Sir Nils Olav
|Years of service||1972–1987 (first)|
1987–after 2008 (second)
before 2016–present (third)
|Rank||Brigadier, Colonel-in-Chief and mascot|
|Unit||Hans Majestet Kongens Garde|
Brigadier Sir Nils Olav is a king penguin who resides in Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland. He is the mascot and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King's Guard. The name 'Nils Olav' and associated ranks have been passed down through three king penguins since 1972 – the current holder is Nils Olav III.
Role in the military
When the Norwegian King's Guard visited the Edinburgh Military Tattoo of 1961 for a drill display, a lieutenant called Nils Egelien became interested in the zoo's penguin colony. When the Guards once again returned to Edinburgh in 1972, he arranged for the regiment to adopt a penguin. This penguin was named Nils Olav in honour of Nils Egelien and King Olav V of Norway.
Nils Olav was given the rank of visekorporal (lance corporal) in the regiment. He has been promoted each time the King's Guard has returned to the zoo. In 1982 he was made a corporal, and promoted to sergeant in 1987. Nils Olav died shortly after his promotion to sergeant, and his place was taken by Nils Olav II, a two-year-old near-double. He was promoted in 1993 to the rank of regimental sergeant major and in 2001 promoted to 'honourable regimental sergeant major'. On 18 August 2005, he was appointed as Colonel-in-Chief of the same regiment. The next honour was a knighthood, awarded during a visit by soldiers from the Norwegian King's Guard on 15 August 2008. The knighthood was approved by King Harald V and Nils was the first penguin to receive such an honour in the Norwegian Army. During the ceremony a crowd of several hundred people joined the 130 guardsmen on parade at the zoo, to hear a citation from the King read out, which described Nils as a penguin "in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood".
During the 2005 visit a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) bronze statue of Nils Olav was presented to Edinburgh Zoo. The statue's inscription includes references to both the King's Guard and to the Military Tattoo. A statue also stands at the King's Guard compound at Huseby, Oslo. In Norway Nils Olav is generally referred to only as the mascot of the King's Guard, although the plaque on his statue refers to his appointment as Colonel-in-Chief.
A third penguin, Nils Olav III, took over at some point between 2008 and 2016. On 22 August 2016 he was promoted to Brigadier in a ceremony attended by over 50 members of the King's Guard.
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- "Sir Nils Olav". Edinburgh Zoo. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
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- The Edinburgh Military Tattoo Programme 1961
- Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh.
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- "Nils Olav the most famous king penguin in the world, parades his way to a new honour". Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.