Army

The British Army's Menagerie Of Mascots

When it comes to British military mascots, historic traditions prove reluctant to change - and quite right too!

The British military lives by its traditions and precedents. Each regiment, battalion or unit does things its own way, and when it comes to military mascots, historic traditions prove reluctant to change - and quite right too!

Take a look below at their rich history in the British Army...

 

The connection between the Welsh Fusiliers and their regimental mascot is long and illustrious. From serving with distinction during the First World War to William Windsor's whirlwind career, the goat's assets to the regiment stretch well beyond ceremonial duties, although it is the latter that has caught the most headlines. 

William Windsor (Billy) experienced a colourful career serving as the regimental mascot.

His reputation was only temporarily tarnished by a moment's indiscretion while on parade in Cyprus, when some gruff love was shown to the Goat Major who struggled to control Billy's beastly intentions (some of which were on display for our reporter, Julie Knox... just take a look below).

Despite being ordered to keep in line, the goat's animal instincts took over after what can only be described as an error-strewn and oft-dangerous performance.

Lance Cpl William Windsor was eventually charged with "unacceptable behaviour", "lack of decorum" and "disobeying a direct order".

Billy's cantankerous actions led him to appear before his commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Huw James.

The result was a disciplinary hearing and a demotion. Tough times had fallen upon Billy.

However, calls for him to be reinstated were heard when, coupled with good behaviour, a Canadian animal rights group protested to the British Army, stating that he was merely "acting the goat". 

Billy ultimately regained his former rank after performing with merit throughout the Alma Day Parade, with Captain Simon Clarke remarking: 

"Billy performed exceptionally well. He has had all summer to reflect on his behaviour at the Queen's birthday and clearly earned the rank he deserves."

Mercian Regiment mascot Private Derby

The first Private Derby was acquired in April 1858 by the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot at the siege and capture of Kotah during the Indian Mutiny Campaign of 1857-1858.

Since that time there has followed a succession of fine rams, each of which has inherited the official title of Private Derby, followed by his successive number. 

 

Private Derby, a pedigree Swaledale ram, is the official regimental mascot of the Mercian Regiment but pictured below sits his contemporary, Watchman the Staffordshire terrier.

4 MERCIAN mascot Staffordshire Bull Terrier Watchman

Watchman is a battalion mascot and, as such, is not formally recognised by the MoD.

His upkeep is therefore paid for by his unit, the 4th Battalion, The Mercian Regiment, rather than the Crown.

The current dog, Watchman IV, lives at the home of his handler. 

Pegasus (Shetland Pony) - Parachute Regiment mascot
Image courtesy of ParaData/ Pony Major L/Cpl Martin/MoD

The first pony mascot within the regiment dates back to 1950 when Lt. Ben C. Arkle presented the 1st Battalion with a Black New Forest pony called Pegasus I.

Pegasus features in the video below, as men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Parachute Regiment board HMS Warrior in 1951. 

One notable pony (Bruneval I), serving with 2 PARA in Cyprus, was forced to abandon his battalion when African horse sickness (AHS) broke out.

It wasn't long, however, before Bruneval was re-homed, this time with the RAF's No. 70 Squadron.

It quickly became apparent, however, that Bruneval was not pleased with his adopted carers.

Pegasus I & Bruneval I British Army mascots
Bruneval with 2 PARA, alongside 1 PARA's Pegasus I. Image: Airborne Assault Duxford

To the surprise of his new home battalion, Bruneval was described as having a temperamental disposition and often ran away down the runway.

The decision was then taken to retire him to Limassol Zoo where he grew old with two donkeys and a camel for company.

Brian Boru I (Irish Wolfhound) - Royal Irish regimental mascot

Both the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment share the Irish Wolfhound as an official mascot.

The first mascot was named Brian Boru after the High King of Ireland, and each subsequent mascot inherits this same name with just the addition of a different Roman numeral for each succeeding hound.

1961 marked the year the wolfhound was accepted into the "official" family of British Army regimental mascots, entitling him to a formal rank, rations and quarters all at the public expense.  

Brian Boru I (Irish Wolfhound) - Royal Irish regimental mascot retirement
The Depot Commander, Lt Col R C Rothery MBE, hands Brian Boru I over to his new owner as he goes into retirement

While on parade, it is required for Brian to dress in official uniform.

Donning a piper-green coat trimmed with silver lace and displaying the regimental badge on either flank, Brian does look the part. 

Bobby (Indian Blackbuck antelope) - Fusiliers regimental mascot

The first antelope mascot was probably acquired by the Royal Warwickshire Regiment somewhere between 1825 and 1841 while the unit was serving in India.

At some point, it seems to have become tradition for the 1st Battalion to call their mascot Bobby - and if the 2nd Battalion had one he was usually called Billy. 

Obtaining these animals in India was not a problem. Back home, however, it was a different matter.

They had to be obtained from a zoo, and they had to be male.

At the end of World War II in 1945, the 2nd Battalion "liberated" one from Hamburg Zoo. He accompanied them on their tour to Egypt and Palestine. 

 

Usually (but not always) displaying a fine temperament on parade, a few of the antelopes have earned themselves an unruly reputation.

One such example came during a military review in Aldershot when Bobby chose to lie down as he was being led past King George V.

He then proceeded to nibble the grass, thus bringing the parade to a halt.

More - Military Mascots: Making The Little Pony Look His Best