Posts Tagged ‘zoos’

Saving energy and salvage in wartime – advice for today from Vicky Victory the Hair Aid Warden!

September 22, 2015

Salvage message in WW1 ration book (Image Source: Mark Norris, private collection)

Salvage message in WW1 ration book (Image Source: Mark Norris, private collection)

World War 1 and World War 2 both saw salvage and energy saving drives that are uncanny parallels of modern initiatives like ‘Pull the Plug’, the Pole To Pole challenge set up by EAZA European Zoos.

Encouraging positive behaviour change is nothing new, as we can see from these interesting items in our collection:

Energy saving WW2 style Bookmark (source: author's collection, on loan to World War Zoo Gardens project)

Energy saving WW2 style
Bookmark (source: author’s collection, on loan to World War Zoo Gardens project)

From the days before Twitter and Facebook, there are many examples from WW1 and WW2 of mini-messaging from bookmarks and  bus tickets to big broadcast messaging through posters (‘weapons on the wall’) and numerous information films.

inspire yr 6 ww2 doc

Posters are a great wartime study resource and the primary history Inspire Curriculum Year 6 WW2 unit suggest a poster design session to mix Art and Design with History.

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

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

You can  see the WVS website for posters and Imperial War Museum for wartime poster examples. There’s a COGS poster, the Squanderbug, etc  all downloadable for classroom use. You can also buy great reproduction Wartime Posters through the IWM  shop, I use these posters  in our Year 6  wartime zoo schools workshops.

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.

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

The Squanderbug is another of my wartime cartoon favourites.

salvage bus ticket WW2

Mini Eco- messaging examples 1940s style on 1940s bus and tram tickets. (Image Source: Mark Norris, private collection)

Mini Eco- messaging examples 1940s style on 1940s bus and tram tickets.

Save Steel - An encouragement to reuse rather than recycle, with Vicky Victory The Hair Aid Warden (USA) (Source: author's collection, World War Zoo gardens Project)

Save Steel – An encouragement to reuse rather than recycle, with Vicky Victory The Hair Aid Warden (USA) (Source: author’s collection, World War Zoo gardens Project)

Save Steel – An encouragement to reuse rather than recycle, with Vicky Victory The Hair Aid Warden (USA).

Salvage was not all as glamorous as Vicky Victory in the beauty salon.  It could involve,  as the WVS did, dragging village ponds for abandoned tyres as rubber became more scarce after December 1941 with the war spreading  in the Far East .

The WVS  have produced some excellent teachers resources  and picture gallery,  including of COGS “Children on Government Salvage” collecting scrap metal and school salvage clubs.

Energy saving became not only thrifty and money saving but also a patriotic duty in wartime. This was recycling at gunpoint!

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

Part of our wartime garden display 2010 on Make Do and Mend in wartime, Newquay Zoo World War Zoo Gardens collection

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Reduce Reuse Recycle is a modern way of looking at Make Do and Mend, involving zoo scrounging and recycling materials in unusual ways.

Chester Zoo still had visible in 2011 wartime concrete road blocks sold as Government Surplus to George Mottershead to build enclosures when building materials were scarce in the 1940s.

Newquay Zoo's wartime roaming 'gnome gaurd-ener' in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Newquay Zoo’s wartime roaming ‘gnome gaurd-ener’ in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Our Modern Energy Saving Challenge

The parallels between wartime and peacetime challenges are explored in the interesting New Home Front reports including their poster competition modern ‘wartime’ propaganda posters http://www.newhomefront.org/

Phil Wellington's winning modern 'wartime' poster for the New Home Front Report No. 2 (Image Source: http://www.newhomefront.org)

Phil Wellington’s winning modern ‘wartime’ poster for the New Home Front Report No. 2 (Image Source: http://www.newhomefront.org)

Energy saving  is now a big challenge in peacetime for a modern Zoo or Botanic Garden – how to look after our rare  animals and plants in the most environmentally friendly way, and how to involve our visitors in positive behavioural change for wildlife.

Recently throughout 2014/15 many zoos have run ‘Pole to Pole’ activities as part of this EAZA European Zoo Association campaign.

We have got through thousands of leaflets to visitors, amongst other activities, as well as continuing our ongoing energy audit which is part of our past Green Tourism Gold award and current ISO 14001 accreditation.   You can learn more about this here on our Newquay Zoo website page. and some good links on our Paignton Zoo website page. pole to pole leaflet

The Two Degrees is the Limit Campaign 2015

Scientists are clear about the devastating effects on human well-being, the natural world and its biodiversity that man made global warming above 2⁰C will have. As part of the Pole to Pole Campaign of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, website and zoo visitors signed the petition  to demand the commitment of our national governments and the European Union to support all measures which help keep global warming under the 2⁰C limit, and to work towards a binding global agreement at the intergovernmental meeting on climate change in Paris in December 2015.

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

 

Remembering Merchant Navy day 3 September from a zoo keeper’s perspective

September 3, 2015

mercahnt navy the common task punch3 September is Merchant Navy Day.

The Punch cartoon “The Common Task” chosen above  from my collection symbolises the past and future challenge of food security. Here the Dig for Victory Gardener is as important as the Merchant Navy, whose lives in convoys were at risk to bring food and other precious resources to our island and worldwide  during both World Wars.

This “Common Task” was a common theme in many gardening publications during both world wars.

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

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

Since 2000, Merchant Navy Day on 3 September has honoured the brave men and women of the UK amongst many nations who kept our island nation afloat during both World Wars. It also celebrates our dependence on modern day merchant seafarers who are responsible for 95% of the UK’s imports, including half the food we eat.

london zoo infographic ww1

“A year’s food for London Zoo” infographic from an unknown magazine by W.B. Robinson 1920s/ 30s (Image Source: Mark Norris, private collection)

In wartime this involved not only human food but many of the foods that zoo animals would need, if they could not be home-grown. This is a past and future challenge we have been researching through our World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo.

This year Seafarers UK is campaigning for the Red Ensign, the UK Merchant Navy’s official flag, to be flown on 3 September on public buildings and landmark flagstaffs. More than 400 Local Authorities have been asked to get involved.

I saw the Red Ensign flying outside the Truro Harbour Commissioner’s office on my travels this morning.

Like many coastal communities, many Cornish ports and harbours lost many sailors and fishermen in both world wars, with the knock-on effect on families, communities and incomes for generations.

The names of many of those lost at sea are remembered on the huge Tower Hill memorial in London which I visited last year whilst doing a talk at Kew Gardens.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

WW2 section Tower HIll memorial representing the 24,000 missing Merchant Navy sailors and fishermen (Image: mark Norris)

Statues on the  WW2 section Tower HIll memorial represent the 24,000 missing Merchant Navy sailors and fishermen “who have no grave but the sea” named on its panels. There is more about the memorial on the CWGC website.

You can see pictures of this memorial, its statues and the impact on just one Cornish creekside village that I have also been researching through the names on its war memorial:

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/lost-devoran-sailors-on-the-merchant-navy-memorial-tower-hill/

Remembering the many brave men and women and their families of the Merchant Navy today, 3 September, past and present.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh commemorate WW1

September 19, 2014

Much has been made by politicians on various sides of the Scottish Referendum in the 1914 centenary year about the contribution of Scottish people to the Allied war effort in World War 1.

In the week of the Scottish Referendum, I received a surprise email from Ann Hill about a press cutting in the Downs Mail Maidstone online edition for September 2014, asking if I had any more information or contact with relatives of Walter Henry Morland? The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh are looking for relatives of their fallen staff, including Morland who worked at Kew Gardens as well as Edinburgh. Through the World War Zoo Gardens project I have met or heard from several relatives of keeper and gardener casualties from London Zoo and Kew Gardens.

At last a photo of Walter Morland, part of Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh search for Walter Morland's relatives, Maidstone Downs Mail September 2014

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh search for Walter Morland’s relatives, Maidstone Downs Mail September 2014

I had come across Walter Morland through his Commonwealth War Graves Commision entry as a “rose garden specialist” when researching the lost staff of RBG Kew Gardens, alongside Sydney Cobbold, . Staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh have been putting together a display, alongside a poppy lawn sown by staff and Scots military veterans.

The Scotsman – Wednesday, 22nd July 1925

BOTANIC GARDENS WAR MEMORIAL.

Sir Lionel Earle, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., C.M.G., Secretary of H.M. Office of Works, yesterday afternoon unveiled a memorial tablet to the twenty members of the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens staff who gave their lives, in the Great War. The tablet is in the entrance hall of the laboratory. About a hundred relatives and members of the staff were present. Sir Lionel Earle said the memorial served a double purpose. Firstly, it was a lasting testimony to the members of the staff who sacrificed their lives for the great cause; and, secondly, it was a memorial to Sir Isaac Bayley-Balfour, late botanist, administrator, and agriculturist, who did so much for the Botanic Gardens. It had been Sir Isaac’s last wish that a memorial to these men be placed in the entrance hall. The Rev. E. C. Houlston, B.D., officiated at the service, which concluded with the sounding of the “Last Post.”
Extract taken from the Scottish War Memorial project website

I had come across photos of the memorial to the RBG Edinburgh staff photographed on the Scottish War Memorials Trust website.

What I hadn’t seen was the Roll of Honour of all the RBG Edinburgh staff which isaccessible on their website. In a future blogpost I  will look more closely at the details in case as with some information that I’ve found on other sites during  my research  has become unavailable over time.

Knowing that Walter Morland had died at Gallipoli on 2 May 1915 and having an interest in Gallipoli where one of my relatives served, I was surprised to read how many of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh men had served or died at Gallipoli, all as a result of serving at the hard-pressed 5th Battalion, The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), obviously the local regiment for many of these Edinburgh men.
Breifly, the http://www.1914-1918.net/royalscots.htm webpage lists the 5th as 1/5th Battalion (Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles)
August 1914 : in Forrest Hill, Edinburgh. Part of Lothian Brigade, Scottish Coast Defences.
11 March 1915 : transferred to 88th Brigade, 29th Division at Leamington Spa.
Sailed from Avonmouth 20 March 1915, going via Egypt to Gallipoli 25 April 1915.
Returned to Egypt 7 January 1916.

Brabyn’s other surviving RBGE colleagues in the 5th Royal Scots then fought in France, after their service in Gallipoli.
Moved to France, landing at Marseilles, 10 March 1916.
24 April 1916 : transferred to Lines of Communication.
15 June 1916 : amalgamated with 1/6th to become 5/6th Battalion (due perhaps to decimation of numbers?)
29 July 1916 : transferred to 14th Brigade, 32nd Division.

Some of Walter Morland’s RBGE colleagues in the 5th Royal Scots served and thankfully survived to be demobilised in 1919, no doubt to see the war memorial erected.

It is good to see many organisations taking time  to commemorate the service and sacrifice of  their past staff and families.  It is also good to put a name to a face for Walter Morland at last, gone but definitely not forgotten. As Lawrence Binyon phrased it in his poem “For The Fallen”, published in the Times 100 years ago this week, “We Shall Remember Them”.

I hope that somebody eventually makes a family connection with Morland and his colleagues, so  are able to help RBGE and the research of its archivist Leonie Paterson at commemorate@rbge.org.uk

I will talk more about some of these lost Gardeners from zoos and botanic gardens in my forthcoming KMIS / Kew Guild related talk about may World War Zoo Gardens research and the blogpost research ‘Such is the price of Empire’ (a quote from Walter Morland’s Kew Guild Journal obituary) at Kew Gardens on the evening of the 20th October 2014. Check the http://www.kew.org events and what’s on section for details.

Digging into Bristol Zoo’s wartime garden past – mystery photograph solved!

July 31, 2014

The mystery garden supplying Bristol Zoo Gardens pictured in The Bristol Post Jan 1946 (Source: Bristol Zoo gardens archive / Bristol Post)

The mystery garden supplying Bristol Zoo Gardens pictured in The Bristol Post Jan 1946 (Source: Bristol Zoo gardens archive / Bristol Post)

I was recently sent an intriguing photo of ‘Jan 1946 Dig for Victory’ or ‘Dig for Plenty’ efforts somewhere in Bristol, connected to feeding the animals, staff and visitors of Bristol Zoo. It had turned up towards the end of  the writing of Alan Ashby, Tim Brown and Christoph Schwitzer’s ‘s excellent recent history of Bristol Zoo gardens as part of their 175th birthday anniversary (available through their webshop.)

The photograph had come to light or not been included as the location was unattributed until after the book was published, despite work by PhD students Sarah-Joy Maddeaus, Andy Flack and John Partridge on the Bristol Zoo staff. This was the case with several other wartime episodes that Alan and I had uncovered after publication.

Did I know where this productive garden was?

Could I find out with help from appeals through Bristol Newspapers, Bristol museums or zoo archives?

The answer turned out to be surprisingly close to home, Alan told me on his recent visit to Newquay Zoo’s wartime garden   with another fellow Bartlett Society for Zoo History research member Rob Vaughan. We were busy looking at Newquay Zoo’s enclosures, old and very new like the new Macaw Flight aviary.

Alan accidentally answered his own question on a trip to Wild Place, Bristol Zoo’s long established outstation on the old Hollyhill Wood or  ‘Hollywood Towers’ estate near Cribbs Causeway motorway interchange at Bristol, which recently opened to the public in summer 2013. (See their Wild Place  facebook page too). You can read about its garden history and tower here and about its development on its Wild Place Wikipedia page

68 years later, the other side of the garden wall today, Wild Place, Bristol, 2014  (Picture: Alan Ashby)

68 years later, the other side of the garden wall today, Wild Place, Bristol, 2014 (Picture: Alan Ashby)

 

Even more surprisingly, Alan found nearby another familiar structure from wartime gardens, what looked like a tool shed but originally the garden’s air raid shelter! The building with the chimneys over the garden wall  is still standing, another object that helped Alan Ashby  place the picture.

What could well be the original air raid shelter, now Wild Place, Bristol, 2014 (Photo: Alan Ashby)

The original air raid shelter, Sanctuary Garden,now Wild Place, Bristol, 2014 (Photo: Alan Ashby)

This shelter in their Sanctuary Garden is also pictured on their Wild Place project Facebook page entry for Remembrance Sunday last year 2013.

Wild Place project Facebook photos Sanctuary Garden wartime shelters, covered in edible nasturtiums!

Wild Place project Facebook photos Sanctuary Garden wartime shelters, covered in edible nasturtiums!

There is a brief history of the Hollywood Tower estate (which survived intact into the 1950s/60s) on the Parks and Gardens site with information from the Avon Gardens Trust.

Bristol Zoo Gardens as its name suggests is famous for its gardens, lawns to lounge on and floral displays, transformed in wartime into vegetable beds much to the dismay of its gardens staff. This tradition lives on with gardens used to transform old enclosures and enrich animal lives, much as we do with plants at Newquay Zoo. The Bristol Zoo Edible Garden is one such very successful gardens project at Bristol Zoo set up by Head Gardener Eddie Mole and team.

I love walled gardens and this walled garden reminds me very strongly of the garden restoration at Heligan in Cornwall but also the wartime garden restoration at Trengwainton (National Trust) Garden in Cornwall, where we took our World War Zoo Gardens travelling display along to their wartime garden recent 40s event, pictured here.

Another interesting wartime zoo garden mystery solved and another interesting set of gardens and amazing animals to go and see!

More on Bristol Zoo’s archives, recent 175th anniversary and history including WW1 pictures here along with interviews with John Partridge some fabulous film footage of Bristol Zoos’s gardens including the gardens with uniformed visitors  in the 1940s (with elephants!)

Happy National Allotment Week 4 – 10 August 2014 – see also our previous post on this event.

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

National Allotment Week 4 – 10 August 2014 in the World War Zoo Garden at Newquay Zoo

July 30, 2014

WW1 soldiers gardening

WW1 soldiers gardening

As an unlikely part of the National Allotment Society NSALG, we at Newquay Zoo like to mark the National Allotment Week in some way on our recreated wartime zoo keepers allotment.

Although the focus of our recreated wartime zoo keeper’s allotment is WW2’s Dig For Victory campaign, we have increasingly been asked about zoos, allotments and gardens in World War 1. part of the focus of Allotment Week this year is the WW1 heritage being commemorated around Britain http://www.1914.org

“The week is also an opportune time to highlight the need to strengthen the protection for our remaining allotment sites and emphasise the benefits allotments bring to people and the environment. The 4 August 1914 saw Britain declare war on Germany and although allotments had existed in the UK from the 18th century, the ensuing food shortages lead to the creation of the local authority allotments that we recognise today. Their numbers have waned considerably but 100 years later working an allotment plot remains a popular pastime. This contribution that allotments make to the health and well-being of people and the quality of the environment is generally acknowledged and has been endorsed by many studies but there is much competition for land in our crowded urban environments and, although protected by legislation, allotments are vulnerable …” (NSALG website)

Allotments on the railway side, South West, WW1 (unnamed magazine photo in author's collection)

Allotments on the railway side, South West, WW1 (unnamed magazine photo in author’s collection)

 

Over the next week, I’ll be changing our small permanent display case in the Tropical House at Newquay Zoo, adding some WW1 material amongst the WW2 Dig for Victory material (such as WW1 ration books, recipe books and postcards). Along with WW1 medals and stories of Keepers in WW1, this will show how the experiences of WW1 prepared zoo and gardens staff for surviving WW2 – what was similar and what was very different?

Display case of wartime memorabilia, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

More on zoos, gardeners and gardens and WW1 commemoration

We have previously written about the WW1 losses at ZSL London Zoo Regent’s Park, who are planning their own WW1 exhibition. For example one of their zoo gardeners Robert Jones was killed, alongside many keepers and other staff:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/remembering-lost-wartime-staff-of-zsl-london-zoo-in-ww1/

and at the now closed  Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/remembering-zoo-staff-killed-on-active-service-poppy-days-are-here-again-in-the-world-war-zoo-gardens-at-newquay-zoo/

 

Spades as Trumps - allotments and an early version of Dig For Victory WW1, The War Budget, 1917

Spades as Trumps – allotments and an early version of Dig For Victory WW1, The War Budget, 1917

 

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, demolition or diversification of the country house postwar after WW1 / WW2. Port Lympne was one such estate, Woburn, Knowsley and Longleat amongst others. Along with Heligan, other places such as Woburn Abbey are celebrating their contribution.

I wrote an article about this last year for the BGEN botanic gardens website on their free resources, all about using your garden or site heritage.

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 to zoo and gardens staff memorials.

Exhibitions  on Gardeners in WW1 and at Kew Gardens with wartime garden tours and exhibitions. I look forward to talking on 20th October at Kew Gardens about our wartime gardens research at the KMIS talks – see www.kew.org and www.kewguild.org.uk 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.

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

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

The lights will be going out all over Europe on the evening of the 4th August http://www.1418now.org.uk/lights-out as part of wider 1914 centenary activities, see http://www.1914.org events.

Happy gardening, and happy National Allotment Week 4 to 10 August!

More pictures of our allotment in summer soon, resplendent with artichokes and broad beans before the animals get to eat them!

Mark Norris, World War Zoo

Not just zoo animals get adopted, even wartime allotments get Christmas presents …

December 14, 2013

oxfam unwrapped ecardChristmas is often a challenge to find the right gift, which is why we do lots of Christmas experience gifts and animal adoptions at Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo. Many zoos do this gift scheme – you can find your local BIAZA zoo in Britian and Ireland on the BIAZA website.

Animal adoptions were one innovative wartime solution to shortage of funding to feed the animals especially when zoos closed at the outbreak of war for weeks or sometimes months in 1939. Both Chester Zoo and London Zoo claim to have first set this up in 1939/40, a scheme which was picked up by other zoos and has never stopped.

Our wartime allotment has just received another Christmas card this year again in 2013 – by email! It was a lively Oxfam Unwrapped allotment gift e-card with a little Christmas message: “This Xmas gift of an allotment is one way of linking the allotment and project work of the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo with what is happening in troubled parts of the world today.” Maybe a new Oxfam  allotment in Afghanistan is our first informal twin.

It is very appropriate twinning as Oxfam itself was born out of a humanitarian response to wartime famine in Greece in the 1940s. You can find out more about the allotment gifts at Oxfam’s  website http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped/gardeners/plant-an-allotment-ou7026ag

As the Oxfam e-card went on to say – “More budding UK gardeners are discovering the joys of growing their own. But for many poor women and men an allotment isn’t just a way of saving on the weekly shop, it’s how they feed their families and earn a bit extra to buy other essentials. And this gift will supply the tools, seeds and training to create working allotments that will produce a lot more.”

I was really pleased to hear that “As part of this project in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, Oxfam is helping women to establish kitchen gardens on their land to supplement their income and their family’s diet. Oxfam provides the training and distributes the seeds for the women to grow a variety of vegetables and crops. The extra produce that the family cannot eat is sold at local markets.”

Shirin Gul is one gardener who has been reaping the benefits after Oxfam distributed seeds in her village: “It’s very expensive to buy vegetables here in the mountains. I am lucky as I have a plot of land. Our family has always grown vegetables on this plot – but the Oxfam seeds mean the amount and variety of vegetables that I grow has increased. It used to just be potatoes, onions and egg-plants but now I have tomatoes, beans, squash, lettuce, cucumber – oh, everything.”

Zeinab, from the nearby village of Sah Dasht, is also a lady with green fingers. Her garden is full of produce. There are beans, potatoes, okra and tomatoes all ready to be picked. “I had never really done much farming before though I did grow potatoes but Oxfam gave me some training to help me grow the maximum amount of vegetables.”

I’m very pleased that one  Oxfam project area is Afghanistan. Each year at Newquay Zoo’s Christmas carol service (which ran for almost 20 years until this year),  the retiring collection was usually for our conservation projects at the zoo and overseas, some of them in former war-afflicted areas like Vietnam. Ten years or more ago in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001/2, I can remember asking visitors for contributions to the global zoo effort to support the recovery of  Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan which had suffered under the Taliban. There also can’t be many of us who don’t know a service family with relatives who have served there in the last ten years or are spending a wartime christmas away from home on active service.

In the next few days I will be posting about the 70th anniversary of the Mucks Mauler Liberator US aircraft crash on he Newquay coast on 28 December 1943. Relics of the plane were exhibited at Newquay Zoo’s wartime displays in the past.

It will soon be time to plan the spring planting to provide a small amount of fresh food for our zoo animals as they did in wartime. It’s time to flick through plant catalogues and plan planting schemes. You can also read through previous Wartime Christmas blog posts on this website.

2014 will be a busy year with the start of the commemoration of the Great or First World War http://www.1914.org We will continue posting about zoos, botanic gardens and allotment gardening in the First World War throughout the year.

I wish all a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year 2014  to our blog readers, zoo visitors, zoo staff, their animals and gardeners everywhere.

Last wartime letters of Peter Falwasser, Chester Zoo aquarist 1916 -1942

February 7, 2013

Arriving at the office in Oakfield House in Chester Zoo  70 years ago this week, the first week of February 1943, the wartime postman (or more likely postwoman) carried  some sad news.  One letter was  postmarked Manchester 31 Jan 1943 (about the time and date that I draft this blog 70 years on) and stamped with an attractive orange  2d and green 1/2d stamp bearing the portrait of the Queen’s father George VIth. Within was a short handwritten letter on one piece of paper:

“I feel sure that you will be sorry to hear of the death of my brother, Peter Felix Falwasser, whilst on active service in the Middle East. He died in hospital on December 23rd as the result, no  doubt of  the serious injuries he had received at Tobruk a long time ago. Subsequently he had operation but he seemed to have made a good recovery. He had for some time been on base duties at GHQ, so that his death, when seeming to be comparatively safe, comes as a severe blow…” (letter by John F Falwasser to the Mottershead, 30/1/43, Chester Zoo Archive).

Selection from letter 27 March 1941 reprinted in Chester Zoo Archive Zoo News, 1942/3

Selection from letter 27 March 1941 reprinted in Chester Zoo Archive Zoo News, 1942/3

This letter is filed away in  the archive of Chester Zoo  amongst hundreds  of letters to and from its enterprising founder George  Mottershead, saved  by the zoo and his daughter June over many decades.

Among this archive has recently come to light a small batch of four poignant letters written by or about  the zoo’s early aquarist in the 1940s, Peter Falwasser.

 “Possibly you had heard from him””, John Falwasser’s letter continues, “but in any event you will like to know that his interests in wildlife and nature were most helpful to him while on Active Service & during a recent leave to Palestine.”

Peter was a 26 year old ‘bomb casualty’ of the desert war, buried in a trench during an attack by a German dive bomberat Tobruk. He lost two of his mates who died from their injuries, lost the hearing in his right ear and received back and chest injuries which put him in the 63rd General Hospital hospital in Egypt for four months. In the same letter (opposite), he describes the wildlife he’d seen. He went back on active service to his regiment in 1942. Gunner P.F. Falwasser, 952126, (Rocket Troop, B/O Battery) 1st Regiment Royal Artillery, Middle East Forces  is buried in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission hospital-linked cemetery at Heliopolis, near Cairo in Egypt.  A photograph taken by the Rogers family of Peter’s grave in Egypt can be seen online at the excellent website of the  The War Graves Photographic Project.  

Peter had written three other surviving letters, one of which was already part published in the Chester Zoo News, all about the wonderful range of fish, birds and other wildlife he hoped to bring back to Chester Zoo after the war. Peter’s last letter to the zoo arrived in the same post as the one from his brother, announcing his death. These letters are a gift to a zoo historian studying wartime conditions in zoos, full of his questions home which prompt other questions 70 years later:

“I often wonder how the zoo is jogging along and whether attendances are keeping up. Rationing of foods must be making things very difficult for you. Since I have been abroad I have twice visited the Cairo Zoo …” (Undated letter to George Mottershead by Peter Falwasser, 1941? 1942? Chester Zoo Archive)

” I often wonder how things have been going on at the Zoo especially through a wartime winter? The only news I have of your activities was a small newspaper cutting sent by my sister concerning the removal of certain animals from Bristol Zoo to Chester Zoo for the war’s duration. This I took as a good sign that the Zoo was still flourishing & I hope it continues to do so … Raids on Liverpool have given me some qualms as to the safety of the zoo  … .” (Letter to George Mottershead by Peter Falwasser, 27 May 1941 falwasser 2, Chester Zoo Archive)

Chester Zoo and its ‘new’ aquarium continues to flourish, 70 years on, in its own way a fitting testament and memorial to the memory and hard work of ‘Mr Mott’, his daughter June and keepers like ‘gentle Peter’ Falwasser (as June describes him in her memoir Reared in Chester Zoo)

“I was very pleased indeed to hear that you have had a record season and really wonder how you have managed it. I’m afraid that any other man would have given in long ago … I should be interested to know what staff you have now and what you have lost in the way of the parrots … as seed became scarcer and more expensive …  I am sorry that Chester Zoo’s aquarium had had to be neglected owing to lack of interest  on the part of the staff. What have you got left and are you still using all the tanks?” (Letter to George Mottershead by Peter Falwasser, 10/11/42, Chester Zoo Archive).

This letter is likely to be his last letter, the one mentioned in Chester Zoo News (all of which newsletters are scanned an available on Cd disk from Chester Zoo’s library). With this last letter is Peter’s photograph of a lion from Tel Aviv Zoo, Palestine, dated 19th Oct 1942.

Peter knew the  Chester Zoo aquarium that he and the young schoolgirl June Mottershead created in the basement of Oakfield House was not faring well. This happened to many wartime aquariums, big and small. Oakfield House is still open for dining and conferences,  part of the attractive gardens of Chester Zoo. As a result  I have spent  several convivial meals and evenings during zoo conferences  below the ground floor there, little knowing what hopes of a fine wartime fish collection and of a zoo career after the war were frustrated by Peter’s  death. His letters were full of plans for the new aquarium after the war, and notes on species to stock:

“If things come out OK after the War, you must build a good reptile house in place of the old greenhouse and as time goes on a Sea Lion Pool as I feel that both would be good attractions; they only have a couple of Sea Lions at Cairo but there is usually as big a crowd there as anywhere. They charge each person 1 pt (two and a half old pence) to throw one fish into the pool, quite a good money maker.”  (Letter to George Mottershead by Peter Falwasser, 10/11/42, Chester Zoo Archive).

At my home zoo at Newquay, where the World  War Zoo Gardens project is run from, we fundraise in the main season in much the same way by selling sprat fish to visitors to feed our Humboldt’s Penguins during keeper talks.  Newquay Zoo Has Chester Zoo links in that Peter Lowe an ex- Chester keeper designed and ran the zoo  including its penguin pool in 1969 with advice from George Mottershead. Many years later Chester-born penguin chicks came to reinforce our breeding programme.

The  two and a half pence a fish  in 1942 has now gone up to 50p a fish today! Peter Falwasser would be pleased to see how Chester Zoo has grown to become an active breeding centre of endangered species, including fish. A Sea Lion pool was built after the war and there are several impressive reptile areas, including Komodo dragon lizards. “Lizards abound everywhere in the desert …” , he wrote in his May 1941 letter. Few could have foreseen in 1942 the need for  Chester Zoo’s new Act Now! conservation projects for endangered wildlife.

Is there a photograph of Peter Falwasser anywhere in a family album? I am currently researching a little more about Barnsley born Peter Falwasser’s family history.You can see my growing Falwasser family tree based  on research in several other family trees on ancestry.co.uk. His solicitor father John Felix Falwasser of Cawthorne Lane, Kexborough nr. Barnsley in Yorkshire (1870-1940) and mother Mary Annie (nee Cousins, 1870-1932) appear to be dead by the time Peter joined the Army.

Peter was the youngest of eight children, two of whom died very young (Ione, 1900-1915 and daphne 1909-1912). John Frederick Falwasser, his older brother (b. 1902) had the sad task of dealing with Probate and Peter’s Will, along with help from his unmarried older sister Christine (b.1905). Peter  mentions wartime letters from his sister(s) as he had several other siblings Theodore (1903-1979), Angela (1907-1999) and Katherine (b. 1912) who would long outlive him.

In a recent Chester Zoo blog post  update in September 2014 to link with the BBC series Our Zoo, there is more information about Peter’s older sister Christine Rossetta Falwasser who was a gardener and writer.

I will update the blog as I find out more about Peter and other zoo keepers and botanic garden staff  who served in wartime.

All the Falwasser letters are quoted from with the permission / copyright of the Chester Zoo Archive.

Not just zoo animals get adopted, even wartime allotments get Christmas presents …

December 18, 2012

oxfam unwrapped ecardChristmas is often a struggle to find the right gift, which is why we do lots of Christmas animal adoptions at Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo. Many zoos do this gift scheme – you can find your local BIAZA zoo in Britian and Ireland on the BIAZA website.

Animal adoptions were one innovative wartime solution to shortage of funding to feed the animals especially when zoos closed at the outbreak of war for weeks or sometimes months in 1939. Both Chester Zoo and London Zoo claim to have first set this up in 1939/40, a scheme which was picked up by other zoos and has never stopped.

Our wartime allotment has just received another Christmas card this year again in 2013 – by email! It was a lively Oxfam Unwrapped allotment gift e-card with a little Christmas message: “This Xmas gift of an allotment is one way of linking the allotment and project work of the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo with what is happening in troubled parts of the world today.” Maybe this new allotment in Afghanistan or Africa is our first informal twin …

It is very appropriate twinning as Oxfam itself was born out of a humanitarian response to wartime famine in Greece in the 1940s. You can find out more about the allotment gifts at Oxfam’s  website http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped/gardeners/plant-an-allotment-ou7026ag

As the Oxfam e-card went on to say – “More budding UK gardeners are discovering the joys of growing their own. But for many poor women and men an allotment isn’t just a way of saving on the weekly shop, it’s how they feed their families and earn a bit extra to buy other essentials. And this gift will supply the tools, seeds and training to create working allotments that will produce a lot more.”

I was really pleased to hear that “As part of this project in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, Oxfam is helping women to establish kitchen gardens on their land to supplement their income and their family’s diet. Oxfam provides the training and distributes the seeds for the women to grow a variety of vegetables and crops. The extra produce that the family cannot eat is sold at local markets.”

Shirin Gul is one gardener who has been reaping the benefits after Oxfam distributed seeds in her village: “It’s very expensive to buy vegetables here in the mountains. I am lucky as I have a plot of land. Our family has always grown vegetables on this plot – but the Oxfam seeds mean the amount and variety of vegetables that I grow has increased. It used to just be potatoes, onions and egg-plants but now I have tomatoes, beans, squash, lettuce, cucumber – oh, everything.”

Zeinab, from the nearby village of Sah Dasht, is also a lady with green fingers. Her garden is full of produce. There are beans, potatoes, okra and tomatoes all ready to be picked. “I had never really done much farming before though I did grow potatoes but Oxfam gave me some training to help me grow the maximum amount of vegetables.”

I’m very pleased that one  Oxfam project area is Afghanistan. Each year at Newquay Zoo’s Christmas carol service (which ran for almost 20 years until this year),  the retiring collection was usually for our conservation projects at the zoo and overseas, some of them in former war-afflicted areas like Vietnam. Ten years or more ago in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001/2, I can remember asking visitors for contributions to the global zoo effort to support the recovery of  Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan which had suffered under the Taliban. There also can’t be many of us who don’t know a service family with relatives who have served there in the last ten years or are spending a wartime christmas away from home on active service.

In the next few days I will be posting about the 70th anniversary of the Mucks Mauler Liberator US aircraft crash on he Newquay coast on 28 December 1943. Relics of the plane were exhibited at Newquay Zoo’s wartime displays in the past.

It will soon be time to plan the spring planting to provide a small amount of fresh food for our zoo animals as they did in wartime. It’s time to flick through plant catalogues and plan planting schemes. You can also read through previous blog posts on this website.

I wish all a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year 2014  to our blog readers, zoo visitors, zoo staff, their animals and gardeners everywhere.

Zoos in war zones – an ongoing problem, and how to support the Tripoli Zoo appeal

October 13, 2011

Berlin Zoo's surviving elephant and the elephant house after bombing raids 1943/44

One persistent problem for war zones is the problem of civilians and “useless mouths” (as non-combatants in the Dunkirk area) in blitzed and bombed areas – pet, farm and zoo animals are often amongst these overlooked ‘civilians’. In my zoo career over the last fifteen to twenty years I have seen appeals for help for zoos in Cote D’Ivoire and  Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan, the famous rescue of the animals at Baghdad Zoo by South African Conservationist Lawrence Antony  (Author of Babylon’s Ark) and his team, as well as the early 90s rescue plans for Kuwait Zoo and Kosovo Zoo. 

Having been working on the history of zoos in wartime I am well aware of the scale of effects of wartime on  zoos ranging from severe shortages of food, staff and building materials at one end of the wartime survival scale to near destruction at Budapest, Berlin, Warsaw and many others. Some zoos improvised their way through in a ‘make do and mend’ way during the war and in the difficult years afterwards (using surplus tank traps as concrete blocks for building enclosures at Chester Zoo, still visible today) to feeding animals through ‘dig for victory’ allotment efforts, or  evacuating animals from Chessington Zoo near to our safer area of our  sister zoo at Paignton  or from London Zoo to Whipsnade.  Adoption schemes are one long-lived response to wartime shortages of money and food, when animals had no ration books.

Zoos are fragile and easily lost.  When zoos are struck by natural disasters from floods to earthquakes, there is usually a concerted response by one of the larger zoos supported by many others and countless individuals to see that, alongside the vital humanitarian rescue efforts, that the zoos and wildlife are given some support and protection in chaotic times. Zoo keeping is an international profession (in the past, one could have said brotherhood) and the tragedy of war has seen zoos isolated from their international cousins often for decades or even keepers called up in the past and fighting and dying on opposing sides.

The latest zoo to need this assistance is Tripoli Zoo, and I was delighted to read on the BIAZA website of the efforts being led  by the North Carolina Zoo, which BIAZA and many of its zoo members in theUK are supporting.

From the BIAZA website www.biaza.org.uk  

Give to Save the Animals at the Tripoli Zoo.

 In response to a request from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the North Carolina Zoo has agreed to lead the American zoo community’s response to the emergency welfare needs of animals living in the Tripoli Zoo. The AZA asked Zoo Director David Jones to oversee these welfare operations because of his strong contacts with Middle Eastern zoo professionals and because of his historic leadership in getting food, water, shelter, veterinary care and other necessities to zoo animals trapped by the wars inAfghanistanandIraq. The NC Zoological Society, the 501(c)3, non-profit organization that manages charitable donations made to the North Carolina Zoo, will accept and distribute donations made to assist the Tripoli Zoo Animal Welfare effort. Donations to this fund will be restricted to projects that provide exclusively for the medical, nutritional, health, safety and welfare needs of animals living in the Tripoli Zoo.

http://store.nczoo.com/p-5-save-the-animals-at-the-tripoli-zoo.aspx

If you have a few spare dollars or pounds, however small, I’m sure the keepers and animals supported by the  Tripoli Zoo Animal Welfare effort would welcome them.

Of zoo gardens and zombies: why Brad Pitt will (not) be appearing in our World War Z – oo garden at Newquay Zoo

August 21, 2011

Of zoo gardens and zombies: why Brad Pitt will (gnot) be appearing in our World War Z-oo  garden  at Newquay Zoo (but only as a gnome, gnot as a zombie slayer)

Don’t be confused. World War Zoo has  a big budget rival and star cast who have been filming in Cornwall and elsewhere in the last few weeks.

World War Z is a blockbuster zombie movie  with Brad Pitt set in an apocalypic future.

World War Zoo gardens is a small budget recreation of a typical wartime Dig For Victory zoo keepers allotment set in the 1940s with a well travelled star cast of … gnomes and vegetables.  

You could argue that both look at dealing with the threats of an uncertain future …. and the garden looks at sustainable options such as local food.

You could argue that getting the ‘look’ right is important in period gardens and zombie  movies – right old posters, right old tools etc.

As for zombies … this is probably my fellow keepers and zoo staff who have led very early morning zoo tours at 5 am and 7am for ‘wild breakfasts’ . We feel quite half dead if not undead by the end of the day … great fun but thankfully that was the last one this year. Until we do halloween tours (see our Newquay Zoo events page). But for now – Zzzzzz….

As for catching a glimpse of ‘Brad’ at the zoo, one of our jolly bearded gnomes now has  g-name! You can see Brad’s jolly beard on the BBC Radio Cornwall footage below. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-14375711

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-14595801

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

After writing our wartime zoo gardens book, we could write ‘Zombie Gardening’ … you heard it here first. I can see it now on the bookshelves. it makes creepy scarecrows look almost tame.


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