It takes a brave person to stand on the front lines of war and help defend a country. When you enlist in the military, you’re well aware that when you get deployed oversees, you may very well not make it back alive.
Those willing to do this sort of job come from all different backgrounds, and each one has a different reason for risking their lives for a cause they believe in. But, during World War I, there was one very unique soldier that helped on the front lines.
His name was Jackie… and he was a baboon! And that’s not even the half of his story…
Standing on the front lines during times of war takes an unbelievable amount of courage and dedication. Every soldier has his or her own unique story, but there was one in particular who fought in World War I that had an origin that was definitely not like the rest. His name was Jackie, and he was a baboon. But don’t be fooled: his dedication to the South African Army was truly second to none.
It might sound unbelievable, but Jackie wasn’t actually the only baboon employed by the country. Another, simply named “Jack,” was trained to work as a train signal conductor for several years, and he did the job to perfection.
Jackie, however, was brought on board the South African Army for a much more dangerous role. He would actually be on the front lines with other soldiers helping out during enemy battles. But, what exactly was so special about this baboon that the army would want him on their side?
Jackie, who was a Chacma baboon, started his life out much like Jack the signal conductor: he was a pet to a South African farmer named Albert Marr. After seeing a young Jackie wandering his farm one afternoon, Albert decided to take him in and train him.
Jackie spent several years with Albert, and he quickly developed a tight bond with his owner, who always treated Jackie with care and respect. In 1915, Albert was enlisted to join the war and, not wanting to leave his loyal Jackie behind, he asked the army if he could bring the animal with him. Surprisingly, the army agreed!
Once Jackie joined, the army treated him exactly as it did all other enlisted recruits. He was given a pay book, a uniform complete with buttons and regimental badges, a cap, and even his own set of rations. He was ready to hit the battlefield running.
Soon enough, Jackie learned to behave like all the other soldiers. He would stand and salute senior officers when they passed, and because of his heightened sense of sight and smell, he would frequently keep guard during the night while others were asleep.
Because of Jackie’s popularity with the soldiers, he became the mascot of the Third Transvaal Scottish Regiment of the South African Army. He spent some time in the trenches while in France, and he was even wounded by shrapnel during an explosive shootout.
Jackie was eventually awarded the Medal of Valor for his bravery, and he was promoted from Private to Corporal. Towards the end of the war, Jackie was honorably discharged at the Maitland Dispersal Camp in Cape Town, South Africa. He was given discharge papers, a military pension, and a civil employment form.
After his discharge, Jackie returned home to live with the Marr family until his death in 1921. To this day, he is the only baboon ever to have achieved the rank of Corporal in the South African Infantry, and the only baboon ever to have seen battle in World War I. He was truly a remarkable animal, and his memory will live on for years to come!
What an incredible baboon! It takes a brave soul to face the reality of war, and Jackie had all the qualities a military could ask for.
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