The British Army is known, amongst other quirks, for the many different animals it parades as regimental mascots, but the army’s two most senior regiments – The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals, together comprising the Household Cavalry – have no such four-legged adornments, relying perhaps on a stable full of horses, including two magnificent drum horses.
But, whilst the Household Cavalry has no mascots, that does not mean that it has never taken an animal (other than a horse) into its ranks. Quite the contrary.
Duke – the Peninsular War hero
Duke was a Newfoundland dog who attached himself to The Blues shortly after the regiment’s arrival in Portugal in 1812. He was used by the regiment during the advance through Spain to flush out rats from deserted farmhouses, prior to the ruins being occupied as bivouacs.
Somewhat unkindly, given his ratting duties, the dog was repeatedly traded-in with locals in return for free wine. Nonetheless, Duke always managed to re-join his comrades, returned with the regiment to England and became something of a hero: his portrait still hangs in the Officers Mess.
Spot – the Waterloo dog
Another Blues dog, Spot, belonged to Captain William Tyrwhitt Drake and was present at the Battle of Waterloo; like Duke, he was also memorialised with a painting, by William Henry Davis, painted on 5th November 1816.
After Waterloo, the regiments of the Household Cavalry were not operationally deployed again until the suppression of the Urabi Revolt in Egypt in 1882, during which the Household Cavalry Composite Regiment made its famous moonlight charge at the battle of Kassassin, and the Relief of Gordon (the Nile Expedition) of 1884-5, to which it contributed officers and men, but not horses, for the Heavy Camel Regiment.
Two Boer War pooches – Scout and Bob
However, The Blues took with them to the Second Boer War a dog named Bob, who was subsequently awarded a silver collar embellished with battle honours and medal ribbons, while the 1st (Royal) Dragoons (from 1969, The Blues and Royals) adopted an Irish Terrier bitch called Scout, who attached herself to the regiment on its arrival in South Africa.
Much is recorded of Scout’s exploits and she is depicted in a photograph wearing The Queen’s South African Medal with 6 bars and the King’s South Africa Medal with 2 bars. However, unlike Bob’s collar, which is now in the Household Cavalry Museum, nobody now knows the location of Scout’s medals.
Philip – the 2nd Life Guards’ bear
Other than a small collection of photographs and an eyewitness letter, little is now known about a brown bear called Philip, who belonged to Captain Sir Herbert Naylor-Leyland Bt of the 2nd Life Guards.
Philip was not a regimental mascot but must have had the status of a regimental pet, for it is clear from the photographs that he was housed with the regiment and had a 2nd Life Guard soldier, Corporal Bert Grainger, to look after him.
An eyewitness letter from a Mr Harrod states that Corporal Grainger and Philip would often give wrestling displays and that when war broke out in 1914, Philip, who had long outlived his owner, was dispatched to London Zoo. Not to be outdone, The Blues also had a bear, but his name is now unknown.
Corporal of Horse Jack
Philip the bear was not the Household Cavalry’s only official (albeit unusual) pet in the mid-to-late 19th century. There was also a monkey called Jack, who held the rank of Corporal of Horse and wore a specially made Life Guard tunic.
Jack was officially the property of the 2nd Life Guards’ Assistant Surgeon, Dr Frank Buckland, a noted naturalist, author and collector of wild animals, who served with the regiment from 1854 to 1863.
Short of stature, bigger around the chest than he was in height, bearded Frank Buckland was also noted for consuming any cooked animal, hence the title of his biography by Richard Girling, The Man Who Ate The Zoo (2016). Although, with the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, Philip the bear was consigned to London Zoo, Corporal of Horse Jack had probably been consumed long since by his owner…
Christopher Joll is the co-author of The Drum Horse in the Fountain: Tales of Heroes & Rogues in the Guards (published by Nine Elms Books, 2019). For more information about Christopher go to www.christopherjoll.com.