Lance Corporal Derby XXX: Facebook grieves for sheep 'soldier'

Lance Corporal Derby in October Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lance Corporal Derby XXX led football teams out at the iPro stadium in Derby

Mourners have flocked to Facebook to pay tribute to Lance Corporal Derby, a sheep which was the mascot of a British Army regiment.

The Mercian Regiment announced the death of Lance Corporal Derby XXX, who was recently promoted in September, on Twitter earlier.

The Swaledale Ram led the teams out at Derby County and even switched on Ashbourne's Christmas Lights in 2014.

Corporal Philip Thornton said the three-year-old was "excellent".

'Quite sad'

He said: "The regiment is feeling quite sad with the passing of Lance Corporal Derby XXX last Friday [27 November].

"He did an excellent job and it proves it with getting promoted in September, that was for his good behaviour."

Corporal Thornton expects a formal parade will be held for the animal, who died following a bacterial infection.

Hundreds of messages were posted on The Mercian Regiment and BBC Radio Derby's Facebook pages.

Image copyright Ministry of Defence
Image caption The ram met Prince William at the unveiling of a memorial

One person said: "He had an amazing life, he was treated like a king. He was treated with the dignity and respect he deserved!"

Another comment read: "Have a good time in the celestial meadows Corporal."

The regiment will now write to the Duke of Devonshire at the Chatsworth Estate, to find the next Private Derby.

Lance Corporal Derby XXX was the 30th in a line of mascot rams running back to the Indian Mutiny War in the mid-19th Century.

The first Private Derby was acquired in 1858 by the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot and became the mascot of the Mercian Regiment when it formed in 2007.

Lance Corporal Derby XXX, who joined the regiment in February 2014, had his own army number, got paid to buy his rations and was allowed to take his holidays during the mating season at Chatsworth.

During his career, he also met Prince William at the unveiling of a memorial commemorating the 1914 Christmas Truce.

Image caption Private Derby XXX used a specially-designed button to turn on Ashbourne's Christmas lights last year
Image copyright Twitter
Image caption The death of Lance Corporal Derby XXX was announced by the Mercian Regiment on Twitter

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