- Pets and Animals
Nils Olav - A Very Distinguished Penguin
Sir Nils Olav was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and currently serves in the Norwegian army as a colonel-in-chief, in the Hans Majestet Kongens Garde. His years of service began in 1972. Perhaps you say that this is nothing remarkable. Ah, but I say it is. You see, Colonel-in-Chief Sir Nils Olav is a king penguin.
Despite his role in the Norwegian army, he is currently residing in Edinburgh zoo in Scotland, and is also the Norwegian Royal Guard's official mascot.
In 1961, the Royal Guard visited the Edinburgh Military Tattoo for a drill display, and one of the lieutenants (Nils Egelien) took an interest in the local zoo's penguin exhibit. When the guards returned to Scotland in 1972, he convinced the zoo to allow the unit to adopt a king penguin which would serve as their mascot.
The adorable animal was visited by the soldiers of the Norwegian Royal Guard and was named in honour of both the man who took such an interest in him to begin with, and Norway's King Olav V.
He was given the rank of visekorporal (i.e. lance corporal), and each time the King's Guard revisits the Edinburgh Tattoo, he receives a promotion. He was made corporal in 1982, and in 1987 was promoted to sergeant. He died shortly after becoming a sergeant, and his place was taken by his two-year-old near-double, Nils Olav 2. In 1993 he was made regimental sergeant major, and on the eighteenth of August 2005, was promoted to Colonel-in-Chief. On the fifteenth of August, 2008, he was awarded a knighthood, which had been pre-approved by the king of Norway, King Harald V. The citation given by King Harald described Nils Olav as a penguin "in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood." Along with the guardsmen, hundreds of people crowded into the zoo to witness Sir Nils Olav's knighting.
Needless to say, he is the only penguin to have ever received such an honour from the Norwegian army.
In recognition of his achievement, a four-foot-high (1.2 meters) bronze statue depicting Nils Olav was erected in Edinburgh Zoo. The inscription on the statue recognises the King's Guard and the Military Tattoo. There is also a statue to be seen at the Royal Norwegian Guard Compound at Huseby in Oslo.