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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Heraldists want penis reinstated on military badge


Published: 21 Feb 08 18:21 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/10064/


Sweden's chief heraldists remain dissatisfied with a decision by the Nordic Battlegroup to remove a lion's penis depicted on its coat of arms.

But staff at the National Archives are hopeful that the Nordic Battlegroup will reconsider its position and re-erect the lion's member on its insignia.

"They stepped over the line when they made alterations to the badge without consulting us. It was a clear breach of copyright," state heraldist Henrik Klackenberg told The Local.

Although the heraldry unit is unlikely to take any legal action, Klackenberg said he would appreciate an apology from the Armed Forces.

After an initial flurry of media reports in December last year, the Commander of the Nordic Battlegroup, Karl Engelbrektsson, revealed that it was he who he had ordered the alteration. This ran contrary to initial reports suggesting that the emasculation occurred following pressure from female soldiers.

In an interview with Sveriges Radio, the Commander said he decided to give the lion the snip having read UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

With civilian women often falling victim to sexual abuse in the war zones of the world, the Commander said he did not consider the male appendage an appropriate symbol for his troops to wear into battle.

But heraldic artist Vladimir A Sagerlund was dismayed at what he viewed as an alarming lack of historical awareness. In former times, he said, coats of arms containing lions without genitalia were given to those who betrayed the Swedish Crown.

And as Sagerlund's colleague points out, the heraldry unit would have no qualms about making alterations to the original image if requested to do so by the military.

"We could make the dimensions a bit smaller, for example. Once we were commissioned to create a similar symbol for Swedish Customs. When they thought it was a bit much they sent it back to us and we just shrank the organ," said Klackenberg.

Though clearly irritated by the army's attack on the lion's virility, Sweden's state heraldist admitted he was fascinated by the story's global appeal.

"It has been everywhere, from New Zealand and Singapore to Japan and Turkey. I think we can safely say that this is the biggest splash ever created by Swedish heraldry. It's definitely an all-time high."

The Nordic Battlegroup is one of eighteen such military groups in the European Union. Some 2,000 of its 2,400 soldiers come from Sweden, with the rest coming from Finland, Norway, Ireland and Estonia.

The Local has contacted the Swedish Armed Forces but the Commander of the Nordic Battlegroup was unavailable for comment.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se/08 656 6513)

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