Friday, October 7, 2011

Dumbo takes a Bullet: Odd Duties of a Second World War Staff Officer

Wanted Scrap Metal...To Make Tanks, Guns, Ammunition :  Canada's war effort and production sensitive campaign. Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-72
Austerity measures during the Second World War meant tightening belts and conserving materials.  One such sacrifice was made by a local zoo near Aldershot, England, where beginning in the bitter winter of 1939-40 the 1st Canadian Division was stationed overseas.  The zoo phoned the Canadians to inform them that they were unable to feed their elephant, and that the services of a soldier were needed to put the animal down.

John  Buchan, 2nd Baron Tweedsmuir PostalHistoryCorner Blog
John Buchan, later Baron Tweedsmuir, was the unfortunate officer to whom the deed fell to.  Buchan had proven an excellent shot during service in Africa, and was assigned to perform the unfortunate execution.  As Dominick Graham writes in The Price of Command, "permission was granted by CMHQ, but [GSOI] Turner made it a condition that the entry in the war diary show that it was in response to a request.  The sad deed was done.  Later the war diary was found to have the bald entry under the date "Leatherhead, 1531 hours.  The G 3 Intelligence shot an elephant."
Belfast Zoo's elephant managed to survive the war in a friendly zookeeper's backyard. BBC story.

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