Jackie the baboon, mascot of the 3rd SAI Brigade Home
Jackie the baboon was not nearly as well-known as Nancy, the
Springbok mascot of the 4th Regiment (South African Scottish) of
the 1st South African Infantry brigade. And believe it or not, Jackie
was the unlikely choice made as the mascot of the 3rd SAI
(Transvaal Regiment) during World War I.
He actually spent three years, on and off, in the front line, in the
mud and blood of the trenches of France and Flanders.
He went "over the top" with the 3rd SAI during the heavy fighting in
which they were engage.
Until August 1915, Jackie was the beloved pet of the Marr family,
who lived on Cheshire Farm, Villieria, on the outskirts of Pretoria.
When, as no 4927, Private Albert Marr attested at Potchefstroom on
August 25, 1915, for service in the newly-formed 3rd (Transvaal) Regi-
ment of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade, he asked for and was
given permission to bring Jackie along with him. At first Jackie's
presence was ignored, but he was so well-behaved and had such
an impressive bearing that he was soon noticed.
Jackie was then officially adopted as the mascot of the 3rd SAI.
Jackie was the taken on strength as a member of the Regiment and
once in England was provided with a special uniform and cap, com-
plete with buttons and regimental badges. The two inseparable
friends, Albert Marr and Jackie, first saw action during the Senussi
Campaign, early in 1916, when the 1st SAI Brigade was dispatched
to Egypt as part of the force to crush this warlike tribe, which had
taken up arms on the instigation of Turkey, Germany's ally. At the
battle of Agagia, on 26 February 1916, Albert was
wounded in the shoulder by an enemy bullet. Until the stretcher
bearers arrived, Jackie, beside himself with agitation, attempted to
do what he could to comfort the prostrate Marr, by licking the wound.
So it happened that Jackie became the firm favourite and comrade,
rather than pet, of all ranks of the Regiment.
He drilled and marched with his company. He would entertain the men. At night when on guard duty with Albert, he
was particularly useful because of his keen eyesight and acute hearing.
Many of those who survived the hell of the trenches in explosiontorn and mutilated France wrote their memoirs.
Although he was almost human, we, of course, will never know what Jackie felt, when he was in the midst of
the nightmare that was Delville Wood or Passchendaele, nor afterwards in the desperate fighting round Kemmel Hill.
Up to now he and Albert had come through the war almost unscathed.
In April 1918, the South African Brigade was being heavily shelled as they retreated to Rinningholst. After the German
advance, Jackie was wounded in the arm and in the leg by pieces of shrapnel from the shells that were bursting all
around. He lost the leg.
It was the end of active service for Albert and Jackie, with the war drawing to a close. They received much publicity
in the newspapers such as the Times.
On 5 May 1919, Jackie and Albert were on the last leg of their long journey home to Pretoria and Cheshire Farm,
Jackie had been officially discharged at Maitland Dispersal Camp, Cape Town, on 26 April. On his arm Jackie wore
one gold wound stripe and the three blue service chevrons, indicating three years frontline service. At Maitland he
received the usual parchment discharge paper, a military pension, plus a Civil Employment Form for discharged
After their arrival home, Jackie was again feted and became centre of attention on occasions such as the parade to
welcome back officially the 1st SAI Brigade and at the Peace Parade on Church Square, Pretoria, on 31 July 1920,
where he received the Pretoria Citizen's Service Medal. Jackie died on 22 May 1921. Albert Marr died in Pretoria,
aged 84, in August 1973.