Posts Tagged ‘George Mottershead’

Remembering Albert Mottershead died WW1 22 October 1917

October 22, 2017

IMG_2727

Albert Mottershead is one of the many Manchester Regiment men with no known graves remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

33 year old Lance Corporal Albert Mottershead, Service No. 25258, Lewis Gunner in the 23rd Battalion, Manchester Regiment was killed on 22 October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.

He is commemorated amongst the 35,000 names of missing British servicemen with no known grave on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

A Market Gardener like his father (also called Albert), Albert is the (half) brother of George Mottershead who set up Chester Zoo. At the time that Albert (‘Bert’) was killed,  George was badly injured and nearly paralysed in late 1916 on the Somme.

There is more about the Mottershead family here and about another brother Stanley Saul Mottershead who was killed in late 1916 https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/stanley-saul-mottershead-killed-4-december-1916/

Bert, Stanley and George

George Cogswell has researched the Sale War Memorial and Trafford War Dead including the Mottershead brothers.

http://www.traffordwardead.co.uk/index.php?sold_id=s%3A8%3A%22412%2Csale%22%3B&letter=&place=sale&war=I&soldier=Mottershead

Part of this story was told in the recent BBC series Our Zoo:

http://www.chesterzoo.org/global/about-us/our-zoo-bbc-drama/george-mottershead

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/our-zoo-chester-zoo-and-the-drama-of-zoo-history/

The Mottershead family had its influence on Newquay Zoo where I work. Newquay Zoo was designed by Curator Peter Lowe, one of George’s experienced senior keepers, with input and advice from George Mottershead in the late 1960s.

How lucky we and Chester Zoo are  that George Mottershead was not a name on a WW1 memorial as his brothers Stanley and Bert sadly were.

The Mottershead family and the men of the Manchester Regiment,  remembered 100 years on.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.

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Stanley Saul Mottershead killed 4 December 1916

December 4, 2016

mottershead-douchy-ayette

Stanley Saul Mottershead,  brother of the founder of Chester Zoo George Mottershead, was killed in action in France on 4 December 1916.

http://www.chesterzoo.org/global/about-us/our-zoo-bbc-drama/george-mottershead

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

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

George Saul Mottershead himself had been very seriously wounded by a bullet near the spine during the Battle of The Somme a few weeks earlier on the 15th October 1916. Doctors feared that George would be paralysed, however this former physical fitness instructor took several years to walk again, always with a limp.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/george-mottersheads-trip-from-our-zoo-at-chester-zoo-to-newquay-zoo/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/our-zoo-chester-zoo-and-the-drama-of-zoo-history/

George lost two brothers, half-brother Albert (Bert) Mottershead,  remembered with his brother Stanley Saul Mottershead on the Sale war memorial.

33 year old  Lance Corporal Albert Mottershead, Service No. 25258,  Lewis Gunner in the 23rd Battalion, Manchester Regiment was killed on 22 October 1917 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

http://www.traffordwardead.co.uk/index.php?sold_id=s%3A8%3A%22413%2Csale%22%3B&letter=M&place=&war=&soldier=Mottershead

http://www.mlfhs.org.uk/data/war_memorials_images.php?memorial=75

Private Stanley Saul Mottershead, Service No. 12594, 19th Battalion Manchester Regiment, (the 4th Manchester Pals) was killed by a shell on 4 December 1916. He had only arrived at the front in November 1916. He is buried at Grave Reference: I. E. 3, in  Douchy-Les-Ayette British Cemetery in France, a concentration burial  area for 491 soldiers including many from scattered graveyards across Arras and The Ancre.

http://www.traffordwardead.co.uk/index.php?sold_id=s%3A8%3A%22412%2Csale%22%3B&letter=M&place=&war=&soldier=Mottershead

mottershead-douchy-ayette

George’s brother Stanley Saul Mottershead is buried here near the tree on the right at Douchy Les Ayette Cemetery, France (Image source: CWGC)  

 

The Mottershead family, remembered.

Many thanks to George Cogswell for his website and research on the Mottershead family, Trafford and Sale war dead.

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

Remembering the Somme Battle of Thiepval 1916

September 26, 2016

 

cwgc thiepval

Routledge is one of several British zoo staff with no known grave are remembered amongst thousands on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme (Image: CWGC website)

Remembering today the thousands who died on each side of the Somme Battle of Thiepval  including 100 years ago today on 26 September 1916:

Wilfred Omer Cooper, writer and naturalist,  FLS Fellow of the Linnean Society, died Somme 26 September 2016

Alfred Routledge, Belle Vue Zoo Manchester staff, died 26 September 2016  September 1916

1. Wilfrid Omer Cooper
Born 1895, he was killed in 26 September 1916. He had been involved with the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, studying isopods.

Elected to the Linnean Society only in Spring 1915, Cooper  was still a private G/40113 in the 12 Battalion Regiment, Middlesex Regiment when he died aged 21. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme battles.

He is listed on the CWGC website as the son of the late John Omer Cooper (died 1912) and Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Thompson Cooper, 6 Queensland Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth.

On the listing for Soldiers Died in The Great War (SDGW) he is listed as born at Boscombe, Bournemouth, Hants and resident at Bournemouth. He enlisted at High Beech, Loughton and was originally listed as formerly B/23290 Royal Fusiliers. He is the author of several papers and books including The Fishing Village and other writings (Literary and Scientific) posthumously published in Bournemouth by H.G.Commin 1917, the author one Wilfrid Omer-Cooper.

Read more about Cooper and the Linnean Society losses in WW1 here:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/lost-fellows-the-linnean-society-roll-of-honour-1914-1918/

http://thebournemouthian.co.uk/2016/07/01/bournemouth-school-and-the-battle-of-the-somme/

wilfred-omer-cooper

Taken from the ‘Bournemouth School and WW1’ website

 

 

2. Alfred Routledge, Belle Vue Zoo Manchester staff, died 26 September 2016

He died serving with the 11th Battalion Manchester Regiment on The Somme, aged 23 on 26 September 1916. He was killed in an attack on Mouquet Farm which was part of the final and successful British attempt to capture the village of Thiepval.

The village occupied high ground in the centre of the battlefield and had been a British objective on the first day of The Battle of The Somme on 1 July 1916.

Alfred Routledge is one of the many “Missing of the Somme”  listed on the Thiepval memorial, having no known grave. Routledge was  killed in the  final days of taking Thiepval village, one of the original objectives of the 1st July 1916, the first disastrous day of the Battle of The Somme two months earlier.

CWGC lists him as the son of the late Alfred and Emily Barton Routledge of 504 Gorton Lane, Gorton. Married. Routledge and fellow Belle Vue Zoo staff Sidney Turner and Ralph Stamp are remembered on the St. James Parish Church war memorial at:  http://gortonphilipsparkcemetrywargrave.weebly.com/st-james-church-gorton.html

Read more about Routledge and the Manchester men of Belle Vue Zoo in WW1:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/remembering-the-lost-ww1-staff-of-belle-vue-zoo-manchester/

http://gortonphilipsparkcemetrywargrave.weebly.com/belle-vue-war-memorial.html

Late September  and early October 1916 was a bad few weeks for British zoo and botanic gardens staff. No doubt the zoo and gardens community was equally affected by the losses in Germany.

Kew Gardens staff

The follwing Kew Gardens men will also lose their lives in the closing months of the 141 days of the Somme fighting:

Sergeant Sydney George Cobbold, S/12906, 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died on the 3rd October 1916, aged 28. He has a known grave in a small Somme cemetery.

Sydney Cobbold (Kew Guild photo)

Sydney Cobbold of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died 3rd October 1916, Somme area (Kew Guild photo)

Rifleman John Divers, service number 7056, 1st / 9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria Rifles) and also County of London Cyclists, died on 9th October 1916.

kew divers

June 2016: Kew staff commemorate  John Divers near where he was killed on the Somme  in 1916.  

 

Rifleman / Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, “Essex Regiment”  is most likely to be Rifleman 3844, 1st / 5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), died 9 October 1916.

Herbert is commemorated on Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 D, Thiepval Memorial, along with fellow Kewite John Divers.

I will blog post 100 years on the anniversary of each of their deaths. In the meantime, read more about them at:

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

London Zoo

ZSL London Zoo lost the following young keeping staff (‘Helpers’)  in the latter part of the Somme battles in September and October 1916.

15.9.1916        Arthur G. Whybrow      2547, 19 Bn. County of London Regt.  ZSL Helper.

05.10.1916      Gerald P Patterson       19th County of London Regt.     ZSL Helper

and an older Keeper whose grand-daughter I met whilst researching at London Zoo:

23.10.1916      William Dexter  Kings Royal Rifles, Rifleman    ZSL Keeper 

I will blog post 100 years on the anniversary of each of their deaths. In the meantime, read more about them at:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/remembering-lost-wartime-staff-of-zsl-london-zoo-in-ww1/

A lucky wounded survivor  who went on to found an amazing zoo …

George Mottershead (of the BBC ‘Our Zoo’ fame) of the Manchester Regiment will be severely injured on the 15th October 1916, surviving a spinal wound that nearly killed him and left him paralysed for several years bfeore he struggled to walk again and create Chester Zoo in the 1930s. He would lose several brothers or family members in WW1.

Remember all these men and their families  100 years on.

Scheduled blogpost for 26 September 2016 by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens project.

1916 The Somme, the Zoo and Kew Gardens

July 1, 2016

Somme poppies, Thiepval area, France taken on my first trenches tour, 1992 (Copyright: Mark Norris)

Somme poppies, Thiepval area, France taken on my first trenches tour, 1992 (Copyright: Mark Norris)

 

 

The 1st July 1916 was the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, arguably one of the worst days in the history of the British Army.

Experts remain divided over whether Haig’s battle plans and The Somme Battles overall were a complete disaster or a sharp learning curve for his “Citizen Army” of volunteers.

Amongst these “Pals” battalions of early volunteers from similar streets, towns or trades were several Zoo and Botanic gardens staff, some of whom were killed or wounded. They joined the memorial and roll of honour list of scientists, museum staff, gardeners and naturalists that we have been following as part of the World War Zoo Gardens project to see what impact WW1 had on zoos, botanic gardens and similar trades and institutions.

Routledge is one of several British zoo staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Several British zoo staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme battles. 
(Image: CWGC website)

‘The Zoo’  ZSL London Zoo

10.07.1916 Albert A Dermott 13th Btn. Rifle Brigade, Rifleman ZSL Messenger

Rifleman S/4504 Albert Arthur Dermott, 13th Btn. Rifle Brigade, (The Prince Consort’s Own) ZSL Messenger, aged 22, was killed on the Somme and has no known grave, being listed on the Thiepval Memorial.

Dermott is listed amongst the 72,000 names on the strangely shaped Thiepval memorial to the missing dead who have no known grave of the Somme battles of 1916-18. The memorial by Lutyens which sits high on a hill overlooking the killing fields of France is nicknamed by some the ‘elephant’, with its howdah or passengers on a zoo elephant ride.

Autumn colours behind the ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, November 2010 (Photo: Kate Oliver, ZSL Education)

Autumn colours behind the ZSL war memorial, London Zoo, November 2010 (Photo: Kate Oliver, ZSL Education)

According to CWGC records, Albert Arthur Dermott was the son of Frederick John Dermott and (Margaret) Rachel Frances Dermott (nee Creswell) of 2 Queen’s Road, Dalston, Middlesex, London. After his mother Rachel’s death, Dermott’s father Frederick remarried a Louisa Archer.

Albert was born in Islington, Middlesex, London on 25th April 1894 and was resident and enlisted in Marylebone, Middlesex. According to his medal records, he entered service overseas on 29 July 1915 (earning a 1915 star) and was killed just under a year later. He would have been only just past 22 years old when he was killed in action.

Dermott is listed on the Thiepval project database. The following biographical information was researched by Ken and Pam Linge for Dermott’s database entry, culled from Census information – Dermott was the youngest of five children. His siblings were Rachel Margaret Dermott (b.1883), Alice Louisa Dermott (b. 1885), Frederick John Dermott (b.1887), Edith Dermott (b. 1891). The young Albert was educated at Shap Street School, Hackney from 9th September 1901.

15.9.1916 Arthur G Whybrow 2547, 19 Bn. County of London Regt , ZSL Helper.

Whybrow joined up on 4 September 1914 and went to France on 8th March 1915. He was killed during the Somme battles, probably in the clearance of High Wood by 47th (London) Division, 15 September 1916.

Born around 1891, Arthur Whybrow worked first as a Domestic Gardener (like his father John) before joining London Zoo as a keeper (noted on his marriage certificate in July 1913). He married Daisy Sutliff and they had a child, Winifred Daisy Whybrow born 1913/14. Daisy remarried after Arthur’s death, a Mr Goodard in mid 1919.

 

High Wood was fiercely fought over during the Battle of the Somme until cleared by 47th (London) Division on 15 September 1916 when Whybrow was killed. The original ‘London’ Cemetery at High Wood was begun when 47 men of the 47th Division were buried in a large shell hole on 18 and 21 September 1916. Other burials were added later, mainly of officers and men of the 47th Division who died like Arthur Whybrow on 15 September 1916. His gravestone looks slightly more squeezed in next to others than normal as if this is a mass grave.
A G Whybrow lies buried with many others of his London Regiment who died on the same day.

At the Armistice in 1918  Whybrow’s cemetery contained 101 graves. The cemetery was then greatly enlarged when remains were brought in from the surrounding battlefields, but the original battlefield cemetery of London Regiment soldiers where Whybrow is buried is preserved intact within the larger cemetery, now know as the London Cemetery and Extension. The cemetery, one of five in the immediate vicinity of Longueval which together contain more than 15,000 graves, is the third largest cemetery on the Somme with 3,873 First World War burials, 3,114 of them unidentified.

Listed on CWGC website as the son of John and Louisa Whybrow, of Hampstead, London and husband of Daisy Goodard (formerly Whybrow), of 193, Junction Rd., Highgate, London.

05.10.1916 Gerald P Patterson 19th County of London Regt ZSL Helper

The 19 County of London Regiment may be an error or his first regiment. This is likely to be 43689 Private Gerald Phillips Patterson of the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was killed on 5th October 1916 during the Somme fighting. He is buried in an individual grave XI. C. 4. in Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, Somme, France. There is no family inscription on his headstone, pictured on the TWGPP website. .

The life of his battalion during the Somme battles is well set out in the Somme school visit site http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?app=core&module=attach&section=attach&attach_id=2956

It is likely that Patterson went into action with the Norfolks on the 1st of July 1916, the first day of the Somme as part of the 18th (Eastern) Division as part of K2, Kitchener’s 2nd Army Group of New Army volunteers. Patterson was most likely killed during the attack and capture of the Schwaben Redoubt on the 5th October 1916. The next day his battalion went back for rest out of the line.

Many of Patterson’s 8th Norfolk battalion who were killed and whose bodies or graves were not found are remembered on the nearby Thiepval Memorial, alongside other ZSL staff like Albert Dermott.

Patterson is listed on the ZSL memorial plaque as 19th County of London Regiment; along with several other ZSL staff he enlisted locally in Camden Town, Middlesex, close to the London Zoo.

Later he must have transferred to his County regiment the Norfolks as he was born in Great Yarmouth like his parents and siblings. His father was a school attendance officer and Patterson was the youngest of 7 brothers and sisters, all born in Great Yarmouth. On leaving school, the 1911 census lists him as an Auctioneer’s Articled Pupil, before becoming a ZSL Helper (a junior or trainee keeper rank).

There are now 1,268 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the Connaught cemetery. The vast majority of the burials are those of officers and men who died in the summer and autumn of 1916 battles of the Somme. Half of the burials are unidentified, many brought in from smaller cemeteries around the Somme battlefields area.

William Dexter, ZSL London Zoo keeper killed in WW1 (Photo: Courtesy of Nova Jones, digital clean up Adrian Taylor ZSL)

William Dexter, ZSL London Zoo keeper killed in WW1
(Photo: Courtesy of Nova Jones, digital clean up Adrian Taylor ZSL)

23.10.1916 William Dexter Kings Royal Rifles, Rifleman ZSL Keeper

Rifleman S/19841 William Dexter was a married keeper enlisted in the 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade, The Prince Consort’s Own, who died on or around 23 October 1916 aged 31. Dexter is buried in an individual grave XVIII. J. 5. at Bienvillers Cemetery, near Arras,and the Ancre, France.

Nova Jones, Dexter's granddaughter, inspects his name on the new panels at the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial. (Image: Mark Norris)

Nova Jones, Dexter’s granddaughter, inspects his name on the new panels at the ZSL London Zoo staff war memorial. (Image: Mark Norris)

According to his granddaughter Nova Jones whom I met at London Zoo in March 2014, William Dexter came from a zoo family of several generations. The daughter of William’s daughter Dora, Nova found in time for ZSL’s wartime centenary exhibition in 2014 a photograph of William Dexter in uniform with Rifles cap badge and has confirmed with the Royal Greenjackets Museum that “William as a Rifleman (Service no. S/19841) served with the 2nd Bn. Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own) during the First World War.”

William Dexter was listed on his Army Medical Form as a “Keeper at Zoo”, 5 foot 5 ½ inches, Physical development ‘Good’. His father Robert Dexter had been employed at the zoo from the 1860s onwards. After working as a labourer and painter, William obtained employment ‘as worth keeping’ in 1908, rising to Junior Keeper of Ostriches in 1913 before joining up. The 31-year-old father of four children, enlisted in the Rifle Brigade in December 1915.
A portion of boot with his numbering appears to be all that helped identify William Dexter and prevent him being buried like all the others as “Unknown British Soldier”.

After barely one month serving in France he was listed as “Missing – accepted as having died on or since 23 October 1916”. Although war service and pension records are difficult sometimes to decipher, “A portion of boot” was seemingly all that was left to identify his missing body , along with posthumous medals and a pension, for official recognition and return by the authorities of Keeper Dexter to his wife and four children.

Belle Vue Zoo Manchester

Belle Vue Zoo staff 1916 deaths

3. Private William Morrey 27 June 1916

Several William Morreys from the Cheshire, Lancashire and Manchester area are listed on the cwgc.org site, obviously a local name.

Before his enlistment under the Derby Scheme, it appears our William was the one who worked as a water and gas fitter at the Zoological Gardens at Belle Vue, Manchester.

Pioneer 130519 William Morrey died aged 21 on the 27 June, 1916, serving originally with the Manchester Regiment but on his death with the 1st Battalion of the Special Brigade, Royal Engineers (a gas unit).
William Morrey is buried in the middle of the second to back row of these hospital related casualties, Beauval Communal Cemetery, Somme, France.
Morrey is buried at an individual grave B17 at Beauval Communal Cemetery, Somme, France. The great majority of the burials were carried out from such hospitals as the 4th Casualty Clearing Station where Morrey died at Beauval from June 1915 to October 1916.

Directly alongside Morrey in three other graves B 14-16 are three others of this special Battalion killed on the same day, Pioneer 129027 Richard Brown, Pioneer 128027 James Duckett (also from Manchester) and Pioneer 128805 Walter Norman Welton.

CWGC lists Morrey as the son of William and Lydia Morrey, of Widnes. Mr A.E. Morrey of 13 Ollier Street, Widnes, Lancs appears to have chosen the family inscription on his CWGC headstone: “He gave his life for Freedom”
Morrey and comrades lie in the middle of the second to back row of Beauval Cemetery, France. Image: cwgc.org
These Special Companies are described on the Long, Long Trail website http://www.1914-1918.net/specialcoyre.htm and on their forum posts #61 Royal Engineers Special Brigade: post #61 jones75 which gives the following information:

Pioneer William Morrey, No.130519, 21st Section, 1st Bn, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers
Born : Widnes, Lancashire.
Enlisted : Manchester, 20th January, 1916.
Resided : The Lodge, Halton View, Widnes.
Died of wounds in France on 27th June, 1916, aged 21.
Buried at Beauval Communal Cemetery, Row B, Grave 17.
William Morrey is also commemorated at St Ambrose church in Halton View, the Belle Vue Zoo memorial and on the Widnes War Memorial in Victoria Park, Widnes in Cheshire.

William Morrey was the second son of William & Lydia Morrey and died in No.4 Casualty Clearing Station on the 27th June as result of gas poisoning on the previous day.

His sister, Mrs Dutton of Milton Road, Widnes, received a letter from an Army Chaplain, Reverend H.D.W. Dennison, CF, in it he wrote….

”It is with deep regret that I have to tell you of the death of your brother, Pioneer W. Morrey. He was admitted into this hospital yesterday afternoon suffering severely from gas poisoning, and though everything possible was done for him, he died early this morning. I am burying him this afternoon with four of his comrades who suffered the same fate in Beauval Cemetery. May he rest in peace and, and may God comfort sad hearts that his loss will cause……”
An old boy of Simms Cross school, William Morrey also attended St Ambrose church and Sunday School and was a member of the Gymnasium at St Paul`s Parochial Rooms. On leaving school, he worked for five years as an apprentice gas & water fitter at the Corporation Gas Works in Widnes.

Before his enlistment under the Derby Scheme he worked as a fitter at the Zoological Gardens at Belle Vue, Manchester.

He joined up on 20th January, 1916 into the 14th Bn, The Manchester Regiment, regimental number 32486 and in March that same year was transferred to the Royal Engineers and sent to France.
He wrote his last letter home in mid June and in it he said he was in the best of health and expected to be moved nearer to the front line. (WWN 1916)
The Special Brigade, Royal Engineers was a unit formed to counter the German Gas threat, they were employed to dispense poison gas from the allied trenches towards the enemies lines, it is possible that William Morrey was gassed carrying out this task as accidents and the effect of shell-fire on the equipment caused leaks on a regular basis.

So Morrey died in the preparation for the Somme, which three months later would claim another Belle Vue Zoo colleague, Alfred Routledge.

Routledge is one of several British zoo staff with no known grave who are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
4. Private Alfred Routledge

He died serving with the 11th Battalion Manchester Regiment on The Somme aged 23 on 26 September 1916. He was killed in an attack on Mouquet Farm which was part of the final and successful British attempt to capture the village of Thiepval.

The village occupied high ground in the centre of the battlefield and had been a British objective on the first day of The Battle of The Somme on 1 July 1916.

Alfred Routledge is one of the many “Missing of the Somme” listed on the Thiepval memorial, having no known grave. Routledge was killed in the final days of taking Thiepval village, one of the original objectives of the 1st July 1916, the first disastrous day of the Battle of The Somme two months earlier.

CWGC lists him as the son of the late Alfred and Emily Barton Routledge of 504 Gorton Lane, Gorton. Married.

Routledge and fellow Belle Vue Zoo staff Sidney Turner and Ralph Stamp are remembered on the St. James Parish Church war memorial http://gortonphilipsparkcemetrywargrave.weebly.com/st-james-church-gorton.html

Chester Zoo

George Mottershead who founded Chester Zoo in 1930s was badly wounded on the Somme on 15 October 1916. The Mottersheads were nurserymen and market gardeners, as shown in BBC Our Zoo June Mottershead’s  ‘Grandad’ Mottershead working well into old age and wartime to provide food for his son’s zoo animals. Three of June’s Mottershead uncles and step-uncles from this gardening family were killed in the First World War, two others on her mother’s side, whilst her father George was badly wounded on theSomme.

Kew Gardens

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew wartime casualties 1916

Several Kew staff were killed serving in the Somme area later in the autumn of 1916.

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

Sydney George Cobbold, 3 October 1916.

Sergeant Sydney George Cobbold, S/12906, 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died on the 3rd October 1916, aged 28. His 1917 Kew Guild Journal obituary lists from his letters back to Kew that he had enlisted in the Rifle Brigade by June 1915 and shortly after November 1915 embarked for France.
He is buried at Grave Reference II. B. 7, Le Fermont Military Cemetery, Rivière, a front line cemetery of 80 burials begun by the 55th (West Lancashire) Division in March 1916 and closed in March 1917. Looking at the Graves Registration GRU documents, it appears that on the same day that Sgt Cobbold was killed, 4 other 8th Rifle Brigade were killed and buried in the same plot 2 Row B of this front line cemetery alongside him – Rifleman L.J. Farr, W.G. Kittle, Benjamin Gordon (Jewish star in place of a cross) and fellow sergeant J.R. Aspden, Military Medal. Cobbold lies among his comrades and his men.

Sydney Cobbold (Kew Guild photo)

Sydney Cobbold of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died 3rd October 1916, Somme area (Kew Guild photo)

John Divers, 9 October 1916

Rifleman John Divers, service number 7056, 1st / 9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria Rifles) and also County of London Cyclists, died on 9th October 1916 when his patrol into No Man’s Land towards the German trenches was wiped out. For a time he was “missing, believed killed” and an officer wrote to his father that they had not been “able to thoroughly search the ground” for his body.

As a result Divers has no known grave and is one of two Kew Gardens casualties (with H.M. Woolley) listed amongst the missing of the Somme Battles on the Thiepval Memorial at Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 C. John Divers is listed amongst over 72,000 men from the UK and South Africa who died in the Somme area before March 1918 and who have no known grave. An excellent Thiepval database exists to put faces to names and add to the publicaly available knowledge about these 72,000 men.
Several Kew staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial
At the end of September 1916, Thiepval village was finally captured from the Germans, one of the original objectives of the disastrous first day of the Battle of The Somme on 1st July, 1916. Attacks north and east continued throughout October when John Divers was killed and into 18th November in increasingly difficult winter weather. Over 90% of those commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial died like John Divers between July and November 1916.

Having visited this Thiepval memorial, it is like many of the other memorials to the missing such as the Ypres Menin Gate, quite overwhelming to scan the panels ccontaining thousands of carved names.

Born 7 August 1891 at Redhill in Surrey, he was the only son of a gardener and amateur botanist Mr Jos. Jas. Divers. From a well known family of gardeners, Divers worked with his uncle W.H. Divers VMH at Belvoir Castle, Grantham before joining Kew, March 1912, quickly becoming a Sub-foreman, Herbaceous and Alpine Dept. He was killed on the same day as fellow Kewite H.M. Woolley. (Thanks to his relatives for some of this background family / genealogical information).

Front Cover 2016

John Divers, Kew Gardens 

Herbert Martin Woolley, 9 October 1916
Listed on the Kew memorial as Rifleman / Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, “Essex Regiment” is most likely to be Rifleman 3844, 1st / 5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), died 9 October 1916. Herbert is commemorated on Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 D, Thiepval Memorial, along with fellow Kewite John Divers.

Born 27 September 1883, Herbert was the son of G.H. Woolley, Vicar of Old Riffhams, Danbury, Essex. In 1908 after working in several nurseries and Kew 1906-08 he left to work managing a rubber estate in North Borneo. He returned from Borneo to join the Essex Regiment but ditched his commission and training as an officer to become a corporal in the London Rifle Brigade to see action more quickly. His brother suggest he was also promoted to Sergeant. Herbert was killed shortly after the attack on Combles in 1916.

Herbert or “Bertie” Woolley came from a high-achieving and distinguished family of 12 children including his brother Lieutenant Colonel Sir Charles Woolley (1880 – 1960), “Woolley of Ur”,a famous archaeologist who knew Lawrence of Arabia. His brother Major George Harold Woolley VC OBE MC (1892 – 1968) was the first Territorial to win the Victoria Cross. In G.H. Woolley’s autobigraphy, “Sometime a Soldier“, Bertie’s unusual decision to become a private soldier and change regiments to get to the front quicker is described:

“While I was on sick leave my third brother, Bertie, returned from British North Borneo. He had been trained at Kew Gardens and in Germany, and then was employed on rubber plantations in Borneo. When in England he had joined the old Militia, so I had no difficulty in helping him to get a commission in the Essex Regiment. He soon tired of England, so transferred as a private to the London Rifle Brigade; he did well with them in France and was quickly made a sergeant, then offered a commission. He was killed with the L.R.B. on the Somme in 1916.

 

G.H. Woolley, Sometimes A Soldier. London: Ernest Benn, Ltd., 1963, pp. 38-39

Charles Henry Anderson, Albert Medal, 29 November 1916
Lance (or Lance Corporal) Charles Henry Anderson died on 29/11/1916 aged 26, Service no. 2326, 1st/14th Bn. London Regiment (London Scottish). His medal record card states that in addition to the standard Victory and British war medals, he was also awarded the Albert Medal (citation below). Anderson is buried amongst 253 WW1 Commonwealth soldier burials at Grave Reference II. K. 3, St. Venant Communal Cemetery in France. From 1915 to 1917 this cemetery was linked to British and Indian forces Casualty Clearing Stations in the area.
His mother Mrs L. Anderson chose the inscription on his headstone: “I Will Give Unto Every One of You According to His Works” (Revelation 2.23)

” The King has been graciously pleased to award the Decoration of the Albert Medal of the First Class in recognition of the gallantry of Lce. Cpl. Charles Henry Anderson, late of the 1st/14th Bn. of the London Regt., who lost his life in France in November last in saving the lives of others. On the 28th Nov., 1916, Lce. Cpl. Anderson was in a hut in France with eleven other men when, accidentally, the safety pin was withdrawn from a bomb.

In the semi-darkness he shouted a warning to the men, rushed to the door, and endeavoured to open it so as to throw the bomb into a field. Failing to do this, when he judged that the five seconds during which the fuse was timed to burn had elapsed, he held the bomb as close to his body as possible with both hands in order to screen the other men in the hut. Anderson himself and one other man were mortally wounded by the explosion, and five men were injured. The remaining five escaped unhurt. Anderson sacrificed his life to save his comrades.”

Somme100

Royal Botanic Gardens  Edinburgh no doubt had staff who served during the Somme Battles but they lost no staff there. Their equivalent to the Loss of Pals battalions on the Somme was the loss of several staff in the local regiment 5th Royal Scots at Gallipoli in 1915.

Gardeners and others 

Garden magazine editor, writer and Kewite Herbert Cowley was home from the trenches, invalided out and newly married by 1916.

His new  brother in law was  killed on the first day of Battle of the Somme, as 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) waskilled 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.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/dig-for-victory-1917-world-war-1-style-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-and-the-fortunate-herbert-cowley-1885-1967/

Wartime editions gardening magazines and journals listed lost gardeners such as George Harrow, son of George Harrow of Veitch’s Nursery, killed 1st July 1916. Gardener T. Percy Peed, a nurseryman, died serving with the 8th South Staffs in France on 10 July 1916.

Gardener Sergeant L.A. Iceton Seaforth Highlanders died on 26 July 1916.

RHS Wisley lost several staff during the Somme Battle period including:

Private John Fletcher Lee 31st Battalion Canadian Infantry, died 5 July 1916, buried at Lijssentheok Cemetery.

2nd Lieutenant Fritz Bowyer, 9 Squadron RFC died on 25 July 1916, Arras a Flying Services Memorial.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/blogs/libraries/August-2014/First-World-War-commemoration-at-Wisley

Natural History / British Museum staff 

Private C.R. Dunt, killed Hebuterne, on staff of British Museum

 

 

Scientists, naturalists and others

Of the eight fellows FLS of the  Linnean Society casualties lost in WW1, two were lost in the Somme period and battles of 1916.

Geoffrey Watkins Smith 10 July 1916 
A Captain in the 13th Battalion Rifle Brigade, Geoffrey Watkins Smith died on 10 July 1916 is buried in grave III J 27, Pozieres British Cemetery, Ovillers la Boisselle. CWGC lists him as the son of Horace and Susan Eleanor Penelope Smith, of Beckenham, Kent. A Fellow of New College Oxford, Watkins Smith wrote several books including Primitive Animals and A Naturalist In Tasmania.

 

Wilfrid Omer Cooper  26 September 1916
Born 1895, he was killed in 26 September 1916. He had been involved with the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, studying isopods. Elected to the Linnean Society only in Spring 1915, he was still a private G/40113 in the 12 Battalion Regiment, Middlesex Regiment when he died aged 21. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme battles.
Wilfrid Omer Cooper has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
He is listed on the CWGC website as the son of the late John Omer Cooper (died 1912) and Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Thompson Cooper, 6 Queensland Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth. On the listing for Soldiers Died in The Great War (SDGW) he is listed as born at Boscombe, Bournemouth, Hants and resident at Bournemouth. He enlisted at High Beech, Loughton and was originally listed as formerly B/23290 Royal Fusiliers.

In 1911 census he and his brother Joseph Omer Cooper were both schoolboys living with their 89-year-old father (a retired auctioneer, surveyor and estate agent, born in Reading, Berkshire 1822-1912) and 53-year-old mother Mary (born Willenhall, Staffordshire, 1858-1944) at 50 Westley Road, Boscombe. Two other children had not survived infancy. His brother Joseph served from 1914-19 in Britain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).

He may be the author of several books including The Fishing Village and other writings (Literary and Scientific) posthumously published in Bournemouth by H.G.Commin 1917, the author one Wilfrid Omer-Cooper.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/lost-fellows-the-linnean-society-roll-of-honour-1914-1918/

Remembered all as part of #Somme100

Posted on 1st July 2016 by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.

 

George Mottershead’s trip from “Our Zoo” at Chester Zoo to Newquay Zoo …

October 9, 2014

GM PL letters 6Series 1 of “Our Zoo” has come to a close with episode 6  leaving us all wondering whether the Mottershead family can  convince a visiting inspector to overturn the council ban on the fledgling Chester  Zoo. An inspection of the zoo is held but the final decision could take weeks – can the Mottershead family hang on and will there be life after Oakfield House?

If you miss it on BBC I player, the DVD is due soon – and leaves me hanging on for the wartime section which will surely come in future series.

OurZoo (October 2014) the latest version of June Mottershead's memoirs.

Our Zoo (October 2014) the latest version of June Mottershead’s memoirs.

I’ve written several previous blogposts about Chester Zoo’s wartime history. A story that not many know  is how an elderly George Mottershead in his last decade (he died of a stroke in 1978) helped and advised one of his ex-keeping staff, the late Peter Lowe to  design and partly stock my home zoo of Newquay Zoo in 1968/69. George’s correspondence with Peter Lowe into the early 1970s  has been kindly  scanned by Chester’s archive team to help us piece together our Zoo’s early history, ready for our 50th anniversary in 2019.

When someone asks why it’s worth the  bother  my hoarding and tracking down  old photos, record cards and the paraphernalia of our zoo history, I can mention the simple answer: prime time BBC 1.

GM PL letters 1

Letter by Newquay Zoo Curator Peter Lowe to his old boss George Mottershead at Chester Zoo, 12 June 1969

Peter Lowe and the Newquay Council  sent condolences to George on the death of his wife Lizzie Mottershead in 1969. They had been writing to each other about Newquay Zoo since early 1968. In the letters he asks after June Mottershead – the young June of “Our Zoo” – and her husband Fred Williams, both people that he would have known whilst on the Chester Zoo staff.

By 1969 the real cast of “Our Zoo” was thinning – Muriel had now emigrated to New Zealand, one of Lizzie Mottershead’s uncles (merged into one character in the TV series) Robert Atkinson had died fighting in WW2 and Grandma Lucy passed away in 1945. Mottershead’s aristocratic patrons and friends were still strongly supporting Chester, such as the ‘Duchess’ or ‘Sally’ (the Duchess of Westminster) who came down to see and keep in touch with Peter Lowe in Cornwall in August 1971.

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo - memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo – memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

There follows two years of regular correspondence with George Mottershead, trips by Newquay Council staff to Chester and Bristol Zoo and the successful opening of Newquay Zoo on Whit Monday  26 May 1969. There are some interesting letters arranging for  Mr Mottershead to visit Newquay  Zoo in October 1971, staying at the Kilbirnie Hotel (like Newquay Zoo, still open 40 years later).

GM PL letters 3

George Mottershead to Peter Lowe and family, 21/10/71

Miss Howard (Nancy) was George’s secretary and travelling companion on trips to Newquay and American zoos  in his later years. It is to her organisation partly that we owe the survival of this amazing cache of decades of George’s correspondence.

Sadly these all appear to be carbon copies of George’s letters to Peter, so we don’t have signed letters from George but he was obviously a very busy man into his eighties.

GM PL letters 5

The letters run from 1968 to 1971, finishing just after George Mottershead’s visit. It is interesting to read George’s comments on the fledgling Newquay Zoo and the worries of its first Curator Peter Lowe. George speaks with the reassuring wisdom of someone who has built his own zoo, often against criticism or local lack of faith in its future. In several places George with his long experience “strongly advises” against certain ideas. However George in another letter reassures Peter (and by extension the Newquay Urban District Council) that the Zoo’s first few weeks attendance of 15,322 was not too bad, considering the fine weather that saw people head to the beach, not pay the 3/6d adult and 1/6d child rate to see the zoo.A council car parking charge of 2/0d – two shillings – was causing complaint even then.

I don’t think your attendance of 15,322 is too bad for something which has just opened. Why do people want to be right in the top rank as soon as they start. Everything has to grow! When I first came to Chester we didn’t have anything like that in the first twelve months.” George Mottershead to Peter Lowe, 20/6/69

“In a month’s time we shall have been open for 12 months and have had 152,507 visitors through the gates to date”. Peter Lowe to George Mottershead, 27/4/70

This is still not too bad an annual  attendance for us today!

George’s zoo at Chester survived the recession of the 1930s and the difficult wartime years. The early days of Newquay were not without problems. Electricity blackouts, postal strikes and industrial action are mentioned, a glimpse of what was to come throughout the 1970s.

It is good to think that George got to finally walk round our zoo, taking in what Peter Lowe and his colleagues and council staff had achieved.

If you walk round Newquay today, you can still see the ‘bone structure’ of our 1969 zoo that George and Peter discussed in their letters. The  old lion and leopard houses are still standing, along with the bear enclosure,  long converted to other uses and more  suitable animals. Within a few years, these older houses will come down to make way for new enclosures;  I’m sure George would approve, his motto for Chester Zoo being “Always Building!” and that the zoo that Peter and George built is looking towards its 50th anniversary and future task of conservation and education.

Rare 'Yaki' Sulawesi Macaque monkey at Newquay Zoo enjoying fresh broad bean pods, summer 2010. (Picture: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

Critically Endangered  ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi Macaque monkey at Newquay Zoo, a group with females on breeding loan from Chester Zoo, enjoying fresh broad bean pods from our wartime allotment, summer 2010; this enclosure housed bears from 1969 to c. 1994 (Picture: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

The Chester and Newquay zoo links are still strong. An education centre and service was written about in 1970; we now teach thousands of local school children and hundreds of HE students on zoology degree programmes based next door  at Cornwall College Newquay. We have several families of endangered animals here at Newquay Zoo on breeding loan or descended from Chester Zoo animals – Humboldt penguins, critically endangered Sulawesi Macaque monkeys – as part of modern studbooks and conservation breeding programmes through BIAZA and EAZA to which Chester and Newquay both belong. George Mottershead and Chester Zoo was  part of the early Zoo Federation in the 1960s which became BIAZA in 2005.

There is more about the early years of the Zoo on our Wikipedia timeline.

The Bison enclosure on the hill outside the zoo – an advert for the Zoo’s presence in the valley –   that once  housed ex-Chester Bison Fred and Freda is now gone, probably by 1973. There are many letters discussing its construction and obtaining the Chester stock.  It is now part of the surrounding fields and crazy golf course.

I never met George Mottershead as he died whilst I was a child. I was lucky enough to meet Peter Lowe and his wife on a rare visit back to Newquay Zoo, shortly before our 35th or 40th birthday. He had with him a large battered sketch plan of the zoo that he had to rapidly sketch out when the Council appointed him to run the zoo. I had no way of copying it at the time and sadly Peter Lowe, like George Mottershead,  has now passed away.

bison record card

One of our surviving stock cards from Newquay Zoo, regarding the Bison that came from Chester Zoo. The female was supposed to be a straight swap for a llama which sadly died of ‘pulpy kidney’ before this could occur in 1971. Money changed hands for animals then in a way it doesn’t now in a modern zoo.

Chester Zoo has made much of its history, with an archive, timeline, tours, a website, and of course the TV series.This is something that we at Newquay and many zoos could learn much from. If anyone has any other archive photos, film or memories, we would love to hear from you at ‘our  zoo’ at Newquay to expand our archive. Contact us via our website.

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

George Mottershead, Peter Lowe and our World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment project share a strange wartime ‘make do and mend’ spirit of improvisation that sees a thread or link from our zoo today, our 1960s zoo origins and George Mottershead who was nearly killed on the Somme and nursed his zoo through wartime and postwar challenges. Had George Mottershead been killed or paralysed, maybe Newquay Zoo might not be here today – at least in the same shape or form – if Chester Zoo had never been built. One feels the same ‘what if?’ story about Paignton Zoo, Herbert Whitley and his family experiences in WW1. We have much to be thankful for, especially to men like George Mottershead.

As we work towards our 50th anniversary in 2019, I will scan onto and blog post about some of the early Newquay guidebooks and record cards that have survived or been acquired for our archive, one not as well filed as Miss Howard’s neat Chester Zoo correspondence files.

There are many more interesting snippets to type up and explore of what might have been at Newquay – second thoughts considering housing a baby elephant, strongly advising against whether wolves would be suitable alongside leopards or the noise affect neighbouring houses, whether staying open till 10 pm was sustainable in the summer months. A Zoological Society of Cornwall to run the zoo was hinted at, to relieve the financial pressure on the Council funds and taxpayers; this never happened but many years later, Newquay is now run as part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust charity.

Newquay 70s guidebook cover

The cover of the first Newquay Zoo Guidebook from the early 1970s – c. 1974

I’m not sure the early days of Newquay Zoo are quite dramatic enough for a screenplay, although we were established in the Apollo Moon Landing Year of 1969, built as the swinging 60s became riotous, when Newquay had Magical Mystery Tours from The Beatles, early surfers on real waves not in cyberspace, all Pure Heartbeat / The Royal  1960s nostalgia period stuff. The few photographs we have of the staff, visitors and builders’  haircuts and clothes alone are worth a series in themselves …

newquay penguins

Great hair and Humboldt penguins, where our meerkats now roam. Newquay Zoo postcard and photograph in our guide book c. 1974

So Newquay Zoo staff and visitors, past and present, owe a small debt to George Mottershead and his “Our Zoo” family. Thanks, George!

I hope you enjoyed  the “Our Zoo” series, the website coverage on the BBC and Chester Zoo website (including a Chester Zoo YouTube website) and June’s books Our Zoo or its predecessor Reared in Chester Zoo, if you can track a copy down. Happy reading, happy viewing and of course, happy gardening!

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

Reared in Chester Zoo: Reading more about the Chester “Our Zoo” story

October 2, 2014

For the many zoo visitors I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks whilst doing our daily animal talks at Newquay Zoo, quite often the BBC’s series of “Our Zoo” about the early days of Chester Zoo is mentioned.

Those that know of my wartime garden project or interest in wartime zoos and botanic gardens often ask what I think of it and how accurate it is. Until the new book “Our Zoo” by June Mottershead comes out in October 2014, alongside the BBC Series 1 DVD, I direct people to track down a copy of “Reared in Chester Zoo, the Story of June Mottershead” written by June with Janice Batten (published by Ark Books, 2008).

OurZoo (October 2014) the latest version of June Mottershead's memoirs.

OurZoo (October 2014) the latest version of June Mottershead’s memoirs.

Within the 2008 book are many of the wonderful photographs glimpsed in the “Our Zoo” title sequences. You should be able to find copies easily enough online.  June’s earlier book about Chester Zoo, “Zoo Without Bars” (by June Williams, her married name) is now out of print and only available from  secondhand bookshops.

Tucked inside my well read copy, I keep the CD-Rom of scans of the surviving Chester Zoo Newsletters, written by the Mottershead family, dating back to the earliest days of “Our Zoo” in the 1930s (available from Chester Zoo’s library /archive) , which have given such incredible detail to the book. For me this is superb  month by month detail to help understand how the zoo struggled and survived the 1930s and the wartime 1940s. With the speed that the first series of “Our Zoo” is going through the early 1930s section, no doubt this wartime  section will be in “Our Zoo” Series 2, which I hope is in the BBC pipeline …

(BBC staff please note:  I have my own tin hat, spade, stirrup pump and ARP uniform from our wartime zoo schools workshops if the BBC want any 1940s  extras  🙂

I’ve written previous blogposts about Chester Zoo’s wartime history. A story that not many know (and so a  blog post to save  for another day) is how an elderly George Mottershead in his last decade (he died in 1978) helped and advised one of his ex-keeping staff, the late Peter Lowe to  design and partly stock my home zoo of Newquay Zoo in 1968/69. George’s correspondence with Peter Lowe into the early 1970s  has been kindly  scanned by  Chester’s archive team to help us piece together our Zoo’s early history, ready for our 50th anniversary in 2019.

So the next time someone asks why it’s worth the  bother  my hoarding and tracking down  old photos, record cards and the paraphernalia of our zoo history, I can mention the simple answer: prime time BBC 1.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the “Our Zoo” series, the website coverage on the BBC and Chester Zoo website  and the book Reared in Chester Zoo, if you can track a copy down. Happy reading, happy viewing and of course, happy gardening!

I’m off soon to Kew Gardens on 20th October 2014  to deliver an evening talk at 6pm (open to the public) as part of the annual Kew Mutual Improvement Society KMIS session talks, all  about how  zoos and botanic gardens survived wartime,  where no doubt Chester’s canny George Mottershead and wartime surplus concrete will be mentioned. See Kew’s http://www.kew.org website  for details.

Reared in Chester Zoorearedinchesterzooback

Our Zoo: Chester Zoo and the drama of zoo history

September 5, 2014

I have been looking forward to watching this autumn BBC’s “Our Zoo” about the  early days of Chester Zoo, with some excellent links to past and future on the Chester Zoo website –
http://www.chesterzoo.org/global/about-us/our-zoo-bbc-drama

Researching zoo history is often a “Cinderella” subject, many people wondering why it’s worth it (outside of the zoo history enthusiasts of the Bartlett Society – see blogroll links) and rarely makes it to mainstream television!

Back in May 2011 I spent an interesting couple of days tracking down wartime concrete at Chester Zoo, during a zoo history conference. Here is an edited blog post I wrote at the time tracing an intriguing bit of Chester Zoo’s history and on the way discovered four wartime hippos in Budapest.

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo – memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

May 2011, Chester Zoo: We weren’t sure whether to called this post Zoo Do You Think You Are? (after the BBC TV Family history series), thanks to a quick quip from Richard Gibson at Chester Zoo or maybe  Zoo Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler? (to the theme tune of Dad’s Army) in view of the wartime concrete, Home Guard and Zoo family history connections I was tracking down.

Family history is big business now on the internet and on television, genealogy being the social or leisure side of genetics. Genetics is now the everyday business of zoo breeding programmes. Looking back at baby photos past for a glimpse of a familiar adult expression or looking at your children for a fleeting recognition of family faces, it’s something we all do over time. Like gardening, it’s probably age-related, primal and territorial. My family, my birth place, my tribe. So why should it be any different for zoos to look back at where they came from? Can we catch a glimpse of the future from a look at their past? This is partly what I’ve been researching through the World War Zoo Gardens project.

Chester Zoo history symposium 20 May 2011 from the SHNH website

What are zoos for? How should zoos work together? Why should zoos keep an archive of past events and what should they do with this material? These were some of the many questions raised by the May 2011 Symposium on Zoo history / Zoo future hosted at Chester Zoo “From Royal Menageries to Biodiversity Conservation”http://www.chesterzoo.org/ and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Zoo and  a joint celebration of the work of several societies together. The Bartlett Society (www.zoohistory.co.uk), World Association of Zoos and Aquariums   (WAZA) www.waza.org , Linnaean Society and celebrating its 75th birthday, the Society for the History of Natural History (SHNH) www.shnh.org The proceedings or symposium was recently published in 2014. It reflected the World of Zoos and Aquariums as it was attended by delegates from Britain, Ireland, Europe, North America and South East Asia / Australasia.

Only 91 animals remained amongst the ruins of wartime Berlin Zoo by 1945 from an old German / US archive press photo (World War Zoo gardens collection at Newquay Zoo)

Dr. Miklos Persenyi, Director General at Budapest Zoo in Hungary showed some beautiful slides of how the once war ravaged zoo in Hungary has been restored, even the 1960s buildings are being ‘restored’ to match the striking Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture of the early 20th Century. Miklos joked that he is employed by the Budapest Tourist Bureau, as the zoo, botanic garden and ‘cultural centre’ that it has become looks well worth a visit. After my short presentation on wartime zoos which mentioned Berlin Zoo being left with 91 animals after air raids and street fighting, Miklos quietly capped this with his story of the 15 animals left alive at Budapest zoo after the freezing winter months of 1944 when the Zoo and city of Budapest became a besieged town and battlefield between the Germans and the Russians. Amazingly, whilst the local people eat anything they could to survive, four or five of these surviving animals were Hippopotami (or Hippopotamuses). These plant eaters survived in the warm waters of the thermal springs there, alongside a handful of ‘singing birds’. The people of Budapest rebuilt their zoo after the war, whilst bombsites of local buildings and churches near the zoo were unofficially commandeered to grow crops for people and animals  http://www.zoobudapest.com/english Miklos has been involved in the writing of an interesting and beautifully illustrated history of Budapest Zoo, with a version in English well worth tracking down.

This comment by Miklos about the last fifteen animals left in Budapest Zoo and the efforts to rebuild it by gave some important human detail to the broad sweep of zoo history, of different groups and associations which eventually became the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) in a reunified Europe after the Berlin Wall and collapse of Communism / end of the Cold War c. 1989  Equally moving was the long slow progression to today’s World Association of Zoos and Aquariums from its late Victorian beginning in Germany, through wartime disruptions, revolutions  to today’s worldwide organisation “United for Conservation” at last! It was long time coming.

One of the Symposium concerns was the lack of original zoo history research being done into the past life of zoos, as often what we read is simply a regurgitation of the same old sources. The published proceedings (available through Chester Zoo’s marketing department) are a good example of this new research.

Newquay Zoo’s wartime roaming ‘gnome gaurd-ener’ in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Chester Zoo the conference host is home itself to an interesting wartime story. As part of my World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo, I have been researching what happened in wartime zoos, with an eye to what lessons we can learn from surviving our wartime past for the management of zoos through future challenges. This work is often hamstrung by the lack of (accessible) archives in many zoos. Not so Chester Zoo which has an excellent and accessible archive, partly scanned and the Chester Zoo News (1930s-1980s) available to buy on CD-Rom from their library!

These magazines must have refreshed memories and dates with lots of detail in June Mottershead’s vividly remembered account Reared in Chester Zoo (written with Janice Madden, Ark Books, 2009) of growing up at Chester Zoo, helping out as it was built by her father and as it struggled to survived through the slump and wartime shortages of the 1930s and 1940s to her marriage to Keeper Fred Williams.

Chester Zoo history timeline banners, Chester Zoo, 2011

This story of George Mottershead and family is well told in banner panels for each decade of the zoo’s 80 years, over near the ‘new’ 1950s Aquarium and the modern Cedar House which houses the library and archive.

My guide for that day in 2011, the then Head of Discovery and Learning archivist Stephen McKeown told me that the concrete pillars of the aquarium were hand-cast by June and Fred, often working into the night by lamplight. So like George Mottershead, they literally did build their zoo by hand. Sadly the original Chester Zoo Aquarist, Yorkshireman Peter Falwasser died of wounds on active service in North Africa, 1942. Before his death, Peter wrote excitedly to Chester Zoo colleagues of all the wildlife and especially fish he was seeing in the Middle East and wondered how to get them back to Chester Zoo. So this new aquarium  in the 1950s was maybe a quiet sort of memorial to ‘gentle’ Peter Falwasser, as June describes him.

In 2013 I received scans from the Chester Zoo archive of letters from and to Peter Falwassser, which I turned into the following blog post, Last Wartime Letters:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/last-wartime-letters-of-peter-falwasser-chester-zoo-aquarist-1916-1942/

Sometimes research does a little back-flip of name recognition in an unexpected place, a little cross-over between themes. Strangely following another wartime gardening lead into 1940s and 50s garden  books linked to Theo Stephens’ little garden magazine, My Garden, I havecome across  a late 1940s garden article that may well have been written by Peter’s older sister Christine Rosetta ( b. 1905, Cawthorne, Yorkshire). She may have been the  C.R. Falwasser, a gardener and writer,  who wrote the article in My Garden’s Bedside Book (1951?)  called “I Swept the Leaves” mentioning “But when you hire yourself during wartime and become part of a staff …” by the 1950s she pops up in the phone book in horticulture at Alltnacree, Connell, Argyll.  Strange coincidence.  I wonder if she would have got on with the Mottershead family of Market Gardeners, including Grandad Albert, Chester Zoo’s first Head Gardener, who fed the animals and people of Chester Zoo in wartime.

Inside June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo May 2011

A quick trip downstairs to the public toilets in Oakfield House today takes you to the site of the ‘old’ or first wartime Aquarium and air raid shelters for staff,  based in the cellars and former kitchens of Oakfield House. This listed red brick building was the big house or mansion of the estate that became Chester Zoo in the 1930s. It was in poor condition after serving as a VAD convalescent home for officers in the First World War as many such houses did around Europe. This must have had strong associations for Private George Mottershead, who  apparently spent several years recovering after the war in a wheelchair.

Looking at the 1930s map by George Williams inside June’s book, it is still possible to glimpse a little of the original zoo, especially starting from the red brick house and stables block, used extensively for temporary animal houses in the first decade or so. Lion scratches and a small plaque by the stables archway give a clue to what once happened here, the nucleus of what has today grown to become Chester Zoo.

The roar of big cats can still be heard across the path from the old temporary ‘pen’, the site of George Mottershead’s lion enclosure that he started to hand-build in 1937 but was delayed by wartime, only finished in 1947. Scratch marks in the brickwork of the stable block, reputedly made by lions, are marked by a simple plaque.

A link to the Chester Zoo lions of the wartime past – within roar of the present. Chester Zoo Stables and Courtyard gateway, May 2011

The stables and courtyard of the big house of another era are closed to the public but very visible from public walkways, the stables now house the works depot and offices.

History in the Chester area is never far away – usually just inches under your feet. The Romans had a garrison town (Deva) here, into whose near-complete buried amphitheatre in town were dug the air-raid shelters for June’s school. Behind Oakfield House, recreated Roman Gardens and new glasshouses now lie where food was once grown in the kitchen gardens and conservatory area by June’s  ‘ Grandfather’ Albert, George Mottershead’s father.

This glasshouse like those in many zoos was a victim of wartime shrapnel, in this case probably anti-aircraft or ack-ack ‘flak’ from nearby AA guns firing at enemy raiders heading for the towns and ports of the Northwest. Friendly fire like this also killed a Coypu, one of the only direct wartime casualties amongst the animals from enemy action (many other zoo animals like penguins slowly declined from wartime substitute feeding). Here in these vanished glasshouses and kitchen gardens, food was once grown for the mansion and for the early zoo. The Mottersheads were nurserymen and market gardeners, originally in the Sale area. ‘Grandad’ Mottershead working well into old age and through wartime to provide food for his son’s zoo animals.

Three of June’s Mottershead uncles and step-uncles from this gardening family were killed in the First World War, two others on her mother’s side, whilst her father George was so badly wounded on the Somme that it took him years to teach himself to walk again. Albert and Stanley Mottershead’s  names are on the Sale War Memorial, recently researched by George Cogswell and pictured here. This could so easily have been George Mottershead. no George, no Chester Zoo.

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

Family photographs of these friendly ghosts can be found in June’s book but also mounted on the walls of the newly opened June’s Pavilion catering area near Oakfield House, next to the Growzone conservatories for today’s Chester Zoo gardeners. Zoos, like armies, march on their stomachs and good food is very important to the human and other animals at the zoo. It is often the make or break of a zoo visit and probably one of the harder things to get right for everyone. I learnt this lesson on day one of zoo management at Newquay Zoo, the afternoon spent with sleeves rolled up and rubber gloves in the sink partly alongside Pete the Ops Manager washing up and KP-ing in the Newquay Zoo café during an afternoon rush and shortage of café staff. So I understand how important June, her sister Muriel, her mother Elizabeth and Grandmother Lucy like all the women in her family were in feeding zoo staff, evacuees and zoo visitors as well as zoo animals before and during the war. [Note: 2014, This is something that comes across strongly in the BBC series Our Zoo broadcast in Autumn 2014 and I interviews with June Williams.]

It is very fitting to have ‘June’s Pavilion’ as not a museum or a memorial but something practical, and fun – a family eating place with family photographs on the wall. George Mottershead in First World war uniform with Elizabeth and baby Muriel, Grandad Mottershead, June and Fred, all look down, alongside many other of the army of Chester Zoo staff of the past, over another generation of zoo visitors tucking in to food before heading off to look and learn about more animals.

Having read June’s account in hindsight and the detailed newsletters month by month during uncertain times gives you chance to relive the early years, month by month, almost to glimpse through the windows of Oakfield House and spot familiar ghosts on the lawn.

Next to Oakfield House beside the lawn in its own small garden stands a small simple memorial plaque to George Mottershead, erected by the zoo members and staff after he died in 1978. George looks out of the photo back towards the stables and the windows of Oakfield House which must have seen so many stories, from the gentry and hunting at the big house to wounded soldiers of his own war, wartime evacuees in the next war, refugee elephants and their mahouts, a place of family weddings and still a venue for an excellent quiet lunch in the panelled dining room.

After the war, things did not become easier straight away. There was still food rationing and materials for building were in short supply.

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Britain had to feed itself, the displaced millions of Europeand repair huge numbers of bombed factories, schools and houses around the country. A short walk away from Oakfield House, you can still glimpse one of George’s practical bits of post-war salvage. Fred Williams, June’s husband, as Clerk of Works carried on this salvage tradition.

At the rear of what was once built as the Polar Bear enclosure can be seen some at first rather plain and ugly concrete pillars. Ironically now part of the Europe on the Edge Aviary, these pillars started life for a very different purpose – heavy concrete road blocks and tank traps from the desperate days of improvisation by the Army and Home Guard against invasion by the armies of Hitler’s Germany after softening up by Goering’s eagles of the Luftwaffe.

The round shapes of these concrete blocks can be seen clearly in Frith picture postcards featured in a recent zoo postcards book by  Alan Ashby (www.izes.co.uk). These pillars  are an unlikely memorial to a past generation, though thankfully June is still (2011/2014very much with us, still interested in the zoo they built and the recently opened June’s new Pavilion.

Stephen McKeown spoke in 2011 about further ideas for developing family history on the way to our Chester Zoo members talk at the Russell Allen lecture theatre at Chester zoo (named after Maud Russell Allen, an early council member or benefactor in the 1930s and 1940s). Chester are thinking about developing the guided or self-guided history tour – so watch the Chester Zoo website for details [including on the Our Zoo BBC related events].

BBC clip about June at wartime Chester Zoo: http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6700000/newsid_6706300/6706315.stm?bw=nb&mp=wm&news=1&bbcws=1

Since 2011, I have been sent by Chester Zoo Archive  the scans of many letters to and from George Mottershead to (the late) ex Cheter Zoo staff member Peter Lowe, who became the first curator and designer of my home zoo, Newquay Zoo, something worth a blog post in future. So George Mottershead surviving the Somme to open his own zoo helped indirectly in the early history of my own zoo at Newquay Zoo.  You can read more about our wartime garden project at Newquay Zoo on our blog, contact me via the comments page or check out our zoo website pages about World War Zoo on www.newquayzoo.org.uk

The new World War Zoo gardens sign at Newquay Zoo, 2011


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