From ponies to pooches: welcome to the world of Army mascots
Armed Forces Day is for the entire Armed Forces Community - Service personnel, Veterans, Reservists, Cadets. But what about the animals that make up the tradition of Army mascots?
Since the 18th century, regiments have kept animals as mascots to bring luck and strengthen morale. Often they receive a regimental number, an honorary rank and carry out a significant ceremonial role.
So from ponies to wolfhounds, here are just some of most furry and famous members of the British Army.
Domhnall — The Irish Guards
The Irish Guards’ Regimental Mascot is an Irish Wolfhound named Domhnall. The first mascot was presented to the Irish Guards in 1902 by the members of the Irish Wolfhound Club and there have been 14 more since, all named after Irish High Kings or legendary chieftains. The Irish Guards’ Regimental Mascot is an Irish Wolfhound named Domhnall. The name Domhnall means ‘world leader.’ Domhnall leads the battalion on all major parades, the Irish Guards are the only Guards regiment permitted to have this unique privilege.
As well as occasionally guarding the Queen, the Battalion has deployed on recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards who recently Trooped their Colour before the Queen, with Domhnall featuring prominently in the parade. He is usually seen sporting a red linen cape, presented by the President of Ireland, Mr. Michael D. Higgins, during the State Visit held at Windsor Castle in 2014, though did not this year due to the heat.
Emrys — The 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards
The 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards adopted a Welsh Mountain Pony named Emrys in February 2016, Her Majesty The Queen accepted the recommendation of the Army Honours and Distinctions Committee that 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards be allowed to keep a mascot to reflect the Regiment’s Welsh heritage. Emrys’ full title is 16851959 Trooper Emrys Forlan Jones. Emrys means ‘The Immortal One’ in Welsh and is a name steeped in Welsh mythology. Emrys lives with his handler, ‘Farrier Major’. The Regiment is equipped with the Jackal armoured vehicles, and has deployed on a great variety of new tasks, including to the USA, conducting training with Sierra Leone Army in West Africa.
Goats — The Royal Welsh
Antecedent regiments have had a goat at the head of their parades since the late 1700s and there are many stories as to why a goat may have been chosen.
The wild goat was once common amongst the mountains of Wales and whilst it did not quite achieve the status of that other beast, the Welsh Dragon, it was nevertheless regarded as a familiar part of the Welsh landscape and it was therefore only natural that the antecedent regiments should choose the goat as a symbol of ‘home’, a tradition that remains with them to this day.
Whilst some stories have passed into regimental folklore, it is a fact that the Battalions have had the great honour to have been presented a goat by every reigning monarch since 1844.
The goats from the Royal herd originate from Pakistan and India and it was General Sir Mostyn, Colonel of the Regiment of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who introduced Goats from the Royal herd to the Great Orme, Llandudno in the late nineteenth century. For this reason, the Royal Welsh has selected it’s goats from the Royal blood line that still exists on Welsh soil.
The old 2nd Battalion Goat, Lance Corporal Gwillam ‘Taffy VI’ Jenkins, died in May 2015 after nine years of dedicated service. Following his passing, Her Majesty the Queen was informed and her permission sought to select and recruit a new Regimental Goat. Permission was kindly granted and the selection process started.
A small team of serving 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh soldiers and officers travelled to the Great Orme to select Llywelyn.
Only the most prominent and impressive young billy kid goat is considered for selection. Following an arduous survey of the wild herd, one particular Goat stood out and demonstrated more promise than the others — this was Llywelyn.
Fus Llywelyn had his passing out parade on the 22 January 2016 at the annual Rouke’s Drift Day.
Lance Corporal (LCpl) Shenkin is the Regimental Goat for The 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh (the only Reserve infantry unit in Wales) and was also recruited from the Great Orme. LCpl Shenkin resides in Cardiff and is famous for leading the Welsh Rugby Union team onto the Principality Stadium rugby pitch during each home international.
Talavera — The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
The present mascot of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards is a drum horse named Talavera. Talavera even has his own ration book. His predecessor, named Ramillies, was presented to the Regiment by their Colonel-in-Chief, Her Majesty The Queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1987 and assumed his duties in 1989. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards were formed back in 1678 and today are part of the Royal Armoured Corps.
The Regiment has deployed on numerous operations over the last decade, and is now based in Scotland at Leuchers in the Light Cavalry role. They are equipped with the Jackal armoured vehicle and have recently returned from a major exercise in the deserts of the United Arab Emirates.
Alamein — The Queen’s Royal Hussars
The Queen’s Royal Hussars keep their own drum horse named Alamein, who joined the Regiment in 2008. Drum horses are used by British cavalry units as part of regimental bands. As their name suggests, these horses carry two kettle drums, plus a rider. The drum horse has an unusual steering mechanism — they are steered with the rider’s feet, rather than their hands. Alamein is named after one of the Regiment’s battle honours. The Queen’s Royal Hussars are currently based in Germany and are equipped with the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank.
Private Derby — The Mercian Regiment
Private Derby, a Swaledale ram, is the official mascot of the Mercian Regiment and is celebrated in the song “the Derby Ram”. The first Private Derby was adopted as a mascot in 1858 by the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot at the siege and capture of Kotah during the Indian Mutiny Campaign (1857–58). Private Derby is recognized as a soldier and has his own regimental number and documentation. He is paid 3.75 pounds per day and is also entitled to his own rations like any other soldier. Private Derby even has a leave card and takes an annual holiday at Chatsworth House during the mating season. Private Derby has two handlers from the Drums Platoon whose duty is to look after him. The senior handler is called the “Ram Major” whilst the other one is the “Ram Orderly”. The Mercian Regiment recruits from the five counties which formed the ancient Kingdom of Mercia; their motto is ‘Stand Firm Strike Hard’.
The Mercian Regiment has three battalions; two regular — in the armoured and light infantry roles — and a Reserve battalion with numerous locations acrossthe Midlands.
Watchman — 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment
The mascot tradition in the regiments of Staffordshire stretches back to the 19th Century. In 1882, the South Staffordshire Regiment was ordered to march with Lord Wolseley to relieve General Gordon who was besieged in Khartoum. The Regiment boarded a train at Cairo with their Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Boxer. Startled by the sudden noise of the train’s engine, Boxer leapt off the moving train and was seen lying, seemingly dead or unconcious, at the side of the tracks. A few days later, when the Regiment was camped hundreds of miles south along the Nile awaiting orders for their final march, a very thin and ailing Boxer staggered into their camp and collapsed. Like a true soldier he had walked over 200 miles in scorching desert to rejoin his regiment.
In 1949, after years of being the best battalion in recruitment of new soldiers in the Territorial Army, the 6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment was presented with a pure white Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The Battalion adopted the bull terrier as their mascot and named it Watchman I.
Watchman V took over duties on October 5, 2009. He carried out his duties as part of the 3rd Battalion (STAFFORDS) of the Mercian Regiment, until it was withdrawn in 2013. His duties are now to the Staffordshire Regimental Association.