The origins of the Regiment using the antelope as a badge are lost in
the mists of time. An official digest compiled in 1830 stated that it
was derived from a standard bearing the image of an antelope, which
was captured at Almanza in 1707. However, if there is any truth in this
legend, it is more likely that the standard was that of a Moorish regiment,
using the Antelope to denote its African roots, and was captured at
Saragossa in 1710.
Another theory suggests that the device is linked to Sir Walter Vane,
sometimes described as the first Colonel of the Sixth Foot. Although
a branch of Vanes family did use the antelope in its Arms, there is
no direct link to Vane himself. It is more probable that the badge was
chosen for no more reason than it was a badge of the Royal Family, and
the Regiment wished to show its allegiance. The badge of the Sixth Foot
is referred to in the Royal Warrant of 1743. The Antelope is not mentioned
by name, but it appears in Colonel Napiers drawing of the Colours,
1747. The emblem also appears on a Regimental drum dating from the time
of the Forty-Five rebellion, and was probably painted shortly
after the 1743 Warrant.
The Regiment kept live antelope mascots for around two hundred years.
In 1963 the Royal Warwickshire Regiment became the Royal Warwickshire
Fusiliers, and on 23rdApril 1968 it merged with three other English
Fusilier regiments to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The new
regiment adopted the mascot, maintaining the tradition through until
2005 when the last Bobby sadly died. His head is now on the wall of
the Montgomery room at St Johns House in Warwick. Although the Regiment
no longer keeps a mascot, the image of Bobby can still be found on the
buttons of every Fusiliers No1 and No2 dress uniforms.
The first antelope mascot was probably acquired by the Royal Warwickshire
Regiment somewhere between 1825 and 1841, while serving in India continuously
for sixteen years. By 1868 the 1st Battalion was back in India, and
there is a record of them having acquired an antelope in 1871 which
they named Billy. A Maharajah presented them with another Billy in 1877;
this one returned home with the Battalion in 1880, accompanied them
to Ireland and died there in 1888. Back in1857 the British army had
been increased, and this saw the permanent establishment of a 2nd battalion
within the Regiment. At some point it seems to have become tradition
for the 1st Battalion to call their mascot Bobby, and if the 2nd Battalion
had one he was usually called Billy. Though for some reason there was
also one named Charlie, his head is now on loan to RHQ. HM Tower of
London. Obtaining these animals in India was not a problem, back home
however, it was a different matter. They had to be obtained from a zoo,
and they had to be male. At the end of World War II in 1945, the 2nd
Battalion liberated one from Hamburg zoo. He accompanied
them on their tour to Egypt and Palistine.
The mascot was looked after by two handlers chosen from the battalion,
they would make sure that he was fed and watered and exercised. When
on parade they kept him under control by means of two white ropes attached
to his collar which was also white, and was emblazoned with a large
silver badge. On his back he wore a coat of royal blue, embroidered
with the regimental crest, and his horns were tipped with silver cones.
After becoming a Fusilier, the colour of his coat was changed to scarlet,
the last Bobby also wore a Lance Corporals stripe and a GSM with
the Northern Ireland Clasp.
Usually quite well behaved on parade, a few of the antelopes have had
a mind of their own giving rise to one or two anecdotes. During a military
review at Aldershot, the then Bobby chose to lie down as he was being
led past King George V and proceeded to nibble the grass, thus bringing
the parade to a halt.
Bobby in Hong Kong 1962
|Bobby on Parade in
front of Monty on theVesting Day 1968 at Watchet Summerset with
On another occasion, the Drum Major made the
mistake of walking too close in front of him during a tattoo performance,
and paid for his error with a sore behind and a pair of torn trousers.
Another Bobby, who was a Corporal, and obviously had a cunning streak,
on church parade one Sunday at Tidworth, he developed a limp. He was
removed from the parade and taken back to his pen where he made a speedy
recovery. After three Sunday parades at which he put on a similar performance,
it was decided to ignore him and press on with the parade. The limp
stopped after about a quarter of a mile, and never re-occurred. One
of the mascots had his military service recognized at the Tower of London
on the 24th June 1997, with a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
This was taken in 1982
This Bobby had been born at London Zoo in
1982 and joined the Regiment at the age of one month. The normal life
expectancy of these antelopes is about nine years; this one had butted
his way to fifteen. He had been promoted to Corporal on his thirteenth
birthday, and lived at the head-quarters of the 5th (Warwickshire) Battalion
in Coventry. His principal handler was Sergeant Martin.
Shortly after the next Bobby came along in the year 2000, the 5th (Warwickshire)
Battalion was disbanded and so he went to the 2nd Battalion. However,
he got posted to HM Tower of London, the Regimental Headquarters, when
the Battalion left for a tour of duty in Germany. He was due to return
to the 2nd Battalions barracks in April 2001, but because of an
outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, which restricted the movement of
animals, he stayed at the Tower for fifteen months before returning
to the barracks in North Luffenham, Leicestershire. His pen was a converted
tennis court with plenty of grass; his regular diet was horse nuts along
with the odd biscuit, to which he was very partial. His life was brief,
and when he died in 2005, little did anyone realise that he may be the
last in a long line of mascots.
Royal Warwickshire Regiment Handlers that I have been told about are:
Fred Whittle, Raymond Johns, Mat Hardy, Ian (Spud) Spooner, Dixie Dean,
Eddie Gunn, Al Hubbicks and Dave Spears.
Fusilier Handlers that I have been told of are: 1963, Tommy Craige.
Andrew Newton, 22, from Oldham, Michael Griffin, 29, from Erdington
and Sergeant Martin.
I am awaiting photographs from Tommy Nolan (1947).
|Ian (Spud) Spooner
and Dixie Dean with Bobby in Gibalter
Bobby 7th arriving in Gib, I believe 69 ,with Cpl Dixie Dean and
Iain 'Spud" Spooner
I understand he did two tours in Gibalter with 3RRF 1969 to 1971
and 1RRF 1971 to 1973
The 1RRF handlers where
Raymond Johns and Matty Hardy in Gib.nearly lost me man hood one
monday morning on convent guard.
Comments by passed Handlers
Raymond Johns. I nearly lost me manhood one Monday morning on
Eddie Gunn. I just found it strange that he had his own fag ration,
two a day, plain not tipped. When I was short of cash I used to share
it with him, half for Bobby and half for me. You was always in danger
of losing your manhood, as the height he was, as he lifted his head
to butt you it came in an upward stroke. Many a time I had to jump out
of the way.
Ian Spooner I was Bobbys Keeper from 1967 to 1972, taking
him on in Donnaford Camp Watchet, going over to Gibraltar in 1968 until
my demob in 1972. This Bobby was born at Regents Park Zoo and Cpl Ricky
Drummond along with Pte Dave Wrigh had the job of going to the zoo to
pick him up. Dave did not stay as a handler for long, so I asked for
the job and got it. Ricky and I took it in turns to feed him, and that
had to be done every 2 hours for 8 weeks, then every 3 hours for about
a month, and so on until he was weaned off and onto a solid diet of
feed pellets and hay. He liked some vegetables too, but that was a treat.
I lived on camp, so spent all my time with Bobby and was able to walk
him on my own. I think he looked on me as his mate, because when anyone
else came near he would butt them and he had a fine pair of horns, even
at six months old. Bobbys first parade was when Field Marshal
Montgomery attended the change over from Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers
to Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. After the parade Montgomery came over
and had a chat, telling us that he started his army service as a mascot
handler. With that he put out his hand towards Bobby and got a good
old butt, he did laugh it off though.
It was not long after this that Ricky came into the run one day and
Bobby gave him a hell of a butt on his bad leg. He never came back as
the antelope handler; it was too dangerous for him as he had a plate
in his leg. I was put in charge of Bobby and Pte Dave Gregg became the
other handler. When we were told we were going to Gibraltar, he bought
himself out of the army and went back to Newcastle. Then Pte Terry Gibson
became a handler, he was married to a Gibraltarian girl so wanted to
go back to Gibraltar. He proved to be very good at the job; he was also
very useful as he was an MT trained driver.
The move to Gibraltar had to be done quickly due to an outbreak of Foot
and Mouth disease in England. Bobby had a special crate built that we
mounted on a trailer in Gibraltar in order to move him around. He got
better on parade, not pulling so much and standing still, until he got
bored. He liked to eat cigarettes, and I got him a ration of 200 a week
while in Gibraltar. He also had to have his hay flown in from England,
he couldnt be bedded down on straw because he would eat his bed,
straw could give him a straw ball which could cause a blockage and kill
him. He was a good boy; it was the one thing that almost kept me in
the army. But I had a job lined up working in a zoo, so I handed over
responsibility and never saw or heard anything of him after I left the
army. It was a lovely job, one I enjoyed so much and I got very attached
Comments from David John Wright
On looking at the Bobby history just thought I,d add that after picking
up Bobby myself and Ricky bottle fed him every 4hrs . I lived out at
the time and had to bike it in. My rank was Drummer at the time not
( private , how dare they hhaa) Then in the Sept of that year we went
Gib. So I looked after him for several months ie April - Aug. On On
return Gib I joined Mt. Dont mean to upset whats been written however
history can get things awry sometimes .
|Bobby, the antelope
army mascot, has rejoined his regiment after a 15-month stay in
the Tower of London.
The Indian black buck antelope is the mascot of The Royal Regiment
He was sent to The Tower, the Fusiliers regimental headquarters,
when 2nd Battalion went on a tour of Germany.
He was forced into a longer stay when foot-and-mouth restrictions
prevented him from returning to the battalion's barracks in North
Luffenham, Rutland, Leicestershire.
Life on the outside
Bobby was welcomed back to the barracks by his handlers, Fusiliers
Andrew Newton, 22, from Oldham, and Michael Griffin, 29, from
Erdington, Birmingham on Friday.
He will now be housed in a converted tennis court, although he
is still confined to the barracks under current foot-and-mouth
Bobby was escorted from
Major Peter Clarke, of 2nd Battalion, said: "We turned one
of the tennis courts into a home for Bobby, and of course there
is plenty of grass for him to graze on.
"He certainly seems to be enjoying the wide open spaces and
has settled down well to life on the outside."
The tradition of antelope mascots dates back 150 years, when the
Royal Warwickshire regiment, later the Fusiliers, adopted an antelope
Bobby took up his posting as mascot last year.
He is said to like football and Nice biscuits and hour-long walks.
Bobby's handlers are delighted that he managed to find sanctuary
from the livestock cull in a place more known for sending people
to their deaths the Tower.
Warwickshire Fusiliers Museum Volunteer