The Original 15th Battalion mascot?
Throughout the Regimental history and over the entire course of the war there is only one 15th Battalion mascot that mentioned by Kim Beattie and that of course is the beloved Belgian sheepdog Bruno first adopted by LtCol Marshall at the Piggeries when the unit was in the line at Ploegsteert, Belgium. Bruno has been the subject of research by the 15th Battalion CEF Memorial Project and several articles on him have appeared in earlier issues of the Falcon – so he is no stranger to readers.
The recent acquisition of artifacts from the UK that belonged to Pipe Major Alexander Keith (covered elsewhere in The Falcon) have raised the question of where Bruno was the only or the first 15th Battalion mascot. Although Beattie made no mention of an earlier mascot in his book, we have long been aware of a photograph showing a kilted soldier of an unidentified unit of the 1st Contingent taken at Salisbury in 1914 and it shows him with a large retriever type dog. Although the 1st Canadian Contingent only had three kilted units (13th Battalion – Royal Highlanders; 15th Battalion – 48th Highlanders; and the 16th Battalion – The Canadian Scottish) it was not possible to tell which unit the soldier was from because his kilt is covered by an apron and there are no distinquishing insignia on his tunic. The type of glengarry he is wearing rules out the 13th Battalion but as the photograph is not in colour and the cap badge is not visible, he could be from either the 15th or 16th Battalion.
However, when the Project received Pipe Major (Sgt Alexander Keith’s artifacts) amongst them were a number of photographs, one of which was taken onboard the SS Megantic during the crossing from Quebec to the UK in 1914. The Pipe Major is shown standing alongside what appears to be the same dog that is in the Salisbury photograph mentioned earlier. The 16th Battalion did not travel in the convoy on the same ship as the 15th Battalion which now leads us to suggest that the soldier with that same dog in the Salisbury photograph is in fact a 15th Battalion man. Additionally, when you consider that one of PM Keith’s later tasks in France and Belgium was to be the guardian of Bruno whenever the Commanding Officer was away, it begs the question whether he is shown in the photograph performing that same task but with an earlier mascot the unit brought with them from Canada.
Did the Battalion bring this dog with them from Canada in 1914? Did they leave the dog in the UK when they went to the France in February and if so what happened to him? Possibly the answer awaits in the dusty documents yet to be uncovered in Regimental archives or in artifacts yet to be turned over to the Project.