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Within many regiments there is a history of having a mascot which for The Royal Welsh is a goat. The different antecedent regiments typically use the traditional names of Dewi, Taffy, Shenkin, and Sospan.
Official mascots have a regimental number and rank, they can be promoted and demoted like human soldiers and even receive a salary! For the goat mascot, this salary goes towards his uniform, accommodation (which often includes a radio and a sofa) and his food. For one particular mascot, Sospan I, this even included up to two cigarette rations to eat each day! This no longer happens and the goat mascots are, and have always been, very well cared for by the Regiment.
The Royal Welsh and its predecessor units have been adopting goats as their mascots since 1775, each with their own unique story of how they were acquired. At the Battle of Bunker Hill, during the American War of Independence (1775-1783), it is thought that a wild goat came onto the battle field and led the colour party from the field. The Royal Welsh Fusiliers then adopted the goat as their mascot as it brought them good luck.
Another founding story dates back to the Crimean War (1853-1856) where it is believed that when the then 41st (The Welch Regiment of Infantry) was in Crimea, and suffering from a harsh winter, a soldier on lookout placed the kid inside his greatcoat for warmth. Due to the cold, he was suffering from a state of hypothermia and the goat made a noise alerting the soldier to Russian activity and, therefore, had time to warn the others. The 41st were to receive a commendation from Lord Raglan who enquired if the kid was a billy or a nanny. The soldier responded, “He be a he, Sir.” It was then made that the goat would be made a regimental pet called ‘Hebe.’ Hebe was introduced to Queen Victoria in 1856 who was fond of him, and after learning of his death a few years later stated that his successor would be from the royal herd. This was a custom through to 1969 where the Welch Regiment amalgamated with the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers to from The Royal Regiment of Wales.
When the mascot dies, the regiment will write to the Queen (or King) informing her of the loss and to request permission to recruit a new mascot, continuing the tradition that begun with Queen Victoria. The next kid goat is selected and trained by the Goat Major who develops a close bond, with the kid accepting the Goat Major as the alpha. This is a special relationship and a full time role for the Goat Major requiring grooming, exercising, and training the kid on a daily basis. The most recent recruit is Fusilier Shenkin IV of the 3rd Battalion who is a Kashmir goat and was selected from the royal herd on the Great Orme Country Park in 2018. The army, along with an RSPCA vet, set out to find the next Shenkin, but it was no easy task as it took four weeks and many attempts to catch this cheeky kid! Shenkin IV was taken to Maindy Barracks in Cardiff for six months of training which included day trips to Cardiff city centre to get him used to crowds and noise. He made his first official public debut at the National Armed Forces Day in Llandudno on June 30th 2018.
The 1st Battalion of The Royal Welsh have Fusilier Llewellyn as their latest recruit who joined them in 2016. He also came from the royal herd on the Great Orme but lives at Lucknow Barracks in Wiltshire where his main duties are to accompany the regiment on ceremonial duties – he stepped in to fulfil extra duties in 2018 while Shenkin IV was being recruited and trained. His recruitment followed the death of Lance Corporal Gwillam Taffy VI Jenkins.
This article written by Cardiff University intern Kirsten Scoggins.