Posts Tagged ‘Kew Gardens’

Remembering Albert Wright of Kew and Birmingham Botanic Gardens died WW1 25 February 1919

February 25, 2019



Albert Wright of Birmingham and Kew Botanic Gardens Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Remembering Albert Wright, Gardener of Kew and Birmingham Botanic Gardens who  died from pneumonia in hospital as a result of the effects of service with the 2/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment in WW1 on 25 February 1919.

Private Albert Wright, 201656, 2nd /7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died on 25 February 1919, aged 29. He is remembered at Grave Reference Screen Wall B10. 9. 661A, Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery, presumably where he is buried


Birmingham Lodge Cemetery and Screen Wall where Wright’s name is recorded.

He has no individual headstone. A photograph of his screen wall entry is on the TWGPP website. The cemetery contains 498 First World War burials, most of them in a war graves plot alongside Wright in Section B10. The  screen wall panels of names are linked to numbered stone panels in the ground in front of the cross.

Wright’s name on the screen wall Source image: TWGPP

Born in Birmingham, Albert Wright worked at Birmingham Botanic Gardens as an Outdoor Foreman from April 1914 to February 1916, leaving Kew Gardens where he studied from May 1912 to April 1914 (being there an Assistant 1st Class).


Birmingham Botanic Gardens, 2010 (photographed during my last visit)

His Kew Guild Journal obituary 1920/21 lists him as joining the 5th Warwickshire Regiment, moving with them to France in May 1917.


In 1917 he was invalided home with fever before returning to France where he was wounded in the leg whilst wiring out in front of the trenches. Sent to hospitals in Glasgow, Irvine and finally Liverpool, he died of influenza and pneumonia in hospital, three months after the war ended.

In the Kew Guild Journal 1920, p.482, the article on the Kew War Memorial mentions that “Two additional names have to be added to the Tablet. Pte. Albert Wright and L.Cpl. Sidney Cockcroft.”

Wright is also remembered in the unusual round Hall Of Memory of all those Birmingham citizens lost as civilians or service people since 1914.

The First World War saw four important hospitals, besides many smaller ones, located at Birmingham with over 7000 beds. It appears that Albert died of wounds or ill health back in his home city, hopefully amongst family.

Albert Wright is the last named Kew Gardener on the staff war memorial but by no means the last Kew man to die as a result of WW1. As far as we can tell, several more of the Kew staff died from the effects of war service after Albert Wright in 1919.


It has been a few months since my last Centenary Memorial Blog Post and there has been thankfully a pause, reflecting the end of fighting, although war wounds and Spanish influenza continued to claim victims well after November 1918.

It has been over ten years since I visited Birmingham Botanic Gardens where Albert Wright  worked, whilst working for Newquay Zoo during National Science Week in Birmingham. I spent a spare day at the Gardens and time in the City Library Local Records  researching through the Birmingham Botanic Garden Archive records  to see how the Gardens survived wartime challenges.

Remembering Lost Gardener John Leonard Veitch Kew Gardens WW1 21 May 1918

May 21, 2018

One of the Veitch Nursery Family, famous sponsors of plant collectors and plant hunters, was killed in the First World War.

Major John Leonard Veitch, Military Cross, 7th Battalion attached 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, died on 21st May 1918, aged 31. Mentioned in Despatches.

His death must have seriously affected the future of the Veitch Nursery, as happened to so many lesser-known plant nursery firms in Britain and across Europe.

cwgc thiennes

Vietch is buried in the tiny Thiennes Cemetery. (Image: CWGC website)

He is buried at Grave Reference Row A. Grave 1, Thiennes British Cemetery, France.

A photograph of his headstone can be seen on the TWGPP website. According to CWGC records, the inscription on his headstone chosen by his family is “Unto God’s gracious mercy and protection we commit thee”.

The German offensive of April 1918 pushed the front line back almost as far as St. Venant in this sector and this was one of the cemeteries made for Commonwealth burials arising from the fighting in the area. Thiennes British Cemetery was started by the 5th Division in May 1918 (when Veitch was amongst the first to be buried) and used by the 59th and 61st Divisions before being closed in August 1918. It is a small cemetery of only 114 First World War burials in the cemetery, Veitch’s grave being the first A1.

He is listed as the son of Peter Christian Massyn Veitch, J.P. Esq, and Harriett Veitch (nee Drew) 11 Elm Grove Road, Exeter of the famous Veitch nursery family.

His Kew Guild Journal 1919 obituary lists him originally enlisting in August 1914 in the 7th Cyclists Battalion of the Devon Regiment, his local regiment.

He was in France from 1915, noted as being on front line duties since December 1915 and fought through the battle of the Somme in 1916. He was wounded in the shoulder at Vimy Ridge. After service in Italy, Veitch was killed by a stray machine gun bullet in the Nieppe Forest area of France on May 21, 1918. Another Devonshire Regiment man, Private Harold Harrison, lies buried beside him, killed on the same day.

A month earlier Veitch had received his recommendation for a Military Cross “for his excellent defence of the Lock, just east of the Forest of Nieppe, in the middle of April, when he stopped five attacks. He had the honour of dying in temporary command of our famous battalion.” (letter to Veitch’s father from his Colonel).

He was at Kew from 1908 to 1910, before joining the family nursery business in 1910. Educated at Exeter School, he spent time studying horticulture in Germany and Holland before entering Kew.

Veitch  Nursery history and links

John Leonard Veitch’s  father was Peter Veitch, and his sister Mildred was the last of the Veitch family to continue the Nursery business until 1969 when she sold the last Veitch Nursery site in Exeter to St. Bridget’s Nursery, who still run this today.

“The firm of Veitch had by the 1914/18 war been responsible for introducing an astonishing 1281 plants which were either previously unknown or newly bred varieties. These included 498 greenhouse plants, 232 orchids, 153 deciduous trees, shrubs and climbing plants, 122 herbaceous plants, 118 exotic ferns, 72 evergreen and climbing plants, 49 conifers and 37 bulbous plants. In the years to come, more plants followed.”

Quote taken from St. Bridget’s Nursery website, the Nursery being on a former Veitch Nursery site.

Had John Leonard Veitch survived and had a family, the history of Veitch’s Nursery may have continued longer, even up to the present day. A story no doubt similar to many nurseries, estates and small businesses across Britain and Europe.

Other Kew Gardens staff casualties had worked for Veitch nurseries such as Gordon Farries (died WW1 20 April 1918). The Veitch Medal of Honour (VMH) is still a prestigious award for gardeners.

You  can read more about Kew Gardens staff in WW1 at

Blogposted on the Centenary of John Leonard Veitch’s death by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project at Newquay Zoo, 21 May 2018

Remembering Arnold Duley of Kew Gardens died WW1 POW 14 March 1918

March 20, 2018



WW1 Header section, Kew Gardens staff war memorial Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (Image source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Remembering the sad story of Arnold Duley, Kew trained gardener and formerly of Cardiff Parks Department, who died in WW1 as a result of being a German POW  on 14 March 1918.

Lance Corporal Arnold Edmund Duley, M.M., 17583, 7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (died as a Prisoner of War).

Arnold Edmund Duley (Edward or Edmund Arnold in some records) died as a Prisoner of War on 14 March 1918 aged 33 in hospital at Tournai in Belgium, probably from being “badly fed and probably had to work in a weak state” by the Germans.

Food parcels from the Kew Guild through the POW fund probably never reached him in time, his Kew Guild Journal obituary in 1919 laments. He is buried in Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension, plot IG1, his headstone pictured on the TWGPP website.

Other kew trained gardeners became POWs, their accounts featuring in the same 1919 issue oif the Kew Guild Journal as Arnold Duley’s obituary.

A.W. Maynard was a prisoner from 24 March 1918, presumably captured in the famous March 1918 German counterattack. His story is told here:


Equally interesting is the account of his internment in Ruheleben internment Camp by Guy Neville, who was a friend of fellow Kewite Arnold Duley.




Guy Neville mentions Arnold Duley in the first part of his account of internment life at Ruheleben Camp in Germany, famous for its Horticultural Society.

Arnold Duley, Gardener, Soldier, POW, not forgotten.

N.B. A scheduling error means that this blogpost has gone out a few days late, rather than on the Centenary on March 14 1918 / 2018

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.



Remembering James Garnett of Kew Gardens died WW1 Passchendaele 3rd August 1917

August 3, 2017


Header panel, Kew Gardens War memorial. Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project


James Garnett is remembered on the Second panel, Kew Gardens War Memorial D – M. (Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project)

Another Lost Gardener from Kew Gardens 100 years ago today 3rd August 1917.
3rd August 1917 – Private James Garnett, service number 11380, 2nd Battalion, the Wiltshire Regiment, died aged 28 during the Battle of Passchendaele.


cwgc menin

Garnett is remembered on Panel 53 of the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing of Passchendaele battles (Image:  CWGC)

Kew Gardens labourer James Garnett has no known grave and is listed on Panel 53 of the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men like James Garnett who would have passed through it on their way to the battlefields.

It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient. In the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those who died prior 16 August 1917 like James Garnett are listed amongst the 54 thousand names of men who have no known grave.

United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war.

menin gate

A rare moment of quiet at the busy Menin gate memorial to the Missing in Ypres, reminding of the high walls of names I saw 25 years ago. James Garnett of Kew Gardens is listed amongst them. Image: CWGC

 The Last Post is sounded at 8pm every night by local fire brigade volunteers at the Menin Gate.

James Garnett is listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. He is listed as the son of Mrs. Fanny Garnett, of 6, Manor Grove, Richmond, Surrey.

RBG KEW arethusa-temple Kew website copyright

RBG Kew’s war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew (Image copyright : Kew website)

Private James Garnett, remembered at Kew Gardens 100 years on from his death, 3rd August 1917 / 2017.

For more about the Kew Gardeners lost in WW1 and others who died at Passchendaele, visit our blog links at

Blog posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 3 August 1917.

Remembering F.T. Pursell Kew Gardens WW1 died 4 April 1917

April 4, 2017

Frederick Thomas Pursell or Purssell, died 4 April 1917
Gunner / Sergeant Frederick T Purssell or Pursell, 51510, Royal Field Artillery, 70th Bty. 34th Army Brigade, died 4 April 1917 in Ypres.

He is buried at Grave Reference IX. F. 16, Vlamerthinge New Military Cemetery, Belgium. Just outside the normal range of German shell fire, the village was used both by artillery units (such as Pursell belonged to) and field ambulances. There is no family inscription on his headstone, pictured on the TWGPP website.
Listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. In the 1911 census Purssell is listed as a Stable Hand (Student Part Time) at the “Royal Gardens Kew”. He was born in Surrey around 1894 to a father Roger Purssell who was a bricklayer, living at Pond Cottage in Kew.

CWGC Graves registration documents reveal that he was killed or died on the same day as 3 others of his 34 Army Brigade Royal Field Artillery colleagues, Wainwright, West and Cronin lie buried alongside him.

Remembered on the Kew Gardens staff war memorial – read more at:

Remembering Allan Beard of Kew WW2 died 1946

August 6, 2016

Kew Gardens lost 14 staff on active service in WW2 including a postwar casualty Allan Beard who died around 6 August 1946, 70 years ago today.


Kew Gardens WW2 staff War memorial part 3  (photo:  Mark Norris)  

The 14th and last name on the Kew Gardens staff war memorial is Allan Beard, who served as a despatch rider with the Middlesex Regiment and died aged 31 a “tragic death” just after the war, possibly from injury related to war service.

His obituary appeared in the 1946 Kew Guild Journal.

Beard had been a gardener on the Parks Staff at Stamford Park, Ashton Under Lyne until he joined up in 1939.

Along with several garden colleagues, he had joined Hyde Company, Territorial Army section of the 6th Cheshire Regiment in early 1939; this would see him very quickly called into service three days before war broke out. By October 1939, he was serving with the Middlesex Regiment and fought through the campaigns of 1940 in Northern France and Belgium, eventually being evacuated from Dunkirk.

Back in Britain, instead of promotion Allan Beard chose to train as a despatch rider partly from a love of motorbikes.

Sadly he was the victim of a wartime traffic accident (not surprising with blackout etc), being struck by an army lorry in Canterbury in 1943.

By June 1944 he had been discharged from the army on medical grounds and returned to his previous garden job. Stamford Park by then had lost its railings in wartime, collected as salvage metal for the war effort, but had been maintained as a public park, popular like Kew Gardens with people encouraged in wartime to “holiday at home”.

Allan Beard entered Kew in August 1946 under a Government assisted training scheme. His obituary is reported in the 1946 Kew Guild Journal but not listed on the CWGC website as his death occurred as a civilian after military service. It may have been linked to his earlier accident.

To read more about Kew Gardens in WW2:

Allan Beard of Kew Gardens, remembered 70 years on.

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

Remembering Jutland casualty John Knowles Jackson of Kew Gardens

May 31, 2016


John Knowles Jackson on the Kew Gardens Staff War Memorial  (photo: Mark Norris)




Jackson’s grave is to the right of this CWGC photo of Farsund Cemetery graves. One of the seven unknown sailors has a headstone to the left. (Source: CWGC)


Ordinary Seaman John Knowles Jackson, formerly on the staff at Kew Gardens, J/47092, HMS Fortune, Royal Navy, died on 1st June 1916, aged 22.

He is one of nine naval or Royal Marine burials (four named) from the 1916 Battle Of Jutland buried at Farsund Cemetery, Norway.

He is listed as the son of (W or) Thomas and Ann Jane Jackson, 25 Westby Street, Lytham. He was born at Lytham, Lancashire on December 4, 1893.



Jackson arrived at Kew Gardens to work in the Temperate House at Kew Gardens in August 1914 from Lytham Hall, Lancashire.

He left to join the Navy in March 1915. He served on several ships – HMS Diadem, HMS Argonaut and HMS Hecla – before joining the destroyer HMS Fortune, which was sunk in the Battle of Jutland.

HMS Fortune

Jackson’s name is amongst the lost crew list of HMS Fortune on this website:



Jackson’s grave is third from the left in this photo. (source: CWGC)

Jackson was Kew’s only Royal Naval casualty. He was buried a month later on the island Of Farsund in Norway. His CWGC headstone is in local grey stone. The unidentified sailors are marked simply “Known unto God”.

The story of the Kew Gardeners remembered on their staff war memorial in WW1 is told here:

Remember John Knowles Jackson of Kew Gardens and Lytham.

Remember these unknown sailors, the navy crews of Jutland and their families 100 years on, 31st May and 1st June 1916 / 2016.




Remembering C.F. Ball of Kew & Glasnevin, killed Gallipoli 13 September 1915

September 13, 2015

C.F. Ball, Dublin Fusiliers, killed at Gallipolli, pictured in The Garden obituary, October 16 1915.

C.F. Ball, Dublin Fusiliers, killed at Gallipolli, pictured in The Garden obituary, October 16 1915.

Charles Frederick Ball, 13 September 1915 Private Charles Frederick Ball, service number 16445, 7th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers (Pals Battalion), died Gallipoli on 13/09/1915, aged 36.

“A delightful companion, unassuming, sincere and a most lovable man…” quoted from a short and touching obituary and portrait was also published in The Garden (October 16, 1915, p.514) by his friend and fellow soldier , the editor Herbert Cowley (who had been invalided out of the army)

Ball is buried at Grave Reference II. A. 8, Lala Baba Cemetery, Turkey. This cemetery was created from smaller burial grounds after the Armistice on a low hill between the southern side of Suvla Bay and a salt lake. The hill was taken in the fierce fighting of August 1915 during the Gallipolli campaign against the Turks, a doomed amphibious landing which was the brainchild of Winston Churchill.

Lala Baba cemetery, Turkey. Image copyright CWGC

Lala Baba cemetery, Turkey. Image copyright CWGC

Charles was the son of the late Alfred and Mary Ball, of Loughborough and husband of Alice A. Ball, of 15, Percy Place, Dublin, whom he married in Dublin on December 16, 1914. This was one of many such wartime marriages mentioned in the Wedding Bells section of the Kew Guild Journal.

Ball had left Kew in August 1903 to work as Assistant and later Foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens Glasnevin in Dublin. He was also editor of Irish Gardening and a friend and fellow travelling companion to Bulgaria with Kew collegue and Alpine plant enthusiast Herbert Cowley, injured in the First World World War (see previous Blog post on Cowley). His wife Alice chose the Biblical inscription on his headstone: “Greater Love Has no Man than This”. C F Ball Kew Ww1

A Life Member of the Kew Guild, there is a lengthy tribute to Charles Ball in the Kew Guild Journal including a final sighting of him just before he died, sheltering behind a rock under fire, digging away at ‘weeds’ with his bayonet to send back home seeds to his botanic garden colleagues. From the tone of the account, this seemingly strange behaviour had happened several times!

CF Ball gardenillustrate7915lond_0542

His obituary notes that: ” Even while on active service in Gallipoli his love of collecting persisted, and numerous seedlings are growing on at Glasnevin from seeds he sent home, gathered in the vicinity of Suvla Bay.” Oak seeds were sent back by a Kew officer from Gallipoli for cultivation at Kew (see W.H. Morland’s entry).

Later entries in the Kew Guild Journal 1921 are from Old Kewites who had travelled across this area, noting as botanists and gardeners would, what native plants were found there, soil types and climate along with the planting by the then Imperial War Graves Commission (now CWGC). Kew staff and Old Kewites were involved for many years as horticultural advisors to the Commission.

A cultivar of the South American shrub Escallonia is named ‘C.F. Ball’ in his memory, a beautiful shrub with dark green leaves and bright red flowers, excellent for bees. It is available from many nurseries.

escallonia c f ball

There is more about C.F. ball on the Flower of the Dublin Fusiliers message board.

c f ball medal card

C. F. Ball, died Gallipoli 13 September 1915, remembered.

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

Remembering Robert Hurst Cowley RAFVR died 2 September 1940

September 2, 2015

2 September 1940 is the 75th anniversary of the death of Robert Hurst Cowley, RAFVR on air operations in Scotland.

Robert was the  son of garden writer, former Kewite and WW1 veteran Herbert Cowley about whom more can be read on our Wikipedia entry for him:

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

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

Herbert Cowley had survived the trenches of a previous war, but lost many friends, family and colleagues. We wrote about him in a previous blogpost:

Herbert’s unexpected move to the West Country and retirement from garden journalism may be explained by a sad wartime event in late 1940.

It appears that one of his sons, RAF Sergeant Observer Robert Hurst Cowley, 580643, died aged 22 on 2 September 1940 flying with 57 Squadron on Blenheim bombers on anti-shipping patrols over the North Sea from its base in Elgin in Scotland.

Robert is listed on the CWGC website as the “son of Herbert & Elsie Mabel Cowley of East Grinstead, Sussex”.

Runnymede memorial to missing aircrew (Image source: CWGC)

Runnymede memorial to missing aircrew (Image source: CWGC)

Robert Hurst Cowley has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 13 of the Runnymede Memorial to missing aircrew.

Robert is also listed on the St. Thomas a Becket church, Framfield on the War Memorial as ‘of this parish’.

Remembering Robert Hurst Cowley RAFVR, his grieving father Herbert Cowley and mother Elsie.

Remembering John Mackenzie Campbell Kew Gardens died 14 July 1915

July 14, 2015


Header panel, Kew Gardens War memorial. Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Header panel, Kew Gardens War memorial.
Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

John Mackenzie Campbell is remembered on the Kew Gardens staff war memorial. Unusually he died of heatstroke whilst in training in Canada and is buried in Toronto.

RBG Kew's war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew  (Image copyright :  Kew website)

RBG Kew’s war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew
(Image copyright : Kew website)

After training at Kew, Scottish-born Campbell had been working in Canada since 1908 and volunteered for the Army, serving as  Private John Mackenzie Campbell, 204th Canadian Beavers Infantry Battalion

Toronto Cemetery where J M Campbell is buried. Image: CWGC website

Toronto St. John’s Cemetery where J M Campbell is buried. Image: CWGC website


He died and was buried in Toronto (St. John’s Norway) CemeteryToronto, Canada in 1915. His 1917 Kew Guild Journal obituary lists him as dying aged 36 of sunstroke whilst training in Canada, where he worked for the Toronto Parks Department.

Toronto Cemetery where J M Campbell is buried. Image: CWGC website

Toronto Cemetery where J M Campbell is buried. Image: CWGC website

He was born into a family of ten children of Mr. Roderick Campbell of Ardross, Lanarkshire and the late Isabella Campbell. His private headstone exists amongst other IWGC / CWGC headstones, a photograph exists on the TWGPP website. 

His Kew Guild Journal obituary can be read here:

Old Kewites  returned from working in many parts of the Empire to serve in the armed forces in both world wars. You can read more about Campbell and the other Kew Gardens staff casualties at our previous Kew WW1 blogpost “Such is the Price of Empire.”


j mac campbell Kew


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