World War I’s Baboon Soldier

In August of 1915, Albert Marr was working on his farm near Pretoria, South Africa, when he discovered a Chacma baboon. No one knows if the animal was injured or in need of help, but, for whatever reason, Marr decided to keep him. The baboon became a much-loved family pet and was named “Jackie.”

Like most other young men of that era, when World War I started, Marr enlisted in the armed services. He was assigned to the Transvaal Regiment of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade, which served with the British forces. But Marr was distraught at the thought of leaving Jackie behind, so he asked his superior officers if the baboon could come with him. Surprisingly, they agreed.

Jackie quickly became the regiment’s mascot. He had his own uniform and was allotted his own rations. He also learned how to properly salute officers when they passed by. In addition to amusement for the soldiers, he also proved pretty helpful. He served as an unofficial sentry because his senses of hearing and smelling were better than those of his human compatriots. He would alert his fellow soldiers at the first hint of the enemy’s approach.

Jackie also saw quite a bit of active service at the front. He spent nearly three years in the trenches during the horrible battles that took place in Flanders and France. When Marr got sent to fight in the Senussi Campaign in Egypt in 1916, Jackie was at his side. This was fortunate, because Marr was wounded in the shoulder by a bullet. Jackie stayed with him, comforting him and licking his wound until help arrived.

Marr was back in Belgium in 1918 for more fighting when tragedy struck. In a battle near Passchendale, both Marr and Jackie were hit by shrapnel from a nearby shell explosion. Jackie was hurt pretty badly, and a weeping corporal carried the wounded baboon to the medical station, begging the doctors to help him.

Jackie had a severe wound to his right leg, and the doctors had to amputate it to save him. Thankfully, both he and Marr recovered from their wounds.

Due to his service and bravery, Jackie was promoted to the rank of corporal. He was also awarded a medal for bravery. So far, he is the only baboon known to have received either of these honors.

After the war, Jackie was officially discharged from the army. He was given official discharge papers and a military pension. Following his adventures, he returned with Marr to his farm where he lived a quiet life until his death in May of 1921. Albert Marr lived in Pretoria until 1973, when he died at the age of 84.

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