War hero goat to star in rom-com
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.”
Historical photo of Sgt. Bill.
Sgt. Bill on display at the Broadview museum.