Posts Tagged ‘Newquay Zoo’

Elsie Widdowson and WW2 rationing

August 18, 2016


World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

It’s August. The schools are on 2016 holiday break and Newquay Zoo is lovely and busy with families.

I am also lovely and busy, preparing, repairing and refreshing schools and college workshop materials for September.

For the new City and Guilds 2016 syllabus  on animal managment delivered at  Newquay Zoo and Cornwall College Newquay,  I have been preparing new sessions for my new 16-19 year old students on animal feeding and nutrition.

One of the challenging new elements is a bit of biochemistry (and it’s a long time since I did my O levels!)

In the course of finding simple enough ways for me to understand and explain the new nutrition bits such as the  chemical structure of amino acids, protein bonds and suchlike,  I came across this great BBC clip on Elsie Widdowson from CBBC’s Absolute Genius team Dick and Dom:

Dr. Elsie  Who?

I feel I should know the name, as I have been looking at wartime gardening and rationing since 2009 as part of the World War Zoo gardens project workshops for schools.



Reading the story brought back very vague memories of this story being noted in passing in histories of food in wartime, rationing and gardening.

So who was Elsie Widdowson?

A trip to the kitchens at King’s College Hospital, London, brought her into contact with Professor Robert McCance, who was carrying out research into the best diets for people with diabetes. The two bonded and started on a research partnership that was to span 60 years.

They studied the effect poor nutrition has in adulthood and their book The Chemical Composition of Foods, published in 1940, became the “bible” on which modern nutritional thinking is founded.

Soon after the war started, she and Prof McCance lived for weeks in the Lake District eating the diet which they thought the British should consume during World War II to maintain basic health.They also cycled round Cambridge to study the importance of energy expenditure on diet. (

There’s a new volume for the World War Zoo gardening bookshelf – The Chemical Composition of Foods, published in 1940 – and the 7th edition (2014 version) is still in print on Amazon from the Food Standards agency today.

World War Zoo Children evacuation suitcase & garden items Oct 09 018

Delabole Co-op and Camelford stores in Cornwall for meat, registered with Haddy’s for other rationed items, (is Haddy’s still going?) this well used (light brown adult RB1) Ration Book from Cornwall is part of our wartime life collection (copyright: World war Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo).

Widdowson and McCance headed the first mandated addition of vitamins and mineral to food. Their work began in the early 1940s, when calcium was added to bread.  They were also responsible for formulating the wartime rationing of Britain during World War II. (Elsie Widdowson’s Wikipedia entry)

Elsie Widdowson, wartime rationing star and Mother of the modern loaf as this BBC report named her – that’s one to chew on when you’re eating your lunchtime sarnies!

Elsie Widdowson and her scientific partner, Robert McCance, oversaw the first compulsory addition of a substance to food in the early 1940s, when calcium was introduced to bread. They were also responsible for formulating war-time rationing – some experts say that under their diet of mainly bread, vegetables and potatoes, that was when Britain was at its healthiest.(

A biography  of sorts exists – McCance and Widdowson: A Scientific Partnership of 60 Years, 1933-93  A Commemorative Volume about Robert McCance CBE, FRS and Elsie May Widdowson CBE, FRS   published / edited by  Margaret Ashwell in 1993.

Interesting medical history blog entry by Laura Dawes about early  wartime food security concerns in Britain with a brilliant wartime photograph of McCance and Widdowson:


Poppies at the Zoo Wartime Garden

July 14, 2016


Field poppies in the World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo July 2016 (Image: Mark Norris)

A busy schools week of education workshops, looking at animal enrichment and nutrition,  so I have been raiding our World War Zoo Wartime Garden for scented herbs or  enrichment scatter feed for monkeys such as edible Nasturtium flowers and leaves, globe artichokes  or colourful Ruby and Yellow Chard.

Mixed in amongst these flowers and leaves were some beautiful Field Poppies.

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


Download my IZEA Journal article on World War Zoo Gardens Project (2014) as a pdf.

June 28, 2016

Check out my recent article on our  World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay the International Zoo Educators Association  IZEA  journal, this past copy is now available in pdf download form:

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

Remembering D-Day 6th June 1944

June 6, 2016

TRebah and LC USA links 006

29th Lets Go! Over Here, then off to D-Day beaches 1944: wreath at Trebah Gardens war memorial, Cornwall

6th June 1944 was an important date in World War Two, the Normandy Landings and especially poignant in our three zoos’ local areas of Cornwall, Devon and the South West Coast.

Thousands of American, British and Allied Servicemen left our local basecamps, airfields and coastal areas where they had trained for the shores of Normandy, many of them never to return.

Since 2009 we have posted several blogposts on D-Day and our sister zoo,  Paignton Zoo . Thousands of young Americans were camped over the Clennon Gorge part of Paignton Zoo ready for embarkation onto landing craft  next to our other sister zoo, Living Coasts.


TRebah and LC USA links 014

D Day Embarkation Hard next to our sister zoo Living Coasts, Torquay.  

Hundreds of American servicemen perished off the coast of Slapton Sands, a battle training area, where our founder Herbert Whitley had purchased the now peaceful Slapton Ley as a field reserve.

dday 6 extiger crop

Operation Tiger dated entries , 1944 diary WWZG collection Image: Mark Norris, WWZG.

Recently I spotted several other local D-Day links in Weymouth on my zoo travels:

DDay weymouth photo


Weymouth DDay statuethhhDDay weymouth insriptionweymouth DDay wreathsth weymouth DDay inscription


Weymouth D-Day plaque of thanks from US troops.

As well as the Weymouth memorial, I noticed a new D-Day plaque in 2014 at Lyme Regis whilst fossil hunting there. We use the ammonites and other Jurassic Coast  fossils in dinosaur and extinction workshops at Newquay Zoo.

Falmouth about 25 miles from Newquay Zoo also has a D-Day memorial shelter as  thanks from US troops stationed across Cornwall


Falmouth D-Day memorial shelter, near Gyllyngvase Beach / Pendennis Castle. 2016.



Compass plaque, Falmouth D-day memorial shelter.




D-Day remembered 6th June 1944 / 2016 across our three zoo sites and  the Southwest.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 6th June 2016.

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

May 17, 2016

chard 2016

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

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

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

chard stirrup pump 2016

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

chard artichoke 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Blitz and pieces at our Wartime zoo workshops

March 10, 2016

Another successful wartime zoo workshop at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall.

Before busily  packing away our interesting archive of wartime items until their  next outing for a schools workshop, so I thought I’d photograph a few more items in our collection to share with you.

wartime toys

Previously we showed a little of our  wartime workshop for schools about how  wartime changed life for zoo staff, animals, visitors and more generally for people on the Home Front in Britain in World War 2.

It’s always interesting to see what items attract children’s attention each time. The handmade toys proved popular and the school may well have a go at making some of their own. (I have a few plans and books of these).


A wartime toy ark made from whatever wood was available by Mr Ernest Lukey, teacher from Poole, Dorset for his daughter Wendy (kindly loaned to Newquay Zoo).

wartime toy ark

Mr Lukey’s  hand carved wooden toy animals are the only time you’ll see elephants, rhinos, camels and giraffes at Newquay Zoo. The real ones are usually seen at our sister zoo at Paignton, operational throughout World War 2.

wartime wooden animals

Trying on helmets and heavy woollen wartime uniforms and clothing was also popular:

wartime clothing.png

land army greatcoat label

Inside the Women’s Land Army greatcoat was this 1943 label and inside the pocket this curious cardboard roll of labels – maybe to do with size?

land army greatcoat label and size tags.png

In our next Blitz and Pieces we’ll feature another popular item on display – the insides of the family ARP (Air Raid Precautions) First Aid Box, still intact 70 years on.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo (March 2015).


Dad’s Army and the Home Guard in the Wartime Zoo

February 6, 2016

Gnome guard wartime garden 015

Our LDV ‘Gnome Guard’ in his usual allotment spot in our wartime ‘Dig For Victory’ garden, Summer Newquay Zoo, 2010

The Home Guard has long suffered from the Dad’s Army image of the 1960s and 1970s comedy programme, but an image that has helped to keep its memory alive.

The new Dad’s Army  film with Bill Nighy and other famous British actors is due out on 5 February 2016.

Zoos and botanic gardens sometimes had their own Home Guard companies ranging from Whipsnade Zoo to Kew Gardens, with big wide open spaces suitable for paratroop or glider landings.

Kew also possessed its very own Home Guard in the shape of a special Garden Platoon. Many of those involved were old soldiers or regular visitors. The manning of Kew Bridge was one of their tasks.

Kew Gardens staff were involved in the local 63rd Surrey (RICHMOND) Battalion V Zone Home Guard:
“Few units have such a beautiful and historic area to defend as the 63rd Surrey (Richmond) Battalion.

In the early days its members were called on to provide nightly guards on the Thames bridges in their territory and on such historic premises as Kew Observatory and Wick House, once the residence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, which stands on Richmond Terrace …

Major Bott, who had fought so hard for this, was offered the command of the new Battalion. He refused on the ground that his work did not allow him the time to do the job as he felt it should be done. So the command was given to Sir Geoffrey Evans, C.LE., eminent botanist and soldier, who held it until his appointment as Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Major Bott was made second-in-command.

Many zoo keepers over or under military age served in the Home Guard, along with other evening jobs at their zoo or in the local community in the National Fire Service, Firewatching, Air Raid wardens (ARP)  or other war work including Dig For Victory gardens.

Often these Home Guard staff from zoos  were veterans of the First World War.


Home Guard lapel badge for your civilian clothes to indicate your branch of National Service. Author’s collection.

In the chaos and lack of weapons after the British Army’s evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940 when German invasion by paratroops or landing craft seemed imminent, surprisingly zoos were often allowed to keep their rifles and rifle-trained staff on account of the fears over large dangerous animals being loosed by air raids. Angus MacDonald (‘Mac’) was one such sure shot and a fine pest controller as well at London Zoo, as remembered by  the zoo writer L.R. Brightwell.

Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester became a source of some rather ancient weapons from its theatrical spectacular firework displays including 1866-vintage Snyder rifles, which were issued to members of the local 49th Lancashire Battalion of the  Home Guard during the Second World War (mentioned in Norman Longmate’s The Real Dad’s Army published in 1974 / 2012).

In 1943 the Fireworks Island itself was used for a public display of Home Guard Training, the Home Guard capturing a ‘nazi Flag’ as part of the display:

More information on Belle Vue as a venue for the Home Guard can be found on the Virtual Belle Vue digitised collection at Chethams archive:

Belle Vue Zoo remained a popular brass band venue in wartime including local Home Guards Bands, 

Whipsnade  Zoo in Bedfordshire had its local Home Guard unit under ex-Army Captain W.P. Beal, the Zoo Superintendent.  Areas were turned over for rifle ranges and Home Guard training as mentioned in Lucy Pendar’s Whipsnade My Africa and Paul Wilson’s ZSL website article:

Mrs Beal’s jovial husband Captain W P B Beal (the Zoo’s first Superintendent, made famous by his curries in the Gerald Durrell’s book, Beasts in my Belfry) became the leader of the local Home Guard and made use of the Zoo’s facilities as far as he could. The Estates office became the Headquarters, the Cloisters were transformed into an indoor firing range and an outside range was created at the bottom of the downs below Bison Hill. The Zoo witnessed groups of men marching around, initially with just broom handles and farm implements and later with proper weapons.

Bristol Zoo was also home to its local Home Guard Unit:

The Home Guard of the 11th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment was based in the zoo’s cafeteria during World War Two. One member based at the zoo recalled how they were not allowed to march and parade in front of Alfred’s cage lest he become aggressive. At the time the troops discussed the causes of this, musing that it might be that their uniforms reminded Alfred of other primates. On reflection, as the keepers also wore uniforms, the writer concluded that it was more likely the marching itself which upset the gorilla.

He also recalled how night watch at the zoo was his scariest experience during his time in the Home Guard. On the one hand, he was worried about Germans appearing out of the dark but he was equally concerned that if a bomb dropped near the zoo the animals might escape from their cages. ‘Often, 17 year olds like myself exchanged our fears about what one would do if, spare the thought, in such an event the monstrous form of Alfred were to lumber forward out of the darkness’, he recalled, ‘probably run towards the enemy!’ he concluded.

Source:  quoting Bristol Museum, Alfred Archive L13, 23 July 1993.

home guard cert ww2

Home Guard certificate for Frederick Redvers Booth, Hailsham Sussex Battalion (Author’s Collection)

If you come across a Home Guard certificate, they only have the person’s name (as both men and women served) on the front but very usefully they are often stamped on the back with the Home Guard group and battalion they belong to.

home guard cert ww2 reverse

Certificate (back) for Frederick Booth, Hailsham Sussex Battalion

Training this new civilian or old soldier army in national defence brought forth a wide range of publications, some recently reprinted.

Home Guard cover

(Author’s collection)

The aims of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) or Home Guard are set out in many of these rapidly written and published advice books, focussing on tone modern methods of war shown in the Invasion of Poland and Blitzkreig across Holland, Belgium and France of 1939/40. Parachutists, gliders and  tanks required training in roadblocks, street fighting and ambush techniques.

Home Gaurd Brophy book parachutists

Advice about parachutist and glider troops: Page 50 from the Home Guard Handbook (1940) by John Brophy


The Last word Home Guard

Page 125 from the Home Guard Handbook (1940) by John Brophy


LDV checklist Home Guard Brophy

Page 126 from the Home Guard Handbook (1940) by John Brophy

As we come across new stories of zoo or botanic garden Home Guard units or links, I will post them on this blogpost.

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

1941 grimmest year of the war 75 years on

January 1, 2016


‘It All Depends on Me’ playing card sized propaganda for your pocket diary, from the Brewers Society, 1941/42 (image from the World War Zoo gardens collection, Newquay Zoo)

On the 70th anniversary of 1941, the “grimmest year of the war” according to some, I posted the following blogpost about our World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo:

2011 / 2016: We are still hard at work on the wartime diaries project as new diaries come into our collection.

2011 also sadly saw during  the 70th anniversary of the dark days of 1941   the death of ‘Betty Turpin’, much loved British soap actress who in the 1940s was  better known as wartime singing star Betty Driver:

Rereading these 5 year old blogposts from 2011  is sad in some ways, as David Lowe’s wonderful BBC music nostalgia programmes finished in 2012, still much missed.

1941 was also the year of the Plymouth Blitz where a Newquay AFS fire crew was lost, something to remember in April 2016 on the 75th anniversary.

WWZ gardens June 2011 002

World War Zoo gardens graphic sign Summer 2011

Our Graphics sign for the project produced by Stewart Muir, graphic designer Michelle Turton and myself arraived in 2011. Still looking good five years later and would have been read by hundreds of thousands of people.

wartime garden BIAZA award, Mark Norris

Newquay Zoo’s wartime gardener and blogger Mark Norris with the BIAZA award for best plants in a landscape feature and design.

2011 was the year of our BIAZA Zoo Gardening award in November:

2011 also saw me talk about wartime zoos at the Chester Zoo / WAZA / SHNH /  Bartlett Society zoo history conference in May 2011, the talk now published as a journal article in the proceedings.

gnome ZSL war memorail

Our wartime Gnome Guard-ener pays his respects at London Zoo’s staff war memorial, March 2011

2011 was also the year our wartime garden gnome or ‘Gnome Guard’ disappeared, popped up at Paignton Zoo and did a European zoo tour with postcards home before reappearing one day. Still haven’t found how or who aided and abetted this …

LR Brightwell's wartime panda poster London Zoo 1942

L.R. Brightwell’s wartime panda poster for London Zoo 1942

December 2016 will also see the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the USA into the war on the Allied side. This was marked in 2011 by a topical blogpost on Giant Pandas of all things:


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 lovely June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo 2011

The First World War Centenary was still in the planning in 2011. This year 2016 sees the anniversary of conscription in the UK and the battles of Verdun and the Somme in July 1916.

The Somme and 1916 saw the deaths of several more British zoo keepers and botanic garden staff and no doubt many of their French and German colleagues.

We will post 1916/2016 centenary blogs closer to the time on the effect these battles had on these men and their families and colleagues, not least George Mottershead. George survived a serious disabling injury at the Somme to found Chester Zoo in the 1930s, something celebrated since 2011 in the BBC series “Our Zoo”.

2011 was a busy year of anniversaries and gardening.

Happy New Year for 2016 and thanks for reading.

I wonder what we’ll be looking back on in another 5 years?

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

2015 in review

December 30, 2015

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog

Here’s an excerpt about our reader stats:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks to all our 2015 readers – here’s to many interesting  blogposts and happy readers in 2016.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Mark Norris, World war Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK.

Remembering the lost WW1 staff of Belle Vue Zoo Manchester

November 7, 2015

19 zoo staff were lost as a result of active service during and after WW1 from the now vanished Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester.

Since 2009 I have been researching the wartime effects on a few typical British zoos operational in the First World War and what that generation learnt in preparation for surviving the Second World War (when our recreated World War Zoo Gardens dig for victory garden project at Newquay Zoo is set).

The few zoo war memorial records found so far stand in for a whole generation and for lost zoological gardens staff across the world.

Previously we have researched and posted about the 12 lost WW1 staff on the ZSL London Zoo staff memorial, where wreaths will be laid each year during the Armistice and Remembrance silences:


Belle Vue Zoo War Memorial 

This year in the 1915 centenary year, spare a thought for the 19 fallen staff of Belle Vue Zoo Gardens in Manchester (which closed 1977/78), their names listed on a vandalised zoo staff war memorial in Gorton Cemetery.

Reading the names means these men are not forgotten.

Read the names and spare a thought for these 19 lost Belle Vue Zoo staff from the First World War.

Researching and reading a few of these background stories puts a more personal face on the scale of the losses, especially in the First World War.

Belle Vue’s war memorial, Gorton Cemetery, Manchester on its unveiling 1926. Image:

The Belle Vue Zoological Gardens staff war memorial at Gorton cemetery in Manchester is now sadly vandalised and missing its bronze statue by  sculptor Ferdinand Victor Blundstone, one of of his several memorial designs.

The now missing Blundstone statue was cast by Parlanti. The memorial’s damaged condition is now noted on the UKNIWM UK National Inventory of War Memorials.

The Belle Vue Zoo war memorial was unveiled in Gorton Cemetery by members of the Jennison family in 1926,  who had owned the zoo from its Victorian roots until the year before. The Jennisons had lost two sons (and future managers or directors?) in the First World War.

Much has been written about Belle Vue as an early zoo and leisure gardens collection, which survived from the 1836 to 1977/8 such as this extensive Belle Vue Zoo Wikipedia entry and several books and films by Robert Nicholls. Its records are held in the Chetham’s Library Archive and now being scanned for public access.

Spare a thought for the Belle Vue men listed on the monument and their families.

Beautifully sunny photo of the Belle Vue Zoo war-memorial. Image source: Stephen Cocks' Tommy at War blog site

Beautifully sunny photo of the Belle Vue Zoo war-memorial. Image source: Stephen Cocks’ Tommy at War blog site

I first came across the memorial through the 1926 original press articles from its dedication at

Stephen and Susan Cocks’ Tommy at War 2010 blog entry The Belle Vue Monument (or Memorial) expanded on some of the the personal casualty information available on the website

Since these  first 2010/11 postings by Stephen Cocks and my research on this website, members of the Manchester and Salford Family History Forum  have furthered the research locally and produced a fascinating section of their website on Gorton Cemetery, its war graves and the Belle Vue war memorial staff casualties and their families:


So who were these Belle Vue men?

Belle Vue Zoological Gardens  staff killed on active service 1915-1918


Belle Vue Zoo staff 1915 deaths

1. Private Henry Mulroy Served as Private 23516 in the 12th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, killed at Ypres on 16 August 1915, whilst his battalion were holding trenches to the south of Ypres.

Henry had only been in France for one month before he was killed. Another Manchester Regiment casualty from his 12th Battalion, Private 4970 J Mullen lies alongside Mulroy, killed on the same day.

Mulroy's grave lies among these at Ridge Wood Military Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. Image:

Mulroy’s grave lies among these at Ridge Wood Military Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.

Mulroy was remembered in a blogpost on the centenary day of his death:

Mulroy is buried in an individual grave I.I.5 in Ridge Wood Military Cemetery, to the South-west of Ypres, Belgium (Flanders). Ridge Wood was the name given to a wood standing on high ground between the Kemmel road and Dickebusch Lake. The cemetery lies in a hollow on the western side of the ridge and the position was chosen for a front line cemetery as early as May 1915. The cemetery, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, contains 619 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.

Martin and Mary Middlebrook’s book on The Somme Battlefields (Penguin 1991) mentions that Mulroy’s battalion the 12th Manchesters have a special tall memorial stone near Contalmaison Chateau Cemetery, commemorating the 555 casulaties from 3rd – 6th July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme and overall the 1039 men such as Mulroy (a 1915 casualty) who died in the war. This number, Middlebrook says, is the “exact equivalent of the number of men who sailed from England with the original battalion in July 1915”  including Henry Mulroy. His Medal record card records this date of embarkation.

The 12th Manchester history website sets out Mulroy’s likely military journey from when the 12th (Service) Battalion formed at Ladysmith barracks, Ashton-under-Lyne in September 1914 of “Kitchener volunteers”. The battalion then moved south to Bovington camp, Wool in Dorset as part of 52nd Brigade, 17th Division, an invasion of Northern troops to rural Dorset. In January 1915 they moved to Wimborne in Dorset then in February 1915 back to hutments in the Wool area.

More on Mulroy’s 12th Manchester life in Bovington camp, Wool (now the site of the Bovington Tank Museum) can be read in  the downlodable pdf of Chapter II / 2 of G.E. Lanning’s Bovington Garrison By May 1915 they moved to Hursley Park, near Winchester where they stayed until embarkation from Folkestone on 15th July 1915.

On the morning of the 16th July 1915, 30 officers and 975 men of the 12th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment landed at Boulogne, moving on to be attached to the Liverpool Scottish for training in trench warfare at Ouderom around the 21st July 1915. The 12th Battalion first went into the line on the 24th July 1915 near Vierstaat and later SE of St Eloi. “For the rest of the year they were in and out of the frontline around Ypres”, the Manchester Regiment website notes of the period when Mulroy was killed. The 12th Battalion Manchester Regiment War Diary gives great detail of the Mulroy’s battalion movements and states around the period of Mulroy’s death a possible cause for his death:

15/8/1915 Quiet day; Some artillery activity in afternoon on both sides. Heavy rifle and machine gun fire during the night.

16/8/1915 Enemy fired rifle grenades on trench No 5.

17/8/1915 Very quiet day. Were relieved by the 9th Bn Duke of Wellington Regt. Relief commenced at 8.0pm but did not complete until 4.30am of the 18th inst owing to furious bombardment by the enemy.

Mulroy was in the 12th Manchester (Service) Battalion, so likely to have been one of Kitchener’s volunteers. On 7th Aug three days after war was declared, a recruiting poster and notices in the newspapers called for 100,000 men aged between 19 and 30 to the Army, serving for three years or the duration of the war. Within a few days the “First Hundred Thousand” had joined up. By the middle of September 1914, half a million men like Henry Mulroy had enlisted. Many of Mulroy’s battalion died in the Somme battles of 1916 where the New Army battalions suffered terrible losses.

Loos Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Loos Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

2. Private Frederick Lester  Reid,

Private Frederick Lester Reid served in the 1st Battalion of The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

This regular battalion was one of the first to land in France in August 1914 and had been present at The Battle of Mons. He was killed at the age of 31 on 25 September 1915.

The 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment were part of The 1st Division which suffered heavily in the attack on the first day of the Battle of Loos. Initially caught in their own first British use of  gas, they moved forward as the gas cleared and finding that the German wire was uncut, suffered heavily as they attempted to cut through it in the face of German machine gun fire.

Private Reid has no known grave and is commemorated on The Loos Memorial to the Missing.

He was remembered on the centenary of his death in our Loos blogpost:

Private Reid was married to Jessie and lived at 256 Gorton Road, Reddich.

Reid's name is amongst the many on the Loos Memorial. Image: website

Reid’s name is amongst the many on the Loos Memorial. Image: website

As we approach the centenary of each casualty, we shall mark the day and research each casualty further on this blog. interesting information has emerged about William Morrey’s unusual service and death several days before the Battle of the Somme.

Belle Vue Zoo staff 1916 deaths

3. Private William Morrey, Several William Morreys from the Cheshire, Lancashire and Manchester area are listed on the 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.

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:

Morrey and comrades lie in the middle of the second to back row of Beauval Cemetery, France. Image:

These Special Companies are described on the Long, Long Trail website  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 (Image: CWGC website)

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

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


Belle Vue Zoo staff  1917 deaths

5. Second Lieutenant James Leonard Jennison

James Leonard was the son of James Jennison, one of the two Jennison brothers who owned Belle Vue Zoo. His father James died later that year, possibly hastened by this family loss. His cousin Norman, son of Angelo Jennison, also died on active service in Italy.

Second Lieutenant James Leonard Jennison served in the 15th Battalion of The West Yorkshire Regiment, the Leeds Pals. He was killed at Arras on 3 May 1917. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to The Missing.

2nd Lieutenant James Jennison and Private William Stamp of Belle Vue Zoo Manchester have no known grave are remembered on the Arras Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

2nd Lieutenant James Jennison and Private William Stamp of Belle Vue Zoo Manchester have no known grave are remembered on the Arras Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

6. Private Ralph William Stamp, 18th battalion, Manchester Regiment, died aged 23, on the 23rd April 1917, and has no known grave, listed on the Arras memorial, the same as J L Jennison.

Private Ralph William Stamp was the son of Robert and Jane Stamp of 36 Newton Street, Gorton. He was killed in The Battle of Arras aged 23 on 23 April 1917, serving as a member of the 18th Battalion of The Manchester Regiment. Stamp has no known grave, so is commemorated on The Arras Memorial to the Missing. He is also remembered on the St James Church Gorton war memorial.

He appears to have been on the gardens staff.

Sergeant Oliver is listed amongst the 35,000 names on the Tyne Cot memorial to the missing. Image:

Sergeant Oliver is listed amongst the 35,000 names on the Tyne Cot memorial to the missing. Image:

7. Sergeant John E. Oliver

John Oliver served with the 21st Battalion, Manchester Regiment and he was killed on 24 October 1917 towards the end of the ‘Battle of Passchendaele’ (The Third Battle of Ypres) from July 31st to November 6th 1917.

By October during the last phases of the battle, the battlefield had become a sea of mud. It was in this fighting, finally achieving  the objective of capturing the village of Passchendaele itself, that Sergeant Oliver was killed.

John Oliver has no known grave and is commemorated on The Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.

Sergeant John Oliver was the husband of Rose Oliver of 36 Darley Street, Gorton. He appears to have been a journeyman joiner by trade.


Thomas Tumbs' name on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. Image Source: Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo.

Thomas Tumbs’ name on Panel 22 of the WW1 section of the Plymouth Naval Memorial. Image Source: Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, November 2015.

8. Stoker First Class T J Tumbs, AB

Died aged 40, killed on HMS Drake, 2 October, 1917, on convoy duty off coast of Ireland in U79 U-boat torpedo attack.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Stoker First Class Tumbs was aged 40 and one of 19 sailors killed aboard the cruiser HMS Drake when it was torpedoed by German U Boat U79 on 2 October 1917.

Attacked while escorting an incoming Atlantic Convoy, the ship limped into Church Bay off the coast of Ireland where it sank and still provides a wreck popular with divers.

As he has no known grave, being lost at sea, his name is remembered on Panel 22 of the Plymouth Naval Memorial, which I visited recently on a suitably wet and blustery day.


9. Private Harold?  Heathcote, 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment died in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), 19 October 1917, buried Baghdad war cemetery.

Private H. Heathcote is probably Private Harold Heathcote of Openshaw, who died in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) on 19 October 1917 while fighting The Turks with The 5th Battalion of  The Wiltshire Regiment. Private Heathcote is buried in The Baghdad War Cemetery.


Belle Vue Zoo staff 1918 deaths

10. Sergeant J Fuller, Devonshire Regiment / Pioneer Corps, died 14 April 1918. Buried Amiens, France. Married.

On March 1918 The Germans launched the first of their offensives in a final bid to win the war. The British bore the brunt of these offensives in March and April and, although the British were forced to concede considerable ground, the line never broke.

Sergeant Fuller was married and lived at 9 Millen Street, West Gorton.

He was serving with the Labour Corps, having transferred from The Devonshire Regiment, possibly as a consequence of being wounded. He died on 14 April 1918 and is buried in St Pierre Cemetery, Amiens town was a key objective of the German offensive but never fell.

James Craythorne's grave lies just in front of the Cross of Sacrifice in this tiny French cemetery of 141 graves. Image:

Keeper James Craythorne’s grave lies just in front of the Cross of Sacrifice in this tiny French cemetery of 141 graves. Image:

11. Private James George Craythorne, 1/6 Manchester Regiment, killed 20 October 1918 ironically in the fighting for Belle Vue Farm, buried at Belle Vue (Farm) Cemetery, France.

Zoo Keeper James Craythorne is one of 66 1st /6th  or other Manchester Regiment casualties in the cemetery from the 20th October 1918. This ‘Belle Vue’ cemetery was named after a farm captured by The 42 East Lancashire Division, of which Private Craythorne was a member.

Three or four generations of the Craythorne family worked as small mammal and reptile keepers at Belle Vue Zoo, including James Craythorne who followed his own father into zoo work, was employed aged 12 from the 1880s  to retirement during another war in 1944, replaced then by his son Albert!

Gorton Cemetery's Cross of Sacrifice, a focus for the CWGC graves including William Turner's. Image:

Gorton Cemetery’s Cross of Sacrifice, a focus for the CWGC graves including William Turner’s. Image:

12. Private Sidney Turner,

Sydney or Sidney Turner died in the UK aged 18, 3rd May 1917 serving as TR4/13456 in a reserve battalion (20th) of the Welsh Regiment, buried in Gorton Cemetery (near the site of the Belle Vue Zoo war memorial).

Several others who died after the war are also individually buried here in Gorton Cemetery.

The youngest soldier listed, he was the son of Thomas and Mary Turner of 58 Pinnington Road Gorton. His mother chose the headstone inscription: “Sadly Missed”.


Many of those buried in the cemeteries and churchyards of the city died in Manchester or nearby  hospitals. An intriguing note on the CWGC graves register sheet suggested his original ‘private grave / grass mound’ was ‘neglected’ and that he died at Kinmel Park Military Hospital at Kinmel Park Army Camp, Abergele, Wales. The crossed out ‘Rly’ note may refer to the Kinmel Camp Railway:

There are 69 First World War casualties  / burials scattered throughout the Gorton cemetery and a Screen Wall bears the names of 15 First World War casualties (including Turner?) whose graves could not be individually marked. The Manchester and Salford Family History Forum website has more about this memorial and casualties:

Sidney / Sydney Turner's name can be glimpsed on the top of the plaque of this CWGC memorial in Gorton Cemetery, Manchester. (Image: CWGC)

Sidney / Sydney Turner’s name can be glimpsed on the top of the plaque of this CWGC memorial in Gorton Cemetery, Manchester. (Image: CWGC)

13. Captain Norman L Jennison, MC (Military Cross) , 6th Manchester Regiment (Territorials), died of flu, Genoa, Italy 30 October 1918

Norman Jennison was the son of Angelo Jennison, one of the two Jennison brothers who owned Belle Vue zoo, and lived at 49 East Road Longsight.

Norman was a clerk and had joined the 6th Manchesters, a territorial battalion, before the war as a private.

Commissioned in 1916, he was attached to a trench mortar battery and served in Italy from October 1917, where he died of flu on 30 October 1918.

The Cross of Sacrifice and Row A & B in the terrace above Jennison's Row D grave, Staglieno Cemtery, Genoa, Italy. Image:

The Cross of Sacrifice and Row A & B in the terrace above Jennison’s Row D grave, Staglieno Cemtery, Genoa, Italy.

He is buried amongst the 230 First World War graves on the dramatically terraced Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa, Italy. His cousin James Leonard also died on active service.

Norman Jennison's grave lies in the middle of this second row (D) from the right amid dramatic mountain secenery, Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa, Italy. Image:

Norman Jennison’s grave lies in the middle of this second row (D) from the right amid dramatic mountain scenery, Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa, Italy. Image:

The Italians entered the war on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria, in May 1915. Commonwealth forces were at the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918, and rest camps and medical units were established at various locations in northern Italy behind the front. Genoa was a base for commonwealth forces and the 11th General, 38th and 51st Stationary Hospitals, possibly where Jennison died.


Belle Vue Zoological Gardens staff “who died from the effect of war” after 1918.

Zoo owner Angelo Jennison unveiling in 1926 the Belle Vue memorial in Gorton Cemetery to his son, nephew and his zoo staff lost in the First World War. Image:

This unusual addition or section of names gives a little glimpse of what must have happened to many zoo, aquarium and botanic garden staff who never recovered from the effects of active service in wartime.

14. Private WM Wheatcroft, 3rd Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment, died aged 28, 10 July 1919, buried in Gorton cemetery.

Private WM Wheatcroft served in The 3rd Battalion of The Kings(Liverpool) Regiment. He was the son of Sarah and Jessie Wheatcroft and died aged 28 on 10 July 1919. He is buried in Gorton Cemetery and at the time of his death his widowed mother had remarried and lived at 5 Bakewell Street Gorton.

Wheatcroft appears to have been on the Belle Vue gardening staff.

15. Sergeant Robert Hawthorne, died 24 June 1922, buried in Gorton cemetery alongside Belle Vue casualty Joseph Cummings.

16. Rifleman / Lance Corporal William Croasdale, Belle Vue’s baker, served Army Service Corps (bakery) and Kings Royal Rifle Corps, served overseas 1915 to 1919, aged 32, died 1922, (possibly Stephen Cocks suggests in a mental hospital, Prestwich).

William Croasdale is listed as having died from the effects of war and his history is far from uncommon for men who actually survived the fighting, but never the less still had their lives destroyed by the war.

His service record has survived and, as shown in Stephen Cocks’ Tommy at War blog, it gives a fascinating account of his life and army servive.

William Croasdale was living at 536 Gorton Road in Reddish when he enlisted into the army on 5 November 1914. He is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, with blue eyes, fair hair and a fresh complexion. He was a baker at Belle Vue and his record actually includes a reference from James Jennison.

William was enlisted into the Army Service Corps as a baker and was posted abroad in May 1915 and, apart from 14 days leave in 1918, he served overseas until March 1919. William’s service was transformed dramatically in 1916 when he was compulsorily transferred to The Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

Apart from minor infringements of discipline, including being found in possession of dirty bombs (grenades) and returning a day late from leave, his record is a good one and he was promoted to lance corporal in 1918.

He returned from the war, but he died aged 32 in 1922 in Prestwich.

17. Private Joseph Cummings, died 9 May 1926.

Worked as a ball room attendant at Belle Vue (see also Robert Hawthorn with whom he is buried)

According to press reports, there were only 17 names on the original memorial when unveiled in 1926.


Walton's war at sea: Coronel and the Falklands are mentioned as the battle honours on this section of the Plymouth Naval Memorial (Image: Mark Norris)

Walton’s war at sea: Coronel and the Falklands are mentioned as the battle honours on this section of the Plymouth Naval Memorial (Image: Mark Norris)

18. First Class PO Matthew James Walton DSM, fought at the Battle of the Falklands naval action, 1914, died 1926 a few months before the memorial was unveiled.

Petty Officer Walton DSM, who died in 1926 from the effects of war, had been present at The Battle of The Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914 at which The Royal Navy virtually destroyed a whole German squadron commanded by Admiral Von Spee.

According to the UKNIWM entry, Walton was the orchestrator of Belle Vue’s  famous firework spectaculars.

According to the press report, Bernard Hastain was present at the unveiling of the memorial. His own name must have been added as the  last Belle Vue staff name on the monument when he died in 1933.

The damaged Belle Vue memorial names section, thankfully carved in stone as the statue has been stolen. Image: manchester photo

The damaged Belle Vue memorial names section, thankfully carved in stone as the statue has been stolen. Image: manchester photo

19. Bernard Hastain

The last now almost unreadable name on the memorial is that of  Private Bernard A. Hastain  of the Rifle Brigade. Hastain was the scene painter of huge patriotic firework theatrical  specactles  at Belle Vue Zoo who died in the 1930s  from the effects of wounds.

Bernard Hastain was born in London in 1876, the son of an accountant’s clerk. After working in theatres in Drury Lane and at Covent Garden, he was employed by Belle Vue to paint the backdrops for the firework displays which were a major attraction at the zoo over many decades. The displays renacted major historical events, such as The Storming of Quebec and during The First World War included the renactment of battles, such as the capture of Vimy Ridge. Displays were on a spectacular scale, against a backdrop of up to 30,000 square feet of canvas, and watched by huge crowds from across a lake, many of whom were in a specially constructed grandstand.

During World War 1 Bernard Hastain served in the Rifle Brigade and later in the Machine Gun Corps. He was granted leave during 1917 to paint a backdrop for Belle Vue’s firework  reenactment of The Battle of The Ancre.

After working for the zoo for over 20 years, Bernard Hastain died in 1933 at the age of 56. His war service presumably contributed to his death and his name was the last to be placed on the memorial.

Belle Vue Zoo’s now vandalised war memorial – luckily the names, although hard to read, are inscribed in stone as the brass statue has been stolen. Image:
Tracing service men who died after service is more difficult, as they are often not registered on the CWGC site and one for future research in the National Archives medal and pensions records (the ‘burnt documents’) if they have survived.

Tracing service men who died after service is more difficult, as they are often not registered on the CWGC site and one for future research in the National Archives medal and pensions records (the ‘burnt documents’) if they have survived.

There are sadly probably many more names to add to  wartime casualty lists from zoos, botanic gardens and aquariums as our World War Zoo gardens research project continues.

We would be interested to hear of any more names or memorials that you know of and haven’t read about in the last 6 years of blogposts.

So buy a poppy (there’s a box in the Newquay Zoo office or shop if you’re visiting) and spare a thought for these men and their families on Remembrance Sunday, and also for the many people not listed who were affected by their war service, men and women not just from Britain but all over the world.

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

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