Sunday, June 25, 2006
A British army regiment's ceremonial pet goat was demoted in disgrace after it marched out of line before a host of international dignitaries during a parade to mark Queen's Elizabeth II's birthday, a military spokesman said Saturday.
The military mascot, a 6-year-old male goat called Billy, was downgraded from the rank of lance corporal to fusilier -- the same status as a private -- after army chiefs ruled his poor display had ruined the ceremony June 16 at a British army base in Episkopi, western Cyprus.
Lance Cpl. Dai Davies, 22, the goat's handler, was unable to keep control during the march earlier this month, as the mascot darted from side to side, throwing soldiers off their stride, spokesman Captain Crispian Coates said by telephone from Episkopi -- one of two British bases on the island.
"The goat, which has been the regiment's mascot since 2001, was supposed to be leading the march, but would not stay in line," said Coates. "He was reported for subordination and after consideration, the commanding officer decided he had no option but to demote Billy."
Since his demotion, soldiers of a lower rank are no longer expected to salute Billy as a sign of respect, Coates said.
Captain William Rose, a soldier present at the parade, said the goat "was trying to headbutt the waist and nether regions of the drummers."
The regiment, the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh, has traveled with a pet goat since soldiers adopted one of the animals during the Crimean War, awarding it ceremonial status as a lance corporal.
A total of 11 ceremonial pets -- including a ferret, an Indian black buck and a ram -- are kept by the British Army, but regiments do not take the mascots on tours to combat zones. British legislators were told last month that keeping the pets costs £30,000 ($55,000; €44,000) per year.
The Welsh regiment was presented with a goat from the Royal herd in 1746, and Billy is a descendant from the same bloodline, said a spokeswoman for Britain's Ministry of Defense, on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.
"He is not a grazing goat and has food flown in from Wales. Billy also has an allowance of two cigarettes a day -- both of which he eats," said the spokeswoman.
Ambassadors from Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, a United Nations special representative and the head of U.N. forces in Cyprus all attended the march, Coates added.