Military Mascots Muster: The Ultimate Animal Gathering

Eight of the Army's animals have been brought together for the first ever military mascot training camp.

Eight of the Army's regimental mascots have been brought together for the first ever military mascot training camp.

Two Irish Wolfhounds, a drum horse, a Welsh mountain pony, a Swaledale ram, two cashmere goats and a Shetland pony took part in the event at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.

Farrier Major Holland is the handler for Trooper Jones, a Welsh mountain pony and 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards’ regimental mascot. He said the facilities on offer were "second to none".

"[We've] taken full advantage of everything we can use to exercise Jones and get him fit and ready for parade.

"I've just been giving Jones a little lunging lesson, just to get him warmed up, a bit of exercise."

One of the eight mascots spending time in Melton Mowbray is Alamein, nicknamed 'Charlie', and for the last 18 years, he has been the mascot for the Queen's Royal Hussars in Germany.

Another is Fusilier Shenkin IV, the mascot of 3rd Battalion, The Royal Welsh Regiment.

The goat was caught in March and was involved in the Armed Forces Day 2018 parade in Llandudno.

Animals have a long and proud tradition of serving in Britain’s Armed Forces on operations and ceremonial duties and the gathering provided a rare opportunity for handlers to meet their counterparts in other units.

In July, the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC), based at the Defence Animal Centre, celebrated 100 years since 'Royal' was added to their name by marching through their hometown of Melton Mowbray.

Melton Mowbray has been involved with military animals since 1906 when it was a remount farm - where it sourced horses for the army and issued them to frontline units. 

The base has been responsible for dogs since 1945 and they're now trained for the military and the police force.

Army handlers shared advice on how to look after their mascots.

The Chief Instructor with the Equine Training Squadron, Warrant Officer Class 2 Daniel Powell, said the event had brought together handlers who had been working for nearly ten years with others who had only been in the job for six months.

WO2 Powell said the training centre offered a rare opportunity for the handlers at all levels to share advice:

"The difference in them being together and passing their knowledge on what they do on a day-to-day basis is fundamentally the best thing possible."

Mascots gathered for 10 days of training at the Defence Animal Centre.

Corporal Philip Thornton, Ram Major The Mercian Regiment said:

"Yeah the group's really good - we've got one diva in the bunch.

"Llewellyn [the ram], probably. He's a lad, he's a good lad.

Llewellyn's handler Goat Major Shayne Campbell, 1st Battalion Royal Welsh, continued: "He definitely stands out. Most of them are all quite calm and placid and disciplined all the time.

"He's only disciplined when he's on parade, unfortunately!"

An Army padre blessed a dog as the mascots gathered for inspection.

The highlight of the 10-day event was a parade featuring all of the assembled regimental mascots.

The Commander of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment checked the passed muster and each animal received a blessing from a military Padre after taking part in a line-up for inspection. 

The mascots are now expected to return to their units for an intense Autumn of public duties.

Origins Of Army Mascots

Military mascots are different to working animals, which serve in combat or transport roles.

The practice of the military having animals as mascots dates back to the 18th century when the Royal Welsh began adopting goats.

The tradition is believed to have started after a wild goat strayed on to the battlefield during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, leading the Royal Welsh Fusiliers' colour party from the field.

Mascots continued into the 19th century, since when Staffordshire regiments have been associated with the county's bull terrier.

During the Egyptian War in 1882, the South Staffordshire Regiment lost their bull terrier at the start of a 200-mile train journey leaving Cairo.

When the train reached its destination, they found the dog had actually followed its regiment after jumping off the train.

However, the Staffordshire regiments did not adopt a regimental mascot until 1949.

In the 21st century, the Royal Welsh continues to have goats as its mascot.

One of its most famous (or infamous) of recent years was Lance Corporal William 'Billy' Windsor.

In 2006, the animal was demoted, after an incident where he attempted to head-butt personnel from 1st Battalion.

Forces News reporter, Julie Knox, found out first-hand how lively LCpl Windsor could be: