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WAR CIRCUS: CPT. WOODWARD

Woodward and his u-boat seeking seals.

These War Circus articles are set in a chronological based on the action they report between 1914 and 1919, starting in August 1914. They have been transposed from contemporary newspaper The World’s Fair. This was the Showland newspaper. It is held on microfiles at the National Fairground and Circus Archive, University of Sheffield. Other information has drawn from a BBC readio broadcast held at the Imperial War Museum. (Ref: BBC/IWM)

 

c. FEB 1915 

CPT. WOODWARD NEWS

MORE FISH. 

THE WAYS AND WORK OF THE SEA LIONS.

   There is one thing that Captain Woodward’s sea lions cannot do; they cannot write. If they could they would probably send a written protest to the Kaiser for having engineered a war which threatens their fish supply.

   And the protest would be signed “Yours faithfully, Toby, Jumbo, Dorando, Buller, Brownie, Teska, and Mickie,” for those are the names of the remarkable animals which have been entertaining Liverpool folks at the Olympia circus for some weeks past (says the “Liverpool Echo”).

   You will understand the concerns of Toby and company when you learn that together they eat 250lbs of fish a day. In fact, they eat nothing but fish— they like it raw, and they turn up their noses at ‘chips.”

   As everyone knows, the war has more than doubled the price of fish owing to the fact that some of the fishing grounds are closed through mine laying operations, and also because so many of the fishermen have abandoned their ordinary occupation and gone trawling for mines. So Toby and company may be excused for viewing the situation with alarm.

NO FISH, NO WORK

   So far they have suffered nothing more serious than gloomy apprehension, because in spite of the fish famine Captain Woodward has seen that they get their usual supply every day. And for an excellent reason. “No fish, no work,” the Captain told the representative; that’s the way the sea lions view this workaday world.

   But the supply has not been maintained without considerable difficulty. The fish comes fresh from Grimsby every day for Toby and Co. are very particular. In their natural state they get their fish very fresh, and now that they have condescended to leave their native haunts they stipulate that their fish must still be fresh and there must be plenty of it.

   So fat the supply has been maintained with regularity, but the Grimsby contractor has had to warn the Captain that any time now he may have to send a telegram cancelling the order, as he has such difficulty in getting the fish.

JUST FISH AND PATIENCE

   Should this appalling catastrophe happen, captain Woodward will have to cast about to supply them from some other source— or from several sources. As it is his weekly fish bill now runs into anything from £24 to £25, instead of about £7 in normal times.

6/2/1915 The World’s Fair

 

CPT. JOSEPH WOODWARD’S WAR SEA LIONS.

   I am delighted that the Admiralty has agreed to a trial for my sea lions to assist in the war effort they will be used to counter the growing menace of U-boats, which are sinking hundreds of thousand of tons of merchant shipping, not to mention our fleet. The technique I am employing is to muzzle them, before feeding time, and to get them to respond to sounds underwater. In this manner they are trained to first detect a U-boat and then to follow them.

BBC/IWM

 

c. JUNE 1917

 

CPT. JOSEPH WOODWARD’S WAR SEA LIONS.

After having had promising trials with my sea lions in a swimming pool in Westminster and also at Lake Bala in Gwynedd, I have taken them for a further training trial in the Solent – in order to get them closer to a real life simulation of detecting German U-Boats – they were tasked with chasing a Royal Navy submarine. Unfortunately, I have to admit, they were easily distracted by shoals of fish and absconded for hours at a time.

    I am sorry to say that as a result the Admiralty has ordered that the War Sea Lions to stand down. But never fear, opportunity is near and I will be presenting them as “The Actual U-Boat Sea Lions”.

BBC/IWM

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