of Animal and Zoo Magazine (1936-41) are full of articles that would not be out-of-place in today’s peacetime BBC Wildlife magazine – nature notes, photographs, zoo news – with the occasional snippet about how the war was affecting wildlife. There was an obvious  tension in the magazine letters page between those who would like to see no mention of the war at all (Dublin Zoo’s description as ‘a place of peaceful resort’ in war and peace comes into mind from Catherine De Courcy’s excellent recent history of that zoo) alongside those readers and naturalists who observed how the role, value  and lives of wild and domestic animals are changed by war.


The same generation that observed wildlife in the trenches went on to run zoos and observe wildlife in the Second World War where a whole new generation of naturalists were called up.  In this later war, the death of Chester Zoo’s aquarist Peter Fallwasser from wounds from the 1942 North Africa fighting (below) is made more poignant through his excitement about wildlife spotting in letters home from Egypt and the Nile, reproduced (below) in Chester Zoo News newsletters at the time. Copies of these newsletters 1930s – 1980s are available scanned on a CD Rom from Chester Zoo Archive.

 

Looking around the room at Cornwall College Newquay, many of the young men and women there were of an age where two or three generations before, they would have been called up on active service and war work and extraordinary things required of them. In an age where looming environmental problems and challenges are the modern equivalent of Churchill’s ‘gathering storm‘ in the 1930s, extraordinary things may well be required of this generation coming through.  

 

More from The World War Zoo Gardens project blog next month … until then, enjoy a peaceful few moments in the garden.

 




Chester Zoo Archive Zoo News, 1942/3


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