Indian Cavalry Division Mascot Trophy, 1915
Indian Cavalry Division Mascot Trophy, 1915
Indian Cavalry Division Mascot Trophy, 1915
Indian Cavalry Division Mascot Trophy, 1915
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Indian Cavalry Division Mascot Trophy, 1915

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Height: 42cm (in). Widest span: 62cm (in)

Mascot trophy comprising a set of goat horns (widest span 65.5cm, height 52cm), mounted on an ebonised mahogany escutcheon (33cm x 26cm) applied with silver plated plaque engraved ‘Billy / regimental pet of the / 1st Indian Cavalry Division / Ammunition Column. / Died at St. Acheul / - Somme -, Sept.13. 1915.’

The 1st Indian Cavalry Division, comprising the 2nd (Sialkot) Cavalry Brigade, 3rd (Ambala) Cavalry Brigade, 8th (Lucknow) Cavalry Brigade, and divisional troops, was formed in India at the outbreak of the First World War and arrived in France in November 1914. By this time the mobile phase of the war was already over. As a result the Division spent the following three years taking their turn in the trenches and training for the possibility of an infantry breakthrough which the cavalry could exploit. At the time of Billy’s demise, this meant the widely anticipated Battle of Loos that was fought between 25 September and 15 October 1915.

Billy’s specific unit, the 1st Indian Cavalry Divisional Ammunition Park (79 MT Company ASC) supplied both the cavalry and the three RHA batteries assigned to it. The War Diary of the 79th Company shows it was operating in the Amiens and Abbeville area and thus was in the vicinity of St. Acheul on the day of Billy met his end on 13 September 1915. Ominiously for Billy, perhaps, was a 79th Company War Diary entry of a fortnight earlier that included the prohibition of supplementing army rations with the directive ‘… shooting of game strictly prohibited.’

Goats it must be said were a valuable source of food on the Western Front for Muslim and Hindu troops of the Indian Corps and were slaughtered in accordance with religious beliefs. Others were adopted as mascots by Indian, Canadian and British units. Documentary evidence of the period reveal Billy goats mascots adopted by Coldstream Guards, No.85 Squadron Royal Flying Corps, The Inniskilling Fusiliers, a Transport Section of The Sherwood Foresters, a Royal Garrison Artillery battery, a Vetinary Corps detachment, and many others. A favourite photograph of 1916 shows the Billy of 1/5th Northumberland Fusiliers sporting a Baden Reserve unit Ersatz Pickelhauben captured on the Somme.

Ref: War Diary, WO95/1172