It seems Just Nuisance is not the only admirable animal to make the list of South Africa’s honourable service register. Unusually a baboon by the name of Jackie worked as a signal conductor for most of his life and lived in much the same way as every other soldier in the 3rd African Infantry Regiment during World War I.
Jackie’s story first began when Albert Marr found him wandering around his farm in Valeria, Pretoria and decided to raise the orphaned baboon as part of his family. As time went on the two became inseparable and neither was ever without the other.
For several years, Jackie called Marr’s farm home and grew to be a well-mannered young baboon before Marr was enlisted in the army in 1915 and couldn’t stand to leave Jackie behind. After some pleading on Marr’s part, the dignified baboon was allowed to join the army at Marr’s side.
After his enlisting, Jackie was treated as a full-fledged soldier and given his own uniform, regimental badges, a spiffy cap, pay book, and even his own food rations.
According to reports the baboon was nothing short of a gentleman, saluting fellow officers as they passed by and lighting their cigarettes after a long day.
Jackie particularly excelled in standing guard or controlling the entry and exit points of certain areas as his sense of smell and hearing were far beyond that of his fellow soldiers. He also let his fellow soldiers know when enemies were approaching.
After years of dedicated service to the army, Jackie became the official mascot of the 3rd Transvaal Regiment and went everywhere with his fellow soldiers.
Later in his service, he experienced a number of brushes with death, even being wounded by enemy fire in a trench in France. During the 1st South African Brigades deployment in Egypt, Jackie was praised for his quick thinking when a grenade was thrown at Murr’s side, he responded immediately and threw the grenade back. Once when Murr was shot, Jackie applied pressure to his wound and stayed with him until the stretcher came to fetch him. Jackie even licked the wound which doctors say saved Marr’s wound from becoming septic.
While building a wall of stones to protect himself and his fellow soldiers during an explosive trench shootout, Jackie was hit in the right leg with a piece of shrapnel, ending his military service.
Jackie’s leg was unfortunately severely damaged by the incident and had to be amputated by the regiment’s doctors who were unsure whether Jackie would survive the surgery at all due to the unknown effects of chloroform on baboons. He proved himself a force to be reckoned with, recovering just a few days later.
The honourable primate was a Pretoria Citizen’s service medal for his bravery and was promoted from private to corporal, heading back home to the Marr farm with a military pension and his discharge papers in hand.
Jackie returned to a simpler life trading his years of service for a life of leisure at home and in 1921 he passed away after a thunderstorm caused him to have a heart attack. Jackie will always be remembered as a true friend and the only baboon to serve in World War 1 and achieve the rank of Private in the South African Infantry.
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