Confessions of a Wicked Monkey (Part I)


Wickey, 8th Battalion mascot (First World War)

This story is based on the accounts of Private John Upritchard, MM (Regimental #507) of the 8th Battalion.  In 1914, at the start of the First World War, John joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  He survived the war, returned to Winnipeg and died in 1977 at Deer Lodge Hospital at 83. John wrote about Wickey in the hope of keeping her memory alive.

Part I of a two-part story.

This is a tale of a little monkey who made a big impression.  

The 8th Battalion first met Wickey in 1915 on the Messines Ridge in Belgium.  Wickey, a female Japanese macaque monkey, belonged to Lieutenant Cousteau, a French officer who had been with the French Legion in Tokyo.  He was on the Messines Ridge as an interpreter for the 1st Canadian Division, 2nd Canadian Brigade.  Lieutenant Cousteau was housed with officers from the 8th and 10th Battalions.  His batman (a soldier assigned to him as a personal servant) was from the 8th Battalion and looked after Wickey as one of his tasks. 

Messine Ridge, Belgium

Messine Ridge, Belgium

A defining moment for Wickey came about in February 1916 when the 8th Battalion was about to leave the Messines Ridge and Lieutenant Cousteau was being posted to an Imperial Division.  Before his departure, Lieutenant Cousteau suggested that the monkey could stay with either the 8th or 10th Battalion and that they could toss up for who would get her.  

You need to know that by now 8th and 10th Battalion soldiers alike had grown fond of the little monkey. 

Several 8th Battalion soldiers, including Private Upritchard, first heard of Lieutenant Cousteau’s proposal when they were on a fatigue (work) party loading up a General Service horse-drawn wagon to leave the Messines Ridge. They quickly asked the batman to see the monkey.  When he brought her out, Private Upritchard stuck her in a sand bag and took off with her.  Within half an hour the 8th Battalion had moved on and Wickey’s new life began with the boys of the 8th.

Private John Upritchard and Wickey

Private John Upritchard and Wickey

Wickey lived the soldier’s life.  Instead of special food, she ate what she could get. On her first official evening with the 8th, she had wine and grenadine with the boys, and seemed to enjoy it.  

The soldiers did not place her in a harness.  Instead, Wickey attached herself to Dan Maus.  For a long time, she would crawl into Dan’s blanket and go to Bill Brooks for food. In the course of time, she developed quite an appetite for her liquor, especially the wine and grenadine.  It was through the trips to the estaminet (a civilian-run small restaurant which typically served fried eggs, chips and watery beer) that the boys of the 8th really became acquainted with Wickey’s antics.

Now, the 10th Battalion didn’t give up on Wickey that easily. They made several attempts to get Wickey but someone, somehow always managed to save the day.  The old saying that possession was 90% of the law held true!  

Finally, it was taken for granted that Wickey belonged to the 8th.

Unnamed soldier and Private Upritchard with Wickey

Unnamed soldier and Private Upritchard with Wickey

Part II will be coming in two weeks… stay tuned!