Posts Tagged ‘WW1 gardeners’

Somme 100 at Kew

March 16, 2016

Somme 100 at Kew

Kew’s upcoming First World War Centenary event ‘Somme 100 at Kew’ takes place on Wednesday 6 July 2016, 18:00-20:30.

The evening will include a drinks reception followed by a welcome address by Kew’s Director, Richard Deverell, and two fascinating talks in the Jodrell Lecture Theatre, with a Q&A session afterwards. Among the invited guests will hopefully be two living relatives of Kew staff who were on the Somme in 1916.

In a unique and poignant tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, Kew has joined forces with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to present this exclusive evening event.

Kew’s longstanding relationship with the Commission places us in a unique position to tell the story of the First World War in a new light, focusing on the relationship between people, plants, conflict landscapes and remembrance.

Please see this link for more details:

Our previous blogposts on Kew’s lost WW1 gardeners:




Remembering Driver Arthur William Bugg died 2 November 1915

November 3, 2015

Arthur William Bugg's picture.Source: from The WW1 Pictorial Roll of Honour,

Arthur William Bugg’s picture.Source: from The WW1 Pictorial Roll of Honour,

Remembering Australian Arthur William Bugg of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff who died on active service on or around  2 November 1915.

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree  (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

His Bugg family relatives met at the memorial tree earlier this year:

Arthur died at Heliopolis, Egypt on 2nd November 1915 aged 20 as a result of meningitis.

Cairo War Memorial Cemetery (image CWGC website)

Cairo War Memorial Cemetery (image CWGC website)

He is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt and is also remembered on the headstone of his maternal grandparents, William and Ellen Currell, in St. Kilda Cemetery, Melbourne. He is also remembered on panel Number 181 of the Australian National War Memorial.

Arthur William Bugg, remembered.

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree plaque (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff memorial tree plaque (Photo by Graham Saunders via Monuments Australia website)

Posted on 4 November 2015 (2 days late due to a scheduling error) by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Gardeners and zoo staff lost at the battle of Loos 25 September 1915.

September 26, 2015

100 years ago the Battle of Loos which began on the 25th September 1915 saw another sad list of casualties from the zoo and botanic garden staff that we have been researching.

Many of them have no known grave and are listed on the panels of the Loos Memorial to the missing.


Over the next few weeks up until 14th October 1915 at Loos, around 2013 officers and 48,677 men became casualties (of which 800 officers and 15,000 men were killed). British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German casualties.

The Battle of Loos was the largest British battle that took place in 1915 on the Western Front. The battle was an attempt by the Allies to break through German defences in Artois and Champagne.

The first day Sunday 25th September 1915 was when each of these men were killed.

In many places British artillery had failed to cut the German barbed wire in advance of the attack and many British troops were advancing over open fields, within range of German machine guns and artillery. The British were able to break through some weaker German defences and capture the town of Loos-en-Gohelle, mainly due to weight of numbers. Sadly British supply and communications problems and late arriving  reserves meant that any breakthroughs could not be exploited on that vital first day.

Sunday the 25th was an especially bad day for the volunteers and army reservists on the staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh serving with the 5th Cameron Highlanders.  Four of their number were lost on 25 September 1915. All four are remembered on the Loos Memorial, having no known grave.

Losses at Gallipoli to their RBGE colleagues in the 5th Royal Scots had also been steadily happening throughout 1915.

  • Willam Frederick Bennett, 5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – missing
  • Alan Menzies, 5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed
  • John Stewart,  5th Cameron Highlanders,  Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed
  • George Hugh Stuart,  5th Cameron Highlanders, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh staff – killed

Leonie Paterson and RBGE team have been blog posting the stories behind the RBGE men on their memorial. The losses at Loos and what happened to the 5th Cameron Highlanders are covered here:

About the four RBGE staff lost at Loos.

Lance Corporal S/10817 William Frederick  Bennett of the 5th Cameron Highlanders, aged 26,  is listed on panel 120A of the Loos Memorial having no known grave. CWGC list him as as the “Son of Anna Bennett, of 5, Holdings, Llanedarne, Cardiff, and the late William Bennett.” Bennett joined RBGE staff as Probationer in 1911, and enlisted in the 5th Cameron Highlanders on 29 August 1914 and served in Flanders for about five months before his death at Loos.

Private Allan Menzies, S/11385, died aged 21, serving with  “B” Coy. 5th Bn. Cameroon Highlanders, also remembered on Panel 122, Loos Memorial. CWGC lists him as the “Son of James and Mrs. Menzies, of 117, Scott St., Perth. A Forester in the Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.” Menzies joined the garden staff as a Probationer in August 1913 and like Bennett joined the Cameron Highlanders on 29th August 1914. He served for four months in Flanders before his death at Loos.

There are two John Stewarts died on 25 September 1915 serving in the 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders, both on the Loos Memorial. Both deserve to be remembered but RBGE list the following as their man:

  • Lance Corporal John Stewart, S/14592,  died aged 25, 5th Cameron Highlanders. He is also remembered on Panel 120,  Loos Memorial. CWGC lists him as the “Son of Mrs. Elizabeth Christina Stewart, of Carrick Place, Alloway, Ayr.”

Private George Hugh Stuart, S/14584, died aged 23 serving with 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders. He is remembered on Panel 123 A, Loos Memorial.

Second panel, Kew Gardens War Memorial D - M C.L. Digoy to P.T. Martin Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Henry James Longhurst, remembered on the Second panel, Kew Gardens War Memorial, London. 
 Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Belle Vue Zoo (Manchester) lost 33 year old private 22109 Frederick Lester Reid of the 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, formerly Private 16565 Manchester Regiment. He is also named on the Loos Memorial to the Missing, having no known grave.

Stockport born and raised, he left a widow and several children. CWGC lists him as the “Son of the late Peter and Mary Ann Reid; husband of Elizabeth Jessie Reid, of 256, Gorton Rd., Reddish, Stockport.”

There is more about his war service at  and the

Belle Vue Zoo's now vandalised war memorial - luckily the names, although hard to read, are inscribed in stone as the brass statue has been stolen. Image:

F.L. Reid listed  on Belle Vue Zoo’s now vandalised war memorial – luckily the names, although hard to read, are inscribed in stone as the brass statue has been stolen. Image:

Kew Gardens lost Rifleman Henry James Longhurst, R/7519, 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, who died aged 23 on 25th September 1915. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 101 / 102, Loos Memorial.

Born on February 3 1892, Longhurst is noted in his Kew Guild Journal obituary 1915/16 as “the first of our young gardeners to give his life for his country in this war” alongside W.H. Morland, another early Kew casualty at Gallipoli, who was then employed at  Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. He entered Kew on July 1913. He enlisted on November 21, 1914 and was killed in action “somewhere in France“, as we now know during the Battle of Loos.

Some of the many names panels on 15 foot high walls surrounding Dud Corner Cemetery's headstones - the Loos Memorial to the missing of this 1915 battle. (Image Source: CWGC)

Henry Longhurst is listed on one of the many name panels on 15 foot high walls surrounding Dud Corner Cemetery’s headstones – the Loos Memorial to the missing of this 1915 battle. (Image Source: CWGC)

The Anglo-Irish landed estates of Ireland, soon to be rocked by civil war and the Easter Rising of 1916, were already experiencing the same unsettling situation as English estates with the heirs lost and dynasties ending.

Charles Annesley Acton, heir to Kilmacurragh, killed 25 September 1915, Battle of Loos. Image Source: Kilmacurragh website.

Charles Annesley Acton, heir to Kilmacurragh, killed 25 September 1915, Battle of Loos. Image Source: Kilmacurragh website.

Charles Annesley Acton, heir to Kilmacurragh estate and gardens (now Botanic Gardens of Ireland) Was also killed on 25 September 1915.

When Thomas Acton died on August 25th 1908, his 32 year-old nephew, Captain Charles Annesley Acton then succeeded to Kilmacurragh. Born in Peshwar, India in 1876, he was educated following family tradition at Rugby and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

In 1896 he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and served with the regiment in Malta, Crete, Hong Kong, India and Burma. Following his uncle’s death Charles resigned his commission and settled for a gentleman’s life on the family estate … He continued to develop the estate and arboretum …

With the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Charles and many of the gardeners at Kilmacurragh headed for the battlefields on the French Front. On September 25th 1915, Charles Acton, while trying to assist a fellow soldier, was mortally wounded by an explosion at Loos. He was only 39.

Major Charles Annesley Acton, D Coy. 9th Bn Royal Welch Fusilers is also remembered on the Loos memorial, panel 50 to 52. CWGC lists him as “Of Kilmacurragh, Rathdrum. High Sheriff Co. Wicklow, 1913, and J.P. Served in Crete, 1898, and China Expedition, 1900. Second son of the late Col. Ball-Acton, C.B., and Mrs. Ball-Acton.”

You can read more of this story about how Kilmacurragh lost both  Charles and another heir in WW1 along with most of the gardeners and declined until rescued as part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland at

Later 1915 casualties

Later on in this month on 29 September 1915 London Zoo’s Sea lion keeper Henry Munro would be posted missing in Flanders,  and eventually judged to have no known grave is now remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial.

He was followed on 10th October 1915 by Kew Gardens pony boy private Frank Windebank and Sergeant H. J. Smith, both of the 7th East Surrey Regiment, killed on the same day and buried close to each other in Plot 1 of  Vermelles British Cemetery. During the Battle of Loos, Vermelles Chateau was used as a dressing station and Plot I was completed first. Smith and fellow Kewite Frank Windebank are buried at Vermelles Cemetery a  few graves apart with other 7th East Surreys.

We will post remembrance blog entries on the appropriate days.

All those who fought at the Battle of Loos, remembered.

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

War and Paice: Remembering Reginald James Paice undergardener Bagshot Park died 28.4.1915

April 27, 2015

Remembering Reginald  James Paice, undergardener, Bagshot Park,  who died of wounds in France on 28 April 1915, serving with  C Squadron,  Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars.

Part of the World War Zoo Gardens project here at Newquay Zoo involves looking at the impact that WW1 and WW2 had on the staff and activities  of zoos and botanic gardens and their related areas of science, gardening and horticulture. As an active memorial it also involves researching some of the lesser known names whose passing would not have been remarked outside their family, workplace, town or village. One such ordinary man was Reginald Paice.,%20REGINALD%20JAMES

Private R J Paice No 2078, died 28/04/1915 aged 26, serving in C Squadron Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. Paice is buried at Grave Reference: I. E. 158, Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord. He is listed as the “Son of Walter and Catherine Paice, of Park Farm, Frimley, Surrey” and as a “Native of Sandhurst”.

Bailleul Cemetery Extension where Paice lies. Source image: CWGC.

Bailleul Cemetery Extension where Paice lies. Source image: CWGC.

Bailleul in Northern France became an important railhead, air depot and hospital centre, with the 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 11th, 53rd, 1st Canadian and 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Stations quartered there. This links with Paice’s death of wounds.

The 1911 census records him living and working as part of a team of gardeners at Bagshot Park in Surrey

1911 census for Gardeners at Bagshot park including Reginald James Paice

1911 census for Gardeners at Bagshot park including Reginald James Paice

This census return gives a glimpse of a vanishing way of estate and walled garden life, beautifully caught by the BBC Victorian Kitchen and Garden series and in living gardens like Heligan.

At  the time Paice was employed as an Undergardener, the Head Gardener was Charles William Knowles (1857-1941) who was Head Gardener at Bagshot Park from 1903  until 1927.

Bagshot Park in Surrey has been owned by royals since Stuart times, then from 1942 the base of army chaplains until it recently became the home and farm estate of Prince Edward and The Countess of Wessex.
There is more about the history and estate staff at

Bagshot War memorial (Image from the Bagshot village website)

Bagshot War memorial (Image from the Bagshot village website)

Paice features on the Bagshot war memorial. It mentions his job and family:

“Reginald was born in Sandhurst in 1889, the eldest of the seven children of farmer Walter Paice (1859-1923) and his wife Catherine (b 1860). The family moved to Hall Grove Farm, Bagshot, about 1895. Reginald did not follow his father into farming but became an under-gardener in Bagshot Park.”

Farm boys and gardeners like Paice are likely to have had from a young age a good working knowledge of horses, perfect for the Yeomanry / Cavalry.

He is remembered on other local history websites such as the Frimley and Camberley memorial site :

1891 Census – Living at Sandhurst, Berkshire
1901 Census – Living at Hall Grove Farm, Bagshot, Surrey
1911 – Living at Bagshot Park, Bagshot, Surrey, in the 1911 census.

Reginald,  aged 21 in 1911, was working as a Gardener at Bagshot Park, which was then the residence of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.


Paice enlisted at Oxford into the local Yeomanry  regiment, the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. His regimental number suggests an enlistment date of September 1914.

Paice’s Squadron was then  posted to the B.E.F. in France, disembarking on the 24th of November 1914. His death date suggests actions relating to  the Second Battle of Ypres 22 April to 25 May. His service records do not seem to have survived.

Members of his family remember him on

The Oxfordshire Yeomanry or  Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars (or the “Queer Objects On Horseback”) regiment was formed on the creation of the Territorial Force in April 1908. It was headquartered in Oxford with Paice’s “C  squadron” nicknamed the Henley Squadron, being headquartered at Henley-on-Thames (Watlington, Theme and Goring-on-Thames.

There is a brief regimental summary for the QOOH WW1  on Wikipedia, as well as evocative pictures on these following websites, suggesting that these “War Horse” cavalry soldiers spent time digging and manning trenches as the stalemate of trench warfare began and the open war suited to cavalry receded. Churchill had a strong connection to this regiment, along with his brother Jack.

Interestingly Reginald’s brother Walter Gilbert Paice (Private 2350 or 2355) seems to have also been in the QOOH, appearing on the same WW1  service medal roll as his brother. It lists this former farmer’s son embarking for France on 16 April 1915 and being discharged on 26 July 1917  (presumably because of ill health or wounds). He died in 1974.

Remembered …

A gardener named Banks, Britain’s first air raid casualty 24 December 1914

December 24, 2014

Did you know that the first bomb from an aeroplane ever to fall on England in 1914 fell in a garden?

“Shortly before 11 o’clock on December 24th [1914] an aeroplane was seen flying down the valley and it dropped a bomb which burst in the kitchen garden of Mr T.A.Terson at the end of Leyburne Road [Dover]. The bomb was probably meant for the Castle and where it burst it did no damage beyond breaking adjoining windows  and throwing a gardener named Banks, who was working at St. James’ Rectory, out of a tree to the ground, slightly injuring him.

The Journalist, 1914

This intriguing story of a “gardener named Banks” makes him Britain’s first air raid casualty, but thankfully one who survived.

It  was featured as the opening panel of the Garden Museum London exhibition on Gardens and War (which ended 19 December 2014).


A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames,  Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames, Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

Whilst the famous Christmas Truce and football matches of No Man’s Land were unofficially happening in the front line trenches on land, in the air several wartime firsts were about to happen.

The spot (according to the Britain at War history magazine First World War) is now marked by a Blue Plaque from the Dover Society: “Near this spot on Christmas Eve fell the first aerial bomb ever to be dropped on the United Kingdom.”

The plaque is pictured on Ian Castle’s excellent website on WW1 air raids.

Ian is the author of two Osprey books London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace and London 1917-1918: The Bomber Blitz amongst other airship related that I have recently read, researching a 2015 blogpost about how zoos responded to the Zeppelin and aerial threat and featuring air raid related mentions from Edith Spencer’s 1917 civilian diary in our collection.

I am curious to see how people prepared for this new threat. London Zoo and Regent’s Park were in the flight path of several raids but thankfully spared air raid damage in WW1. The London Zoo was spattered with spent shrapnel from the “Archies” (Anti-aircraft guns) on Primrose Hill  and prepared against possible animal escape with firearms trained staff of “a special emergency staff of picked men was always on call. Heavy shutters were fitted to the glass fronts of the poisonous snakes’ cages” (Source: The Zoo Story, L.R.Brightwell, 1952). A long-term outcome of the WW1 air raid preparation was the provision of a First Aid post for visitors continuing after the war (Source: The Zoo, J. Barrington-Johnson, 2005).

Other wartime firsts
Three days earlier on 21st December 1914 a German seaplane dropped bombs in the sea near Dover Beach. However towns on the East Coast of Britain had been bombarded from the sea by German ships  on 16th December 1914 with a number of civilian casualties.

Within weeks on 19 January 1915, the first Zeppelin raid on Britain had taken place, aimed for London but diverted by bad weather to Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. The raids would eventually reach London on 31 May 1915.

The gardener in St James Rectory garden  reportedly pruning a tree for Christmas greenery was called variously James Banks or in some sources John Banks.

I have seen three different pilots named as the pilot responsible for the 24 December 1914 attack. Various sources ranging from Ian Castle, Neil Hanson’s First Blitz book to Dover history sites give a range of often conflicting details about the incident, no doubt down to wartime reporting restrictions and propaganda. The bomb appears to have been a single hand-held 22lb bomb, dropped by hand from 5000 feet  and probably aimed at Dover Castle from a FF29 Friedrichshafen  floatplane of the German Naval Air Service. It fell 400 yards from the Castle and created a crater ten feet wide in the gardens.

Tommy Terson was a local auctioneer and there are a few, no doubt, jokey Christmas references to him picking Brussel sprouts from the patch which was bombed!

The cook at the Rectory was reportedly showered with glass. The garden and window damage is pictured in the http://doverwarmemorialproject

Christmas Truce in the trenches, but in the air?

The next day the 25th December 1914  the same German Navy air force unit attacked again, aiming for London but dropping its bombs on  Cliffe Railway Station. The raid  was seen off over the skies above Erith  by a British Royal Flying Corps Vickers Gunbus from Joyce Green Airfield near Dartford.

This was the first aerial interception of an enemy aircraft over the United Kingdom of the First World War.

On this same day, there was an attack on German Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven on Christmas Day 1914, beyond the range of British air stations. This was known as “The Christmas Raid” with British Royal Navy Air Service RNAS seaplanes from a converted passenger ship HMS Engadine and HMS Empress. Whilst the raid was not that effective, all the pilots and 3 of the 7 seaplanes survived. It was to foreshadow aircraft carrier operations in the next war.

With these two days of bombing, the long road to the Battle of Britain and Blitz in 1940 had begun, with all the chaos that World War 2 caused to the people, animals and plants of British zoos and botanic gardens and in turn to European counterparts.

Aircraft of the period can be seen at air museums like the Imperial War Museum Duxford, RAF Museum Hendon and the Shuttleworth collection.

There is also an interesting and ongoing airfield restoration of a recently listed and most complete surviving WW1 air station at Stow Maries in Essex It’s also home to some very interesting wildlife, the area being used for filming part of the BBC’s The Great British Year in 2013.

Have a peaceful Christmas!

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

Lost Gardeners of World War One – 1914 and 1915

June 29, 2014

“It is to be hoped that we shall not have too many deaths to record among horticulturalists …”

wrote  a Versailles nurseryman in the October 24th 1914 edition of the Gardener’s Chronicle. It was to prove a false hope.

Reading through First World war period copies of The Garden, My Garden Illustrated and The Gardener’s Chronicle, it is possible to get some idea of the effects of the “Great War” on gardeners, their families and the parks or estates where many of them worked.

I’ve been researching since 2009 for the World War Zoo Gardens project based at Newquay Zoo how zoos and botanic gardens survived wartime and increasingly we’re asked about what happened in WW1.

The Garden 1917, edited by Herbert Cowley.

The Garden 1917, edited by Herbert Cowley.

The Gardener’s Chronicle is now available online in several places including at the Biodiversity Heritage Library Library online at the University of Amherst and other websites. The Garden Illustrated edited by Kew gardener and injured soldier Herbert Cowley is also available online at this and other sites.

In August 1914 within weeks of war being declared, already some estate owners had published or publicised the patriotic response of their gardens staff; Welbeck Abbey was one such estate which soon  became a military hospital and later army staff college.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassinated at Sarajevo in June 1914, one of the flashpoint triggers of WW1, was injured in a hunting accident there before the war.

At Rotherfield Park, Hampshire, Head Gardener Wilmot H. Yates joined the National Reserve, one of whose tasks was to guard Prisoners of War (Gardener’s Chronicle, 19 September 1914). POWs by the end of the war would be working on the land to replace the men killed or on active service.

G.B.Blackwell of Woodgreen Park Estate, Cheshunt, Herts proudly sent a photograph of 6 unnamed Woodgreen Park gardeners who had enlisted.

J.L. Veitch of the famous Nursery family was swiftly gazetted a Captain in the 7th Cyclists’ Battalion, Devonshire Regiment and saw action in France by Christmas 1914. He was one of many Kew Gardens trained men to be killed later in the war on 21 May 1918, an obituary being posted in the Gardener’s Chronicle on 1 June 1918. Later in the same month in 1914, 40 Kew Gardens men were noted as volunteered (see our Kew WW1 blogpost).

Baron de Worms of Milton Park was noted as having “sent 6 servants” or estate staff, along with a former South African / Boer War veteran Head Gardener William Gent on the National Reserve (see above), who was also liable for call up.

Notable was also the sons of older nurserymen being called up and for the professional soldiers and reservists amongst them, quickly being killed in the early battles of the war. This loss of heirs “and sons” would have an ongoing effect on historic houses and estate gardens, as well as nursery businesses for many years after WW1. It was to be part of the death and decline of many such gardens.

One correspondent ‘A.C.’ in The Gardener’s Chronicle of September, 19th 1914 notes that some gardens staff were leaving their gardens posts not only to enlist but also to avoid “coercion on the part of employers is to be deprecated.” Who was A.C.? It was common for many contributors to be known only by initails or a pen-name. There is a suggestion from Sarah Cobbold that this might be her relative Arthur Cobbold, brother of Kew WW1 casualty Sydney Cobbold, and a noted gardens speaker during wartime with such timely messages as “Help the War, Help Your Country, Help Yourselves by Growing Vegetables.” Sarah is also researching his literary activities, as Arthur also appeared to be a writer on gardening in The Manchester Guardian. Arthur was Curator of the Charles Darrah collection of Cacti at Alexandra Park Manchester for 30+ years until retiring in 1934.


WW1 soldiers gardening

WW1 soldiers gardening

War, Lord Derby and Knowsley Park
Interestingly for someone researching the effect of the war on zoos, Knowsley Hall (now home of Knowsley Safari Park) had extensive parkland and an exotic menagerie, once painted in Victorian times by Edward Lear. Many of its gardens staff joined up, supported by Knowsley’s owner the Earl of / Lord  Derby:

Gardeners respond to the Call
Eight young men from the fruit and plant departments of Knowsley [Park], the seat of the Earl of Derby, have volunteered or active service … Lord Derby will keep the places of the men open until the end of the war … Gardener’s Chronicle, 29 August 1914.

Lord Derby went on to set up the Derby Scheme to encourage more volunteers for the Army, but eventually conscription was introduced in 1916. Lord Derby served as Secretary of State for War from 1916 to 1918.

In the Second World War, parts of the grounds of Knowsley Park near Prescot were used as tank and army training. The craters were still visible when the Safari Park was created in 1971. There was also a No 49 SLG (Satellite Landing Ground) RAF Knowsley Park from May 1942 to November 1944, staffed by No. 37 and 48 MU Maintenance Units. Remnants of a P51 fighter were excavated from a crash site recently.

Knowsley Esate Prescot (now Safari Park) Tank Training 1940/1 IWM image collection English: The British Army in the United Kingdom 1939-45  Matilda II and Light Mk VI tanks of the Royal Tank Regiment on exercise in Knowsley Park, Prescot, near Liverpool, England, 25 July 1940. This training operation formed part of British preparations to repel the threatened German invasion of 1940.  Image source : IWM H2529/ Wikipedia

Tanks on the Lawn! Knowsley Estate Prescot (now Safari Park) IWM image collection The British Army in the United Kingdom 1939-45
Matilda II and Light Mk VI tanks of the Royal Tank Regiment on exercise in Knowsley Park, Prescot, near Liverpool, England, 25 July 1940. This training operation formed part of British preparations to repel the threatened German invasion of 1940. Image source : IWM H2529/ Wikipedia

Several times in the autumn of Gardeners Chronicle in 1914 the prospect of a “Gardeners Battalion” or Pals Battalion was suggested such as ‘CR’ 5 December 1914: and an eralier suggestion by W.N. Wright of Northampton on November 7th 1914, p.310:

‘Disruption of the Horticultural Trades’ 1914
The war beginning in the August 1914 harvest season caused much disruption to the horticultural trades. In The Gardener’s Chronicle of the 19th September 1914, boy scouts are noted as harvesting flower and vegetable seeds – in Germany!

Show and exhibition halls became drill halls, being quickly requisitioned for mobilisation and the wave of eager recruits enlisting as volunteers. Many flower and produce shows were cancelled, including wartime Chelsea Flower Shows, the proceeds of others gone towards “the relief of distress caused by the war“. Other nurseries offloaded stocks of flowers and produce patritiocally to hospitals.

The Gardener’s Chronicle featured news in French and Belgian for the many refugee Belgians who had fled to Britain to escape the fighting. Very quickly French and Belgian horticulture was affected as fighting swept through the countryside, destroying vulnerable areas like glasshouses and nurseries. News of casualties of notable gardens and gardeners were carried in these journals and a Societe Francaise d’ Horticulture de Londres continued to meet on the 1st Saturday of each month in London from 1915. The equivalent publication in France Le Jardin shut down at the start of the war by October 1914 as so many of its staff had been mobilised into the war effort.

Much the same happened in Britain in some nurseries and businesses like the Cheddar Nursery of George B. Mallett, who had enlisted in the Bristol Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment when the rest of his eligible staff had enlisted; his nursery business was ‘suspended’ (Gardener’s Chronicle, 26 September 1914).

George Bunyard’s nursery was also affected by the callup, maiantaing their full staff whicch appears to mean supporting the families of those men who had left to enlist and appealing for public support through sales from the horticultural trade to maintain this.

Many local newspapers featured advertisements for young or old garden staff, leading to a witty Punch cartoon by A Wallis Mills of May 19, 1915 about the demand for any available labour:

Lady: “I hear that your boy has left his last place and I thought he might come to us as a gardener.”

Cottager (mother): “Well, Mum, there’s been arf a dozen after im this morning. But I shall be very happy  to put you on the waiting list.”

It was in this market that many women gardeners would get their chance of work and experience, if only for a few years.

Punch 1915 cartoon on the demand for garden labour once enlistment  had removed many young men from garden work. (Source: World War Zoo Gardens collection)

Punch 1915 cartoon on the demand for garden labour once enlistment had removed many young men from garden work. (Source: World War Zoo Gardens collection)

WW1, Ireland and The Easter Rising 1916

George B Mallett appears to have survived the war, unlike Alan Livingstone Ramsay, a partner in his father’s Charles Ramsay & Son, Royal Nurseries, Ballsbridge Road, Dublin:

“volunteered for service on the outbreak of war and has been gazetted a lieutenancy in the Royal Irish Regiment. He left Dublin on Christmas Eve 1914 to join the second battalion of his Regiment at the front and was last heard of at Rouen” (GC, 9 January 1915).

Although he served in France, Ramsay was to die aged 26 on active service on 24 April 1916 fighting in his home town of Dublin. He was the first Dublin-born British Army officer to die fighting the Irish rebels in the Easter Rising for Irish independence of 1916. According to his CWGC records, he is buried in Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin. Catherine de Courcy’s excellent history of Dublin Zoo describes more about how the city and its Anglo-Irish institutions like the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland’s zoo fared during the uprising. You can read more about Ramsay and his family on a JSTor archive article from the Dublin Historical Record. 

There is more about how WW1 affected Anglo -Irish estates and gardeners in the WW1 Kew gardens blog post entries about Charlie Beswick and C.F. Ball, along with my ‘garden ghosts’ article on the BGEN website, mentioning lost gardeners from Glasnevin, Kilmacurragh and Fota Gardens in Ireland.  

Other gardens affected in 1914 / 1915

Mr James Whitton, Superintendent of the Glasgow Public Parks and Gardens Department records in the Gardener’s Chronicle of 3 October 1914, p.238 that his office clerk and five young gardeners had gone from the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Already  29 of its young men had volunteered for the Kitchener’s New Army of volunteers, more were expected to enlist, whilst Whitton’s own son was  already mobilised as a Captain in the 7th Scottish Rifles (Territorials)  and noted an enthusiastic reaction by other Territorials of the Lowland Scottish Division. Kew Gardens, Birmingham and RBGE Edinburgh Botanic Gardens would also steadily lose staff to the war.

The territorials appear to have been popular amongst the staff and men of some Nurseries such as Kelway’s, where James Kelway the Nursery Owner was Captian of the Langport Co of the Territorials (Somerset Light Infantry) and  precluded from serving (by age?) He notes that 25% of his eligible men were already enlisted – 24 men so far – in the Gardener’s Chronicle September 19, 1914, p. 205.

5 staff and 3 students had left Wisley to enlist (Gardener’s Chronicle, 12 September 1914) – a memorial exists for their fallen staff and they are blogging their research.

Messrs. Sanders and Sons notes from their orchid houses 12 out of 27 staff joined up including 3 Belgians, leaving behind a staff of “nearly all married and elderly” whilst at Chivers & Sons 40 joined the colours, many Reservists or Kitchener volunteers (Gardener’s Chronicle, 5 September 1914).

Other presumably smaller nurseries note single staff leaving such as P.C. Bridge, the travelling salesman from J. Cheal’s Lowfield Nursery joining the 25th County of London Regiment Motorcycle Section (GC, 12 September 1914). Bridge appears to have survived the war, unlike another Cheal’s man, Private Richard Hubert Holton, the son of Richard Henry and Sarah Holton,

“foreman at J. Cheal and Son’s Nursery, Crawley, Sussex to whom the deepest sympathy will be extended by his numerous friends in the horticultural world …” (Gardener’s Chronicle, 31 August 1918)

Private R.H. Holton, 201034, 1/4 Royal Sussex Regiment died in the closing months of the war aged 25, on 29 July 1918 and is buried at Jonchery-sur-Vesle British Cemetery, Marne, France.

Jonchery sur Vesle cemetery, France a post war concentration cemetery where Holton lies buried. Image CWGC website

Jonchery sur Vesle cemetery, France a post war concentration cemetery where Holton lies buried. Image CWGC website

Sutton’s Seeds and WW1

9 staff went from Suttons Seeds of Reading into the Territorial Force, along with several of Arthur Sutton’s sons, Eric and Noel quickly gazetted as officers. Arthur Sutton established a rifle range for his staff at Bucklebury Place.

Sutton was to lose most of his sons in the war, “of his five sons who have joined HM Forces, four have laid down their lives for their country” (Gardener’s Chronicle, 6 April 1918). His other son Leonard Noel Sutton was badly wounded. A fuller account of this is given in Richard Van Emden’s recent book, The Quick and the Dead. A memorial (UKNIWM#1940) survives to his sons and the staff of the Royal Seed Establishment (Sutton’s), listing 23 names, worthy of a separate blog post in future.

Several articles in 1914/5 and even adverts by Clay’s Fertiliser notes the bizarre development of trials by Sutton’s of using radioactive uranium to encourage lettuce growth! This substance would be put to an even deadlier and less optimistically constructive use at the end of the next war.

1916 onwards

After the Somme battles beginning 1st July 1916, I thought that long casualty lists would appear in the pages of Gardener’s  Chronicle and other journals in the weeks after July 1916 as  many of  Kitchener’s 1914 and 1915 volunteers, Derby scheme men and Pals battalions saw action. However surprisingly few obituary entries appear in the second half of 1916 and into 1917, although I’m sure the deaths and wounds of many ordinary gardens staff went unnoticed in the garden journals. We shall describe the effect on gardeners and the horticultural world after 1915 in the second part of this article in a future blog post.

Gardening, allotments and food production was soon to change gear with the unrestricted U-Boat warfare of 1917, loss of men, disastrous harvests and the spread of patriotic allotments along with food rationing in 1917 and 1918. Herbert Cowley’s editorials in The Garden Illustrated increasingly reflected this.

ww1 ration book

ww1 ration book

Gardening was also suggested as horticultural therapy during and after the war for recovering physical and mental health of returning veterans, something that has reoccurred recently through Gardening Leave with links to Chelsea Physic Garden and Royal Chelsea Hospital and other groups, again another blog story here for the future, illustrated with contemporary WW1 gardening journal links.


Inside a ww1 ration book

Inside a ww1 ration book

More on gardeners and gardens in WW1
You can also read more about Kew Gardens in WW1 and garden editor Herbert Cowley’s wartime career on our past blog posts.
The UK National Inventory of War Memorials has an excellent project blog post by Frances Casey on Lost Gardeners of World War 1 with many interesting links.

As we begin the WW1 centenary, many historic houses and gardens are marking their WW1 contribution. Some of these houses eventually became or diversified into becoming zoos and safari parks with the decline of the country house postwar after WW1 / WW2. Along with Heligan, other places such as Woburn Abbey are celebrating their contribution.

Exhibitions at the Museum of Garden History on Gardeners in WW1 and at Kew Gardens with wartime garden tours and exhibitions.

I look forward to talking in October at Kew Gardens about our wartime gardens  research at the KMIS talks -see and for its events and 2014/15 talks list.

I’ve also been researching a local Cornish village war memorial and writing recently  about food and farming in WW1 Britain.

Meanwhile its forward in time and back out onto the WW2 Dig For Victory allotment at Newquay Zoo to tidy up after some delicious and much needed days of rain and clearing all that has bolted in the recent hot weather, some to the animals at the Zoo, some to the compost heap.

Happy gardening,

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project , Newquay Zoo, 29 June 2014

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