THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION – THE MARCHIONESS OF WORCESTER

Originally published May, 2014

The first quadrille was danced at Almack’s –  pictured are the Marquis of Worcester, Lady Jersey, Claronald Macdonald and Lady Worcester.


The Duke of Wellington’s ties to the Marquis and Lady Worcester were fastened on both sides – Lord Worcester had served as an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, while the Marchioness of Worcester, Georgina Frederica, was the daughter of the Hon. Henry Fitzroy and the Duke’s sister, Lady Anne, and therefore Wellington’s niece. Prior to their marriage, Lady Shelly wrote in her diary, “Georgiana Fitzroy’s marriage was announced. It was to take place on the following Monday, when the Duke was to give her away. I hope that it will turn out well, but I have my doubts! Lord Worcester is only twenty-one, and very wild.”

The marriage proved happy enough but, at the age of 28, Georgina became gravely ill. The following account is from The Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope – ” . . . Lady Worcester was not expected to live thro’ last night. She was at the Birthday and at the ball, danced a great deal, felt unwell, and was fool enough to take a shower bath before she went to bed. She was seized with inflammation in her bowels and in great danger immediately. Lady Worcester’s sufferings were most extreme, her complaint a twisting of the guts. She died sensible but screaming. On one side of the bed sat Lady E. Vernon, on the other, Lady Jersey, also screaming with grief. The Duke of Wellington had to drag them by force out of the room. There were eighty people standing round when she died.”

Apsley House


Mrs. Arbuthnot’s Journal gives us another view of the events leading up to Lady Worcester’s death:
“Lady Worcester died after a week’s illness of inflammation brought on by going into a cold bath after dancing at the ball at Carlton House. She was only 28, one of the handsomest women in England, had made the most brilliant marriage and was flattered, followed and admired by all the world. It is sad to contrast all this brilliancy with the cold and dreary grave that will so soon close over her; and yet she will then have more tranquility, for her prospects were not happy ones. Lord Worcester, overwhelmed with debts, had lately had executions in his house and, if the Duke of Wellington had not given her rooms in his house, she would not have had a hole to put her head into. . . . .

The New Monthly Magazine ran the following report about her death on May 11, 1821 — At Apsley House, the Marchioness of Worcester, of an internal inflammation. Her Ladyship was Georgiana Frederica Fitzroy, eldest daughter of the late Hon. Henry Fitzroy, son of Charles, first Lord Southampton, brother of the Duke of Grafton, by Lady Anne Wellesley, sister of the Duke of Wellington and Marquis Wellesley; and was married to the Marquis of Worcester on the 25th of July, 1814. Her Ladyship was one of the most intimate and favourite friends of the late Princess Charlotte.

And from the Greville Diary – May 12th.—I have suffered the severest pain I ever had in my life by the death of Lady Worcester.1 I loved her like a sister, and I have lost one of the few persons in the world who cared for me, and whose affection and friendship serve to make life valuable to me. She has been cut off in the prime of her life and in the bloom of her beauty, and so suddenly too. Seven days ago she was at a ball at Court, and she is now no more. She died like a heroine, full of cheerfulness and courage to the last. She has been snatched from life at a time when she was becoming every day more fit to live, for her mind, her temper, and her understanding were gradually and rapidly improving; she had faults, but her mind was not vicious, and her defects may be ascribed to her education and to the actual state of the society in which she lived. Her virtues were inherent in her character; every day developed them more and more, and they were such as to make the happiness of all who lived with her and to captivate the affection of all who really knew her. I have never lost anyone I loved before, and though I know the grief I now feel will soon subside (for so the laws of nature have ordained), long, long will it be before I forget her, or before my mind loses the lively impression of her virtues and of our mutual friendship.

“This is one of those melancholy events in life to which the mind cannot for a long time reconcile or accustom itself. I saw her so short a time ago ‘ glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendour and joy;’ the accents of her voice still so vibrate in my ear that I cannot believe I shall never see her again. What a subject for contemplation and for moralising! What reflections crowd into the mind!

“Dr. Hume told me once he had witnessed many death beds, but he had never seen anything like the fortitude and resignation displayed by her. She died in his arms, and without pain. As life ebbed away her countenance changed, and when at length she ceased to breathe, a beautiful and tranquil smile settled upon her face.”



Emily, Duchess of Beaufort

As stated above, Lady Worcester died on 11 May 1821, and on 29 June 1822, her husband Lord Worcester married Lady Anne’s other daughter, Emily Frances. This opens up a whole can of worms, as it was against the law for a widow or widower to marry a brother or sister-in-law. How did they get around this? It might have been due to the fact that Emily had been Lady Worcester’s half sister – their mother, Lady Anne’s husband, Henry Fitzroy died on the 19 March 1794, and on 2 August 1799 Lady Anne was remarried to Charles Culling Smith. Their daughter Emily Frances Smith was born on the 3 March 1800.

On 23 November, 1835 Emily became the Duchess of Beaufort.  She died on 2 October 1889 at age 89 and was buried at Badminton. Her mother, Lady Anne Smith, died in 1844.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: THE FOOD – PART 3

Another Ploughman’s lunch for both Diane and myself at the Three Crowns, London.
Wanting a quiet night in, Diane and I shopped for meats and wine at Fortnum and Mason, ordered a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and bread for each of us from room service and added the cheese we each had left over from our lunch. 
Glace fruits from Fortnum and Mason for dessert, along with a glass of wine. 
Diane’s editors at Harlequin treated us to a spectacular afternoon tea at the Swan at the Globe, 
with stunning views over the River and St. Paul’s.
Drinks and nibbles at Trader Vic’s on our last night in England.
A glass of port while we packed.
And beef filet and string beans for dinner on my flight home. 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: THE FOOD – PART 2

Dinner at the Devonshire Arms, Baslow.
Lamb burger for Diane Gaston (Perkins), prime rib, chips and onion rings for me.
Fabulous Ploughman’s lunches above for both of us at
The Cavendish Restaurant, Chatsworth House.
Dinner at La Petite Maison in Brighton; duck for Diane and the pork special for me.
Tea, below, at the Hotel du Vin, Brighton.
Dinner at the Hotel du Vin, below
Beef for Diane
and a large pot of mussels, moules, for me. Sorry, Victoria!

TOUR SCOTLAND WITH AUTHOR SUE ELLEN WELFONDER

 Sue Ellen and Kristine at a working slate mine in the Lake District
My special guest today is USA Today bestselling author Sue Ellen Welfonder, who writes historical romances set in medieval Scotland under own name, as well as Scottish-set paranormal romances as Allie Mackay. On a personal level, Sue Ellen and I have been sister/friends for close to thirty years. Yup. Thirty.

Sue Ellen’s heart has always belonged to Scotland – she’s traveled there extensively and has an in-depth knowledge of it’s history. So who else would I have called upon to head up the Scottish Tours division of Number One London Tours? My initial phone call to Sue Ellen went something like this:

SEW: Hello?
KHP: Hey, Bozzy, it’s me.
SEW: Gorgeous!

(Note: I have called Sue Ellen “Bozzy,” after diarist James Boswell, since our first trip to England together. Like Boswell, Sue Ellen documents everything with copious diary entries. She calls me “Gorgeous” because she’s nuts).

KHP: Can you put together a Scottish itinerary for Number One London? Oh, and by the way, you are now Vice President in charge of the Scottish Division.
SEW:What? I am? What does that even mean?
KHP: It means you’ll be coming up with the itineraries for all of our Scotland tours. Oh, and you’ll be coming along on the Scottish tours as the tour guide.
SEW: I will?
KHP: You’ll have to, Bozzy. I don’t know anything about Scotland. Think of a theme for the tour and then build an itinerary around that. Easy peasy.

Naturally, Sue Ellen came up with a pip of a tour theme – Scottish Castles. The 10 day tour includes six castles, plus visits to Edinburgh, a Loch Lomond cruise and a Highland Safari. Full Tour details can be found here.

Of course, we couldn’t possibly plan a tour to Scotland without actually going over there. Just to be certain we’d gotten everything right, you understand. Our visit also included the Lake District, as above at Newby Bridge, Lake Windermere.

 And we did some mudlarking on the River while we were in London.
Eventually, we made our way to the George Hotel in Prince’s Street, Edinburgh, above. In addition to visiting sites we’ll be including on Number One London’s Scottish Castles Tour, I was able to revisit this sweet cottage in the Prince’s Gardens.

And then we set out for some of the sights included in the upcoming September tour to Scotland, including a cruise on Loch Lomond, below.


Scotland must be the land of rainbows because we saw them on Loch Lomond, above, and at Inveraray, below.

And then it was on to Inveraray Castle, home to the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of the Clan Campbell, below.

The Castle is a magical place, easily walkable from the Loch Fyne Hotel and what an approach! 
The interiors, as you may imagine, are incredible, with hundreds of years of history oozing from every wall.

 

There’s much to see at the Castle, as the photos show, everything from medieval arms to Georgian furnishings and costume displays.

There’s also a Wellington connection – Henry Paget (Lord Uxbridge, later Marquess of Angelsey, who fought under Wellington at Waterloo) ran off with Wellington’s sister-in-law, Charlotte, wife of his brother Henry. The wife Paget left in order to do so was Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, daughter of the 4th Earl and Countess of Jersey.  By that time, they had eight children together. But it all ended well for Lady Caroline, as she went on to remarry – the Duke of Argyll.

Leaving Inveraray, Sue Ellen and I did a drive by of Loch Ness and the iconic Urquhart Castle, below. No, we didn’t see Nessy, more’s the pity.
From there it was on to Blair Atholl and our atmospheric hotel, the Atholl Arms, located just over the road from Blair Castle.
The Hotel is chock full of Scottish atmosphere, with an abundance of tartan, open fires and grand rooms. Truly the perfect place to stay in the Highlands.
Here’s Sue Ellen at the dinner table at the Atholl Arms, getting warm by the coal fire.
Next day, we visit the House of Bruar, known as “the Harrods of the North”, where fine cashmere and tweeds are on offer for both ladies and gentlemen, in addition to a wide array of leather, hats, food and accessories.
 
Yes – we’ve included it on the itinerary for our Scottish Castles Tour!
Also on the itinerary is a stop at Pitlochry, below, one of the most charming period towns to be found in the Highlands.
A true highlight of our time in the Highlands was our visit to Blair Castle. Again, we walked there from our hotel and the grounds are simply spectacular.
The Blair Estate is huge, with thousands of acres under their control, as well as a whole host of livestock – cattle, sheep, horses, deer and rivers full of salmon.
The absolute highlight of our visit to Blair – or anywhere in Scotland – was the Land Rover Highland Safari Sue Ellen and I were given by our guide, Izzy, one of the Rangers on the estate.
There’s truly something magical about being the only people out for miles around. Izzy took us through streams, up craggy hillsides and into glens where we easily spotted herds of deer.
Truly, our Safari was a once in a lifetime experience, a chance to get down and dirty in the Highlands.
As evidenced by Sue Ellen’s shoes, below.

 

Majestic sights met us round every bend and Sue Ellen and I were blessed to have experienced the adventure together. Yes, we’ve included the same adventure on the Scottish Castles Tour in September.
Our guide, Izzy, below. She will be one of the Rangers who will take our group on the same adventure in September.
Below, ghilly Stewart, who we ran into on our return journey. He and the pony had just taken a stag off the mountain as it was culling season. Sue Ellen and I are convinced that Izzy called Central Casting and ordered a true Scotsman to show up at the most picturesque spot.
Truly, it doesn’t get much more “Highlands” than this!

We hope you’ll consider joining us for a true Scottish adventure including town, castles and the Highlands on Number One London’s Scottish Castles Tour in September 2017. Full itinerary and details can be found here.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: THE FOOD – PART 1

Above – A cheese plate to share with Diane Gaston (Perkins) at Boulestin in St. James’s Street
Prime rib and chips at the St. James’s Court Hotel
A yogurt and berry parfait for Diane and what was listed as an
“egg crepe” for me at Cote Brasserie, Sloane Square.
Lunch at the Duke of Wellington, Strand, with Jo Manning: fish and chips for Jo,
bangers and mash for me and a beef and kidney pie for Diane.
Jo Manning digs in!
Tea and scones for Diane and I at Edensor. It was a glorious day.
Too bad the view was so terrible. . . . . .

HELLO, HANDSOME – COURTESY OF SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Recently, I was Googling portraits of the Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence (as one does) and the search returned images that were decidedly not Wellington. And I must say, some of the sitters were exceedingly handsome, and some of them were portraits I hadn’t seen before. So I Googled some more and you’ll find the results of my search below. Enjoy!

Portrait of Frederic Lock of Norbury Park, Surrey. Youngest child of William Lock, a London art critic. 




William Lock the Younger, elder brother to Frederic, above. 

From Yale Center for British ArtIt has been suggested that Lawrence’s sensitive portrait of the younger William Lock may be a study for an untraced portrait of the sitter exhibited as the royal Academy in 1791. Lock’s attire and hairstyle indicate a later dating however, and Lawrence did not usually make preliminary drawings for his paintings, preferring to prepare them by drawing directly on the canvas with chalk. . . . The sitter was the son of the connoisseur William Lock (1732-1810), was one of Lawrence’s first sitter and a close friend of the artist. The younger Lock (1767-1847) was a keen patron of the arts and an aspiring artist, but after viewing Rome he lost faith in his talent and gave up painting, though he continued to draw. 




Arthur Atherley MP 1772 – 1844

This portrait was painted by Lawrence when Atherley was an Eatonian. Afterwards, he went to Trinity College and went on to stand as MP for Southampton for four terms. He was a founding member of the Fox Club. He also served as a justice of the peace in Sussex and died at Tower House, Brighton. 



The finished portrait now hangs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but an unfinished sketch of the same subject, above, was recently purchased from a private owner by the Holburne Museum, Bath. You can read more about that here




John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield 1802 – 1879

Astonishingly, Wikipedia tells me that Bloomfield was privately educated and became an attache to Vienna at the age of sixteen. This may have been due, at least in part, to the position of his father, the 1st Baron Bloomfield, about whom Wikipedia says: “He was an Aide-de-Camp, then Chief Equerry and Clerk Marshal to the Prince of Wales and finally was Private Secretary to the King, Keeper of the Privy Purse, and Receiver of the Duchy of Cornwall from 1817 to 1822. One of issues that Bloomfield had to contend with a Private Secretary was King’s extravagant spending.” However, things did not end well for the elder Baron Bloomfield. You’ll find the story here.  




Richard Hart Davis Jr. 1791 – 1854



Charles William Bell

French video on Lawrence’s painting technique




Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux 1778 – 1868

Anti-slavery campaigner, attorney to Queen Caroline and one of the first Englishmen to fall in love with Cannes and make it into a popular resort. Like Wellington, Brougham was named by Harriet Wilson in her Memoirs. Unlike Wellington, he caved and paid the hush money her publisher demanded to keep his name out of the book. Brougham’s name is still familiar to us, as a style of coach was named for a vehicle he designed, which was carried on until recent memory as a style of automobile. Find his full biographical story here.

And finally . . . . .




Sir Thomas Lawrence, unfinished self portrait, circa 1825

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – WHAT I SAW IN BRIGHTON

Brighton Pier

The Royal Pavilion

Theatre Royal

The Lanes

Marlborough House, Old Steine

Above, Mrs. Fitzherbert’s House, Olde Steine

Lady Conyngham’s House


The Regency Assembly Rooms, Old Ship Hotel, Brighton seafront

The old Cellars beneath The Old Ship Hotel


The dining room in the cellars at the Old Ship Hotel, reputed to have once been used by smuggler’s along the Brighton coast. We will be staying at the Old Ship and dining in the cellars during Number One London’s Regency Tour and Queen Victoria Tour. 

EOS – PRINCE ALBERT'S BELOVED GREYHOUND

 Originally posted here on July 22, 2010
What with everyone watching the PBS miniseries Victoria every Sunday night, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post this piece on Eos, Prince Albert’s favorite canine companion. Several years ago, Victoria and I were fortunate enough to see an exhibition titled, Victoria and Albert: Art and Love at the Queen’s Gallery in London. The show was comprised of all manner of gifts that the royal couple had given to each other through the years. Many iconic paintings, specially commissioned by either Queen Victoria or Prince Albert as gifts, were on display, including this portrait of Eos by Landseer. To this day, that show remains my favorite. I sat on a bench in front of this painting for quite some time, marveling at Landseer’s skill, the beauty of Eos and the love between Victoria and Albert. 
Eos, A Favourite Greyhound, Property of HRH Prince Albert

Few paintings in the Royal Collection evoke such sentiment as this portrait of Eos by Sir Edwin Landseer of Prince Albert’s favourite dog. Prince Albert brought Eos with him from Germany when he married Queen Victoria in 1840. He sent her ahead with his valet, Cart, from Canterbury and so Eos arrived before the Prince.  The Queen speaks in her journal of the pleasure which the sight of  “dear Eos” gave her the evening before the arrival of her betrothed.

The Beloved Prince: A Memoir of the Prince Consort gives another anecdote:

” In 1839, when I was serving in the Austrian Lancers, we met at Toplitz, and from thence drove together to Carlsbad, to see uncle Ernest. Eos ‘—a favourite black greyhound—’ was in the carriage. . . . We were at that moment approaching the station where we were to change horses. He asked me the name of the place, which I told him was Buchau, a village known all round as a sort of Krdhwinkel, famous for all sorts of ludicrous stories about the inhabitants. We drove into the place, the postilion blowing his horn and cracking his whip. Albert, seeing a large crowd assembled round the post-house, said to me, ‘Quick, stoop down in the carriage, and we will make Eos look out of the window, and all the people will wonder at the funny Prince.’ We did so, and the people had to satisfy their curiosity with Eos. The horses were soon changed, and we drove off, laughing heartily at our little joke.”

Described as ‘very friendly if there is plum-cake in the room … keen on hunting, sleepy after it, always proud and contemptuous of other dogs,’ Eos was a great favorite. So great was Prince Albert’s affection for the dog that, the following year, 1840, the Queen commissioned a portrait of her from Sir Edwin Landseer (above), the unofficial court painter, as a surprise Christmas present for Prince Albert. Poised and sleek against a rich red backdrop, the greyhound stands expectantly among some of the Prince’s personal effects – an opera hat, gloves and a cane.

On November 9th, 1841,the royal couple’s second child, Albert Edward was born and family members gathered for the christening. Among the guests was the Queen’s uncle, Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg, General of Cavalry in the Austrian Army. On January 27th 1842 during a shoot, Ferdinand, who obvdiously shouldn’t have been trusted with a gun, accidentally shot Eos to the great distress of Prince Albert. When the Queen’s Uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians was told, he replied that it would have been better if Ferdinand had shot another member of the royal family.

Eos eventually recovered but she was nine years old and slowing down. She died two and a half years later. “Poor dear Albert,” the Queen wrote in her journal. “He feels it terribly, and I grieve so for him.” And also about Eos, “such a beautiful and sweet creature, and used to play with the children.” The day after her death, Prince Albert wrote to his grandmother of Eos, “You will share my sorrow at this loss. She was a singularly clever creature and had been for eleven years faithfully devoted to me. How many recollections are linked with her.” Eos was buried beneath a mound above the slopes at Windsor Castle. On hearing of her demise, Lord Melbourne declared himself “in despair at hearing of poor Eos.”

A sculpture based on the painting and partly worked on by the Prince, is on Queen Victoria’s tomb in the gardens at Windsor Castle. The cane pictured in the portrait at the top of the page is now part of a collection of walking sticks administered by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Eos was undoubtedly a part of the Royal Family, as the portraits below will testify.

Victoria, Princess Royal, with Eos 1841
Princess Victoria with Prince Albert and Eos by Winterhalter
If you’re a fan of Victoria and Albert (and who isn’t?), consider joining Number One London Tours for the Queen Victoria Tour. We’ll be exploring the life and times of Queen Victoria as we travel to London, Brighton, the Isle of Wight and Windsor on a truly regal adventure. 

ENGLAND'S WAR TIME PET CRISIS

National Portait Gallery

The Duchess of Hamilton, 1878-1951

Recently, I was researching my new favourite period of British history, England between the World Wars, when I came across a new aspect of wartime Britain – the question of what to do with family pets during wartime. I hadn’t give this problem much thought and found myself fascinated with the very real personal drama may pet owners had to face and the heartbreaking decisions that they faced.

Writer Alison Feeny-Hart provides an overview of what wartime pet owners faced in an article that appeared in the October 2013 issue of BBC News Magazine:
In the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of war, the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) was formed. It drafted a notice – Advice to Animal Owners.


The pamphlet said: “If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency.” It concluded: “If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.”
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home opened its doors in 1860 and survived both wars. “Many people contacted us after the outbreak of war to ask us to euthanise their pets – either because they were going off to war, they were bombed, or they could no longer afford to keep them during rationing,” a spokesman says.
“Battersea actually advised against taking such drastic measures and our then manager Edward Healey-Tutt wrote to people asking them not to be too hasty.”
But many owners were able to make do. Pauline Caton was just five years old at the time and lived in Dagenham. She remembers “queuing up with the family at Blacks Market in Barking to buy horsemeat to feed the family cat.”
And even though there were just four staff at Battersea, the home managed to feed and care for 145,000 dogs during the course of the war.

RAF serviceman bringing a dog to the Battersea’s Dog Home

In the middle of the pet-culling mayhem, some people tried desperately to intervene. The Duchess of Hamilton – both wealthy and a cat lover – rushed from Scotland to London with her own statement to be broadcast on the BBC. “Homes in the country urgently required for those dogs and cats which must otherwise be left behind to starve to death or be shot.”
“Being a duchess she had a bit of money and established an animal sanctuary,” says historian Kean. The “sanctuary” was a heated aerodrome in Ferne. The Duchess sent her staff out to rescue pets from the East End of London. Hundreds and hundreds of animals were taken back initially to her home in St John’s Wood. She apologised to the neighbours who complained about the barking.


“People were worried about the threat of bombing and food shortages, and felt it inappropriate to have the ‘luxury’ of a pet during wartime,” explains Pip Dodd, senior curator at the National Army Museum.

“The Royal Army Veterinary Corps and the RSPCA tried to stop this, particularly as dogs were needed for the war effort.”


Authors Clare Campbell and Christy Campbell expanded upon
the wartime pet crisis in their book, Bonzo’s War: Animals Under Fire 1939-1945, published by Constable & Robinson. The following is from an article written by Ms. Campbell that ran in the Daily Mail on 14 October, 2013:

During the late Thirties, my aunt Lena would walk her beloved wire-haired fox terrier Paddy across a common every evening to a suburban railway station to meet her husband Ernest off the train. Paddy would jump up to greet him joyfully, and the trio would amble home together.

But when war broke out in September 1939, Ernest coldly announced that Lena couldn’t keep Paddy. The very next day, he took the dog from her arms and left the house. She never saw Paddy again.

This might sound like an impossibly brutal response to the war, but Ernest was far from alone. For it was a scene repeated in thousands of family homes – weeping children, sobbing mothers, and stern fathers saying that it was the kindest thing to do. 

As the air-raid sirens sounded for the first time and families hastily covered up their windows with black-out curtains, countless cats and dogs were shooed out into the street, or tied up in sacks to be thrown in canals or dumped in back streets and alleyways.

It is estimated that as many as three quarters of a million adored pets were destroyed in the first week of the war.
You might wonder how the British, a nation of animal lovers, suddenly took it into their heads to kill so many animals. In fact, it was all based on a false assumption that putting down the family pet was a patriotic and humane thing to do.

I came across countless stories like that of Ernest, Lena and Paddy while researching a book about the ‘civilian’ animal experience in World War II. While much has been written about the animals drafted into the war effort – they even have their own national memorial in Hyde Park – little is known about the home-front pets who were killed by their owners in such vast numbers when war was declared.

And, as I discovered, the Government was instrumental in this massacre of beloved pets. 

Not only did the Government set MI5 agents to watch animal rights activists, it also considered the mass euthanasia of all ‘non-essential animals’, sponsored a clandestine anti-dog hate campaign and sanctioned the criminal prosecutions of cat owners for giving their pets saucers of milk.

The massacre of the nation’s pets in September 1939 was foreshadowed by events the previous year. During the Munich Crisis of 1938, when Germany had occupied parts of Czechoslovakia, animal charities had been besieged by pet-owners who were terrified that war could result in mass poison-gas attacks by air on British cities. 

Their fear was that their pets would become hysterical at the sound of sirens and explosions, and run wild through streets contaminated by mustard gas. 

The Home Office formed a special National Air Raid Precautions Animal Committee, with a retired vet as chairman. This ‘Dad’s Army for Pets’ would act swiftly in a crisis, offering refuge to lost or frightened animals, treating injuries or painlessly putting them out of their suffering. 

On the eve of war, a Home Office pamphlet was published which indicated that pets would not be allowed in public air-raid shelters, and featured a do-it-yourself guide to putting animals down. On page two was an advert for a captive bolt pistol. 

The day Hitler invaded Poland, a BBC broadcast confirmed it was official policy that pets would not be given shelter.
The result was panic. A counc
il vet in East London recorded the events of that first day: ‘The sirens sounded  . . .and almost immediately West Ham Town Hall became besieged by panic-stricken people bringing their animals for destruction,’ he wrote.

‘In spite of trying to reason with the hysterical mob, we were soon inundated with dogs and cats whose owners had abandoned them in offices and corridors.’

That night, distressed animals cast out by their owners roamed the blacked-out streets.

Five days of mass destruction followed. A local rendering firm was stacked several feet deep with dog and cat carcasses.
Not even London Zoo escaped the carnage. The black widow spiders and poisonous snakes were killed, as were a manatee (a large aquatic mammal also known as a sea cow), six Indian fruit bats, seven Nile crocodiles, a muntjac and two American alligators. Two lion cubs were put down, too. All were ‘destroyed owing to war conditions’.

After those first few days, the rate of killing slowed – but there was real shock at what had happened, and some animal lovers were appalled by the way the Government had created such a sense of panic.
Nina, Duchess of Hamilton, turned her Wiltshire estate, Ferne, into an animal sanctuary, while one Swedish aristocrat opened her Mayfair mansion as a sort of urban ark.

More menageries sprung up as kindly old ladies offered refuges. The pets from local schools, including guinea pigs and rabbits, were taken in by a farmer in West Moseley, Birmingham. The Canine Defence League dug its own air-raid shelters for dogs in Kensington Gardens. 


City meat man feeding cats at the beginning of 1939



Many thousands of cats were simply turned out to join feral colonies, such as that on Clapham Common in South London, which became home to a huge number of strays. 

But the worst was yet to come. 

When major Nazi bombing began in the autumn of 1940, once again there was a rush to abandon pets by the thousand. The West Ham vet recalled blitzed streets ‘inundated with cats’. 

Municipal parties set out on slaughtering campaigns using a mixture of electric shocks, cyanide and chloroform – 100 animals at a time was not unusual. There were so many animals that mass culling was the only option.

However, the vet refused to give up his own cat, Ginger, who proved staunch even in the midst of an air raid, ‘welcoming me home each night amid the injustice of man’s mad warfare’.

One news agency reported on a collie dog who had become adept at coping when the sirens sounded, ‘preceding the family into the private garden shelter before raids, and returning to the house just before the all-clear’. But the same writer noted: ‘Badly trained dogs however have proved a nuisance, barking loudly and rushing wildly about the place. 
‘If the feeding of dogs becomes a national grievance, such dogs should be the first to be destroyed.’ 

Spec
ial tranquilliser mixtures to calm distressed pets were advertised; and ear muffs for dogs. One lady asked the authorities if gas masks were available for bees.

For those without private shelters, the dilemma was dreadful. Some chose to stay at home with their pets rather than go to a public shelter without them. 

The Mass Observation project, which recorded the responses of ordinary people to the war, spoke to a man in Poplar, East London, who said: ‘I know the missus and kids are safe, but if I went to the shelter, too, I’d be thinking about how the animals were getting on.’

As the war continued, the question of what to feed pets became more critical. In August 1940, the Waste Of Food Order was passed, making it an offence, punishable by two years’ imprisonment, to feed animals with food fit for human consumption. 

Dog biscuits disappeared from shops. ‘Chappies’ pet-food factory in Slough, Berkshire, was shut and pets had to be fed on scraps.

One woman, Mrs Winifred Airlie, of Colchester, was fined £5 for giving bread to her pet white mice. But mice were the least of it. Dogs were considered the real enemy within. One official at the Ministry Of Food recorded in the minutes of a meeting: ‘The only solution is that a reduction of the dog population should be secured.’ 

A policy limiting each family to one dog if rationing became worse was discussed in secret, but was never acted on.  
Anti-dog sentiment was to be encouraged: ‘Tell the public they eat 280,000 tons of meat per year!’

The campaign was effective. A ‘mongrel owner’ interviewed in August 1941 said: ‘Those who feed their dogs off the fat of the land should be imprisoned for sabotage. Some of the rich society dames feed their dogs stuff which would be feast to a poor man . . .’

Cats were also a target for the Ministry, and an anti-cat briefing was leaked to journalists: ‘Too many of this country’s 7 million cats are overfed, given portions of meat and fish which, to a man, would be the equivalent of a 3lb joint every lunchtime.’

It was also widely reported that cats consumed 40 million gallons of milk a year. The Chancellor considered a cat tax.
Nothing would deter the most devoted cat rescuers, however. The Animal Defence Society reported ‘a poor old woman who lived in a tiny room . . . swarming with cats who she had rescued and befriended. Most of these people would give their last crust to their cat or dog’.

The Government relented in part, making allowances for cat owners who relied on the animals to keep down mice and rats, such as the owners of large warehouses. 

‘Although no liquid milk could be spared for cats, some damaged dried milk powder might be made available to cats engaged on “work of national importance”’ — in other words, catching rats in industrial production plants.

No such concessions were made for dogs, although from 1942, if a family was struggling to feed a beloved dog, they could lend them to the Army as a war dog on full rations — but many owners feared their dogs might not recognise them when they returned.



In 1949, Brutus, a demobilised German Shepherd from Syston in Leicestershire, was reunited with his master at the railway station after three years in the Army. 

To the dismay of his master, Brutus seemed barely to recognise him. They walked home as strangers. Then, as they walked through the door, Brutus heard the voice of his mistress and at once bounded up to her in transports of joy. It was as if he had never left, and he was soon a friend and playmate to the couple’s two children, the youngest born while Brutus had been away. 

Brutus was one of the lucky dogs who survived. But we should never forget the hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats who were senselessly killed by panicking families and officials in those dark days of World War II.