The Mercian Regiment has welcomed its new mascot: a Swaledale ram that comes with a royal seal of approval. The Duke of Devonshire chose Private Derby XXXI (31st) from his flock at Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire, and he has reported for duty to his new base at RHQ Mercian, Whittington.
He is the latest in a long line of regimental mascots, with the first ram taken by soldiers of the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot during the Indian Mutiny Campaign in 1858. That ram marched nearly 3,000 miles with the regiment and was at six battles, earning the Indian Mutiny Medal in 1862.
Derby XXXI replaces Derby XXX, who was promoted to Lance Corporal in September but died just months later. Like many rams, he lives on grass and hay but he is officially classed as a soldier, with an ID card and Army number, and even draws a wage for his rations.
He will bear 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. On his forehead, he wears a silver plate that is embossed with the regimental cap badge, along with silver protectors on the tips of his horns.
He now begins a long list of official duties, helping form a guard of honour for a rugby game between Worcester Warriors and Sale Sharks at Sixways Stadium in Worcester. He will also be trained to lead soldiers on parade, march out players at the home of Derby County FC and attend regimental occasions.
Private Derby XXXI is among 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 in 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh.