Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Cats at sea

The Royal Navy used to actively encourage its ships to adopt a ship's cat, believing they were good for morale and vermin control, though sadly since 1975 they have been forbidden.

- Simon, ship's cat of the HMS Amethyst, was wounded by shrapnel in the Yangtze Incident of 1948. In recognition of his valour, he was awarded three medals, and promoted to the rank of Able Seacat.

- Oscar was rescued from the wreckage of the German battleship Bismarck by the HMS Cossack. They adopted him as their ship's cat, until, five months later, the Cossack too was sunk. Oscar survived, and was transferred to the HMS Ark Royal... which was sunk two weeks later. This time, Oscar was found clinging to a floating board 'angry, but quite unharmed.' He was renamed 'Unsinkable Sam', and retired to Belfast, where he eventually died, ten years after the end of the war, of old age.

- Beauty, ship's cat of the HMS Black Prince, was present at the Normandy landings, during which she occupied herself giving birth to three kittens.

- Unusually, the gunship HMSGB-7 was never named, and nor was its cat, who was known as 'TBC'. Which stood for 'That Bloody Cat'.

- In 1924, the HMS Hood did not have a ship's cat. It had Joey... the ship's wallaby.


Momcat said...

I loved your stories of the ships cats. It just goes to show how tough kitties can be.

Tim said...

It might be worth mentioning that one of the medals won by Simon was the Dickin medal, the animal equivalent of the VC. To date Simon is the only cat to recieve this award.

Daedalus said...

Simon was cheated. That kind of valour requires promotion to Honorary Sea Cattet.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the joke about the three French cats, Un, Deux and Trois. When the boat they were on went under, what did you have?

Un deux trois cats sank.

Anonymous said...

Simon also had a book dedicated to his memory; Paul Gallico's Jennie was dedicated 'To the late Simon, of the Amethyst'.

Ankita Sarkar said...

Wow. I learn something everyday.

Stu said...

Thanks for the catalogue of furry tales. Maybe it's worth the odd pause for thought, especially when there's not much left in the kitty.

Oh bugger.

I promised I wouldn't do that again.

But I did.

Naughty me.

Anonymous said...

Surely, by the time Oscar's third boat sank (and goodness knows how his previous service with the German navy had elapsed) someone should have started to make a connection that this furry jinx was the common factor...

John Finnemore said...


That's exactly what did happen! After his rescue from the Ark Royal, he was stranded in Gibraltar for some time, living in the Governor General's offices, because no ship wanted to take him back to Britain.

Anonymous said...

How utterly brilliant, you can imagine (if that was delivered in Stephen Fry's voice) it being used to hammer home a parable in a PG Wodehouse story.

Anna K said...

This is so interesting! I've never heard of 'Ship Cats' in (relatively) modern times before. Thank you for this information. I love reading your blog!

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