Posts Tagged ‘squander bug’

London Zoo in the Blitz 26 / 27 September 1940 from magazines and press articles

September 28, 2015

This week sees the anniversary of the London Blitz affecting London Zoo, not just on the 26/27th September but for many anxious nights to come. Slowly press coverage and press releases trickled out, reassuring people that not much harm or damage had been done.

Our first report is from an Australian newspaper archive, itself reprinting a South African source? World news indeed!

LONDON ZOO BOMBINGS.

Animals’ Remarkable Escapes.

In London’s famous zoo elephants and monkeys, zebras and parrots have had remarkable escapes from indiscriminate Nazi bombing. The keepers (according to the “Cape Argus” Cape Town), have become amateur salvage men. The zoo suffered the disastrous effects of nearly 100 incendiaries and 14 other bombs recently, and while most of them fell either on paths or open spaces, a few hit buildings.

Monkey Hill, the ostrich and crane house, the restaurant, zebra house, aquarium, one of the aviaries and the antelope house have all been damaged. The aquarium keeper has been unofficially made foreman of the salvage gang. He has other keepers to help him. Jubilee and Jacky, the chimpanzees who were born at the zoo, are both still at the Zoo, with George and Chiney. They have been moved from the “chimp” house into the monkey house. So far the only animals which have escaped from the quarters through bombing are some monkeys and zebras and three humming birds.

There was great excitement the night a bomb fell on the zebra house. The building received a direct hit, and every one expected to find the animals dead. Not only were they alive and fit, but one ran a mile, as far as Gloucester Gate, with keepers in chase. One of the monkeys enjoyed a long spell of freedom. For three days it explored the Park, but towards the end of the third it returned to the Hill for food. There were about 30 monkeys set free by a hit scored on the Hill, but the keepers knew that if the animals were left alone they would soon return for food, and they did so. Although half a ton of concrete was blown over a parapet by the bomb, none of the monkeys was hurt. Fortunately, all the fish had been removed from the aquarium at the beginning of the war, so that none of them was hit when a bomb went through the roof.

Reprinted from The West Australian, Saturday 28 December 1940

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/47300068

ZSL 1940 p2

This magazine article in our collection is again a reprint of another paper – The Times – but with exclusive photographs for The War Illustrated magazine and makes interesting reading.

The zebra house shown is wrecked and its escaped zebra is ‘pictured’ later in our blog post in an unusual way, painted by a war artist.

ZSL 1940 p1

“The Zoo is in fact a microcosm of London. Hitler’s bombs cause a certain amount of damage to it, and a considerable amount of inconvenience; but they have not destroyed the morale or the routine of its inhabitants, animal or human, and it continues to function with a very respectable degree of efficiency”

In our August blogpost on the August 1940 edition of Boy’s Own Paper, we mentioned an article by Sydney Moorhouse advertised for the following month on London Zoo and zoos at war, September 1940.  The kind donation of this September issue to me  from Norman Boyd, a fan of the zoo artist L.R. Brightwell  means that I can now share this piece with you.

It should be read like The Times / The War Budget article on London Zoo’s blitz above as a reassuring bit of wartime propaganda in itself.

War zoo BOP 1940 1

The Boy’s Own Paper account of zoos at war was published the month that London Zoo was blitzed but written well before September 1940.

Warzoo BOP 2 1940

London Zoo’s preparation for War can be seen in some photographs taken from their Animal and Zoo Magazine in November 1939 in their library and archive blog :

http://www.zsl.org/blogs/artefact-of-the-month/zsl-london-zoo-during-world-war-two

zsl 40s map BW

The wartime /mid 1940s map we have for London Zoo in our collection  mentions the  Camel House “as damaged by enemy action” but it’s still standing today!

When Zebras roamed Camden Town during the Blitz

One of the remarkable sights of wartime London in the 1940 Blitz was an escaped zebra during the London bombing raid of 26/27 September 1940.

There is an excellent personal account of it by London Zoo Director Julian Huxley in his memoirs and snippets of what the Blitz was like for zoo staff on duty:

One night about 11 o’clock we heard a stick of bombs exploding nearer and nearer to our shelter, until the last bomb shook the foundations of the building.

I put on my tin hat and went across the Zoo to find that five bombs had hit the grounds, the Zoo’s water main had been cut and the restaurant was burning …

Firemen soon turned up and I conducted them to the Sea Lion Pool, the only source of water left, which they nearly drained before the flames were under control …

taken from Julian Huxley, Memories. Julian Huxley was the Director of the Zoo at the time.

The incident has been remembered also in a painting by war artist Carel Weight, now in the Manchester City Art Gallery.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/escape-of-the-zebra-from-the-zoo-during-an-air-raid-206376

zebra ww2 carel weight

London Zoo Bombsight ww2 website

London Zoo area in the Bombsight.org ww2 website

The amazing Bombsight.org  blitz map for 1940/41 also shows where bombs fell in and around the zoo, a website well worth exploring.

The Blitz on Britain’s cities and its zoos,  remembered.

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

 

 

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No time to be bored? Wartime childhoods, the long summer holidays, gnomes, wartime children’s books and gardens: Boy’s Own Paper stuff! from the wartime garden update August 2011

August 8, 2011

Bumper August holiday edition of the blog: The World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo celebrates its second  anniversary  on August 31st 2011. Packed with extra reading and some fun things to do!

 

Wartime holiday reading – the dramatic front cover (The Altmark story) of Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 Price 6d (Image from the World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

I’ve been reading again for the first time since childhood Robert Westall’s The Machine Gunners, set in the same area where he grew up. This has been really useful background for help in editing a 1941 diary of a teenage girl from Tynemouth which I’m working on in evenings at the moment (deciphering the spidery handwriting etc.) and typing this up for schools publications / general readership.  There is more on the Tyneside area at war in www.ne-diary.bpears.org.uk set up by Brian Peers and Roy Ripley and more on Robert Westall at www.robertwestall.com Robert Westall’s work is featured in the excellent new exhibition on wartime children’s stories at Imperial War Museum London http://wartime.iwm.org.uk/ with lots of events in the August holidays. Once Upon A Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children runs from 11 February to 30 October 2011 at Imperial War Museum London.

We’ve updated last August’s bumper post as we’ve had lots of comments and contacts about it. So here goes …

August, our second garden anniversary amid school holidays with Newquay Zoo www.newquayzoo.org.uk and busy local Cornish beaches, full of children and their families enjoying sunshine, picnics, animal feeding talks and each other’s company (along with the odd temper tantrum and family row). Many stop to look at the fresh veg, flowers and busy bees of the World War Zoo garden, soon to be celebrating its second anniversary at the end of August 2011. Sadly the cares of the office and family back home are never far away, judged by awkward mobile phone conversations by fraught vistors back home to the office. Was life simpler and easier in the days before mobile phones? 

 Holidays in wartime were increasingly more of a ‘staycation’ variety, with ‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’ posters and petrol rationing, wired off and mined beaches with troops tensely awaiting invasion and Home Guards watching the shoreline from pillboxes, rather than today’s RNLI lifeguards. 

Spot the pillbox on your Cornish summer holiday. Without camouflage now but still blends in well! Protecting the harbour at Porthleven in Cornwall still, 2010, 70 years on from construction at the height of invasion fears. (Image: World war Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Many of the older generation still loyally return to Cornwall where they were brought as children on family holidays or as evacuees. Newquay has recently seen another anniversary trip by staff and boys of Gresham’s School, 70 years on from the school, like Benenden Girls School, moving from the battlefields of the South Coast to Newquay and Cornwall. The holiday period of this time is vividly captured in the late Bettye Grey’s reprinted memoir of Newquay life, “Oh Get On!”

Fabulous adverts for childhood toys and boys’ careers, August 1940 Boy’s Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Already in early August there must be children moaning “I’m bored!” to parents. What would a wartime school child do in their extended holidays, either in their evacuation centres or  increasingly at home returned from  evacuation billets when not much was happening in the ‘Phoney war’ and often with  no schools to go to?

 In a battered and yellowing copy of the Boy’s Own Paper for August 1940 in the Newquay Zoo World War Zoo gardens wartime life archive can be found the following rousing instructions from the Editor for young men (and their sisters):

 “Be British [quoted as the last words of Captain Smith of the Titanic] and summon up your nerve and heart and sinew to carry on with your job – your harvesting, your waste-paper-collecting, the repairing of the school air raid shelters, black out blinds, fire service, first aid.”

“Write home often, and tell those anxious people how jolly all right you are; and let your whole being throb with the almighty unconquerable challenge –“Let them come!” Brace your muscles every time you think of it, let it resound from your spade when you give an extra hefty jab into the earth of the school garden plot. Let your nostrils dilate, your eyes kindle with a fierce gleam as, with fists clenched, you surge out that mighty challenge between set teeth. Go to it, lads!”  (Editorial, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940)

 Never has gardening been so breathlessly described in such “ripping” terms. Another article begins:

 “All of you who have a garden have, I know, been digging for victory, and now your crops are up you can see what can be done by hard work, and penny packets of seed. Every potato, parsnip, carrot, beetroot, every row of peas or beans, every lettuce or tomato on your plot of ground is going to help us win through, and what is more, it is your very own contribution to victory. Having dug for victory, I am now going to talk t you about feeding for victory. I don’t mean by this that you should sit down and eat up all your crops. I mean feeding livestock.”

“Why not keep one or two rabbits, a few chickens or half a dozen bantams? … and some have a large enough garden, perhaps to keep a pig, or there may be adjacent to the garden a rough piece of meadow or waste land to poor to grow crops but where a goat could pick up a living and provide you with milk … How ripping, too, if there was also honey for tea from your own bees … doubly welcomed now we are rationed with sugar …” (“Feeding For Victory”, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940).

Gardening for Boys – Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

Followed by W. E. Shewell-Cooper’s Garden and Allotment What You Can Do series, August’s article  being ‘How To Get Good Garden Crops’: 

“August is a harvesting month. It isn’t as big a harvesting month as September, of course, but there is lots of harvesting work to do. Take the French beans and runner beans, for instance …” 

Not many years ago, there was a brief nostalgia  flourish of the “Dangerous Book for Boys” genre and not-so-dangerous companion book for girls. Many journalists and childhood experts  lamented the modern safety-obsessed, neglectful or over parenting of the ‘play safe, play at home, computer and text obsessed, short attention spanned, foul-mouthed, under-parented, disrespectful, drunk, promiscuous, overweight and more miserable generation’ of 21st century children and teenagers in Britain than anywhere else in the developed world.  Many in Newquay have  been fighting back recently against  adverse publicity  regarding this generation on holiday without parents for the first time.   

My friend Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, Detoxing Childhood, and 21st Century Boys (all by Orion, see www.suepalmer.co.uk ) would no doubt approve of the vigorous and earnest pursuits suggested or sold to Boy’s Own Paper readers in the August 1940 edition. Recently in July 2011 Diarylea have published a report on rethinking childhood by Tim Gill http://rethinkingchildhood.com/2011/07/21/dairylea/

There are plenty of activity ideas “for the growing boy” in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 (B.O.P Motto: Quicquid Agunt pueri nostri farrago libelli, or “Whatever boys do makes up the mixture of our little book”)  for boy craft of days gone by. Amongst the rousing tales of daring-do and technical articles on “Submarines: what they are like and how they are operated” (at a time of rationing and increased Merchant shipping loss to Nazi U-boats) are some fascinating adverts.

More activity ideas and “knowledge for the growing boy”, adverts page, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

What boy could be bored, tempted by naval careers or radio officer training colleges (“A career of national importance in wartime with an assured future in peace-time”), Skywaymen of the BOP Flying League and their aircraft recognition card games, Cold Ovaltine “the best summer drink”, Brylcreem and discreet booklets on “Sex Problems … if you are puzzled about the secrets of birth” in “Knowledge for the Growing Boy” (6d, post free.)

What does the holiday weather matter as wartime boy when there is always the latest model anti-tank gun or make-it-yourself ship or plane models, photographic chemicals, stamp collecting advice care of Stanley Gibbons (in the centenary year of the Penny Black and Penny Post 6th May 1840), cricketing tips, pen pals seeking fellow “aviation enthusiast” or “cricket enthusiast”, explosive chemistry experiments, canoeing or cycling adventures (with blackout shielded headlamps, naturally). There were of course for some, visits to the local zoo, if it had reopened as a morale booster and a touch of normal pre-war life. 

Battle of Britain in your hands for the growing wartime boy! Frog kits were the forerunner of postwar Airfix kits, and taught valuable craft skills and aircraft recognition – friend or foe – for young and old alike! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo.)
Cold Ovaltine! The ultimate summer drink, showing lots of busy boy and tomboy sporting activities to fill the holidays, as advertised in August 1940, Boy’s Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

 There was also the salvage of aluminium kitchen goods to collect and sort out, as part of COGS (Children on Government Salvage), during the July and August 1940 appeal by Lord Beaverbrook for saucepans for Spitfires! This campaign features comically in William at War, one of the Just William books reprinted in the 2009 “Still Naughty at Ninety” anniversary of Richmal Crompton’s boy wonder. Find more in the  www.panmacmillan.com  the A- Z author list.  

Rainy summer’s day inside ? You could design or update a wartime poster for the New Home Front campaign www.newhomefront.orgclosing date September 2011 (see previous posts).

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

The life of a 1940s boy (or tomboy girl) seems exhausting and busy by modern standards! Amongst many memoirs and histories of wartime children, Mike Brown has written a fabulous short Shire Library Book on Wartime Childhood www.shirebooks.co.uk which illustrates the varied activities, challenges and opportunities of my parent’s childhood. Two of our handmade wartime toys – a Spitfire and a wooden sliding puzzle – from the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection can be found on the BBC www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld

 If you want to recapture some of this indoor childhood activity, Airfix are very proudly advertising their kits again through http://www.airfix.com/  in the pages of BBC History Magazine http://www.bbchistorymagazine.com/  including an anniversary  Battle of Britain range and RAF airfield (just like the one my granddad served on) with proceeds to veterans’ charities. The Airfix Club flies again for a whole new generation of paint-splattered boys and girls!

Setting up our World War Zoo display in the Grow Your Own allotment section of Trelawney Garden Centre, August 2010
Wartime garden display on right, minibeasts being unpacked on the left.The lavender and Buddleia were alive with bees throughout! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

So “Go To IT!” down your local garden centre! Gardening was also part of this manly (boyish or tomboyish) existence, amongst the columns of nature notes such as “The Wonders of Crab Life” by H. Chapman Pincher BSc, (surely not the controversial Spycatcher writer of later years?) – and “Through the Hedge and over the Downs” by ‘Hedgerow’. We saw lots of native wildlife such as bees, birds and dragonflies flitting and buzzing around Trelawney Garden Centre and its lakes (with rumours of kingfishers) last August, amid many chats about our live insects, sloughed spider moults, wasp nest sections or dried specimens of Death’s Head Hawk moth.  ‘Hedgerow’ notes topically for August 1940 “What to look out for this month: Hawk moth larvae; Privet Hawk on Privet: Eyed Hawk on willow, Lime Hawk on lime or elm, Elephant Hawk on Willow Herb.  Dunlin or Ox birds by the seashore.  Corn Buntings and yellowhammers by the Cornfields. Butcher Birds’ larders in the hedges. Teazles in Bloom. Wasps’ nests.” A refreshing sight for the sore limbs of many a Land Girl or Victory harvest schoolchild working in the August fields, but also sign of how Britain’s wildlife has changed in 70 years, If you haven’t signed it yet, sign up via www.signtheletter.org.uk   to the RSPB’s Letter to The Future campaign www.rspb.org.uk

L.R. Brightwell’s cheerful nature notes illustrations to Hedgerow’s gnomes and gardens August 1940 column for the Boy’s Own Paper. (Image: Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo collection)

This last Boy’s Own Paper article is quirkily illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, cartoonist and illustrator of many zoo and nature books (see our archive blog entries on his Story of London Zoo, August 2009). Our partner college Cornwall College Newquay www.cornwall.ac.uk/newquay , quiet without hundreds of degree students for a few weeks, has some original Brightwell paintings. There are several more in the care of  the retired College manager and author Dr. Mike Kent, no doubt vigorously rambling  around the Cornish countryside and coast path collecting materials for his modern hedgerow notes books about Cornwall http://www.alisonhodge.co.uk/ShowDetails.asp?id=125 We were interested to note and already tracking down in detective mode the mention of ‘Next Month! Look out for … Wartime and The Zoos by Sydney Moorhouse FRGS, illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, FZS” promised for Boy’s Own Paper, September 1940. When we track a copy  down, we’ll share it with you on this blog.

“Children’s Gardens” by Edwin L. Howard (the Studio Publications, 2s. 6d.) is favourably reviewed by ‘Hedgerow’ in Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940,  who notes amongst bird and water garden designs that “I expect you boys will like the Zoo Garden best, but your sisters will prefer the Enchanted Flower Garden.” A second hand book to look out for, predating many recent books and seed company’s ranges (such as www.mr-fothergills.co.uk or  http://www.suttons.co.uk/grow_your_own.htm for children’s gardening. Suttons have agreat gardening blog too:  http://www.growyourownclub.co.uk 

Many of these colourful cartoon packets, much like the Doctor Carrot, Squander Bug  and Potato Pete (see below picture) wartime cartoon figures of “eat more veg”, were excitedly bought by children and parents at Trelawney Garden Centre to help pass the holiday time, many proudly telling me about what they were growing at home or at school. Grow It! Magazine had a good article on children’s gardens by Angela Youngman in the July 2010 issue http://www.growitmag.com , whilst the Eden Project books for inspiring child gardeners by Jo Readman are also full of ideas www.edenproject.com

For lots of jolly garden tips, check out the August job lists: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/todo_now/index.php and http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardening/calendar/August 

http://www.growyourownclub.co.uk

Garden Organic’s website http://mastergardeners.org.uk/2011/08/03/august-holiday-sowing-tips/

Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

Our khaki clad Gnome Guard didn’t holiday at home this year. He  travelled in 2010 /11 out to many displays such as Trelawney Garden Centre, but then vanished by unknown hand off to Paignton Zoo, London Zoo, Bioparc Valencia in Spain sending postcards gn-home back to the zoo. He was back in time for a conference on zoo history  at Chester Zoo in May 2011 (see May blog post 2011).  He’s stayed put (so far!) since as part of our wartime garden display.  “So far our Gnome Guard member of the LDV, introduced to the World War Zoo gardens to mark the July 1940 renaming of the Home Guard, has not been stolen by gnome liberators. Yet.” we wrote last August … we spoke too soon!

Gnome guard on parade. Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

But before anyone questions his willingness to serve or wartime authenticity, gnomes bizarrely feature in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes by ‘Hedgerow’ on fungi, at the height of the Battle of Britain when the Editor worries not only about increasing  paper rationing but about the threatened invasion “By the time you read this that foul fiend Apollyon may have struck at Britain, our land”). The columnist ‘Hedgerow’ whimsically notes: “One of the most handsome and decorative is the Scarlet Fly Agaric. This is copied by those who make garden ornaments and sold with gnomes to furnish a miniature wood or rockery. In my wood they grow freely. As I have a real wood I have no need for china gnomes, for they say there real gnomes in the woods and that they hold their meetings around the little red tables of the Scarlet Fly Agarics. I have never seen them, but as I write my nature notes under the light of an oil lamp in my little house in the wood  I often wonder whether they are playing around outside or spying to see if I am properly blacked out.”   (Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes)

So hopefully, during the summer holidays, you might like to paint your own china gnome, if you don’t have your own real wood and fungi. Wherever you are you could grow one thing, even if it’s in a tiny pot, as part of Garden Organic’s www.onepotpledge.org 2010. (Apparently if I encourage several others to sign up, I earn my very own Gardening Guru membership card or badge. How Boy’s Own Paper is that!) More growing advice can be found on the http://www.rhs.org.uk/ and www.bbc.co.uk/digin  BBC Dig In campaign pages.

Hopefully there were  lots of bumper holiday ideas on our blog to keep the whole family busy this August (or winter!) Off to try some Cold Ovaltine! 

“Hooray We passed our 6000th page view today on 8th August 2010!” We are now up to 20,000 plus readers in the last two years, and many hundreds of thousnads who have visited the zoo and seen the garden for real since 2009. They also pinch the strawberries, and then tell me later how nice they tasted … 

For all enquiries or comments re. World War Zoo gardens project, contact us via the comments page below.

If stuck inside, 21st century child style, you might like to check out our past blog entries, look at the macaque monkey webcam on www.newquayzoo.org.uk

Hope you enjoyed appy National Allotments Week in August http://www.nsalg.org.uk

September we’re off to talk to local Garden Societies, starting with Goonhavern Garden Society on the 21st September, then to Twycross Zoo in November 2011 for the big BIAZA ACE meeting … Have (wartime) gnome and garden, will travel!

New Home Front ‘design or reimagine a poster’ campaign 2011

March 29, 2011

New Home Front Design Competition – Closing date: 6 May 2011

Wartime recycled handmade toys and Blitz, our re-enactor bear have got the squander bug surrounded - surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection.

New Home Front 

(“How we can learn from Britain’s war time past in the age of dangerous climate change and energy insecurity”) are launching a competition to find the best ways in which the wartime poster and public education campaigns can be re-imagined to help today’s society understand the dangers of climate change, and what they can do to help. Wartime slogans such as “Is your journey really necessary?” remain relevant today when so much business travel could be replaced by video conferencing, for example. New Home Front is supported by UK Green MP Carolyn Lucas and a pdf report and audio press coverage can be found on their website.  

For more information see http://www.newhomefront.org/

Wartime posters can be seen on  http://www.iwm.org.uk website

So what is The New Home Front?

Lessons from the wartime generation for the modern world’s changes.

wartime posters and a forgotten skill - seed saving practice for next year's crops at World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Over the past two years at Newquay Zoo in our World War Zoo wartime garden project, I have been researching how we can learn from the wartime experience of zoos in surviving shortages and uncertainty as a way of preparing for the future. Editing personal diaries of wartime life or talking directly to older zoo visitors and WI groups of roughly my wartime evacuee parents’ generation about their experiences of rationing and allotments, “making do and mend”, has been as fascinating as chatting over the ‘garden fence’ to the smallest primary children who have ‘done the war’ at school and are proudly growing things to eat at home or in their schools gardens.  

Occasionally zoo staff and visitors are puzzled why I’m working on a wartime dig for victory allotment, surely a ‘history and heritage’ project looking back in a forward-looking, modern zoo / ‘environmental park’.    

So I was really interested to read the short New Home Front report by Andrew Simms (commissioned by Caroline Lucas UK Green MP) which is available to download free on pdf on http://www.newhomefront.org/

I’d be very interested to hear what you think of their ideas (and so would they). This is not the first time I’ve read ‘like minds’ on the subject. Several other recent books you might enjoy (all available on Amazon): 

 “Suppose such shortages arose again, maybe as a result of climate change, would the experiments of the past help ordinary people to survive? Better still, could we adapt some war-time methods of saving and sharing food and fuel with a generous spirit of neighbourliness?”

Introduction to Katherine Knight, Spuds, Spam and Eating for Victory: Rationing in the Second World War (Tempus, 2007)

 “In wartime the can-do community spiritedness of the propagandists instructions to ‘Make Do and Mend’ and ‘Dig for Victory’ fired the public’s imagination. Post-war, however, bald bossy exhortations seemed an insult to a people who had endured six years of wartime working and wanting, only to experience, with peace, an apparent decline in living standards … who, at times of national crises, could swing together. Britain did so in 1940 and I believe would do so again should a future global crisis threaten the essentials of our national life and culture. Should that need arise, our leaders today could do far worse than look back to 1940, to our nation’s darkest hour, to learn form our grandparents – and how they fought their way back towards peace and prosperity.” 

Patricia Nicol,  Sucking Eggs: What your Wartime Granny could teach you about Diet, Thrift and Going Green (Chatto, 2009)

 Covering everything from recycling to recipes, from fuel saving, food miles to fashion as well as gardening and holidaying at home, these books are as fascinating as the Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm TV series (Lion TV, when are you going to make Wartime Farm?) or the original BBC Wartime Kitchen and Garden (Please, please Acorn Media / BBC, please release this 90s classic on DVD) .

A Titchmarsh before his time ... C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

It’s also worth tracking down the recent ‘exhibition book’ for the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition Ministry of Food by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, 2010.

 Despite recently reading the beautifully presented and written Digging for Victory by Mike Brown and Twigs Way (Sabrestorm, 2011), I have yet to find a better gardening book on the urge to live and garden in extreme circumstances than Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardens. http://defiantgardens.com/

In a world of nuclear accident, natural disaster, recession and political upheaval, I keep coming back to these ‘old and new’ books for facts, recipes, inspiration and challenge when I occasionally tire of reading the jovial and down to earth C.H. Middleton’s radio gardening talks (reprinted recently by Aurum Press as Digging For Victory, Dig on For Victory and Your Garden in Wartime), a Titchmarsh before his time.  

 You can find out more about our World War Zoo wartime garden project online on our website www.newquayzoo.org.uk and our events section, or by looking at past entries on the blog archive here.

Wartime Christmas past and presents from the World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

December 12, 2010

1940s toy Ark and toy train, handmade in wartime from any materails to hand, treasured Christmas presents in wartime (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

1940s toy Ark and toy train, handmade in wartime from any materails to hand, treasured Christmas presents in wartime (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

It’s almost Christmas in the wartime zoo garden at Newquay Zoo. The snow and ice has for the moment gone from our ‘Dig For Victory’ allotment veg patch, leaving some plants looking the worse for wear. The spring crops of lettuce, cabbage, spinach and carrots look as if they might pull through as they did earlier this year, surviving the snow and ice in February. Frost is still an ongoing problem and garden fleece hadn’t been invented in the 1940s, whilst growing under glass ‘Cloches versus Hitler’ (to name a topical book of the time) was too expensive or impractical for many.

 The gardener always has a long list of desirable Christmas presents in this quiet time of the garden year, poring over seed catalogues, tool and equipment lists for desirable things. I’ve been looking dreamily at tough old fashioned tools  such as the FSC oak planter tools set from Mit Hus www.mithus.co.uk . (Is Father Christmas in his tin hat listening?). Our Zoo director Stewart Muir, a keen gardener at home and in the zoo, has been openly envious of a very tough Dig For Victory 1944 spade acquired for the World War Zoo gardens project on E-Bay as better than any of the several modern ones he’s broken in the last couple of years. All I want for Christmas this year is decent growing weather for next year. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Newquay Zoo’s keeper carol service www.newquayzoo.org.uk and Christmas fair takes place this weekend, and we’ve been busy putting up a Christmas Past and Presents Trail about the Victorian customs that now make up much of our modern Christmas. The carols, the tree, food, drinks, games and toys – we owe many of these to the Victorians including the German Christmas tree tradition brought to us by Prince Albert. A later custom dictates that the national Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square each year is a gift from the peoples of Norway to Britain for their wartime assistance. It’s been fascinating seeing where our peacetime and wartime Christmas traditions came from and the feast of Thornton’s chocolate indulgence we are lucky enough to have now (possibly my favourite trade stall at the Zoo’s Chritmas fayre).

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

The first Christmas of the war would have been of all the Christmas in wartime much like others before and since, apart from the blackout, the many evacuated children and serviceman overseas. There would still have been chocs, toys and presents in the shops. Food would not become rationed until 8th January 1940. Resources by Christmas 1940 would become increasingly set aside for wartime production. Toy shops would be increasingly empty (many toys pre-war were made in Germany anyway).  The church bells would not be rung at Christmas for several more years as church bells were one form of invasion warning.

 The enduring morale boosting customs despite the changing nature of this wartime Christmas experience between 1939 – 1945 is well documented and illustrated in Mike Brown’s recent book Christmas on The Home Front (Sutton Publishing, 2007). There is more in A Wartime Christmas by Maria and Andrew Hubert  (Sutton, 1995) and excellent Age Exchange publications on Christmas past and wartime reminiscence. There are some great wartime Christmas recipes in the Mike Brown book, along with Jennifer Davies’ The Wartime Kitchen and Garden (book of the 1990s BBC series, available second hand). 

 If Christmas treats and toys were to be had, they often had to be handmade or obtained second-hand (so Present Sense style gift recycling or Yankee Gift Swaps are nothing new). Wartime magazines were full of ‘eco-tips’ for improving or improvising clothes, toys and Christmas food.

One of our wartime life collection toys is a hand-made sliding puzzle made from an Australian  butter box and old calendar by a serviceman for his child back home. It was the sort of wartime Christmas toy many children would have received. We featured this toy and a hand-made wooden Spitfire in our choices for the digital museum on BBC Radio 4 / British Museum’s  A History of the World in 100 Objects series  this year, which you can still see and hear online (see our links page) or buy the BBC book by Neil McGregor. I’m sure many will unwrap and enjoy a copy this Christmas.

Recently we have been loaned or acquired a fantastic wooden toy train with cocoa tin boiler and cotton reel funnel, a paper Indian Headdress from a wartime Christmas stocking and a beautiful wooden ark and animals hand-made in wartime by teacher Mr Ernest Lukey of Poole for his daughter Wendy Norman. She thought the zoo’s wartime life collection would be a suitable place for this to be looked after.

 Amongst the treasured wartime presents handed down in my own family are 1940s children’s books – often the like the above toys, the main present from service fathers far away. Many were and remain the distracting companions for children on rainy days since.  Inscribed with love, a far away place  and Christmas date, these Enid Blyton annuals, countryside  or nativity books from 1944 through to 1947 show that toys and books were still scarce after 1945. Food rationing carried on until 1954. BBC History Magazine’s Christmas 2010 edition features an article on symbolic Christmas activities amongst DPs (Displaced people and refugees of many nationalities) around Europe in 1946. Some of these DP camps took over empty zoo areas such as Hamburg for a while, these strange photographs being in the Imperial War Museum collection (IWM collections are visible online).

The IWM London’s rationing exhibition Ministry of Food ends on the 3rd January 2011, http://www.iwm.org.uk so still time to catch this! For those who can’t make it, there is the IWM blog, the tempting online shop and a well illustrated book of the exhibition by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall. If you have green-fingered friends, cooks or those interested in history, the RHS have produced a great little DVD called Dig For Victory  and there are plenty of recent reprints of C.H. Middleton’s wartime gardening talks on the radio, wartime cook books or garden writer Twigs Way’s well-edited reprint of Ministry of Food and Farming’s 1945 advice leaflets, all very relevant today. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Twigs-Way/e/B0034PAXNW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Seed saving practice for next year's crops at World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Garden writers of the time recommended seeds, tools, livestock or subscriptions as presents, making wartime Britain look a little like a modern Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue. BBC History, Wildlife and Gardeners World magazines aside, there are now plenty of excellent Your Kitchen Garden, Grow Your Own, Amateur Gardening or Smallholder type magazines around for those subscription gifts, not to mention membership of the 1940s Society. Wartime editors of such magazines particularly pleaded with readers to place a subscription as it helped them prevent producing unwanted issues in a time of acute paper shortage. Sadly many magazines never survived the war.

Wartime shortages brought about the animal adoption scheme, to fund the upkeep and feed of zoo animals, started they claim at Chester Zoo but rapidly adopted at others places like London Regent’s Park Zoo and Edinburgh Zoos. Many Christmases in the past at Newquay Zoo have seen our mad scramble to get that last-minute ordered animal adoption or Junior Keeper experience scheme pack out in the last Christmas post. Deatils can be found on many zoo websites or for Newquay Zoo http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk

 Hopefully you will be able to add a World War Zoo gardens book from Newquay Zoo to your present list for Christmas 2011 if all goes well. I have been working for the past few months on editing the wartime pocket diaries of the London Blitz and Home Front life elsewhere in Britain, with fascinating almost Twitter length entries allowed by the space in a pocket diary. Hopefully these should be published later during the year in both schools and adult reader versions so watch this space for details.

Whatever you give or receive for Christmas, we at Newquay Zoo hope you enjoy this family time, sparing a thought for ‘absent friends’ and the many ghosts of Christmas past.

And, although we’d love to see you this Christmas or during 2011, please don’t send your relatives down to see us on Christmas Day – it’s the only day we close to the public each year … 

Enjoy reading this year’s blog entries, we look forward to your company in the next year!

Wartime gardening 1940 style, Plant Conservation Day 2010 and International Year of Biodiversity in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo

February 18, 2010

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

Sunflowers for wild bird seed (and feeding wartime chickens) World War Zoo garden, Newquay Zoo, 2009 (now the site of a new walkthrough Madagascan aviary)

We can all do something positive for biodiversity this year. At the World War Zoo gardens project here at Newquay Zoo, we   like many groups such as BIAZA, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, RHS and Wildlife Trusts are supporting the UK’s 2010 International Year of Biodiversity campaign to Do One Thing.  Find out more at www.biodiversityislife.net 

Resolve to do one thing this year  for biodiversity.  If you’re not sure what to do, we have some suggestions below. And when you do it, tell your friends and family about it to encourage them to do something too. If you have a twitter account, don’t forget to follow @iybuk too and tell others what you’re doing. 

We will be promoting 2010 International Year of Biodiversity and also Plant Conservation Day (on May 18th 2010)  our second World War Zoo wartime garden weekend at Newquay Zoo 1 to 3 May 2010. This weekend also launches our Plant Hunters trail celebrating  plant hunters like the Lobb brothers, wartime secret agent and ageing plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward and the exotic plants they brought back from daring exploits around the world. Our vegetable and flower gardens are a strange mixture of plants and varieties from the local area and from all over the world. 

Heirloom varieties and 'Vera Lynn' commemorative varieties of Sweet peas are one of the flowers brightening up the World War Zoo wartime garden that will be sown this year.

Plant Conservation Day (on May 18th 2010) www.plantconservationday.org  has lots more information about ways of getting involved  http://bgci.org/plantconservationday. 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: 

There are many suggestions of things we can all do for International Year of Biodiversity at http://www.biodiversityislife.net/?q=do-one-thing and from the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust website www.wwt.org.uk and Wild about gardens website www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk  : 

  1. plant some wildlife friendly mixtures of flowers
  2. save your seeds or plant heirloom varieties
  3. build a wildlife pond in the garden 
  4. install a water butt and connect the down pipe from the gutter to a water butt and connect the overflow of the water butt to the pond or garden
  5. become a member of conservation organisation
  6. volunteer at a conservation organisation
  7. adopt an animal (or vegetable  – see www.gardenorganic.org.uk)
  8. remember wildlife or conservation organisations in your will
  9. Don’t mow your lawn – an untidy garden encourages wildlife (we like this one a lot)
  10. Dig up your lawn (like we did with one at Newquay Zoo) and plant veg or apply for an allotment from your local council, or turn over some of your garden to growing your own.

BBC A History of the World in 100 Objects – sliding puzzles, Spitfires, penguins and poppies. Which one of the zoo’s objects in its wartime collection to nominate?

January 24, 2010

Our 1940s ‘wartime handmade sliding  puzzle’  is now featured in the BBC’s online museum for the BBC ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ series,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld  You can see pictures of the front side of the puzzle online.  It’s in good company alongside the treasures of the British Museum in London and many other national and regional musuems. Search for it  under categories ‘war‘, ‘family‘ and ‘entertainment‘ in the 20th century time slot. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/oWqLGD3pQEyVTMNHf8j9DQ
We could have listed it under ‘trade‘ as well, because of what it is made out of

Back of the wartime handmade sliding puzzle toy, showing Australia Butter brand on the wooden box

“This toy was handmade from an Australian butter box as a Christmas present for a wartime child in the 1940s. It is a sliding puzzle with numbers and a Father Christmas head (both cut from a calender) on the tiles. It is part of the ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach to resource shortages during World War Two. Toys were scarce on the shelves during Christmas later in the war.  Simply made and timeless in appeal, it was highly treasured by the child concerned. (We sadly don’t have a name for the child or whether the father was away from home on active service).

Made from butter box wood, this butter and its box would have run the U-boat blockade on convoys to reach Britain and the contents been on ration. Australia was part of the British Empire, under threat in wartime and the butter must have been refrigerated to survive the journey showing how food and trade links had changed. Newquay Zoo http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk houses it in its World War Zoo 1940s wartime life collection in its archive.”

The puzzle will be on  display at certain wartime garden events such as the World War Zoo wartime garden weekend 1 to 3 May 2010 at Newquay Zoo, alongside other toys such as a handmade wooden Spitfire (below).

If we had to describe this handmade wooden Spitfire  and  list this for the BBC 100 objects site, ‘war‘, ‘family‘ and ‘entertainment‘ would be obvious categories. When this plane has been on display outside of a display case, it has been a magnet for adults and children of all ages to pick up. They’d fly it round the exhibition room given the chance, probably making ‘dugga dugga dugga’ noises too.

A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

How would we list this object for the BBC site?  “The Spitfire is such an iconic object of the Battle of Britain and of Allied resistance in wartime. The wartime bombing of British airfields after the 1940 fall of Europe 70 years ago came to an end when bombing switched to the ‘Blitz’ of cities and civilian targets, including zoos and botanic gardens.

Just as much food was scarce and rationed in wartime, Hence the wartime zoo keeper’s ‘dig for victory garden’ project at Newquay Zoo, toys would be scarce and often handmade with little, if any metal or rubber parts. Many toy factories making toy soldiers switched to making munitions and machinery. Plastic wasn’t used for toys until after the war.”

I love the ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach to making your own toys. It is a beautiful object to hold. The Peace Pledge Union with its famous white poppy campaign and invaluable archive on conscientious objection would no doubt raise the ‘war toy’ issue about whether such toys encourage aggression and ultimately, the furtherance of war?

On our Facebook site worldwarzoo, you’ll find a link to Alicia Gilbert’s proposed Blitz Memorial site mentions the civilian and pro-peace side of conflict. Some of our wartime life collection of diaries will be featured as part of this.

One toy plane could raise whole numbers of questions, discussions and hold its rank amongst all the other treasures, military and civilian, ancient and modern in the British Museum and A History of the World in 100 Objects series. But we put forward the wartime handmade sliding puzzle toy  instead!

Off to go and ‘chit’ some Home Guard variety of potatoes for the wartime garden until shooted ready enough for planting for Spring … or maybe just fly this toy Spitfire round the office making ‘dugga dugga dugga’ dogfight noises.

One of our  recent blog and Facebook entries mentions the ‘Newquay Spitfire’ at Spitfire Corner on the road near the Newquay airport, belonging to a local aviation artist. We have been bizarrely and gracefully interrupted during a penguin feeding time talk at Newquay Zoo back in 2000 by the Battle of Britain memorial flight   of Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane roaring beautifully overhead.

Just as wartime gardeners must have craned their necks to watch the dogfights high in the sky, every head, penguin, keeper, visitor and meerkat,  was raised skywards. Flightless birds, however sleek their shape, must have been envious that day.

For the purposes of balance, we have to point out that many fine German city zoos were incidentally flattened by Allied bombing by such planes as the Lancaster during wartime. Many zookeepers and zoo directors from Germany, across Europe and Britain would have known each other and worked together in peacetime. This is the tragedy of war.

Who knows what you’ll see at Newquay Zoo! We can’t guarantee Spitfires but we  look forward to seeing you at wartime garden events, getting your email comments via the blog and  hope you enjoy looking at all the other  ‘BBC History of the World’ objects online.

Happy gardening! (dugga dugga dugga)

Wartime squander bug sighted at Newquay Zoo

October 26, 2009

The squander bug, the British government’s wartime propaganda campaign cartoon figure has crept back from exile. All this talk of food waste encourages him (or her?) He or she might not be wearing swastikas anymore, more likely pound or dollar signs? (Insert own local currency figures here!)

Maybe we can frighten off the squander bug in his food waste form with a squirt of self-sufficiency from our wartime zoo keeper’s garden!

What could be better than a squirt from a recycled Stirrup Pump, used commonly after the war in zoos and home gardens for watering and bug or weed killing? Their original purpose was for ARP air raid precautions and  firefighting which is what they were issued to zoo keepers and householders for. Swords into ploughshares when used on the veg patch!

Our stirrup pump still works but we no longer pour water through its 70 year old insides. It belongs in our archive collection of wartime objects, along with the charming recycled ‘wartime reenactor’  bear (from the zoo’s lost property section) in his child evacuee’s case of handmade original wartime toys. The puzzle at the bottom of the suitcase is made from an old butter box by a wartime dad for his child. The squander bug doesn’t really belong in here!

Our recycled ‘wartime reenactor’  bear (from the zoo’s lost property section, Paddington style) doesn’t have a name yet. Any suggestions can be emailed to mark.norris@newquayzoo.org.uk in time for our next wartime garden weekend at the zoo, most likely in May 2010.

Wartime recycled handmade toys and a re-enactor bear haved got the squander bug surrounded - surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection.

Wartime recycled handmade toys and a re-enactor bear have got the squander bug surrounded - surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection.

Squander bug and original 1939 stirrup pump in Newquay Zoo's wartime zoo keeper's garden ( with lovely dwarf French beans 'safari' variety)

Squander bug and original 1939 stirrup pump in Newquay Zoo's wartime zoo keeper's garden ( with lovely dwarf French beans 'safari' variety)


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