Courtesy Al Lloyd/ Canadian 21st Batallion CEF
Doesn’t Nan look striking beside her caretaker, Piper Nelson?
Last week, we goats were lying in the shade, chewing cud. When I mentioned I’d blogged about the wartime exploits of William de Goat, King Neptune and Sergeant Bill, my daughter Emony said, “What about Nan? She was a wartime hero, too!”
“She’s a wartime heroine, darling, not a hero” Bon Bon told the girls. She sighed and gave me The Look. “It’s just like a buck to only mention males.”
So, to mollify my family and for all of you female readers, here is the story of Nan, a brave girl goat from Canada who served in World War I.
Nan, then called Celestine, was purchased by a soldier of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s 21st Battalion while the battalion was in Brockton, Ontario. She served with the men of the 21st Battalion from its mustering in 1914 through its demobilization in 1919. During that time, 3,328 men of the 21st Battalion were killed, wounded or went missing in action; only 106 of the unit’s original soldiers—and Nan—entered Germany at the end of the war. Like Sergeant Bill, Nan earned the 1914/1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for her valor at the front.
When it came time for her battalion to move, Nan watched for the men of the Quartermaster’s Detachment and Transport section to fix her a comfy spot on one of the general service wagons; then without prompting she hopped aboard, ready for deployment.
On the Battalion’s way to the Battle of Somme in France, the unit’s Transport Officer decided the soldiers put too much of their time and effort caring for Nan. He sold her to a French woman for 20 francs. When Nan’s boys discovered she was gone, they were so horrified and outraged that the sale was annulled and Nan returned to her place in the ranks. Nan saw action in many of the same battles in which Sergeant Bill served. And on one not-so-unlucky Friday the 13th (in December 1918), she was the first Allied mascot to cross the Rhine River.
Nan’s closest brush with death, however, came at war’s end when her men unloaded her at Southampton, England. It was against British Board of Agriculture regulations to bring an animal into England from a foreign country. Nan, the Board insisted, would have to be slaughtered or deported back to France. Her friends objected, allowances were made, and after three weeks in strict quarantine, she boarded the Cunard liner, Carolina, along with the men of the 21st Battalion and departed for Canada.
Nan spent the rest of the summer at Mowat Hospital, cared for by Piper William Nelson. A member of the newly disbanded 21st Battalion, Nelson was a former shepherd from the Orkney Islands; he’d been Nan’s special caretaker in France and was her closest friend. In the fall, she moved to the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, where she lived for the rest of her days.
On September 22, 1924, at the ripe old age of 12, Nan was euthanized due to failing health. Her head was sent to be mounted and now resides in the Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment Museum in Kingston. The rest of Nan was buried with full military honors in Cataraqui Cemetery in Kingston.
Emony’s right, Nan was as much of a military hero as any of the other goats who served.