It’s a very rare thing to meet a WWII survivor these days, but in our closed tortoise colony at Raystede we have a tortoise who did exactly that!
She's one of our resident tortoises and quite a remarkable one at that because she's over one hundred years old! She's also a war veteran...
We're unsure who named her Churchill originally and it’s assumed she was mistaken for a male but she's most certainly female and a grand Matriarch among our tortoises. She's the largest tortoise we have on site, but she can pick up quite a pace. Once she gets going she will mow down anything in her way, so it is clear to see how she has battled through life, surviving for so long.
The battle scars Churchill has carried throughout her long life are extraordinary: The house she lived in during WWII was blown up. During a time of extensive shelling, houses were decimated, and families broken apart. Churchill lost her family but her own shell saved her from what could have been a fatal blast.
She was found amongst the rubble and given refuge. She's since been passed down through generations of families and friends, until she ended up at Raystede. Now she has a safe-haven with her own kind. As you would imagine, Churchill is quite the character and she’s an absolute joy to spend time with; she’s light on her feet and very inquisitive.
As Churchill expeditiously explores the tortoise enclosure at Raystede you can’t help but wonder if that’s ingrained purpose in her stride, the fight for survival during a time where a tortoise would have had no place at all.
Yet she survived the blitz and has outlived many of her peers. When looking into her big, wise eyes you can almost sees the reflections of memories past and a depth of understanding we cannot fully fathom.
One thing's for certain, we feel incredibly honoured to have such a charismatic and precious piece of history at Raystede.
Churchill wears her armour with pride; after all it did save her life.
Our tortoise colony is a closed group, which means we won't be accepting any more for the foreseeable future. This is because tortoises need a lot of space and specialist care, so we do not want to jeopardise the welfare of the colony by over-populating it.
The tortoises we have at Raystede are not rehomed as we do not believe they should be kept as pets. They often outlive their owners, like Churchill has.
Tortoises originate from dry, arid climates and the UK climate is not suitable for them, we work closely with the Chelonian Society to ensure the tortoises in our care are living in the best conditions possible. They also need a lot of space and a choice of terrain to explore, which we provide.
Why not come to Raystede to see our tortoises, and be sure to look for Churchill!