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Coordinates: 55°56′40″N 3°16′20″W / 55.94444°N 3.27222°W / 55.94444; -3.27222

Field Marshal Sir Nils Olav is a king penguin who resides in Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland. He is the highest ranking animal ever and the only one to have ever surpassed Brigadier. Nils Olav was part of the Norwegian army. He held the rank of Field marshal from 1992 - 2006.

Sir Nils Olav
Nils Olav wide.jpg
Species King penguin
Sex Male
Military career
Allegiance  Norway
Service/branch Norwegian army coat of arms.svg Norwegian Army
Years of service 1972–1987 (first)
1987–after 2008 (second)
before 2016–present (third)[1]
Rank Army-NOR-OF-06.svg Brigadier, Colonel-in-Chief and mascot
Unit Hans Majestet Kongens Garde


Role in the militaryEdit

Norway – whose explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911 – presented Edinburgh Zoo with its first king penguin at its opening in 1913.[2]

When the Norwegian King's Guard visited the Edinburgh Military Tattoo of 1961 for a drill display,[3] 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.

Sir Nils inspects troops of the King's Guard, of which he is Colonel-in-Chief, following his knighthood ceremony in 2008. Military insignia is attached to his right flipper

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.[4] 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'.[4] On 18 August 2005, he was appointed as Colonel-in-Chief of the same regiment.[4][5] The next honour was a knighthood, awarded during a visit by soldiers from the Norwegian King's Guard on 15 August 2008.[6] The knighthood was approved by King Harald V and Nils was the first penguin to receive such an honour in the Norwegian Army.[7] 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".[2]

The bronze statue of Nils Olav

During the 2005 visit a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) bronze statue of Nils Olav was presented to Edinburgh Zoo.[4] 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[citation needed] of the King's Guard, although the plaque on his statue refers to his appointment as Colonel-in-Chief.[citation needed]

A third penguin, Nils Olav III, took over after the 2008 visit but before the 2016 event.[1] On 22 August 2016 he was promoted to Brigadier in a ceremony attended by over 50 members of the King's Guard.[1][4][8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "King penguin made a Brigadier in Edinburgh". BBC News. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Military penguin becomes a 'Sir'". BBC News. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2008. 
  3. ^ The Edinburgh Military Tattoo Programme 1961
  4. ^ a b c d e "Sir Nils Olav". Edinburgh Zoo. Retrieved 21 February 2018. 
  5. ^ Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh.
  6. ^ "King penguin receives Norwegian knighthood". 15 August 2008. MSNBC. Retrieved 13 June 2010. (Archived on 13 June 2010)
  7. ^ "Penguin power: Norwegian regiment honours pint-sized chief". ABC News. Sydney. 16 August 2008. 
  8. ^ "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. 

External linksEdit