Did you know that military units sometimes keep pets as mascots? Private Derby is the first of several sheep, goat, donkey, mule, and horse mascots I plan to blog about. He’s a member of the 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) in Derby, England. Private Derby is a Swaledale ram – the 31st Private Derby to date.
The 95th Derbyshire Regiment of Foot, forerunner of the 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment, acquired the first Private Derby in 1858 at the siege and capture of Kotah, in India, when the unit’s commanding officer spied a handsome fighting ram tethered in a temple yard. He requisitioned the ram, which then marched more than 3,000 miles with the regiment. During that time, the first Private Derby was undefeated in 33 matches against other fighting rams. At war’s end he was awarded an Indian Campaign Metal, the only British mascot to win one. He died in 1863.
Later Private Derbys were requisitioned in whatever part of the world the unit was stationed. Some were gifts, like Derby VI, who served from 1882 to 1884. This handsome black ram was given to the regiment by His Royal Highness Syed Muhammad Kalby Ali Khan the Nawab of Rampur (that’s in India). Then in 1912, the Duke of Devonshire began providing rams from his flock of champion Swaledales. The tradition continues today.
The current ram, Derby XXXI, enlisted on February 20, 2016. He’s based at RHQ Mercian, Lichfield, Staffordshire, and has his own handlers, the Ram Major and the Ram Orderly, to look after him. He leads the regiment in parades and represents it at other public appearances, where he wears his full Private Derby regalia, a scarlet jacket faced with Lincoln green and gold. He also wears medals earned by his predecessors, including a General Service Medal 1962 with the clasp Northern Ireland, two jubilee medals and a recent Op Tosca (Cyprus) medal, and on his forehead he wears a silver plate embossed with the regimental cap badge. In addition, he wears silver protectors on the tips of his horns.
The Army recognizes Private Derby as a regular soldier. He has his own regimental number and documentation and he’s paid £3.75 per day. He also draws his own rations like any other soldier, has a leave card, and takes an annual holiday during the mating season.
Private Derby XXXI is one of three mascots serving with the 3rd (UK) Division – which incorporates the Mercian Regiment – including a drum horse called Dudley with The Queen’s Royal Hussars and a regimental goat named William Windsor with the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh.