War hero goat to star in rom-com

Regina Leader-Post - - Front Page - CHRIS MORIN

SASKA­TOON — Saskatchewan’s most fa­mous goat, a dec­o­rated hero from the First World War, is about to get an­other 15 min­utes of fame.

Sergeant Bill, a spir­ited crit­ter who fought bravely along­side Canadian troops in the trenches of France, is the sub­ject of a new movie to be filmed in Saskatchewan.

Saxon DeCocq, a Saska­toon-based film­maker, be­came en­am­oured with Sgt. Bill af­ter he first heard the leg­ends of the horned mam­mal. Bill’s in­cred­i­ble war sto­ries in­spired him to add the goat’s back­story to a movie script.

“This goat has lived an in­ter­est­ing life,” DeCocq said. “I mean, he saved the lives of sol­diers while he was out on the front lines of the First World War.”

As the story goes, Bill was graz­ing in ru­ral Saskatchewan near the town of Broad­view when a sol­dier passed by and asked his owner if he could adopt the goat as a mas­cot, a com­mon prac­tice at the time.

The sol­dier smug­gled the goat to France, where he was placed on the front lines as part of Canada’s Fifth West­ern Cav­alry Bat­tal­ion. As leg­end has it, Bill saved the lives of three troops by head-butting them out of a shell’s path.

Wounded in the line of duty, Bill was pro­moted to the rank of sergeant. Af­ter the war, he was re­turned to Canada and re­united with his owner. Af­ter he died, the goat was stuffed and placed at the Saskatchewan leg­is­la­ture in the 1920s.

Sgt. Bill was even­tu­ally brought to Broad­view’s mu­seum, where he re­sides to­day.

Ken Bell, a tour guide for the mu­seum, said Bill was quite popular with the troops.

“He had a cer­tain fond­ness for can­teen beer, and would eat pretty much ev­ery­thing — he was a goat, af­ter all,” Bell said.

Now more than a cen­tury old, the stuffed goat is on dis­play be­hind a glass case, along with me­mora­bilia from The Great War.

“Years ago, Bill was ac­tu­ally pre­sented with some post­hu­mous medals by war vet­er­ans,” Bell said. “It was the only time they awarded th­ese medals to a dead goat.”

Af­ter a visit to the mu­seum for some re­search, DeCocq got the green light to start film­ing The In­vin­ci­ble Sgt. Bill.

De­scribed as a quirky rom-com goat romp, the 15-minute film blends his­tor­i­cal facts with a plot in­volv­ing a brood­ing young man who in­her­its a mys­te­ri­ous gift from his late grand­fa­ther — the stuffed and mounted Sgt. Bill. There’s also a twist. “With­out giv­ing too much away, it’s re­vealed that this goat ac­tu­ally has mys­ti­cal pow­ers that bring our char­ac­ters to­gether,” DeCocq said.

Film­ing will com­mence in June in a va­ri­ety of lo­ca­tions around Saskatchewan, and will fea­ture Van­cou­ver-based ac­tor Richard Har­mon along­side Regin­abased ac­tor Laura Abram­sen.

As for the part of Sgt. Bill, DeCocq and his crew had to scour the In­ter­net be­fore a suit­able stand-in could be found.

Order­ing a goat head from Ge­or­gia, the crew en­listed Emer­son Zif­fel, who worked on Sask-slasher flick Wolf Cop, to build the rest of Bill’s body.

While DeCocq de­lights in giv­ing Sgt. Bill’s ex­ploits a new life, he does ad­mit the leg­ends seem al­most too tall to be true.

Did a goat ac­tu­ally save the lives of sol­diers by head­but­ting them out of en­emy fire?

“I like to think th­ese sto­ries are real,” DeCocq said. “There’s no way to know ex­actly what hap­pened, but there are pic­tures and doc­u­ments to prove he was out there dur­ing the war.”

BROAD­VIEW MU­SEUM

His­tor­i­cal photo of Sgt. Bill.

SAXON DECOCQ

Sgt. Bill on dis­play at the Broad­view mu­seum.

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