Remembering what Horatio said when he was a Port Rex ‘admiral’

Mascots in the armed forces are quite common in some countries, Britain in particular.

We don’t seem to have many here though, but then we did have the Great Dane, Just Nuisance, who in reality could be claimed by the Royal Navy as theirs.

They controlled Simonstown as their base during World War 2 and gave him the title Able Seaman.

Just Nuisance was in fact, enlisted into the RN and became a South African canine celebrity.

A statue in his honour still graces Simonstown harbour.

Dogs, goats, ponies and even an eagle and peregrine falcon have made it as mascots in other countries’ armed forces.

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers has a tradition going back to 1775 to have goats as mascots and all have been named William, or Billy for short…Billy goat – got it!

Now would you believe this however, the Port Rex Naval Base in East London once had a common (grey) duiker as their mascot.

That was back in 1986. He was named Horatio and he wrote a letter to the Chiel (yes, that was me then too).

I was told that he used a porcupine quill and crushed the fruit of an inkberry bush, with a little help (just a little) from the officer commanding the base, Commander H J Payne.

Do you know what, I can remember just about every word.

This is what Horatio wrote:

Hi gang,

Sorry I haven’t written sooner, but life has been so hectic since I’ve joined the navy. I can’t believe it was only a month ago.

You’ve probably heard that I’ve been promoted to admiral already.

I must say I was surprised; not that I don’t deserve it, of course, but it is a bit unusual to get recognition so quickly. Anyway, the rank suits me, because as you know, I like to have my own way!

When I first arrived I stayed in my quarters for a while until I got my sea legs, as they put it.

I thought it was a bit strange because this is the first ship I’ve heard of that has grass and trees.

But the navy’s funny like that.

Everything has the same name it would have in a ship.

I had my own personal steward to bring my meals and clean up after me. He was a pleasant enough fellow, but I am afraid I was a bit crotchety about being penned, so I gave him the odd prod now and again.

I’ve got the run of the whole base now, but I still give him a prod whenever I see him, just to remind him.

Actually, I’ve found it necessary to prod all the sailors now and again, even if they haven’t done anything wrong.

As I explained to the master-at-arms (he’s something like the head zookeeper), it keeps them on their toes and in these troubled times everybody must be vigilant.

I’m glad to be able to do my bit for my country.

They have captain’s rounds here about once a month (the captain’s something like the curator). He goes around checking to see that nothing is broken and the whole base is clean and tidy.

Well, now I know where admirals fit into the scheme of things.

I did admiral’s rounds through the bushes the other day and it is obvious to me the captain has never been in there.

So I got hold of the buffer (he’s something like the head gardener at the zoo) and told him in no uncertain terms he’d better get all the bits of plastic and rusty tins out of the bushes chop-chop.

In no time at all there were sailors swarming all over the place and they filled four garbage bags with litter in about 20 minutes.

Well, I’ve got to go to both watches now, so I’ll close.

I really miss you guys, especially the girls.

The captain said he was trying to organise a lady friend for me, but he doesn’t seem to be having much luck. Oh well, it is early days yet so I’ll just have to be patient.

Yours aye (that’s how they say it in the navy).


PS: Regards to Uncle Willie. Readers may need to be reminded that

Horatio was given to the naval base by the then curator of the Queen’s Park Zoo, Willie Goussard, after he was approached by Commander Payne.

The 6.5ha base is surrounded by security fencing, and has 2.5ha of unspoiled coastal bush which makes it ideal for Horatio.

So if you do have a mate for him, do let the commander know.

As the old saying goes: All the nice girls love a sailor! —

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