Posts Tagged ‘world war two’

Peggy Skinner’s Wartime Christmas 1940

December 10, 2015

December 1940  – a schoolgirl’s wartime Christmas in Scotland

If you are struggling to choose or afford Christmas presents this year, spare a thought for the fashion conscious 1940s wartime young woman like Peggy Skinner!

Peggy Skinner is a 15 to 16 year old schoolgirl in her final years of school, transplanted in wartime to Paisley in Renfrewshire, Scotland from her South London home.

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Peggy Jane Skinner’s 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

Like many school girls she is worrying about exam results and making it into her  school leaving year in 1941. She makes it to wartime Glasgow University on a Carnegie Grant to study Astronomy, Maths, Radio and Science, but all this seems far away in Christmas 1940. [I’ve added additional notes in brackets].

Much of her social life revolves around school friends and a church youth group, attending a Bible Class en route to becoming a Sunday School teacher of a weekend throughout her wartime student years. 

Peggy is obviously a bright girl, daughter of an engineer and draughtsman. School is thankfully going well for her despite relocation and wartime disruption. Unusually at the time for a female student, she is doing well studying Science and Maths.

 

Glasgow schools in wartime

Many Glasgow schools were closed early on in the war or requisitioned for military and civil defence use. Peggy’s school seems to have a range of teachers on loan from other schools.

Amongst the range of teacher names and nicknames somebody in Paisley or Glasgow might recognise or identify Peggy’s school:

Jetta Yuill her French teacher from Renfrew High School, Bone her Latin teacher, ‘Fanny’, Miss Buchanan, Miss Reid and Miss Blair her Gym teachers, ‘Doc’ and Billy Robb her Science teachers, Stoney, Denham or Denman her Physics and Science teacher, Tommy Henderson, Alice Young, Miss McKim, Miss Walker, Hutchison or Hutchie, Stevenson her History teacher, Mr. Reid her music teacher and McCrossan who produces the school play.

Does anyone recognise any of these names from wartime school days?

Peggy Skinner’s summer in Scotland safe from the London Blitz and Battle Of Britain in July to September 1940 were covered in a previous blogpost: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/battle-of-britain-day-remembered-15-september-1940/

More about Peggy’s life (1924-2011) and other wartime birthdays and Christmas entries can be found here on what would have been her 90th birthday tribute in December 2014: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/1942-the-end-of-the-beginning-70-years-on-in-the-world-war-zoo-gardens-at-newquay-zoo/

 

Peggy Skinner’s wartime diary, December 1940

Sunday 1st                    As [the local vicar] Mr Laming is away, the Marines’ chaplain took the Eucharist. Mr [Bovey?] took Bible Class and some one from Trinity Paisley took evensong. His profile was like Tyrone Power’s but he spoke so slowly.

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[Tyrone Power, the famous U.S. film actor of the time, was a bit of a Peggy Skinner favourite!]

 Monday 2nd                  Physics marks back, they were really out of 120 but they were counted out of 100 since we didn’t get all the time we were supposed to. I’ve got 50% for my Latin.

Tuesday 3rd                 I have found out that I am the highest in lower History in our class, so I’m quite bucked. I got 67% for my Chemistry which is far better than I’d expected.

Wednesday 4th            Dance practice with boys at Gym. Latin sentences in place of or in addition to the exam ones, of course I couldn’t do them. AYPA – went to Youth welfare meeting, pretty boring.

[Anglican Young People’s Association, a church youth and social group of the time]

Thursday 5th                Dance practice with boys. Latin marks back, the sentences we had yesterday were counted in place of the ones in the exam. They brought my marks up a bit. It is 55% which I think is good.

Friday 6th                     Half day. Went to Whist drive round church hall. I just filled in, had to help Mum get the hall ready first.

Saturday 7th                 Went to Paisley with Bunty to see My Two Husbands, it was very amusing.   Altogether, it was quite a good show. Paisley was crowded, it was War Weapons Week.

[See our separate blog post for Paisley War Weapons Week]

Sunday 8th                    Communion and Bible Class. It is very cold. I think it is freezing tonight. Trying to think of Xmas presents.

Monday 9th                   Higher History marks back. I am second equal and first equal when averaged British and European history is taken.

Tuesday 10th                Xmas is getting very near and I haven’t brought any presents. I don’t know what to get. Our parcel from Grandma arrived last Friday.

[Grandma is back home with the family in London]

Wednesday 11th          Literature back, I got 30 ½ out of 45. I’m third equal in our section. Didn’t do much at AYPA tonight.

 Thursday 12th              It is Paisley War Weapons Week this week, our savings collection last week towards it was £175, this week it is £333, making a total of over £500 which is five times as much as we aimed at.

Friday 13th                   English marks back. We got away at 1.30, because of yesterday’s collection. I went to Paisley in the afternoon, Xmas shopping, I wasn’t very successful, everything’s so expensive.

Saturday 14th               Very miserable day. Went to Paisley with Mum in afternoon, got nothing we went for. Stockings are 2 to 3 times the price they used to be.

 

Editor’s note: This shortage and price increase was pre-clothes rationing, which would arrive in six months time on Sunday June 1st 1941, partly to manage and organise scarcity, profiteering  and excessive prices.

The shortage of shoes and everyday clothes became a major irritation for Peggy throughout her diary including into the austerity and rationing period long after the war, especially being tall.

Thankfully her family were competent makers of clothes with whatever remnants became available.

 

Sunday 15th                  Poured with rain again, I had to borrow an umbrella to come home from church this morning. I went to Bible Class and evensong.

Monday 16th                 We had our report cards back. The Rector [the School Headmaster] sent for some people but luckily not me. Packed Xmas presents this evening.

 

[These presents are to be posted to her remaining family down south in London.]

 

Tuesday 17th                I hate Maths now (although the periods are often quite good, like the ones today) because we always seem to be so keyed up.

Wednesday 18th          Dancing in boy’s shed this morning because the Gym was being decorated. Only 7 at AYPA tonight, so as usual did nothing.

Thursday 19th              Half-day for 4th, 5th, 6th year dance – I did not go. I’ll hear all about it tomorrow I expect. It was just an afternoon affair.

Friday 20th                   [Peggy’s 16th birthday] Black velvet for frock, jumper, ring and money to buy books were my presents. Half-day for 3rd years dance. We have a big Hamlet crossword puzzle to do. Short air –raid warning this evening.

Saturday 21st               Another short warning, which I did not hear last night. Bessie and Jean came to tea, just talked. I at any rate quite enjoyed myself.

 Sunday 22nd                 Woke so late that I had a job to get to church in time but service was only beginning as I went in. I went to Bible Class. I tried to finish the [Hamlet school] crossword but couldn’t.

Monday 23rd                Two boys had managed to get the crossword done. We only had two periods this afternoon then got away early. I’ve still some Xmas shopping to do.

Tuesday 24th                Half day, broke up, we did X-word puzzles in Maths, nothing in History and Bible and worked in English and Chem. I went to midnight Eucharist, took communion. Church was crowded.

Wednesday 25th            Christmas Day  Went to [neighbours] Read’s for tea and evening, two other people there, we had a very good time but I’m so sleepy now Xmas is over. This year it’s come unexpectedly and passed quickly.

 

Christmas in Wartime

Not the first Christmas of the war, but this was the first Christmas in wartime where rationing was beginning to have an effect on food and gifts. Later entries by Peggy Skinner for 1943 and 1946-9 record the ongoing difficulties of finding suitable presents and making of things to sell for charity fundraising.

 

Thursday 26th              Didn’t wake till midday. Went round to Bunty’s but I got no reply So I just came home and read. I haven’t started my homework yet.

Friday 27th                           Saw Bunty this morning. We have a [barrage] balloon opposite us now, the site has been prepared for months but the balloon wasn’t brought till today.

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Peggy Skinner’s wartime home  is towards the top of the photograph,  (top right) a barrage balloon on the balloon site nearby protecting the Hillington Rolls Royce and other factories at the bottom left. Canmore.org.uk ID 211548

This barrage balloon site near her house is on the National Historic Monuments Record for Scotland in the Glendee Road area of Paisley, protecting factory areas at Hillingdon.

https://canmore.org.uk/site/211548/renfrew-loanhead

Saturday 28th             Got letters from Bessie and Jean this morning, they were very amusing, especially if they were compared. Went to see Pinocchio the full length cartoon alone this afternoon.

Sunday 29th                    Good crowd at Communion, had service in church at Bible Class. Good number of carols at evensong, choir alone sang them all, quite a few I didn’t know.

Monday 30th                   Went round to Bunty’s this afternoon, we both tried to do some history. She and I went down to library this evening . Miserable cold wet day.

Tuesday 31st                   Reads came over this evening, had a little party, quite a good time. I’m full and tired. Mr Read saw the ‘New Year’ in,  so this should actually be here.

 

Editor’s note: This list entry about ‘first footing’ by neighbours gives you a clue when her diary was sometimes written, often at the end of day before sleep.

 

January 1941

Wednesday 1st               I did not get up till dinner-time today, all the family was late up. Did some English this afternoon. Snow.

Thursday 2nd                  While I was down the town this afternoon the siren went but I just finished my shopping and then wandered home. Nothing happened, the [barrage] balloon opposite didn’t even go up.

We have no diaries from Peggy for 1941 and 1942. These two January entries give us a few clues as to what was to happen in coming months.

Like her entries for January 1940, the winter of 1941 is recorded by other diarists in our collection and other published diaries as a harsh one of frozen pipes and snow.

The lack of reaction to the air raid siren and ‘nothing happened, the balloon opposite didn’t even go up’ would change on 13 and 14th March 1941 when Clydebank and the Glasgow area were heavily bombed. Sadly we don’t have Peggy’s diaries for this eventful year.

Happy Christmas!

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

 

In praise of Garden Societies, 40s music, Vera Lynn and the wireless …

September 25, 2011

Part of our wartime garden display on Make Do and Mend in wartime, Newquay Zoo World War Zoo Gardens collection

Another busy week for the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo. The first of this season’s Garden Society talks took place on Wednesday 21st September 2011  at Goonhavern, a few miles east of Newquay. I’m still not unpacked from selecting out a few boxes of display material of wartime gardening books, posters, seed lists and other wartime memorabilia I took along to illustrate my talk on Dig For Victory and its modern parallels in our World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo. Gardeners (and cooks) loved leafing through these original and reproduction books before and after the talk.

Pinning the (reproduction) Dig For Victory posters up on their noticeboard for the evening felt a little strange as if the Village Hall and Community Centre had been old enough, the originals must once have been pinned there. Garden talks would have taken place in halls like this all over the country to eager Dig for Victory Gardeners 70 years ago. Goonhavern Garden Association celebrate   their 40th anniversary this year – so congratulations on this!

Celebration bunting, cabbages and mascot Blitz Bear out in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo, Summer 2011

As ever my lovely  vintage Dig For Victory  spade dated 1944 (the same type as the  famous boot on spade iconic  poster) was much admired and could have been sold many times over.  A lovely weight and patina to it, this spade is still very capable of active service but now in my museum collection for the present along with a pristine Stirrup Pump. Slightly more battered examples of both are left in the wartime garden plot here at the zoo, to give the real impression that the gardener has just popped out for a few minutes.  

Whilst setting up, I had time to put some Vera Lynn music on for company, which was playing as the Garden Society members arrived. Highly atmospheric, and the music I was brought up to by my 1940s evacuee parents. I’m not sure of the legality of playing my warm up music as people arrive, but then legality and Vera Lynn don’t match in my family.  I recently discovered from my mother that she was the very young (4 or 5 year old) lookout for a gang of fellow evacuees in Ditchling where Dame Vera lived, on watch while the bigger kids went Scrumping in Vera Lynn’s Orchard.  Maybe we should plant an apple tree in our wartime garden section in both their honour …

Canny recyclers before their time! The WI did important work for the Dig For Victory and salvage campaigns. This wartime WI badge is from our wartime display, World War Zoo Gardens, Newquay Zoo.

Geoffrey Glasse from Goonhavern contacted me afterwards to find out if we were interested in surplus apples etc from his group. What to do with surplus produce in wartime caused many arguments between the Dig For Victory scheme organisers and the Ministry of Agriculture. The WI and canning machines was one solution …

The story of this campaign is well set out in the recent book by Daniel Smith, The Spade as Mighty as the Sword: The Story of World War Two’s ‘Dig for Victory’ Campaign (Aurum Press, 2011) including solutions to mysteries such as whose foot is on the iconic boot on spade Dig For Victory poster? Popularly it is said (for example in Jennifer Davies’ excellent Wartime Kitchen Garden (book of the 1990s BBC TV series) to be a Mr. W.H. McKie of Acton, London, but was it? Another mystery solved: which journalist turned informally dressed Labour Party leader  coined the phrase ‘Dig For Victory’? I was surprised.

As well as posters and radio allotments, newsreel films were well used to encourage reluctant diggers – you can see this in a  lovely short 6 minute Dig For Victory MOI film with Roy Hay the radio allotment gardener http://www.thebigworld.co.uk/howtodigforvictory.htm.

Other good newsreel clips include Radio gardener Mr Middleton chatting ‘Over the Garden Fence’ on this wartime gardening blog: http://wartimegardening.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/mr-middleton-talks-about-gardening/

My next talks are booked in November at  Twycross Zoo’s BIAZA Zoo conference  for the peer audience of Zoo  educators and marketing people . This is a good chance to get into the Bartlett Society (for zoo history research) library / archives held at this zoo. More research for our forthcoming book on wartime zoos and botanic gardens. I’m also talking at a Cornwall College Newquay seminar on the morning of November 30th to many of the FE and HE students at this conservation college next to the zoo.

 So that’s a few dozen people at a time. if you want to reach more, there’s always old (and new) media … the finest of which is wireless.

Radio (or Wireless) and music were important for morale and mood in wartime. The BBC continue this fantastic role today. One of the pick of this week’s listening for me was John Gray on  Radio 4’s Point of View (often a slot for David Attenborough’s Life Stories radio talks) about Winston Churchill becoming Prime Minister in 1940. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0150dsv#synopsis

If World War Zoo Gardens had a soundtrack? Its BBC Radio Devon”s every Sunday evening 8pm – 10 pm weekly Swingers&Singers programme (great title). It’s run by David Lowe (on Twitter he’s @ MrNostalja)  and  you can find live on the BBC online website and later on the repeats I-player site.  It’s great to know as I listen to this programme at home with my family that there are thousands of others of all ages tucked up listening to the same programme and its dedications all over the West Country, Britain and beyond. It’s like looking up at the moon and thinking it shines on so many others, the same moon in so many countries. I wonder how mnay people looked at the moon fearfully in wartime as a bombers’ moon. Swingers and Singers is a great source of evocative 1930s, 40s and 50s music. Enjoy!

Happy listening, happy gardening.

Find out more about us on the blog and the Newquay Zoo website. Mark

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!

Absent fathers day – a wartime perspective from the World War Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

June 19, 2011

Father’s day in the World War Zoo wartime garden at Newquay Zoo – Blitz Bear, our project mascot
Father’s Day in Britain June 2011 – the nation awoke groggily to the headlines of the Prime Minister’s  offer of pursuing absent fathers and making them pay, making those who ‘abandon’ their children  feel the same  social stigma as drunk drivers.

Father’s day 19 June 2011 at Newquay Zoo –  an event to celebrate with half price entry for dads, free entry for children under 14 with a bear and a field hospital style surgical tent for injured bears.  Nurse “Penny Sillen”, otherwise known as Zoo Events organiser Lorraine Reid, nursed calloused hands from a few evenings cutting up and rolling hundreds of tiny bandages in scenes reminiscent of ladies of the First World War. Busy day! 

In the World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo, our peaceful and productive memorial to wartime zoo staff, during the brief periods between much-neeeded rain showers you could glimpse our project mascot, Blitz Bear, formerly of the Lost Property Department of Newquay Zoo some years ago.

Blitz Bear is usually found in the children’s section of our wartime displays alongside handmade toys, some of which are on show in our wartime display cabinet, others on the BBC / British Museum History of The World in 100 Objects digital online museum (see our blogroll for address). The handmade toys, some by wartime absent fathers for their far off children, are especially poignant. Blitz Bear symbolises all those special toys taken away from home by evacuees or much-loved presents who symbolised home, parents and loved ones.

My mum was evacuated to distant relatives for much of the war and barely saw her dad for the duration of the war, especially during his naval service in the Pacific. Fortunately, unlike many others awarded the Burma Star for their travels, he returned.  There must be many others on Father’s Day who remember ‘absent fathers’, some of whom never came home because of wartime. Many of the zoo keepers who died on active service and who are remembered on the staff war memorials at London Zoo and Belle Vue left young children without a father.

Next weekend is Armed Forces Weekend, and our dig for victory gardening friends at National Trust Trengwainton Gardens, Penzance will be holding a 1940s day on Sunday 26 June 2011 with a later one planned for Open Heritage Saturday 10th September 2011. A chance to glimpse their wartime allotment project  – and of course to remember our many veterans and the current serving forces, many mums and dads who will be way from home this weekend on Father’s Day …  

Keep reading for more about our World War Zoo wartime gardens project on this blog or browse the archive posts since 2009. You can contact us on the comments page here or via the Newquay Zoo website. Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo.

The Plymouth Blitz 70 years on and Newquay’s lost wartime AFS firecrew remembered ..

April 21, 2011

AFS / NFS crews like those of the Newquay AFS rushing to action – pictured by fireman artist Reginald Mills from “In the Service of the Nation” a wartime publication for the NFS Benevolent Fund (image from the World War Zoo gardens project collection).

The 23rd April 1941 saw another Blitz night on Plymouth.

Racing to assist, the Newquay wartime fire crew were hit by a bomb as they arrived at Plymouth.

Reposted from our blog of 22/2 March 2011 (see our Archive posts), Newquay lost 5 of its volunteer fire crew  out of a total of 9 crew. 2 more were badly wounded.

The details of the 5 casualties are  from the Commonwealth War Graves site http://www.cwgc.org/search

GUY IVOR CAMERON  FEATHERSTONE, Age: 40 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Featherstone, of Green Gables, Pentire, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

ERNEST STANLEY  OLD, Age: 37 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Old, of 9 Trenance Road, Newquay, Cornwall, and of the late J. Old; husband of V. Old, of Endberry House, Berry Road, Newquay. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

BENJAMIN ARTHUR  PHILLIPS, Age: 32 Date of Death: 24/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. C. Phillips husband of Amy Phillips, of 63 Ulalia Road Newquay, Cornwall. Injured 23 April 1941, at Plymouth; died at Prince of Wales Hospital, Greenbank.

 STANLEY VINEER,Age: 38 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Husband of Gladys I. Vineer, of 9 Robartes Road, Newquay, Cornwall. Died at Market Street.

FREDERICK ROBERT ELFORD WHITING, (‘Bob’ Whiting)  Age: 28 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. R. M. Whiting, of Chumley, Porth Way, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

Pathe Newsreel 27 June 1940 ID No. 1290.27 features film  of  a ‘Robert Whiting’ of Newquay making puppet caricatures of topical personalities: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/puppets-2/query/smith

Photos of them are still proudly displayed alongside a memorial plaque at Newquay Fire station.

Lest we forget …

70th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz and a sad day at the zoo …

April 19, 2011

Working on a talk about wartime zoo experiences for the WAZA / SSNH/ Bartlett Society conference at Chester Zoo in May, I noticed the date on part of the 75th Belfast Zoo anniversary material  – 70 years ago today …

During World War II, the Ministry of Public Security said we must destroy 33 animals for public safety in case they escaped when the zoo was damaged by air raids.

On 19th April 1941, Mr A McClean MRCVS, head of the Air Raid Protection section, enlisted the help of Constable Ward from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Sergeant E U Murray of the Home Guard to shoot these animals. The animals included 9 lions (including cubs), 1 hyena, 6 wolves, 1 puma, 1 tiger, 1 ‘black’ bear, 2 brown bears, 2 polar bears, 1 lynx, 2 racoons, 1 vulture, and 1 ‘giant rat’ that is presumed to be a Coypu (a large rodent creature).

In the account in Juliet Gardner’s The Blitz, the  Head keeper is recorded as having been in tears as he watched.

Similarly, Japanese zoo staff were traumatised by carrying out official orders (from higher military or government authority) the ‘disposal’ of ‘dangerous animals’ in Japanese zoos, an event described in great detail in the newly published Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War II by Mayumi Itoh (Palgrave, 2010).

Lest we forget the sacrifices of staff and animals of zoos in wartime …

Of flower shows in wartime and today …

April 10, 2011

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

“Money spent on flowers, in moderation, is never wasted”

C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 26, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010) 

 “For the moment potatoes, onions, carrots and so on must receive our full attention: but we may look forward to the time when this nightmare will end, as end it must – and the morning will break with all our favourite flowers to greet us once more, and, who knows perhaps my next volume of talks will be of roses, mignonette, daffodils and lilies.” C.H.M, June 1941

C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 5, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010) 

 Our local Spring village flower shows in our Village Hall in Cornwall is one of our last important surviving celebrations of community, now our village post office and shops have gone. It’s a riot of daffodils, carefully tended blooms, cakes, Lego models, vegetable animals, cups of tea, children’s art from the preschool, cubs, school and Sunday school … oh, and the entrance is guarded by scarecrows!

Some of the Mother's Day posies at Newquay Zoo's first flower show, April 3rd 2011

A similar riot of colour and festival of goodwill happened this weekend at  the first Newquay Zoo Mother’s Day flower show. This was only two weeks after a very busy £2 for Locals Weekend with thousands and thousands checking us out before the season starts. Not since the decorated Easter bonnet parades through our Zoo Dragon Maze of the mid 90s have we seen such a crafty variety of hand-made posies,  tissue and egg-box paper flowers. These were all made by both boys and girls keen to get themselves in free to Newquay Zoo alongside their half-price (but priceless) mums at this Mother’s Day 2011 event.

It helped the ‘feel good’ mood that it was a beautiful sunny Cornish spring day, so hopefully there weren’t too many disappointed children at judging time.  We had some difficulty choosing ‘winners’ amongst the 54 posies on the competition table. Apparently my limited experience of judging WI competitions was what qualified me for this role, reprised when I was the guest of the very friendly St Stephen in Brannel WI this week. It was equally as difficult as judging the WI posies or animal photos when I go out to talk about the World War Zoo project and the other varied work of Newquay Zoo. (I always fear that some of the militant wing of the WI will let my tires down if I get the wrong result. Tony Blair learned to his cost not to mess the WI around).

Four posies as a whole family effort at the Newquay Zoo Mother's Day flower show.

Many more than 54 posies were carried around the zoo and back home (to houses with the lingering smell of burnt breakfast toast) by proud mums. A few posies ended up (accidentally?) in the mouths and paws of our zoo animals. I’m sure it would have done them no harm. We already grow or harvest buckets of fallen cherry blossom, willow sticks with catkins and leaves, unsprayed flowers and sunflower heads, especially for our monkeys. This year, we’ve planted Borage in the World War Zoo gardens for its edible flowers (both blue and the white Alba variety), sourced along with some “Tiger Mint” for our lions (it’s really ‘Cat Thyme’) from Jekka McVicar’s amazing herb farm www.jekkasherbfarm.com  Richard our ‘proper’ zoo gardener was looking a bit concerned about Borage’s successful self-seeding habits.  

My own lovely mum is going to be appearing soon as an exhibit at Newquay Zoo. Admittedly, she will be seated on top of her wartime Anderson shelter in my Grandad’s back garden in 1939. It is a treasured family photo, scanned for inclusion on the new interpretation sign being designed by Michelle Turton of Studio71  alongside the newly fenced, sandbagged, paved and spruced up wartime zoo keeper’s garden. The photo will do one important job for now, as I haven’t yet found a suitable Anderson shelter to erect alongside the wartime garden, much to Stewart Muir the Zoo Director’s relief. 

We hope that the sign will be in place for  our wartime garden event from May 28 to June 5th  2011 , running alongside our BIAZA Love Your Zoo! week of events http://www.biaza.org.uk. You can come along and follow our wartime garden trail, visit our “dig for victory garden” and display cases, and take home your very own wildlife garden sunflower in a recycled paper pot.  

Hopefully our roaming Gnome Guard-ener (mentioned on recent blog posts) will be back on duty from his travels to London, Spain, Devon … who g-nows where!

Wartime Mother's Days would have been familiar with the hand-crafted posy. These two recycled blooms (straws and scraps of tissue paper) were made by children for our first zoo flower show at Newquay Zoo April 3rd 2011.

And not forgetting dads – we’re aiming to beat our “1000 bears picnicking in the zoo” record of last year. This year’s Father’s Day Teddy Bear’s Picnic is on Sunday 19th June 2011 at Newquay Zoo. Dads get in half price, bears can get their under-14 owners in to the Zoo for free that Sunday. So bring your picnic rug, tasty treats and of course, favourite  bear along to the zoo.

Our wartime evacuee “Blitz Bear” will be lurking on duty in the World War

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.

Zoo garden that weekend …

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.

Of zoos and fire-fighting, today and in wartime …

March 22, 2011

Newquay Zoo Keeper Nicole Howarth doing fire training, Action Fire Protection training, Newquay Zoo, March 2011

Newquay Zoo Keeper Nicole Howarth doing fire training, Action Fire Protection training, Newquay Zoo, March 2011

Listening to the excellent coverage on BBC Radio Cornwall of the Plymouth / Cornwall Blitz material over the last few days, I was interested to hear that a Saltash or local SE Cornish fire crew had been killed attending the Plymouth Blitz, as this also happened to the Newquay AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) crew despatched to help Plymouth crews on 23 April 1941.

An up-country fire crew was despatched to replace them in Newquay afterwards. It is briefly mentioned in the late Bettye Grey’s book Oh Get On! http://www.narehotel.co.uk/about/book  all about Newquay tourism / life in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. I’m told by veteran BBC journalist (reired), Newquay Voice columnist and local boy Chris Blount that Bettye died only a couple of weeks ago but her memories live on in this lively little paperback.

I believe there is a memorial fire bell to the lost crew at Newquay Fire station.

I came across this Newquay fire crew story researching more for the World War Zoo project gardens here at Newquay Zoo. We’re busy preparing for our wartime garden display week in May half term (beginning 28th May for the half term week 2011) which will feature  amongst other areas this aspect of zoos, botanic gardens in wartime and their fire watch / fire training.

Training manual for AFS wartime fire staff, featuring the Coventry made pumps from another blitzed city and the much feared incendiary bomb. (Images: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

 

Fire is still something to be planned for in today’s zoo, with stores of hay and straw. Natural and man-made disasters affecting  zoos and aquariums are not unknown, and many zoo keepers thoughts are with their collegues in Japan at the moment:  http://http://www.waza.org/en/site/pressnews-events/press-releases/zoos-and-aquariums-affected-by-earthquake-and-tsunami-in-japan  gives more details. The response to wartime difficulties in Japanese zoos  is described   in the recently published book by Ms. Mayumi Itoh, Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War II, 2010, Palgrave MacMillan, New York (available via Amazon).

No stirrup pump here! Newquay Zoo bird keeper Gary Ward doing modern fire training with Action Fire Protection, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, March 2011

Ironically, the entire Newquay Zoo staff have just done our fire extinguisher and fire awareness training, so it is still something we  think about.

We have for the future ‘wartime zoo’ schools workshops and illustrations for the wartime zoo book and events displays an old stirrup pump (used post war by gardeners for watering and pest control), incendiary bomb and shrapnel, fireman’s tunic, helmet, axe, canvas bucket and other material. All this kit zoo staff would have used in their wartime role or part time work as firemen.  Much of the material will be displayed at our May half term wartime garden week (May 28th to June 5th 2011) – see the Newquay Zoo website for details (blog roll / links opposite) .

The details of the 5 casualties are  from the Commonwealth War Graves site http://www.cwgc.org/search

GUY IVOR CAMERON FEATHERSTONE, Age: 40 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Featherstone, of Green Gables, Pentire, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

ERNEST STANLEY  OLD, Age: 37 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. Old, of 9 Trenance Road, Newquay, Cornwall, and of the late J. Old; husband of V. Old, of Endberry House, Berry Road, Newquay. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

BENJAMIN ARTHUR  PHILLIPS, Age: 32 Date of Death: 24/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. C. Phillips husband of Amy Phillips, of 63 Ulalia Road Newquay, Cornwall. Injured 23 April 1941, at Plymouth; died at Prince of Wales Hospital, Greenbank.

 STANLEY VINEER, Age: 38 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Husband of Gladys I. Vineer, of 9 Robartes Road, Newquay, Cornwall. Died at Market Street.

FREDERICK ROBERT ELFORD WHITING, (‘Bob’ Whiting)  Age: 28 Date of Death: 23/04/1941 Additional information: Fireman, Newquay A.F.S. Son of Mrs. R. M. Whiting, of Chumley, Porth Way, Newquay, Cornwall. Injured at Plymouth; died same day at Swilly Hospital.

Pathe Newsreel 27 June 1940 ID No. 1290.27 features film  of  a ‘Robert Whiting’ of Newquay making puppet caricatures of topical personalities: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/puppets-2/query/smith

Lest we forget …

POSTSCRIPT

Two weeks ago the Newquay Voice newspaper and columnist Chris Blount produced a whole page feature on the lost 1941 Newquay Fire Crew. I also turned up more information  from Cornwall At War 1939-1945, Peter Hancock, Halsgrove,  2002:

Page 93

“From December 1940 Plymouth became one of the targets for so called Baedeker Raids, cathedral cities listed in the German’s pre-war Baedeker Tourist Guides. These reached their most devastating in March and April 1941. In towns as far away as St. Austell and Newquay people looked to the east to the glow of the blazing city lighting up the night sky. To help deal with the infernos, fire crews were dispatched to Plymouth from stations throughout Cornwall, as well as from the South of England. After a cold journey riding on the sides of the fire tenders, exposed to the elements, the men stayed as long as a week before they were stood down. The crews ate and slept when they could. They were assisted by the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), though they might not have been considered equals. These volunteers, men and women, worked either full time or part time. In Mid 1941 the AFS was combined with the regular fire service to form the National Fire Service under the Fire Services (Emergency Provision) Bill. The problem of incompatible hoses and standpipes was also addressed, as Cornish brigades had found themselves impotent when their hoses would not connect to some Plymouth water mains.”

 “Tragically on 21 April 1941 five volunteer firemen from Newquay were killed, while two others lost limbs. One of the survivors is recorded as saying, ‘It was strange, because nine of us were there and the explosion killed every other one in the line. Each alternate person was all right.” [Quote from the late Albert Trembath, quoted in The Cornish Guardian, 26 April 2001, p.28.]

“On the same night, an underground shelter in Portland Square, Plymouth received a direct hit from a high explosive bomb. 72 people were killed, with only two survivors. Six Saltash AFS men were killed whilst fighting a fire in King Street, Devonport … Between 21-25 April, during what became known as the ‘Five-Night blitz’ on Plymouth, 590 people including 17 firemen were killed. On 23 April 1941 Mount Edgcumbe House was gutted when it was struck by incendiary bombs.  The fire brigades were hampered through a lack of water, as well as by a UXB [Unexploded Bomb] that was reported at the Torpoint Ferry Entrance, causing all traffic to be stopped, proving to be a “serious handicap for Fire Brigades from Cornwall many of whom were stopped at Liskeard and diverted to Saltash”

[Quote from History of Incidents, S.E. Cornwall (Incident No. 61), Cornwall Record Office, Truro.]

An up country fire crew was despatched to replace the AFS crew  in Newquay afterwards. It is briefly mentioned in the late Bettye Grey’s book Oh Get On!  http://www.narehotel.co.uk/about/book  all about Newquay tourism / life in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Bettye Grey’s book excerpt, from pages 91 -92; this is taken from the first hardback edition known as Oh My Dear Life!, 2000, privately published, now available in paperback as: Oh Get On!

“In April 1941 with the blitz at its height the Newquay detachment of the AFS was sent for. By the time they arrived the city was ablaze and they had not even reached the pumps before their fire tender received a direct hit and five Newquay members of the crew were killed … The whole of Newquay grieved for those five brave local chaps. That night 1000 bombs incendiary bombs rained on Plymouth. The whole city burned. In all 17 firemen were killed and the centre of Plymouth had finally been completely destroyed.”

Of Gerald Durrell, wartime gnomes and gardens (and air raid shelters) in zoos … Spain and London latest

March 15, 2011

Our 'missing' wartime gnome sends another postcard home ... from the former air raid shelter tunnels at London Zoo.

Taking shelter at London Zoo September 1939, a sandbagged tunnel under the road (Zoo and Animal magazine, November 1939)

 

Our missing Gnome Guard-ener  from our recreation of a 1940s wartime zoo gardens project sends a message home. ‘Bert’ mysteriously disappeared over a month ago and reappeared first at Paignton Zoo, then has sent another card back from a wartime site at London Zoo:

They used this tunnel as an air raid shelter during World War 2. Unfortunately there wouldn’t have been this bright light then. It would have been cold dark and scary. Just looking at it makes me feel small! Love from your Gnome Guard!”

In our wartime collection of photos, you can see one end of the tunnel sandbagged, a tunnel usually used for moving pedestrians and elephants (which were evacuated to Whipsnade).  In many zoos, empty animal enclosures (London, Bristol, Edinburgh), slit trenches (Whipsnade),  underground aquariums  (Chester) and visiting Birmingham Botanic Gardens last week, underneath their bandstand! Evacuee Peter Pollard was present at Chessington Zoo when the zoo air raid shelters took a direct hit with many casualties – he’s interviewed on BBC Radio Cornwall (see website link on our blog roll).   

In the peace of Newquay Zoo, we’ve been busy fencing and smartening up our wartime garden at Newquay Zoo in advance of an expected to be busier than normal  weekend this weekend, 19 and 20th March 2011, for  our Locals weekend – £2 entry (with proof of Cornish address) – see our website www.newquayzoo.org.uk for details.

Hopefully our wartime Gnome Guard-ener will have returned in the next few months for May is proving busy – a talk at Chester Zoo about wartime zoos for members on Saturday 21st May and  a busy May half term week of activities  at Newquay Zoo celebrating both BIAZA’s Love Your Zoo campaign and our Newquay Zoo wartime garden weekend (May 28 – June 5th 2011 http://www.biaza.org.uk 

LATEST POSTCARD RECEIVED 23 March 2011

Have gnome, will travel ... Newquay Zoo's missing wartime Gnome Guard-ener makes it out from Cornwall to Devon and London to Spain! Bioparc Valencia,  March 2011

Have gnome, will travel ... Newquay Zoo's missing wartime Gnome Guard-ener makes it out from Cornwall to Devon and London to Spain! Bioparc Valencia, March 2011

Our roaming gnome has sent a postcard back from Spain – Bioparc Valencia hosted the EZE European Zoo Educators meeting recently, with several British zoo education staff attending. This is probably how Bert got there.

Unusual Bristih visitors in Spain are nothing new. Many unusual British volunteers fought against the ‘fascist’ forces in Spain in 1936, including writer Laurie Lee or observed the fighting  like journalist George Orwell.   

The memory of this civil war time and Franco era is still raw in Spain, as described in Giles Tremletts’ excellent book Ghosts of Spain.  We haven’t yet researched what happened to zoos such as Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War. The bombing of Guernica (famously pictured by Pablo Picasso)  gave British zoo staff planning for the next war a good idea of what to expect from aerial attack.

Whildst this was going on in late 1930s in Spain, not far away the young Gerald Durrell was exploring the animal rich nooks and crannies of the Mediteranean island of Corfu, famously described in My Family and Other Animals.

They also serve, who only sit and read ... Looking a bit like Gerald Durrell, 'Gerald' our replacement wartime Gnome Guard-ener (until the original one returns from his travels, pictured in The Cornish Guardian miniature copy). World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, March 2011

Soon after his return to wartime Britain, Durrell’s time at Whipsnade Zoo in 1945 as a student keeper are described in his other early books. Two mysterious gnomes arrived last week  in our lovely refenced, repaved garden (all work done by zoo builder John Murrell and Mike his garden volunteer). We have a stop-gap Gnome Guard-ener in place until Bert returns, which we have christened “Gerald”.  A slightly more expensive bronze statue of Gerald Durrell can be found at Jersey Zoo.With his cartoonist’s great sense of  humour and his love of travel, we’re sure Gerald would approve of the whole gnome escap-ade, our  wartime garden and its animal enrichment work, not disimilar to the poly tunnel market gardens at Jersey Zoo and now Paignton Zoo.


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