Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Soldiers Mascots

The Edinburgh Festival, and the accompanying 'Fringe,' bring many illustrious individuals into a city which can boast a great many already.  One major event at this time is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in which bands and others from all over the world participate to rapturous applause, often in the rain!  This year once again one of Scotland's favourite nations, one in which ties were made stronger during the second world war, had soldiers representing their country at the tattoo.
Edinburgh Zoo is one of the most famous in the world, or at least in Edinburgh.  There are a host of animals confined here, some along with controversy it must be said, and there are also a host of Penguins, some of the zoo's favourite characters.  Each day since the early 50's a gate is opened and the Penguins, if they feel so inclined, wander out along a chosen path before being returned to their pen.  usually this occurs without incident and the Penguins feel happy enough it appears with the adventure.
One Penguin however has been Knighted!
Sir Nils Olav, a King Penguin, became the mascot and Colonel in Chief of the Norwegian Kings Guard in 1972 when the King's Guard were attending the Tattoo.  Originally given the rank of 'Lance Corporal' (Visekorporal) the Penguin was promoted each time the Guard attended the Tattoo.  Sir Nils passed away in 1987 and his successor , Nils Olav II, inherited his rank.  Sadly he too passed away in 2008 but Olav III also accepted with no hesitation the rank and position awarded his predecessors.  During the visit in 2008 Nils was awarded a Knighthood the honour approved by King Harald V.   On the 22nd of this month some 50 members of the King's Guard attended the Zoo and a crowd gathered to watch Sir Nils receive his next promotion this one making him a Brigadier!     
Such activities are not unknown, regiments often have goats or dogs as mascots, the Polish Division during the second world war inherited a brown bear cub called 'Wojtek' which not only continued with them through the was in Italy and France but was seen carrying ammunition during the Battle of Monte Cassino!  So helpful was he to morale and in carrying ammunition that he was enlisted as a soldier, reaching the rank of Corporal and having his own paybook.  With many Poles settling in Scotland after the war Wojtek entered Edinburgh Zoo where he happily ate cigarettes thrown to him by ex-Soldiers.  He ate them as there was no-one to light them for him!  He died in 1963 and I can remember seeing a Brown Bear in the zoo but I was not told this story.  A statue of bear and soldier  keeper now stands in Princess Street Gardens.
The UK, where important things happen!


1 comment:

Lee said...

Interesting story...thanks.