Feature

The enchanting
Story of Minnie the Mascot
who served as an LF for seven years.
This is her Story, as serialised by
Roy Woods.

ComicStrip Version
The Hornet comic April 1970,


There was always something not quite right about the Minnie story and I could never put my finger on it.
Today 14/01/2006. I was discussing her with Maurice(Officer i/c Minnie for a few years) and the niggling doubt I had has become clear
It is a fact of course that Mules are sterile and cannot breed,they are the offspring of Horses and Donkeys being mated.
So the story of a Mule giving birth could not have been correct.
Also,I had mentioned that the painting of her in the Museum looked nothing like a Mule.
Maurice has now confirmed that Minnie was a Burmese Hill Pony,and that her mother would have been hired locally as a pack pony when 1LF were in the White City Blockade fighting the Japanese.
She was obviously pregnant with Minnie and gave birth during the fighting 6 days after going into White city.
The rest is history.
Joe



An E mail sent to us by Siobhan McCormack 16th Feb 2017

Hello Jo
I hope you don't mind me dropping a line but I wanted to mark my father's 90th year by a little reminder of a significant time in India.
He was a Lieutenant in 1947 and was involved in the regiment's departure from India. He was responsible for the safe return to the UK of amongst other things, the company silver and the company mascot Minnie.
On a train bound for Bombay with the said Minnie together with an officer's family he was escorting as they were caught up in the unrest of the time, dad was woken in the middle of the night with much activity outside realising the train had halted.
To his horror they were uncoupling for some reason the very carriage Minnie was travelling.
His heart nearly stopped at the thought of the precious Minnie being lost in the wilderness. Needless to say the railway operatives received short sharp words!
I am pleased to say Minnie and the Company silver arrived safely in the UK ... mission accomplished.
incredible tales from a time gone by but remembered fondly and never forgotten.
By the way my dad's name is Francis Kevin McCormack always known as Kevin.
I so much appreciate you taking time to read my email.
With very kind regards
Siobhan McCormack


During operations in Burma in 1944 the 1st Bn XX The Lancashire Fusiliers
was in the 77th Infantry Brigade, which formed part of the Special Force
commanded by General Wingate.
This force was specially organized and trained for operations behind the
Japanese lines,and men and animals had been specially selected.
In March the 77th Brigade, together with all its men, animal transport and equipment, was flown into Burma and operated behind the
Japanese lines. The Brigade established a "block" called White City, across the Japanese road and rail communications to Mytchina.


Six days after the White City block had been established a pack pony in the Brigade transport platoon unexpectly gave birth to a foal.
There was no record of the pony having been served on the veterinary history sheet, so the arrival of the foal was a complete surpise.
The foal was born during a determined Japanese attack, and mortar bombs exploded all round Serjt. Lee, of the 1st Bn XX The Lancashire Fusiliers, and his staff as they worked to bring new "life" into the "block."


Immediately the troops heard of the new member of the Brigade the foal became the topic of the day. Something apart from death and destruction had arrived. During the quieter periods in the fighting, men would stroll down to the transport lines to see Minnie, so named because she was born near the mortar post called Minnie. British and Gurkha troops, united in battle, were all interested in Minnie's progress. During a heavy bombardment of our positions by the Japanese, bombs fell in the transport lines and killed several mules. One mule broke loose and, acting as only mules can, kicked Minnie above the right eye.
It seemed that Minnie might lose the sight of one eye, but Serjt.Lee worked ceaselessly, with improvised veterinary kit, to save her eye.
Brigadier Calvert, "Mad Mike" as our Brigadier was affectionately nicknamed, ordered periodic reports on Minnie's progress to be sent to all forward positions. As Minnies's condition improved so did the morale of the troops defending the "block." When she was better, she was often seen walking off to the mortar positions, where she would drink tea out of a pint pot. The advent of Minnie had definitely helped morale, and stories of Minnie's pranks and antics, however trivial, brought happiness to everyone in the Brigade.


When orders were received to evacuate the "block", the problem of what to do with Minnie, who was still too young and weak to march far,came up. The Brigadier,
appreciating the part Minnie had played in building up the troops' morale, decided to have her flown back to India.
An attack to clear the airstrip was ordered and was successful. An aircraft was able to land and every man "stood to". There were tense faces as Minnie was placed in the aircraft and there was a sign of genuine relief as the plane took off. It was sad to see Minnie go, but the troops had been told that she would be well looked after by the rear party which had been left behind in India. On 1st August,1944, the anniversary of the Battle of Minden, the Battalion returned to Dehra Dun in India, for rest and reorganization. Minnie was there to greet the Battalion,and, although she actually belonged to the Brigade, she made her home with the Lancashire Fusiliers. She soon began to control the Battalion. She used to enter the Serjeants' Mess and eat anything she fancied, including tablecloths.

Once, during the Adjutant's drill parade, Minnie decided to join Serjt.Lee on parade, and it was amusing to see Minnie prodding Serjt.Lee in the back. The Adjutant
eventually decided to dismiss the parade, so again Minnie's reputation soared. She was the only animal that could get the Battalion off a drill parade thirty-five minutes before time. When the Brigade was disbanded Minnie was allowed to remain with the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Commanding Officer promised that she would always be well cared for. In October,1947, when the Battalion left India permission was obtained for Minnie to be brought to England, and she travelled on the aft deck of the troopship "Georgic," where she was a constant source of interest to a large and admiring audience. She soon got her sea legs; her appetite never suffered and she would frequently be seen eating anything from Spam to Condensed milk which was offered her by the troops.

On arrival in England, the Battalion was first stationed at Wem in Shropshire, and it was decided in future Minnie should take part in all ceremonial parades and other appropriate ceremonies. Minnie was therefore prepared and trained to take her place on parade. A ceremonial bridle and shabrack were purchased for her and her positions on parade were fixed.
Her first official duty was in April when she accompanied the detachment of the Battalion to Bury on Gallipoli Sunday and took part in the parade after the service in Bury Parish Church.


Soon after this, when the Battalion took over the duties of Demonstration Battalion at the School of Infantry, Minnie moved with the Battalion to Warminster. Here she paraded on all ceremonial parades and all guards of honour furnished by the Battalion during the two years they remained there. The most important of these were the Trooping the Colour on Minden Day 1948, the amalgamation parade of the First and Second Battalions on Minden Day 1949, and the farewell church parade in Heytesbury, just before the Battalion left for overseas service in the Middle East.
The pony masters were first, Fusilier Priest and later Fusilier Dwyer. Before leaving for the Middle East, the Battalion paraded in Bury with bayonets fixed and colours flying, a privilege granted to them when given the Freedom of the town. Minnie paraded with the Battalion on this occasion.


She was not able to travel with the Battalion in HMT Empire Fowey, owing to the limited deck space on this ship, so she travelled a few weeks later on another troopship with Fusilier Dwyer.
On arrival in Fayid, Minnie was stabled with the horses of the Army Saddle Club. She started her duties with the Battalion soon after her arrival by taking part in the ceremonial guard mounting parades at the C-in C's residence. She next paraded with the Battalion on the King's Birthday Parade in June and on Minden Day she took part in Trooping the Colour when the C-in-C, General Sir Brian Robertson took the salute.
When the Battalion moved to Aqaba in Transjordan in January, 1951, Minnie travelled later from Suez. At Aqaba she was stabled on her own, and grain and forage were obtained from the Arab Legion.


In March 1951 she again paraded with a special guard of honour for HM King Abdullah of Transjordan, when he visited the Battalion. In April she took part in the combined ceremonial parade of the Battalion, and HMS Euryalus, when the ship visited Aqaba to hold a reunion with the Battalion in commemoration of the Lancashire Landing at Gallipoli.
In June, when the Battalion moved by air to Moascar in Egypt, Minnie followed on later. She was stabled in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps lines which were alongside the Battalion's barracks. She attended all church parades and again took part in the ceremony of Trooping the Colour on Minden Day.
Minnie had always been in the best of condition and L/Cpl Dwyer who had been her pony master invariably turned her out in an exemplary manner for all her parades. On all ceremonial occasions Minnie wore here shabrack, of rose colour with gold edge and with a red rose and gold XX in the rear corner. In Ismalia, Minnie caught pneumonia and died on the 8th November 1951.


Albert Dwyer, former groom of Minnie the mascot died on the 21st September 2000.
I have established that "Minnie" was buried in the camp at Moascar. Before her internment her tail and four hooves were removed. Two of her hooves were made into an inkwell and paperweight and together with her tail and ceremonial blanket are on show in the Regimental Museum in Bury. The remaining two hooves were given to the Boroughs of both Bury and Rochdale in remembrance of "Minnie." The XX The Lancashire Fusiliers enjoys the Freedom of both these towns. I feel that I have now come to the conclusion of my story, no doubt there are many more amusing tales to tell of "Minnie."

Roy Woods

© Lancashire Fusiliers website: Joseph Eastwood,Colin Boutty.

 

Addendum:

Minnie's hooves are on display at The Regimental Museum in Bury. Below is a photograph of them. Not a very dignified end to such an eventful life!


Continued by
Maurice Taylor
OIC Minnie the Mascot

When we first established comns you asked me about my involvement with Minnie so I thought I would jot down what I could remember which might be of interest.

At the end of 1949 the Battalion was warned for three years overseas service and in January 1950 we were officially told we were going to Cyprus. A few weeks later this was changed and we were told it was on the cards that we were going to Malaya which was then at the start of the Malayan Emergency campaign. This was wrong also and in February it was announced that we would definitely have a one year non-families posting to Egypt - confusing isn't it? We could then really start our preparations for the move.
I was summands by the Adjutant Capt Dudley West and told I was to be OIC Minnie and to get on with her move overseas. Fusilier Albert Dwyer was the Pony Master and with the help of Sgt Hampson and his Pioneer Platoon we built a special box for her to travel in on the ship.

The Battalion sailed to Egypt on the Empire Fowey but we were unable to get Minnie a passage on this ship so we fixed for her to follow on HMT Devonshire out of Southampton in early May. I travelled up from Fayid to meet Fusilier Dwyer and Minnie at Port Said when the Devonshire docked on 12 May 50 . Unfortunately the ship had a very rough passage and poor old Minnie had been seasick, never have I seen a more miserable pony she looked as though she was going to die any moment. We got her off quite safely and loaded her into a horse box for the run to the Quarantine Depot in Moascar. When I left her she looked as though she was cheering up a little as she was in a stable with fifty mules that had just arrived from Cyprus.
From then on she joined in all our ceremonial duties and parades throughout the Canal Zone and it was always a sight for sore eyes to see her in her parade kit.
When we move to Aqaba in January 1951 I handed over responsibility for the move to my friend Ken Scragg and she sailed from Suez on the LST Empire Roach. I met them on the dockside at Aqaba where I received the most almighty bollocking from our CO Lt Col Geoffrey Bamford when he found out that Minnie had travelled between decks and not in the fresh air on the open deck....perhaps I deserved it? There can't be too much justice. The Arab Legion turned up trumps with stabling and forage during our stay in Transjordan and Albert Dwyer kept Minnie in fine form.
About this time the Battalion commissioned Juliet McLeod the distinguished painter of horses to paint Minnie's portrait. She produced an enchanting painting which captured not only Minnie's likeness but also her personality. The last I saw of this portrait it was lying on it's side in the Museum in Bury with a hole in it. I do hope it has now been restore to it's former glory?
We returned from Aqaba to Moascar where again Minnie was well looked after by Albert Dwyer in the Vetinary Stables. At this time a lot of Fusiliers turned their hand into being grooms when the troubles started in Ismalia as the fifty Arab stable hands walked out and never returned. It was fun for us exercising the horses and joining in the stables management but I seem to remember a lot of horses, mules and dogs had to go because the RAVC staff and Vets could not cope without native labour.
In early November 1951 Minnie fell sick with a severe chill and after about ten days sadly gave up the ghost. We buried her in the hot desert sands of Egypt. There will never be another one like her, she was a great Fusilier who contributed enormously to the XXth.

Yesterday I realized I had some photos of meeting Minnie at Port Said. Eventually I found them and they are attached. The Royal Army Vetinary Corps Vets and Staff contributed a lot to her well being, health, stabling, forage, transport etc. She must have been "taken on strength" and probably had an RACV number somewhere? Anyhow she was given an honorary "cap-badge" see photo also attached.

MauriceTaylor
OIC Minnie the Mascot

A
B
C
1
2
3


This is a model of Minnie made by the talented Bill Duggan
January 2006"

Click on the photo to enlarge it

" 54MM Scale Model of Minnie the Mascot with her handler,