The World War I heroics of Jackie the Baboon
March 7, 2020
Jackie the Baboon was awarded a medal of valor and given a raise in rank from private to corporal.
My Top Five Favorite Mysteries-Oddities I have written about are The Baby in the Suitcase, The Aurora, Texas UFO crash of the 1800s, The Springfield, Missouri Cobra Event, The Wow Signal, and finally, Jack the Baboon.
Jack is my very favorite. He was a talented baboon in South Africa that operated the train signals for the Cape Town-Port Elizabeth Railway for years. He was put on the payroll as a helper to an official signalman whose own disability was taking its toll. Soon Jack was able to do the entire signaling job with aplomb—the signalman stood by—on his wooden leg—to monitor the situation. Jack never made a mistake.
Imagine my excitement when I learned of another such incredible baboon. This baboon, Jackie, was made a corporal in the South African Army and was outfitted with a custom uniform. Jack and Jackie were both chacma baboons.
Sometime around 1910, a baboon was spotted hanging around the family farm of Albert Marrs. The monkey seemed very friendly, so Marrs captured him and started blending him into the family, as an additional member. When the reality of World War I began heating up, Marrs got drafted. This is where it gets strange.
Albert Marrs refused to go into the service unless he could take the baboon, Jackie, with him. Stranger still, the soon-to-be commanding officers agreed. Jackie was made Mascot of the 3rd Transvaal Regiment and given the rank of private. The baboon soon began traveling all over with them.
Jackie’s position had benefits. He had a uniform, a cap, a ration kit with knife and fork, a washbasin, and a pay book. He gave a proper salute to every passing officer. On breaks, he went around lighting cigarettes for the soldiers. He knew how to stand at ease, when appropriate, and he did.
Jackie still had the sensory astuteness of a wild animal and was able to detect enemy locations if they were moving about nearby. Jackie and Albert survived an awful battle at Deville Wood that wiped out eighty percent of the soldiers.
In 1916 Albert was wounded in the shoulder at the Battle of Agagia. Little Jackie scampered over to comfort him immediately. When in the trenches in France, the little baboon always tried to build walls with loose earth, rocks, and sticks, to further insulate himself from the noisy gunfire all about. When he got hit by shrapnel in the shoulder and the leg, he refused to be removed from his chore of building a wall. When they finally got him to a doctor, he had to get part of his right leg amputated. They did not think he would survive—but he did.
Jackie the Baboon was awarded a medal of valor and given a raise in rank from private to corporal. When the war was over, Jackie received an official discharge. Believe it or not, there were several other baboons operating in the South African Army, but Jackie was the only one to receive a medal, and the only one to receive the rank of private and corporal.
Jackie the Baboon retired to the family farm in South Africa with Albert Mars after the war. It is such a tragedy, then, that after all that he died in 1921 in a fire. Albert Marrs lived until 1973. He was 84.
The story of the train signalman, Jack the Baboon, and all of my other favorites can be found in Quite Curious, and Curious Indeed, available on Amazon. In these two books, you will find stories with fictionalized characters who find themselves in the middle of one mysterious event or another. The unexplained events are real, the characters are made up.
Jackie the Baboon, will take his place in my third book of the series, More Curious, Still. It is a work in progress, with no publication date in sight.
Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Quite Curious, a collection of true stories about the bizarre and unexplained. Please click HERE to find the book on amazon.