March of the penguin | Global Ideas | DW | 11.03.2015
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Global Ideas

March of the penguin

Penguins and goats are unlikely soldiers but two in particular have made their mark.


A group of penguins or a military unit?

Sir Nils Olav has had a stellar career by most standards. He shot up the ranks of the Norwegian Royal Guard, starting as a corporal and taking the Colonel-in-Chief job in 2005. And he’s a king penguin.

Thanks to his “outstanding service and good conduct”, the plucky bird has received numerous medals and a knighthood approved by Norway’s King Harald V in 2008. Several hundred people and 130 Norwegian Guardsmen attended the lavish ceremony honouring his knighthood at #link: Zoo in Scotland where Nils resides#.

Nils isn’t the only animal of rank in the army. Kashmir goat, William “Billy” Windsor I, served as a lance corporal in the British Army from 2001 until 2009, when he was replaced by a younger goat and thus retired to London’s Whipsnade Zoo.

During his tenure, Billy saw service overseas in Cyprus and led every battalion parade for the Royal Welsh. The gruff goat’s otherwise excellent record was tainted only by a three-month demotion to fusilier due to a “lack of decorum” during the Queen’s official birthday celebrations in 2006, #link: to the BBC#. Billy refused to march in time during the parade.

The tradition of the “regimental goat” dates back to the U.S. Revolutionary War when a wild goat wandered onto a battlefield and led the Welsh battalion at the end of the battle, according to the Associated Press.

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