By Wanda Zenner
While reviewing the poster entries for the Legion’s Remembrance Contest, we came across a very interesting one that was an excellent drawing of a goat along with one of Winston Churchill’s most famous quotes. As the Legion members were not familiar with “Sergeant Bill the Goat”, we had to quickly research the subject. The entry was created by Bellanna Stevens who also entered an essay on Sergeant Bill for which she won 1st at the Legion’s Division Level and 2nd at the Provincial Level. World War I was one of the darkest times in human history; however, when such a heart-warming article is read, it must be shared and publicized.
In 1914 in a small town in Saskatchewan, Bill the goat, accompanied by his owner Daisy, was pulling a cart down the street when the train arrived. The 5th Infantry Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was so taken with the precocious goat that they convinced the owner to allow them to take Bill along with them as a “good luck charm”. Mascots were not supposed to accompany anyone to the front lines; however, the soldiers hid him in a crate and managed to smuggle him overseas. Not only did Bill arrive and train in England but he also accompanied the 5th Battalion to France where he saw action alongside the soldiers in many battles. With heightened hearing, Bill was able to warn soldiers of incoming shell explosions and would head-butt them into a trench thereby saving their lives. He is also known to have cornered three enemy guardsmen and assisted in guarding prisoners as only a goat could do. Bill survived being wounded and gassed several times; however he did end up suffering from trench foot. For his actions, Bill was promoted to the Rank of Sergeant and awarded the 1914 Star, General Service Medal and the Victory Medal. Never-the-less, Sergeant Bill did face two court-martials; one for eating his battalion’s personnel roil and the other time for an altercation with another Sergeant. Once the fighting was over, Sergeant Bill was part of a large parade in Germany where he proudly wore a fancy blue coat that showed off his sergeant stripes.
After the war was over, Sergeant Bill returned home to Canada where he was reunited with his owner and lived out the rest of his life in Winnipeg. When Sergeant Bill passed away, his owner had him preserved by a taxidermist. He was then proudly displayed in the rotunda at the Legislative Assembly in Regina before he was moved to the Broadview Historical Museum in Saskatchewan.
Sergeant Bill continues to live on as a short-film about his experiences was screened at the Yorkton Film Festival and a children’s book titled “Sergeant Billy” has been published.
West Smoky Legion No. 244 Remembrance Day Contest