Posts Tagged ‘reenactment’

AWOL Wartime Gnome Guard-ener’s tour of duty makes it from Newquay Zoo to London Zoo’s war memorial … “lest we forget”

March 3, 2011

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

Our missing gnome from the World War Zoo wartime gardens project at Newquay Zoo has turned up somewhere else  … and sent a postcard home from London Zoo.

A postcard has arrived at Newquay Zoo, picturing our gnome visiting London Zoo with a message from him on his travels. It reads: “It’s really good to see this after hearing so much about the London Zoo staff who died during the war. Lest We Forget …”

We covered some of the poignant stories of ZSL London Zoo staff lost on active service in both world wars in our November and December 201o blog posts. 12 staff were lost in WW1, 5 more in WW2.

We’ve no idea where he will turn up next … but his photo is in the Cornish Guardian this week detailing his last trip, to our collegues at VertiCrop in Paignton Zoo. Meanwhile we are building a new fence around our wartime allotment – supposedly to keep out straying feet and our animals out from nibbling the food before its grown. But it might keep gnomes in place on duty. Maybe he’s avoiding hard Dig for Victory work, as there’s new sandbags to fill.

Let’s hope he’s gn-home by May in time for our BIAZA Love Your Zoo and wartime week in half term and our  trip to Chester Zoo in May 2011 to talk about wartime zoos.

More about the World War Zoo project on news sections.

1941 the grimmest year of the war? Sowing saved seed, solving shorthand clues and editing wartime diaries for the World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo

January 9, 2011

1941 – the grimmest year of the war

 “1941 was the grimmest year of the war for Britain. On land, Allied forces were defeated in every theatre of war in which they were fighting.”

quoted from Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (Harper, London, 2010, p. 267)

Seed saving: Saved Broad bean seed from our wartime allotment 2010 and wartime gardening magazines. "Food Production is Vital Vital as the Guns!"

I have spent the quiet winter moments in the wartime zoo garden at Newquay Zoo editing several wartime pocket diaries, as there is not much to do in the winter garden in late December, except  planning next year’s crops and early planting.

I’ve sowed saved seeds from last year’s crops such as the Sutton broad bean noted (a pre-war 1923 Sutton’s seed variety of ‘Exhibition Longpod’ , according to Christopher Stocks in Forgotten Fruits, Windmill press, 2009, one of my Christmas presents). We saved some pods but used the others – as animal food. Last year, spare salad in glut months went to everything from rare tortoises to the zoo cafe and barbecue!

Newquay Zoo’s  animals, especially our rare ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi Macaque monkeys, enjoyed shelling these broad bean pods and eating the entire plants. We will be celebrating a new birth amongst these rare monkeys and our Selamatkan Yaki conservation programme at Newquay Zoo this year (see our Yaki monkey events and webcam on our page on the Newquay Zoo website. Newquay Zoo closes only on Christmas day so no zoo visitors that day, but I was otherwise too busy with family to plant on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. This was probably a traditional escape route of allotment gardeners to avoid relatives and get some peace. 

These beans have been sown undercover in ‘recycled’ cardboard tube planters to get a head start, the date of planting noted in a small pocket diary for garden notes for 2011.

Not all our wartime garden allotment produce was saved for seed last year: rare Yaki Sulawesi macaque monkeys at Newquay Zoo tucking into fresh Broad bean pods (photo: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

Hopefully keeping such a diary with its tiny daily entry space will give me an insight  into the often anonymous lives of the diary keepers. Sometimes there are clues, inscriptions and addresses mentioned to give in these brief Twitter length entries to give some clue to the writer’s age, gender, work and family life.  

The war was entering its 17th month when Eileen’s pocket diary starts in January 1941. It was to be a grim year for Britain. Eileen worked in the Civil Service in London, possibly for London Transport or the GPO General Post Office but  late in 1942 transferred to the Post Office Savings Bank. Engaged in September 1941, it seems likely that she married young, aged around 20 / 21  – however her diary finishes in December 1942.

January 1941

1 Wed       Was in bed when New Year came.

2 Thur       Went to Commodore with Freddie. Air Raid but very quiet. Beautiful clear night.

5 Sun         2nd Great Fire of London. Blazes all round. Cornwall Hse hit. Hilda will not have to go to work.

6 Mon        Hilda sent home, sending for her when needed.

9 Thur      Hilda starts work again.

10 Fri         Hilda goes to Wren House for the day. More incendiaries & HEs. Dad driving and dodging oil bombs.

Many histories of the Blitz note that mercifully after a short Christmas truce, the weather was bad or cold enough for thirteen nights in January to see no Luftwaffe bombing.

30 Thurs    Work as usual. Told we are to do night duty at office for fire duty. Air Raid Imminents all day.

31 Fri         On duty all night. No raid alerts during evening. Played darts & table tennis till 12pm …

The air raids got worse again throughout March 1941.  This raid (mentioned below) is known in London Blitz terms simply as ‘The Wednesday’ with over 1,180 people killed, especially in the ARP services, and 2230 injured – part of a terrible week including ‘The Saturday’.

March 1941

16 Weds   Worst Blitz of the War. Land Mine at Cranmer Court. 3 bombs in Sydney St. & Womens Hospital. Hit Chelsea Old Church down to ground. Pensioners hit again …

1941 – a year of Blitz, defeat and new allies

Not much is said about the war overseas in Eileen’s diary, which focuses mostly on the Home Front, bombing and life in wartime London. Occasionally friends are reported ‘missing’ on active service.

1941 was a difficult year for Britain and the Allied troops. Overseas in late 1940, Britain and Allied forces had fought successfully against the Italians on land and sea in Greece, Egypt, East and North Africa.  Early in 1941 as the diary begins, Germany begins to reinforce its unsuccessful ally Italy with German troops in Greece, Yugoslavia and North Africa, leading to a series of victories over British and Allied troops which continued into late 1942.

 It was not until Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 that Russia became an ‘ally’, followed late in December 1941 by America, when the USA was bombed by Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7th. Britain and USA declared war on Japan the next day. The USA declared war against Italy & Germany (and vice versa) on the 11th December 1941.  Japan successfully began its invasion of many British, US and Allied colonies and islands in South-east Asia throughout December 1941.     

Eileen’s diary is not all doom and gloom – it is full of an eighteen year old’s social life, family events and everyday jobs. What makes this diary more interesting is the sense of the routine, mundane everyday tasksbirthdays, cinema trips, holidays as an important and familiar “investment in normality became crucial …unlike soldiers in battle, for civilians ordinary life in familiar surroundings went on in the intervals between raids”  according to Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (p. 183)

July 1941

7 Mon        Another lovely day. Sin to be at work. Went over the allotment in the evening.

There are many other references throughout Eileen’s diary to food. 1941 was the year when the famous “Dig For Victory” poster appeared with the hobnail booted foot of Mr W.H. McKie of Acton, London (in the area where Eileen lives or  works).

“Dig For Victory” allotments have been  recreated in various forms here at Newquay Zoo, at Trengwainton (National Trust, Penzance, Cornwall) and in preparation at Occombe Farm, near our sister zoo at Paignton in Devon. You can read more about this national campaign in Twigs Way and Mike Brown’s new Dig For Victory book on wartime gardening (2011) or in Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Ministry of Food book to accompany the rationing exhibition that has just closed  at the Imperial War Museum. 1941 saw further restrictions including clothes rationing introduced in June, important enough to be noted in a teenage girl’s diary.

“Food rations were lower in the first months of 1941 than at any other time during the war … meat rationing fell from 2s. 2d in autumn 1940 to 1s, 2d in January 1941 and hardly rose again for the rest of the war, while the cheese allowance plummeted to one ounce per person and jam went ‘on the coupon’ …” quoted from Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (Harper, London, 2010, p. 268)

The last weeks in Belfast and Northern Ireland have seen frozen water supply problems. This was common in wartime Britain alongside   low gas pressure from damaged gas mains and a shortage of coal and wood for domestic use and cooking. All this made  everyday  wartime life difficult for many British families.  Juliet Gardiner notes that freezing conditions made life difficult for bombed-out families and firemen in Britain with hoses freezing, most famously pictured on 3rd January 1941 in Bristol. Mercifully after a short Christmas truce, the weather was bad or cold enough for thirteen nights in January to see no Luftwaffe bombing.  Bombing was also shifting to ports like Bristol (3rd January) and Cardiff (2nd January).

So this puts into perspective the recent cold snaps of 2010 that once again destroyed or damaged lots of our early crops in the World War Zoo gardens. Cloche gardening was a relative novelty in the 1940s, leading to one company producing the strangely titled wartime booklet Cloches versus Hitler. We were  thankfully spared the obvious ‘Cloches versus Boches alternative title. It might not have seemed so in 1941, but the cloches were to win. Glass itself was in short supply (as many repairing bombed botanic gardens and zoo enclosures found) with the urgent need to repair wartime damage, although I’m sure wrecked windows were reused to make cold frames by enterprising wartime gardeners.

What next for 2011 and the World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo?

Patrol diary summary page of the Blitz activities of a London scout group based in Rotherhithe at St. Katherine's church (destroyed in the London Blitz) Copyright: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo

We have a London woman’s 1944 diary of The Little Blitz and life on her allotment, already typed up and being edited to match Eileen’s diary. There are also passages from a young scout patrol leader’s diary of London 1939 – 40, including the Blitz. We’ll then start work on a Merseyside girl’s diary for 1939 – 1943 (which has sections in shorthand to decipher first), to match a Mersey River Pilot’s diary of his pilot-boat work in the Liverpool docks and stormy love affair with a WREN throughout 1943.

Newquay Zoo being built on former wartime farming land, it’s also appropriate that we’re also working on a wartime Farmer’s diary from the Sunderland area from 1944 to 1946 and excerpts from many civilian wartime letters.

We hope to produce a version of each of the diaries for use in the classroom with teaching notes and suggestions, as well as an adult / general reader version.

We look forward to announcing a publication date in future when sections of Eileen’s Blitz diary and also the Little Blitz 1944 diary will be available to buy from the zoo by post, all profits going towards the ongoing wartime garden and schools workshops, amongst our other conservation and education work such as the Gems of The Jungle Aviary and Selamatkan Yaki .

For further details of the wartime garden, publications, schools workshops or  comments, contact us via the Newquay Zoo website.

You can subscribe for further blog posts on this blog page, and also find on Twitter.  

Wishing you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year!

Blitz, Battle of Britain, Broad Beans and Dig For Victory’s 70th anniversary at the World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

September 7, 2010

Fowey Town Hall, Salute The Soldier week plaque awarded to Fowey, Cornwall 1944 (Image from World War Zoo garden, Newquay Zoo)

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo


7th September 2010 sees the official anniversary of the 1940 Blitz on British cities, especially London, as Luftwaffe tactics in the Battle of Britain changed from bombing airfields to civilian targets. (Falmouth saw civilian bombing in July 1940 – see earlier blog entries). 

  A poignant little diary by a young  female London Post Office worker in the zoo archive lists “1941 5th January,  2nd Great Fire of London Blazes all around.  Cornwall House hit Hilda will not have to go to work” . Amongst many other routine air raid entries and cinema listings of films seen, we have similar entries for a 1944 London diary about the flying bomb blitz. 

Lots of blitz coverage on the BBC at present blitz 

This week sees the anniversary of the launch or rechristening of what became the Dig For Victory campaign  on 10th September 1940, renamed from the less catchy National Growmore Campaign. 

Robert Hudson, Minister of Agriculture (from May 1940 onwards) broadcast a BBC radio speech on 10 September 1940: 

“We want not only the big man with the plough but the little man with the spade to get busy this autumn … Let Dig for Victory be the motto of everyone with  a garden.”   

(quoted in Jane Fearnley Whittingstall’s Ministry of Food book accompanying the IWM exhibition). 

The Little Man with The Spade - unofficial logo for the National Growmore Campaign 1940, replaced by the iconic hobnail boot on spade image of the Dig for Victory campaign in 1941 Image from adverts in The Vegetable Garden Displayed, RHS (image from the World War Zoo gardens archive, Newquay Zoo)

This “little man with a spade” would often have been a woman, rarely featured in adverts or photos in gardening books of the time.  Many women gardeners had to do make do with special interest columns such as “EXPLAINING THINGS – For the benefit of women who are doing their bit in the garden” in the Smallholder and Home Gardening Magazine.  Both women and children often had their own special pages or columns (see last month’s August 1940 Boys Own paper blog article).    

It would be 1941 before the iconic foot of Mr WH Mckie of Acton in London became the famous boot on spade of the  Dig For Victory poster

Several modern campaigns are underway this week – the start of the Prince of Wales’ Rainforest project development into START with rail journeys around the country encouraging citizens to do their bit for climate change 

Clays Fertiliser advert back cover, The Vegetable Garden Explained, RHS (image from World War Zoo gardens archive, Newquay Zoo)

The zoo is a little quieter this week as schools go back, a different story from the busy Bank Holiday weekend here that saw our first birthday anniversary of the World War Zoo gardens project. The BBC Dig In campaign mentions the schools going back and we’re delighted to see the return of schools gardens schemes over the last few years. One of our intended publications in 2011/12 will be a Dig For Victory schools gardening pack for cross-curricular primary history work 

The last few Broad beans are now saved for seed. Our animals (especially our monkeys) will miss podding these fresh crops. The 2009 sown leeks are now in big flower seed heads awaiting an October seed harvest. 

The next crop of BBC Dig In carrots is growing well along with BBC French beans. Winter hardy cabbage, lettuce and spinach are growing well from seedlings for early spring fresh greens.  As the BBC Dig in site suggests, patches of bare earth that’s too late for catch crops is being sown with ‘green manure’ (buckwheat, clover etc) for a bit of extra soil fertility, ready for next year. 

An early press version of the iconic boot on foot Dig For Victory poster (Smallholder and Home Gardener magazine, Oct 26, 1940) Image from the World War Zoo gardens collection, Newquay Zoo

We should soon have a permanent World War Zoo webpage on the Newquay Zoo website keeping you posted on the next stages of the project. The page and blog also mentions the wartime experiences of our sister Zoo Paignton Zoo in Devon, a town now home to Sutton’s Seeds (based in wartime in Reading). Sutton’s seeds have a good grow your own blog,  which is at  Paignton Zoo’s gardens team led by Kevin Frediani have a request to local gardeners for sunflower seed heads as animal food. 

Other sources of inspiration are the RHS / Wildlife Trust Wild About Gardening campaign (see blogroll 

The RHS also have a new Dig For Victory documentary DVD on sale, filling the gap until one day the BBC release the 90s series The Wartime Kitchen and Garden  on DVD (please, someone at the BBC!) with Ruth Mott and the much missed Harry Dodson.    

Advice for new women gardeners and the importance of wartime onions! Smallholder and Home Gardening magazine, Oct 26, 1940 (Image from World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo).

Don’t forget the Imperial War Museum exhibition Ministry of Food  (until Jan 2011) 

We’re offline and around and about away from the zoo for two weeks before our next posting. 

We’ll be keeping an eye out for any wartime connections or evidence, the equivalent to our Victorian Time Safari on our companion blog  for pupils and teachers studying Darwin, postal history and the Victorians. Maybe this historical I-Spy may be another coastal pillbox or tucked away as I saw in Fowey Town Hall recently on an offsite animal encounter talk during the Fowey Royal Regatta for Newquay Zoo. There is a rare surviving (in- situ) example of a Salute the Soldier Week Campaign plaque awarded to the town to look out for.   

Our stamp blog with RZSS is at  

 Whatever campaigns you’re inspired by, enjoy your gardening and if you miss us over the next few weeks, enjoy reading previous blog entries.

Happy Birthday World War Zoo! Wartime gardens project at Newquay Zoo turns 1 years old.

August 30, 2010

Happy birthday to our wartime vegetables!

Happy birthday to our wartime vegetables …

 Appropriately for our first birthday week (the garden was officially launched to the public a year ago 2009 on the August Bank holiday), we have just topped our previous busiest day back in early Spring  at 65 readers in a single day. This soon adds up to over 6770 readers so far in our first year, 63 posts and lots of lovely comments. We’ve put the gardens project and blog in for a national BIAZA zoo education award which we hear the result of in November 2010, fingers crossed.  

I was talking last week about the wartime garden project and our progress with a planned book and wartime diary extracts from our archive with local Cornish author and maritime historian Elvin Carter. Elvin kindly popped back with a copy of his latest book for me to read, The Last Voyage of the Olivebank, being the 1939 grain race tall ship diaries of Len Townend (published by Blue Elvan books, UK ISBN 9780955995019). Elvin pointed out an unusual little epilogue at the back of this new companion volume to his 2008 book about the grain race sailor diaries of Geoffrey Sykes Robertshaw  (Before The Mast, ISBN 0955995002). The grain races of 1938-39 are also famously described in Eric Newby’s book,  The Last Grain Race. There’s more about each book at  

Len Townend wrote as his final words (he died in 1998, aged 81):

“When the coal and oil supplies become exhausted (as in time they surely must) and if once again the great windships sail the seas (as they may) and if there is such a thing as reincarnation (and I am selfish enough to hope that there is) , then it would be my hope that I may reappear and for a time at least tramp around a capstan or take in a Royal on some black foul night with my old shipmates of yesteryear.”

"Let your shopping help our shipping" was one propaganda message about saving food - grow your own is another, promoted by a typical piece of advertising from a wartime gardening magazine (from the World War Zoo gardening collection / archive at Newquay Zoo).

The tragic events which befell the Olivebank in the early weeks of the war and the rest of Len Townend’s wartime Merchant Navy career illustrate how dependent Britain was on shipping and how vital the National Growmore Campaign or Grow Your Own movement was to become. 70 years ago this month, the latest version of “Dig For Victory” was launched as the Battle of Britain raged in the skies overhead. There is more about this topic in previous posts and at the excellent Ministry of Food exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London (until Jan 2011) – see links and blogroll for details.

People have been potting up seeds in newspaper pots at the zoo this week, just as before on our wartime garden weekends in May. Our wartime zoo trail is busy with zoo visitors as part of our  plant hunters  themed week at Newquay Zoo

The garden is looking a little sparse as the broad beans are now saved for seed or happily peeled and eaten in their pods by monkeys. 

Seed saving of beautiful flower heads of leeks, alive with bees and butterflies. World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

A new batch of seedlings are in the ground for the autumn.     

You can read about the last year’s events on the past 63 posts available in our archive post section.

Happy Birthday, World War Zoo!

World War Zoo gardens project blog has passed the 5000th reader / web hit mark and is preparing for an award- can you help?

July 4, 2010

Display corner from World War Zoo gardens project June 2010 - Fox Rosehill Gardens, Falmouth, Cornwall display

Hooray! Our World War Zoo gardens project has just passed the 5000 reader mark since we started the blog in Summer 2009. 

We have also recently celebrated our first ‘podcast’ last week – have you heard this? 

We’re now putting the World War Zoo garden project, displays, launch weekend, Facebook & Twitter pages, blog and all forward for a prestigious BIAZA Education (General & Public Visitor) award.(British and Irish Association of Zoos And Aquaria)   The deadline is  July 23rd, 2010. 

We need your help! We always need feedback and comment from users, readers or visitors on such projects. 

Did it surprise you to learn about this neglected aspect of history? 

Did it surprise you to learn that a modern zoo has a wartime Dig For Victory allotment on one of its former lawns? 

Have you enjoyed looking at some of the objects in the zoo’s wartime collection, featured in photographs on the site? 

Did you get the connection? Has World War Zoo  made you think differently about the past and the resource challenges of the future? 

Has it evoked any interesting memories or family stories of the time? Would you like to share them with us? 

Some of our source material - old wartime gardening books by the fabulous Mr. Middleton, Imperial War museum seeds from their Ministry of Food exhibition online shop, 1940s varieties available from modern seed suppliers like Suttons, all in an ARP 1940s tin medical box - World War Zoo gardens display, Newquay Zoo

Many thanks to those of you who have already left comments or sent us emails about our project and its unusual way of communicating sustainability, recycling and grow your own and food miles “with a  Vera Lynn soundtrack” by looking at the experiences of zoos, aquariums and botanic gardens in the 1940s.   

We’d love you to leave us a comment.

You can browse the earlier articles back to July 2009 or look at our blogroll for useful links, including the excellent Imperial War Museum  Ministry of Food exhibition running throughout 2010.

You can comment via our blog direct to the project team.

Talk about fresh! Talk about food metres, not miles! Everyone gets conscripted or enlisted – Kat from our Cafe Lemur washing some of our surplus salad lettuce for use in the zoo cafe, once zoo keepers had used as much as they could! World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo.

From bean pods to podcasts – the first World War Zoo gardens blog podcast

June 25, 2010

Matt Clarke of Kernow Pods dropped into Newquay Zoo the other day to catch up with how our World War Zoo gardens project was growing , recreating a wartime zoo keeper’s dig for victory garden. 

The iconic "dig for victory" poster of 1941 displayed in our World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo amid growing food for the animals.

Radio was much used by early garden celebrities such as Mr. Middleton to encourage people involved on the “Kitchen Front” and “Dig For Victory ” campaign. So we thought it only right that we carried on this tradition with modern media! 

  A freelance radio journalist and podcaster, Matt Clarke recorded our first podcast blog for the project here – World War zoo veg talk June 2010 Newquay Zoo / KernowPod . We hope you enjoy it! 

You can find out more about Kernow Pod on 

You can find out more about the World War Zoo gardens project on this blog roll by looking at our many archived posts.

The ‘miracle of Dunkirk’ remembered, rare macaque monkey webcam and roughly torn (Jamie Oliver style) wartime leeks and cabbage fresh for the zoo animals from the Wartime zoo keepers’ garden at Newquay Zoo

May 31, 2010

Panzer Tank crew badge, 1940

Symbol of the 1940 Blitzkrieg, Dunkirk and the rapid Nazi occupation of Europe, this German Army Panzer tank regiment metal cap badge features the laurel wreath of victory, Nazi Swastika and eagle symbols and image of an early German Panzer tank. Worn proudly in early years of victory, ironically this badge was found abandoned in Germany at the end of the war in 1945 by Major F.H. Tyler of the British Army. Donated to the World War Zoo gardens project by Major Tyler's family, relatives of a zoo staff member. .

This Dunkirk anniversary weekend,  there have many tearful old men (and not forgetting the women who love them) remembering the hell of the beaches of Dunkirk  and the ‘miracle’ of their escape by sea in small boats back to Blighty 70 years ago. Many were left behind, wounded or imprisoned as Europe was overrun by a Blitzkrieg of Panzer and Stuka, Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe.  

What did Dunkirk and the fall of Europe mean for the zoos and botanic gardens? In 1939, 75% of food in Britain was imported through shipping. This meant that  food from distant Empire or later Commonwealth countries  like India, Australia and Canada in merchant ships had to run the gauntlet of U-Boat submarine blockades, torpedo and aerial attack, despite convoy protection.   

No wonder ‘food miles’ (as they are known today) were a concern  of an early poster slogan,  “Let your Shopping, Help our Shipping” (many wonderful posters viewable or for sale on the Imperial War Museum website and shop  Britain and its zoos lost their food supplies from European countries, especially in the Mediterranean,  and the market gardens of the Channel Islands. Onions, tomatoes and other crops became hard to obtain. Strangely, mealworms, a staple insect food for many zoo animals still today, was mostly obtained prewar from Germany, as one British zoo director regretted.  

Before long, botanic gardens and glasshouses, greenhouses, zoo lawns and empty enclosures would be transformed into tomato farms, veg patches, along with pig, rabbit and chicken enclosures by an enterprising and hungry staff.  

Like those in Poland, many zoos across Holland, Belgium and France fell under German occupation, ironically a nation noted for their great interest in zoos. Many British zoo keepers and directors would have had visited these forward-thinking German zoos and known their staff or sent animals there on breeding loan. Tragically for an international minded profession, this choice and option  did not exist by May and June 1940.  Many surviving and prize animals were spirited away to Germany, a story recounted by  Diane Ackerman in The Zoo Keeper’s Wife about Warsaw Zoo.  

Further stories about what happened to other European Zoos, Aquariums  and Botanic Gardens in wartime we are researching as part of the World War Zoo gardens project for a book due in 2011/12.  

The long-lasting damage that food and fuel shortages inflicted across zoos and botanic gardens in Britain and Europe was eclipsed by the firestorms of aerial bombing by both sides and battlefields raging across Berlin, Dresden, Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia  and parts of Japan. Little was left, for example,  of Berlin Zoo after the fighting for example, under a hundred animals from the many thousands in what was before the war regarded as one of the world’s leading zoo collections.  

Poignant photos in the Imperial War Museum collection show empty looking zoos in Hamburg Zoo (Germany) and Antwerp Zoo (Belgium) being used as DP (Displaced People) camps for Polish and Russian refugees, evacuees and German troops captured as prisoners of war locked into the strongly barred Lion House, all pictures difficult to look at without noticing  the eerie echo of the bars and wire of the concentration camps.  

Where the missing animals were from the lion house and other enclosures suggest its own sad story. Many of these refugee and POW camps  soon had scratch vegetable gardens to feed the inmates and also keep them busy, a tale well told in Kenneth Helphand’s recent book Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in  Wartime  (available through Amazon and other suppliers).  

Our baby boom and red bottomed female Sulawesi Macaque monkey group exploring fresh leeks, enrichment from the World War Zoo wartime zoo keepers' veg garden at Newquay Zoo

The urge to garden and raise new life is something staff at Newquay Zoo share having nursed our fledgling ‘dig for victory’ veg patch on the Lion House Lawn through a poor summer and harsh winter  over the last year. This week, some of the long nurtured vegetables from 2009 have been harvested to make room for more planting. 

Leeks away! Robyn Silcock prepares to launch the first of our freshly dug leeks from our World War Zoo keepers' garden into the rare Sulawesi macaque monkey enclosure at Newquay Zoo, May 2010. Great enrichment, fresh picked with the soil still on the roots!

Leeks away! Robyn Silcock prepares to launch the first of our freshly dug leeks from our World War Zoo keepers' garden into the rare Sulawesi macaque monkey enclosure at Newquay Zoo, May 2010. Great enrichment, fresh picked with the soil still on the roots!

 Leeks (probably Musselburgh, a wartime variety) were  served up to our critically endangered Sulawesi Macaque monkeys within a few minutes and metres of being dug up – not bad counting food miles or for freshness,  still with soil on the roots. The young macaques  played with these, racing through the branches and along ropes, clutched like  a favoured doll or  must-have toy and status symbol, an inspiration to race and play vegetable tag.  The adult macaque monkeys peeled the leafy tips apart but were much more excited about the Perpetual Spinach, again another plant grown in the 1940s by wartime zoo keepers and recommended in the 1940s gardening books.  

Leeks with soil on the roots proved equally attractive (and sneezy!) to our rare (critically endangered) Yellow Breasted Capuchin Monkeys from Brazilian rainforests. Pat and Tux, two brothers,  ripped and tore the leeks about roughly in  a style that Jamie Oliver would approve, along with the enrichment bottles that our Junior Keeper made for them.     

African Pygmy goats in our small farm section demolished these giant leafy Savoy Ormskirk Late Green Cabbages, a wartime variety grown from seed in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo - Robyn serves up fresh lunch almost a year in the making!

African Pygmy goats quickly ate every scrap of the Savoy Cabbage Ormskirk Late Green, a variety recommended in the 1940s gardening books. Our critically endangered Visayan Warty Pigs, the world’s rarest pig from the Philippines, were not so impressed by ‘seconds fresh’  cabbage straight from the nearby earth. Noted for next year! 

Hopefully people visiting the zoo via our new macaque monkey web cam saw this triumph of a Sulawesi Macaque baby boom (four youngsters born into the small group in one year) and patient nurturing of our wartime veg  garden come together at  our 3.15 p.m. ‘playing with your food’ enrichment talk.

Sulawesi macaque monkey, Newquay Zoo

As fresh as they get! One of our youngest Sulawsei Macaque monkeys puzzling over leeks, fallen from the sky, seconds after being freshly harvested with soil on its roots from the World War Zoo gardens zoo keepers' wartime veg garden, Newquay Zoo.

Unusual peacock sized garden pests are becoming a problem, something we’ll blog about in the next week.

Find out more about our project and the year long journey our wartime ‘dig for victory’ garden has taken from seed to Sulawesi Macaque monkey snack by reading past entries from the blog here.

From wartime 1940s allotments to modern times, you can read more about the hi-tech Verti Crop system of growing vegetables showcased by Kevin Frediani and the gardens team at our sister zoo Paignton Zoo Opened in the 1920s, Paignton Zoo survived throughout war in the 1940s and is now at the cutting edge of plant technology in the 21st century.  

We value comments about our project and blog for the World War Zoo gardens project, you can find comment sections on the blog or contact us  via this blog.

Happy gardening!

A first ABC of wartime vegetable varieties, our ‘free gift’ to you to celebrate Plant Conservation Day 2010, 18 May 2010 from the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo

May 17, 2010

Ormskirk Late cabbages, a wartime variety which has done survived winter well here since photographed on planting last summer 2009, World War Zoo gardens project.

Still growing strong and available today: Ormskirk Late cabbages, a wartime variety which has done survived winter well here since photographed on planting last summer 2009, World War Zoo gardens project.

Get involved and ‘Do One Thing’ for wildlife this year

Tuesday May 18th 2010 is Global Plant Conservation Day, reminding us that our  vegetable and flower gardens are a strange mixture of plants and varieties from the local area and from all over the world.

 Some of these varieties are hundreds of years old and still growing strong.  Sadly others have become like the endangered zoo animals and rare breed livestock of the plant world, in need of heritage seed banks to preserve their quirkiness and unusual genes for a changing future.

Plant Conservation Day (on May 18th 2010)  has lots more information about ways of getting involved

Our contribution? Bookwork as well as spadework. 

 I have been busy reading wartime gardening books from the zoo archive over the quieter winter months, the period when these wartime gardening books suggest polishing your spade, reading seed catalogues or planning your garden as there’s nothing much doing in the garden.  What I’ve been searching for (with an A to Z notebook handy) are the names of 1940s varieties in use and recommended during wartime, so as to find authentic varieties for our own plot.

This sonorous A to Z of wartime vegetable varieties is growing but still incomplete as I’m now checking them against many of the 2010 seed catalogues to see what survives in cultivation. I’ve selected below a short ABC of wartime vegetables as a taster  and will put the whole list on the blog and as part of a new ‘dig for victory’ / ‘war on waste’ schools garden pack in future (combining the history curriculum with the science, geography, healthy eating, sustainability   and growing schools gardens elements of primary school).

A first  draft 2010 ABC of 1940s Wartime vegetable varieties

 Work in progress: these have been compiled by the World War Zoo gardens project from lists in eleven 1940s gardening books, leaflets and magazines. The right hand column lists the code for eleven source books e.g. MGG and how often they are mentioned, so you get a rough idea of how widely recommended they were at the time.  We’ll publish the bibliography when the list is complete.


  • Connover’s Colossal                                                                                                                  

Artichoke, Jerusalem 

  • New White                                                       PG

 Artichoke, Globe

  • Green Globe                                                                
  • Purple Globe                                                     PG

 Artichoke, Chinese

 Bean, French Bean

  • Bounteous                                                        
  • Canadian Wonder                                             IZ
  • Kentucky Wonder                                             (USA – Old Homestead)
  • Masterpiece                                                      
  • The Prince                                                         IZ

Bean, Broad Bean

Longpod varieties

  • Exhibition Longpod (early)                               G
  • Dwarf Early Magazan              MGG
  • Magazan or Longpod Early                                WTGHN
  • Prolific Longpod (early)                                     IZ
  • Seville Longpod                                                 PG

 Windsor varieties

  • Early Giant Windsor (broad type)                     PG
  • Early White Windsor                                        WTG
  • Great Windsor (maincrop) (broad type)          IZ
  • Green Windsor                                                 WTGHN
  • Improved Broad Windsor                                              
  • Windsor                                                             WTGHN

 Bean, Runner Bean

  •  Best of All                                                         IZ
  • Princeps                                                             VGD
  • Prizewinner                                                       MGG
  • Scarlet Emperor                                                 MGG
  • Streamline                                                          MGG
  • Sutton’s Exhibition                                             WTG
  • Rajah (white seeded)                                         UWC

 Brussels Sprouts  

  • Aigburth                                                             WTGHN
  • Clucas’ Favourite                                               PG
  • Darlington                                                          MGG
  • Evesham Special                                                 PG
  • Fillbasket                                                           
  • Harrisons XXX                                                  VGD
  • Matchless                                                           PG
  • The Wroxton                                                   


  • Calabrese                                                           WVG
  • Clucas’ June                                                       WTG
  • Eastertide (spring v.)                                          MGG              
  • Extra Early Roscoff (autumn v.)                         PG
  • Late Feltham                                                      PG
  • Leamington  (spring v.)                                     
  • Late Queen (spring v.)                                      
  • May Queen                                                       
  • Methuen’s Late June                                          MGG
  • Methuen’s  June                                                 MGG
  • Michaelmas White (autumn v.)                         MGG
  • Christmas Purple Sprouting                               HN
  • Early Purple Sprouting                                      
  • Late Purple Sprouting                                        VGD
  • Roscoff No.1 & No. 2  (winter v.)                    PG
  • Roscoff No. 3 & No. 4  (early spring  v.)          PG
  • Roscoff No. 5  (late spring  v.)                          PG
  • Snow’s Winter White  (autumn v.)
  • Veitch’s Self Protecting (autumn v.)G
  • Walcheren  (autumn v.)                           
  • Whitsuntide (spring v.)                                      MGG
  • Winter White                                                    MGG
  • Winter Queen                                                   MGG


Long-rooted varieties

  • Cheltenham Green Top                                   
  • Perfection                                                          PG
  • Sutton’s Blood-Red                                            MGG

Globe-rooted varieties

  • Crimson Globe                                                  VGD
  • Detroit                                                               IZ
  • Empire Globe                                                    MGG
  • Crimson Ball                                                    PG


  • January King (winter v.)                                     MGG
  • Baby Roundhead                                                VGD
  • Christmas Drumhead (winter v.)
  • Clucas’ Roundhead                                            WTG
  • Durham Early                                                     AGG1/1, WTG
  • Early Market                                                      WTG
  • Early Offenham                                              
  • Ellam’s Early                                                      MGG
  • Enfield Market                                                   IZ
  • Flower of Spring                                                MGG
  • Harbinger (spring v.)                                          WTG, PG, IZ, MGG
  • Imperial                                                              IZ
  • Non – Pareil                                                      WTG
  • Primo                                                                
  • Tender and True                                               IZ
  • Utility                                                                 MGG
  • Velocity (first Spring sowing)                            MGG
  • Winnigstadt                                                   MGG
  • Portugal Cabbage – Couve Tronchuda             MGG
  • Chinese Cabbage – Pe Tsai                               ?

NB Savoy cabbages such as Ormskirk Late (pictured) will be listed later.


  • Shorthorn for shallow soil,  small or stump-rooted variety.
  • Intermediate for medium depth
  • Long, long-rooted for deep soil, exhibition variety


  •  Altrincham                              (Long)              MGG
  • Chantenay                               (Intermediate)    MGG
  • Champion Scarlet Horn (early)                         IZ                    
  • Early Gem                               (Small)               
  • Early Horn                              ?                          WTG
  • Early Nantes                           (Small)                MGG
  • Early Shorthorn (forcing)        (Small)                PG
  • James Intermediate                 (Intermediate)MGG
  • James Scarlet Intermediate     (Intermediate)    PG
  • Long Surrey                             (Long)                 PG
  • Long Red Surrey                     (Long)                 MGG
  • New Red Intermediate (maincrop) (Intermed)      IZ
  • Scarlet Horn                           (Small)                MGG
  • Scarlet Intermediate (maincrop)  (Intermediate)    WTG
  • St. Valary / Valery                   (Long)                 MGG


  • All The Year Round                                        MGG
  • Autumn  
  • Early Chantenay                                                 VGD
  • Early Erfurt                                                         MGG
  • Early Giant                                                         PG
  • Early London                                                      VGD, MGG
  • Early Market                                                      VGD
  • Early Six Weeks                                                 WTGHN
  • Early Snowball                                                   VGD, PG, MGG
  • Eclipse (autumn v.)                                             MGG
  • Walcheren                                                         WTGHN



  • Moss Curled  (early)                                          WTGHN, PG, MGG
  • Green Curled                                                    WTGHN, VGD
  • Batavian (winter)                                               WTGHN, MGG
  • Batavian Broad-leaved

Initials in CAPITALS e.g. MGG, WTGHN are our codes for which book we found the reference, so ignore these.
And here my ‘vegetable love’ was exhausted for one typing session.         Look out for more of the list and updates in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile you can check which of  these 1940s varieties are still available by searching the seed catalogues online or request a catalogue  from  Suttons Seeds, Mr. Fothergills, D.T. Brown, Unwins, Thompson & Morgan, The Real Seed Company and many others. 

Plant Conservation Day (on May 18th 2010)  has lots more information about ways of getting involved We’ll be planting some wartime varieties, heirloom or heritage varieties of vegetables and flowers in the wartime garden and try to save the seeds. 

You can find out more about heirloom varieties and local varieties of plants and seeds for your area at: 


Happy digging! Contact us at the World War Zoo gardens project via comments on this blog …

Look out for Saturday 22nd May 2010,  Biodiversity Day with mnay events in BIAZA zoos, aquariums and other sites. We’ll be posting more on this during the week.

Shades of Dunkirk, the race for the Channel Ports: No it’s not 1940 all over again. It’s the BBC Dig In Campaign, Icelandic volcanoes, ash and our Dig For Victory garden at Newquay Zoo prepares for our World war Zoo wartime garden event, 1 to 3 May 2010

April 22, 2010

Dig In for victory - BBC Dig in campaign seeds ready for planting in the next few weeks in our wartime garden, getting ready for our Wartime garden weekend at Newquay Zoo 1 to 3 May 2010.

Two of our resourceful zoo managers have just made it back from a European zoo meeting in Hungary  as there were no flights to be had in the last few days. (Another keeper’s planned trip to our BIAZA rainforest reserve project in Brazil didn’t even leave Britain). The Prime Minister ordered British subjects to make their way to the Channel Ports, on the expectation that the Navy or others would somehow get them back to Blighty.Over the last few days one could almost believe that Dunkirk and the fall of the Channel ports in May and June 1940 was being recreated as part of the 70th anniversary. Maybe I’ve spent too much time in the wartime garden and the 1940s preparing our displays  for our World War Zoo gardens event at Newquay Zoo on 1 to 3 May 2010.
This event marks the 70th anniversary of the events of 1940, rationing, dig for victory (or dear life as some wartime wags put it) and the happier 65th anniversary of  VE and VJ day in May and August 1945. Street parties, Spam fritters and the like.
I eagerly awaited a call from the PM on national radio for the owners of ‘small ships’ to make their way to France and bring back as many as they could. Once the channel ports had fallen, U boats and bombers attempted unrestricted blockade and blitz of Britain. Goodbye easy food imports and luxury goods for the duration.  Hello rationing, recycling, gardening (and spivs with suitcases on the black market). I wonder if any of our wartime suitcase ‘display cases’ of wartime objects  that didn’t go through the Battle Of Britain with WAAFs or accompanied evacuees might have belonged to the Private Walkers of the time, full of the Nylons and hard to get items of the time. (We’ve got some of these luxuries in our wartime collection to show you, no coupons or qusetions asked).

Today's headlines are recycled into tomorrow's plant pots while yesterday's Dig for Victory posters and civil defence helmets look on. The fabulous Paper Potters and a successful potting up of sunflowers in practice for visitors to try out at our wartime gardening event 1 to 3 May 2010. Note the vintage fuel can as a reminder of fuel rationing and the modern BBC Dig In campaign leaflet! Paper potters in FSC wood are available singly or in sets from and

Hard to get items in Britain and Europe the last few days include flights, ferry tickets, coach seats  and even hire cars. The last few days of Volcanic ash from Iceland might have cleared international air space but they’ve probably made many people realise how dependent we have become on flying for holidays, business and international trade with a knock on and backlog in many countries and food producers around the world. It also makes you realise the appalling conditions that wartime pilots had to fly in with subsequent losses. We have in our archive a flight dairy of a (bored) flight mechanic in RAF Reykjavik in Iceland, servicing planes which didn’t quite make it over from Canada and America in one piece. Some of these were Liberator bombers.

One of these US planes tragically crashed near Newquay at Watergate Bay on 28 December 1943 with complete loss of life. Relics of this plane and other local stories will be on display at the zoo on our wartime weekend, thanks to Newquay wartime schoolboy Douglas Knight who salvaged some of these relics along with some very impressive shrapnel from the zoo valley at the time.   

St George and the wartime dragon, ready for St. George's day this week - striking Battle of Britain imagery from Carmen Blacker and Joan Pring's wartime design for Newquay War Weapons Week, whilst evacuated with Benenden school to Newquay. Copyright Newquay Zoo

We’ll also have some memories and photos of Benenden girls from that famous school in Kent evacuated to the Hotel Bristol from June 1940 to  December 1945, to accompany the Newquay War Weapons Week salvage and savings poster designed by two sadly now passed away Benenden Girls  Carmen Blacker and Joan Pring. Photos show the girls doing voluntary agricultural work around the Zoo valley area in the 1940s.
We’ll also be highlighting the daring exploits of plant hunters including Frank-Kingdon-Ward, employed secretly during the war to map jungle scape routes, teach survival skills and find crashed aircraft in the jungles of Burma and South east Asia.
A pilot’s silk scarf escape map of these jungles will be on display to illustrate this strange tale.
Silk stockings and scarves aren’t needed to visit the zoo but you could dress to impress in 1940s style to visit us on 1 to 3 May 2010. We’d love to see you … you can take way your little pot of a wildlife gardening sunflower  as part of 2010 Biodiversity Year as well and a few wartime recipes.
Cheerio and TTFN!
Until We’ll  Meet Again …
Mark Norris ,

World War Zoo gardens project team

World War Zoo gardens weekend event 1 to 3 May 2010 and its lovely poster

April 11, 2010

Look at our zoo website for our lovely new poster advertising this weekend event.