Fingers the Goat – on parade in
By Margaret Sheard
Last year I wrote a lengthy article, in conjunction with Derek Chilvers, a British ex-serviceman, about his memories of the time he spent in Cyprus in 1958/59 which included many photographs and many anecdotes. This has proved to be a very popular article and is still being read, to see this click here, but before you do I would like to ask you to read the following lovely account of Fingers the Goat.
On one of the photographs I received from Derek, there was a serviceman feeding a goat from a bottle and I got quite intrigued with this so asked more questions and was put in touch with Graham Spinks (Spike) who has now kindly given me a short story about Fingers together with some lovely photos of the goat’s days with C Company of the Suffolk Regiment in Cyprus.
These are Spike’s memories:-
During operations searching for EOKA personnel in the Pentydactylos (Greek for 5 fingers) area of Cyprus in November of
1958, my section in a forested area found a snake (levantine viper) the skin of which is on a tent in one of the photo’s of our base camp in which Fingers appears. One other section which was searching nearby found the baby goat which we decided to call Fingers. It was found, looked after and brought back to our base camp by Private King (a great bloke and soldier).
In the British Army, especially on active service, it is against Queen’s regulations to have pets etc. so we had a major problem on our hands when we returned to our main camp, so we bought a dog collar (or nicked one) and took it in turns to hide Fingers away behind our individual tents, and we got away with it for ages but then it blew up big time.
I was a Lance Corporal and with my mate, and future brother in law, we were called for by our Sergeant Major and asked (not too politely) if we knew anything about a ******* goat that was eating the Colonel’s roses? (Fingers had slipped its collar). The game was up, I confessed and he marched us to the offices where the Colonel and all his staff were looking at Fingers munching his roses (including the Provo Sergeant – the camp policeman).
By the way when Fingers was chewing the Colonel’s roses, quite a few of the office staff were watching and giggling. Of course I was not laughing, for the reasons that I have explained.
One of the National Servicemen who was serving at this office then was “Martin Bell”, who later became a respected BBC Journalist / reporter, although I can’t say for sure if he was one of the onlookers to the potential of a hanging or firing squad for me!
I was presented to the Colonel like a lamb (or a goat) to the slaughter as the guilty party, which of course I was, being the section’s Lance Corporal. He asked, where did you get it – I told him. How long have you had it – I told him a few weeks (it had started to grow horns). He had a strange executioner type expression on his face and then he asked – is it tame? and will it obey you? My reply to both his questions was yes!! (I was only a national service soldier for the two years and it looked like being longer!).
He then ordered the Provo Sergeant to hold the goat and took me with him 30 feet away and called out “here fingers,
come here!” in a very cultured well educated voice which Fingers totally ignored. He repeated this with the same result. He then ordered me to call Fingers with the same instruction. I obeyed and so did Fingers. What a relief!
Fingers then stopped being my Section’s pet and orders were given, which my Sergeant Major never quite forgave me for, and Fingers then became C Company’s mascot and it was official. Fingers actually had a smart collar to seal his new role as mascot of C Company, Suffolk Regiment.
The photo of Fingers marching was not staged or set up in any way, I know because I took it. It was taken at Dhekelia on the shooting
range there and Fingers marched with us from the 200 and then 400 and onward etc. etc.
I think this is a lovely story and shows the camaraderie which existed with these young men who were far from home and doing their National Service in a potentially dangerous place, which in this case was Cyprus in the late 50’s. They have wonderful memories and even now some of the lads still keep in touch with each other. This is how the story came to me which was via Derek Chilvers when I had remarked on one of his photos showing the goat.