Billy the RN goat and his amazing disappearing coat
Recent pictures here of ships' animal mascots prompted former Evening News defence correspondent TIM KING to recall his Royal Navy National Service days... with a goat.
I did my basic training at HMS Raleigh at Torpoint, Cornwall, which rightly got a few broadsides from old sea dogs for the recent TV documentary and the disgusting language it contained.
One of my shipmates was delegated to look after and parade with the base’s mascot, a pure white goat.
The silly billy had made the mistake of telling our chief petty officer he was a farmer’s son, so the chief assumed he knew all about goats.
This specimen, a cantankerous animal at the best of times, was always inspected rigorously by the 1st Lieutenant before being marched on to the weekly divisions, so it had to be immaculate – even its hooves and horns polished.
Our young farmer hated goats and fed the animal packets of blue liners (duty free RN cigarettes) in the hope it would make it sick and he would be relieved of his duty, but Billy thrived on the nicotine. Goats will eat anything.
The showdown came one day after the Ordinary Seaman (Goatkeeper) had neglected to scrub and groom it ready for parade.
In a panic, he got an oppo to help him prepare a bucket of pusser’s blanco which they daubed all over Billy’s coat with a broom to hide the grot he’d been rolling in.
Billy strutted proudly on parade to the tune of Hearts of Oak, but then it began to rain and the coat of blanco gradually dissolved leaving a white trail across the parade ground and exposing the muck they’d hidden until then.
Needless to say, the skipper was not amused as the C-in-C Plymouth was the inspecting officer and the perpetrators were later marched to the captain’s table.
In true Raleigh tradition ‘If it moves salute it, if it doesn’t paint it’ their punishment was to paint every white kerb, bollard and step in the establishment.
My shipmate was, however, relieved of his goatkeeping duties which were then assigned to a ‘regular’.