Posts Tagged ‘War poetry’

Edward Thomas died Arras 9 April 1917 WW1

April 9, 2017

One famous casualty of the Battle of Arras, fought at Easter, was the talented Country writer and poet Edward Thomas.

The Battle of Arras is being commemorated by centenary events hosted by the Commonwealth War Graves commission.

He was killed “by shellfire” (see the Wikipedia entry)  at Easter during the first day of the Battle of Arras 9 April 1917, two years after writing this Easter poem:

In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

Edward Thomas

since discovering his writing as a schoolboy, I have greatly admired Edward Thomas’ prose writings and travel journals, walking across Edwardian England. This rich prose then tumbled into or was restrained into verse, famously his nature and railway poem Adlestrop and probably my favourite, As the Team’s Head Brass (see link below)

Simple, symbolic, restrained, melancholy, echoing with loss and words not said, I find “As The Teams Head Brass” almost a poem of the Forties or WWII  like the poem group by Henry Reed which includes “Naming Of Parts”.

Pick out one of his poems today, enjoy it and read it in his memory.

Edward Thomas was one of  a generation of writers including Ivor Gurney and more famous poets whose lives were ended or greatly affected by the First World War. As with all of them, who knows what fine nature writing they may have gone on to produce, but for disruption, depression and death caused by the war.

It is more than 25 years since I visited the Dymock area associated with Thomas and other prewar writers:

Edward Thomas – Celebrated and remembered 100 years on from the day of his death 9 April 1917.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project 9 April 2017.

Remembering WW1 in zoos and gardens

August 3, 2014

Although I have spent  the last 5 years as part of the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo researching WW2 and how it created shortages and other challenges for zoos and botanic gardens, I have frequently been asked recently about the effects of WW1 in light of the centenary events now underway.

Here is a summary of our recent WW1 related blog posts that you might find of interest.

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

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

1. The Lost Zoo Keepers and Gardeners of London Zoo WW1

London Zoo plans a WW1 centenary exhibition

and also a Little Creatures family celebration of regimental mascot Winnipeg or the original Winnie the Pooh being deposited at London Zoo 100 years ago when its Canadian Regiment went off to France.

and material from Mary Evans picture archive:

2. Lost Zoo Keepers from Belle Vue Zoo Manchester (and London Zoo) WW1 – updated from 2010/11

3. National Allotment Week, 4- 10 August 2014 and other ww1 centenary garden links

4. Port Lympne Zoo / Reserve centenary WW1 / WW2 and other WW1 centenary garden links

5. Lost Ecologists of WW1 – Linnean Society casualties

6. Lost Ecologists of WW1 – The British Ecological Society

7. Mr. Mottershead, WW1 and WW2 at Chester Zoo – “Our Zoo”

8. Animals in wartime WW1


A small selection of WW1 items on display alongside our usual WW2 material, display case, Tropical House, Newquay Zoo.

A small selection of WW1 items on display alongside our usual WW2 material, display case, Tropical House, Newquay Zoo.

Botanic Gardens in wartime WW1

Many Botanic Gardens had a zoological section and similar challenges to zoos in wartime. I wrote a free downloadable  article about this for the BGEN gardens website:

1. The Lost Gardeners of Kew Gardens in WW1

Kew has many activities such as tours and an exhibition planned. I will be giving a talk at Kew on 20 October as part of their Kew Guild / KMIS evening talks.

2. Lost “Gardeners and Men” WW1 poem from Kew Guild Journal

3. Lost Gardeners – 1914 / 1915 Part 1

A brief  look through the garden journals of the time at the effects of war on gardens, estates and gardeners

4. Garden writer Herbert Cowley, Kew Gardens  and WW1  Dig for Victory schemes

5. Finally, a brief look at the home front, rationing, food and farming  in one Cornish village in WW1


Watch this space for further WW1  blogposts:

Several more blog posts are in preparation in my spare zoo and home time for 2014 and 2015:

  • The Whitley family in WW1 and Ww2 who set up our sister zoo Paignton Zoo
  • Gardeners in 1916 onwards using the garden journals now online
  • WW1 in adverts from original magazines
  • Energy saving and salvage initiatives in Ww1 , WW2 and the EAZA Pole to Pole “pull the plug” campaign 2014
  • London Zoo in WW1 and the ‘first Blitz’ of WW1
  • Dublin Zoo,  Irish zoos and gardens in WW1
  • Updates on the Belle Vue Zoo and London Zoo memorial casualty research.

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them …”, words from the 1914 poem by Lawrence Binyon familiar from many Remembrance services and written on cliffs at Polzeath (or Portreath – some controversy on this!) near Newquay Zoo, home of the World War Zoo Gardens Project:     BBC Cornwall page and plaque pictures.

We would be interested to hear of other gardens and zoo related stories from WW1 – contact us via the comments page!

Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo – World War Zoo Gardens project








“For King and Country fought and died — Gardeners and Men !”

April 15, 2014


Tillers of the soil they were — just gardeners then,

In faith the day’s work doing as the day’s work came,

Peaceful art in peace pursuing — not seeking fame —

When through the Empire rang the Empire’s call for men!

Gardeners they were, finding in fragile flowers delight,

Lore in frail leaves, and charm even in wayside weeds.

Who, in their wildest dreams, ne’er rose to do brave deeds,

Defending righteous cause against relentless Might!


The wide world gave her flowers for them — the mountains high,

The valleys low, and classic hills all fringed with snow

Where fires by sunset kindled light the alpen-glow.

O ! Fate implacable ! — to see those hills and die !


The war god rose refreshed — Gardeners and Soldiers then!

Who, that slumbering Peace might wake, dared, with manhood’s zeal,

To make Life’s sacrifice to Love’s supreme appeal.

For King and Country fought and died — Gardeners and Men !


written by H. H. T

probably Harry H. Thompson, editor of the journal,   The Gardener,  who left Kew in 1899.

reprinted from the Kew Guild Journal, 1915.

A timely  posting for it is National Gardens Week 14 – 20 April 2014 in the year of the First World War centenary

This was one of the poems that featured in my recent talk on zoos and botanic gardens in wartime as part of the garden and landscape history at the IHR University of London on 27 March 2014. Some of HHT’s phrases – “finding in fragile flowers delight” – have a faint echo of Gloucester poet Ivor Gurney (1890- 1937) that I have admired and studied for many years, now slowly finding his proper recognition as an artist and musician.  This poem as tribute or epitaph  is growing on me as I uncover how it reflects the lives and attitudes of a generation of lost gardeners of Kew (and the brief opportunities the war provided for women), a period beautifully illustrated by Lynn Parker and Kiri Ross-Jones’ new photographic history of Kew Gardens. You can read brief biographies of each of the 37 Kew casualties of WW1 on previous blog posts.

There are more IHR garden history talks in London coming up in May and Autumn, see

I also look forward to returning to Kew Gardens to do another wartime zoo and botanic garden talk in Autumn 2014 as part of their soon-to-be announced autumn programme of talks on

37 Kew  staff lost  from 150 staff and old Kewites on active service in WW1 seems a disproprortionately large number but again Kew staff  are under threat of 125 staff posts at risk of redundancy, leading naturalists and garden writers from David Attenborough and James Wong to champion the role of Kew Gardens in the modern world. I hope that a solution can be found as it cast a shadow over my day meeting staff there. After visiting the Kew Gardens war memorial and the storm damaged and now vanished Verdun Oak , I met up with James Wearn, hard at work on Kew’s wartime centenary commemorations and look forward to posting more about this throughout the year. Floreat Kew!

%d bloggers like this: