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 II of a two-part story.
At the end of Part I, we left Wickey leading the soldiers’ life with the boys of the 8th. In typical fashion, that life led to a cold. It was at the end of June 1916, while she was in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front in Belgium, that Wickey developed a bad cold. She was taken to Captain Edwards, a veterinary surgeon, who confirmed that she had pneumonia and would not likely to survive. With good care, and with Dan Maus devoting a lot of attention to her, Wickey gradually regained normal health. By then the 8th Battalion had moved to the Somme and were billeted in Albert, France.
In Albert, the Battalion experienced periods of shelling and Wickey was injured. Dan Maus, assisted by Jack Rea, again succeeded in bringing Wickey back to normal health. Her injury left her with a limp in her right hind leg but, nevertheless, she was soon back to her mischievous and amusing antics that so endeared her to the troops. So, it continued until she was injured again on the Lens-Arras Road in the Vimy Ridge area. Again, she survived to resume activities – injury or no injury, Wickey always seemed to be the center of interest and able to create a great deal of amusement.
The story goes that once Wickey chased a rat and cornered it. When the rat turned on her, she ran back to Dan and scrambled into his blanket. With Wickey chattering and Dan howling that a rat was eating the monkey, the whole billet (barn) was woken up. It would be hard to say who was scared the most: Dan, Wickey or the rat. Dan got out of his blanket and chased away the rat with Wickey clinging to him, chattering as if she was trying to explain what this whole situation was about.
The soldiers gave her the name “Wickey” because of the chattering sound she made.
Another time Wickey went into a roadside shrine that was close to the billet and jumped on the shoulder of an elderly woman who was kneeling at the shrine. When the soldiers heard screams, they rushed into the shrine to see the woman swinging at Wickey with a stick. One blow and it would have been lights out for the monkey! There were a few anxious moments before the soldiers could get a hold of Wickey and pacify the old lady. Again, all the while Wickey chattered as if trying to explain (and justify!) her actions.
Then there was Wickey’s fondness of dogs. She discovered that she could get the best of a dog by grabbing its hind leg and pulling it inwards which made the dog sit or fall. It was surprising how quickly Wickey could do it and amusing to see how rapidly the dog would take off.
Then there were the nights when Wickey returned from the estaminet after a few drinks. She would try to sneak into the billet without anyone seeing her. It was usually Dan who would notice her and then the chattering would begin. She actually looked repentant as she told her story about the drinking. Now, for all of you who are wondering, Wickey did not drink out of a glass. Instead, she put her hand into a glass then licked her hand. It was surprising how quickly a drink would be mopped up in that manner!
Private Upritchard’s connection with Wickey ended on August 10th, 1918 when he was wounded. He never returned to the 8th Battalion. Dan Maus became Wickey’s principal custodian. In December 1918, when Dan succumbed to a virus of what was referred to as Spanish Flu, Henry Morris took charge of Wickey. Henry brought her back to Winnipeg when the 8th Battalion returned home and he promptly returned her to John Upritchard.
Now, what was amusing in the Army was a source of trouble in civilian life. Wickey used to sit on a tree branch in Winnipeg and reach down pulling the hats off women passing by. She would also go around to John’s neighbour’s clotheslines, take the clothes pegs off and drop the clothes to the ground. Wickey would also bring John back wool socks - usually only one - and then John would have to find the owners. The last straw came when Wickey started climbing up John’s neighbor’s veranda and going into his bed. John’s neighbor was Bill Johnston, the 8th Battalion’s Honourary Colonel.
After five months, John asked that the Regiment take Wickey off his hands. She ultimately found a home at the Headquarters on Main Street South.
Wickey passed away in the late winter of 1921 having led a full life. This ends the tale of a little monkey who made a big impression.