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Grey Daggers and Minotaurs in Greenwich Park: Memories of a London Schoolboy Naturalist in the 1940s is based on the illustrated Natural History diaries that the author, John F. Burton, began writing in 1942 and has maintained ever since. It is the story of how one young South East London boy, midst the war-time experience of the Battle of Britain, and the onslaught of the Blitz and the V1 and V2 attacks on London, developed his nascent interest and fascination in birds, butterflies, beetles, and other wildlife species into a post-war professional life dedicated to Ornithology and Natural History.
Many of his diary entries with accompanying drawings and photographs are reproduced in the book, and recall with immediacy and freshness his memories of those now-distant days and field trips. Although the 1940s are long gone, Grey Daggers and Minotaurs in Greenwich Park will pique the interest of all generations who are fascinated by wildlife.
"John Burton was Assistant Secretary of the BTO in the early 1950s and subsequently was in charge of the BBC’s wildlife sound library for nearly 30 years. Starting in 1940, when he was nine, he has kept a natural history diary recording everything he saw and this ‘autobiographical’ book is primarily summaries of this information from the start to the time he left school in 1948. Throughout this period he lived in the Greenwich area of SE London, visiting many of the parks and open spaces whenever he could, although later chapters also record notes from expeditions further afield to such as Kent and Lincolnshire.
His primary interests, as they still are, were birds and butterflies but there are notes of other natural history as well including the two moth species mentioned in the title. Needless to say many of the species, and the areas they were in, have reduced considerably and several are sadly no longer recorded at all. Overall this is a very readable, chatty and well-written account of a budding naturalist in a period of major social and historical change. It does not try or pretend to be an in-depth analysis though."
– Peter Lack, BTO book reviews, September 2014