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Basil the Bowler

Not what you would normally associated the phrase “Boom Boom” with when you think of the Army! This  artefact shows the lighter side of life in the New Zealand Army and reminds us that it’s not just about the training and the fighting and that soldiers are involved in recreational activities and hobbies, same as anyone else.

In the early 1980s a team from the Burnham Camp Army Bowling Club entered an Easter Fours Bowls tournament in Timaru. Whilst there, then Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) Wayne Meyers, won this soft toy of Basil Brush in a raffle. It was immediately decided to adopt Basil as the New Zealand Army Lawn Bowls Team mascot and his waistcoat, cape and cravat were specially manufactured for him by the Burnham Camp tailor.

Basil the Bowler travelled with the team to many bowling tournaments both in New Zealand and Australia and quickly became a very popular member of the team and attracted attention wherever he went. Basil would sit pride of place on the edge of the green whenever the Army team were playing and it was said to be encouraging for the team members to look up and see Basil watching them. A foxy gentleman, Basil was also said to have been particularly popular with the ladies, much to the delight of the Army team member who was assigned as his designated minder!

However there was a darker side to all this. Various plots were hatched over the years by members of the New Zealand Police, Navy and Air Force bowling teams to try to kidnap Basil during their annual Inter Services tournaments. They hoped that Basil’s absence would affect the performance of the Army team member’s bowling. Fortunately for Basil, there is no record of any successful kidnappings.

Basil wears various bowling club badges from all across New Zealand and Australia on his waistcoat which are a testament to his popularity and the high esteem in which he was held by all the people he met on his travels. Basil retired from the Army Lawn Bowls Team in 1996 after the completion of the years Inter Services Tournament. He was donated to the National Army Museum in 2014 by the last president of the Army Lawn Bowls team, Mr Gordon Forrester. Basil now lives a contented life in retirement here…. safe from any future kidnappings.

 

By Brenden Shirley; Curator of Accoutrements, Social History and Medical