Nan being presented to the Prince of Wales at RMC in 1919 Flanders.
“The mascot of the 21st Battalion was a white goat named Nan. Nan seemed to be intuitively aware of her surroundings and situations. When preparations for a move were being undertaken by the Battalion, Nan sensed the meaning of the activity, and was always ready to leave with the men. She would carefully watch the members of the transport section, her closest friends. Nan knew these men would prepare a flat section on one of the G.S. Wagons so she could ride comfortably to the Battalion’s next position. Nan required a great deal of care, and on several occasions, she went AWOL. More often than not, it was not her fault as she was usually found either tied up in the lines of another unit, or at the rear of a local pub.
The men dearly loved Nan, and a story is told by the men of the Q.M. Detachment and Transport section. It was during the march to the Somme, the Transport Officer came to the conclusion that his men were spending too much time caring for Nan, and subsequently sold her to a Frenchman for 20 francs. When this was discovered, horror and outrage swept the ranks. It was not until Nan was safely returned to the Battalion that peace within the unit was restored. Nan was known from Ypres in Belgium, to Amiens in France and westward to Germany’s Rhine River. Nan holds the record of being the first Mascot to cross the Rhine, at the City of Bonn, on the morning of Friday, December 13th, 1918.
Getting Nan into France was easy compared to the problems encountered by Battalion Headquarters in arranging transport back to Canada. Embarking at Le Havre for England in April 1919, the men hurried Nan on board and disembarked with the Battalion the next morning at Southhampton without any unpleasant questions being asked. However, approximately fifteen minutes later, the Commanding Officer was requested to report to the Officer in Charge of the Port. The Port Officer, without emotion, informed the C.O. that it was contrary to the regulations of the Board of Agriculture to bring an animal into England from a foreign country. Nan, however, had already landed, and the Battalion, en route to Witley Camp, placed Nan in a baggage car under guard and in strict isolation.
Nonetheless, the Agriculture Board had not forgotten Nan. The next day, a courteous inspector visited Battalion Headquarters to enquire about Nan. It was admitted that Nan had been brought to Witley from the Port of Entry. The inspector, a former Officer in the Army, appreciated the feelings of affection and sentiment toward Nan, but insisted the law must be obeyed.
Nan would have to be slaughtered or re-exported. Nan was indeed re-exported, but not to France; Nan left for Canada, after three weeks in quarantine. Homeward bound on board the Cunard liner “Caronia,” Nan, as usual, attracted unwanted attention. When the Ship’s Commander became aware of Nan’s presence, he ordered that Nan be kept below deck in a place reserved for animals. Disembarking at Halifax, Nan had a clean bill of health. She had been ill for two weeks in France with sore feet. However, through the efforts of a Piper from the Orkney Islands, she recovered. The Piper had been a shepherd before coming to Canada.
When the Battalion was disbanded, Nan was lonely for her friends, but her comrades did not desert her. For a short time Nan was cared for by Piper Nelson, Nan’s closest friend, and spent the summer on the grounds of Mowat Hospital. When the disagreeable weather of autumn arrived, the Commandant of the Royal Military College made arrangements with Captain N.F. Bray, the College Riding Master, to have Nan bedded down in the stables and to see that she was properly fed. When Captain W.J.Finney succeeded Captain Bray, he and his men carried on to ensure that the last days of Nan were happy ones.
When His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales made a visit in 1919, Nan was prepared for presentation by Piper Nelson. He gave her a good rubbing of wet oatmeal to whiten her coat. When Piper Nelson led her to the stand to greet His Royal Highness, they both carried themselves proudly; Nan appeared to be as aware of the occasion as her handler. The Prince of Wales greeted her, and smiling, remarked he had met her on one occasion in France during the war.
Unfortunately, old age overtook Nan at the age of 12, and life became a burden. She lost the use of her legs, and on the advice of the Veterinary Officer of Military District No. 3, Nan was painlessly put to sleep on September 22, 1924. Nan was buried by the men of her Battalion, and her grave suitably marked.
Nan was a veteran, having served with the Battalion for over four years. She was with the men she loved and who loved her. Although Nan has left us, and she was just a goat, her spirit has surely joined her comrades who sleep “Between the crosses row on row” in France.”
Photos courtesy of http://www.21stbattalion.ca