The Cats Who Sailed on Ships
Cats perform a valuable service by catching mice, rats, and other pests. They also have a high ability to adapt to new surroundings, and were therefore highly suitable for service on a ship. They also offer companionship as well as a sense of home and security to sailors, who could be away from home for long periods, especially in times of war.
Mrs. Chippy was the ship's cat aboard Endurance, the ship used by Sir Ernest Shackleton for his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. When the ship was lost, having become trapped in pack ice, the sled dogs and Mrs. Chippy had to be put down, as they would not have survived the arduous journey ahead. Full article.
Kiddo seemed to have stowed away on the airship, America, when she left from Atlantic City, New Jersey in an attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Kiddo was upset at first by the experience, but settled in and evidently, was better at predicting bad weather than the barometer. Her engines failed, and the small crew and Kiddo abandoned the America for lifeboats when they sighted the Royal Mail steamship, Trent, near Bermuda. Kiddo then was retired from being a ship's cat and was taken care of by Edith, the daughter of the American journalist, explorer, and aviator, Walter Wellman, who made the daring attempt.
Convoy was the ship's cat aboard HMS Hermione. He was so named because of the number of times he accompanied the ship on convoy escort duties. Convoy was duly listed in the ship's book and provided with a full kit, including a tiny hammock where he would sleep. He stood by his ship to the end and was lost along with eighty-seven of his crew mates, when the Hermione was torpedoed and sunk on 16 June 1942.
U-boat was another ship's cat aboard a Royal Navy vessel of the Second World War, who would take ‘shore leave’ whenever his ship came into port. He would spend days on shore, usually returning only just before his ship sailed. One day, U-boat failed to return in time for roll call and his ship was forced to sail. As she pulled away from the quay, U-boat was seen running down the dock after the departing ship. He made a death-defying leap onto the ship and succeeded in making it aboard. He was reported to be undaunted by his experience, proceeding to wash himself on deck. The crew members were apparently delighted their good luck charm had returned. Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 18 km into the air.
Peebles was the ship's cat aboard HMS Western Isles. Another cat who became a favourite of the ship's crew, he was known to be particularly intelligent and would shake the hands of strangers when they entered the wardroom.
Blackie was HMS Prince of Wales's ship's cat. During World War II, he achieved worldwide fame after the Prince of Wales carried the Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic to NS Argentia, Newfoundland, where he secretly met with the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt for several days in a secure anchorage. This meeting resulted in the signing of the Atlantic Charter, but as Churchill prepared to step off the Prince of Wales, Blackie approached, either to wish him well, or to go aboard the USS Augusta with him. Churchill stooped to bid farewell to Blackie, and the moment was photographed and reported in the world media. In honour of the success of the visit, Blackie was renamed Churchill.
Previously named Oscar, Unsinkable Sam he was the ship's cat of the German battleship Bismarck. When she was sunk on May 27 1941, only 116 out of a crew of over 2,200 survived. Luckily, Oscar was picked up by the destroyer HMS Cossack. Cossack herself was torpedoed and sunk a few months later, on 24 October, killing 159 of her crew, but again, Oscar survived to be rescued, and was taken to Gibraltar. He became the ship's cat of HMS Ark Royal but she too was torpedoed and sunk in November that year. Oscar was again rescued, but it was decided at that time to transfer him to a home on land. By now known as Unsinkable Sam, he was given a new job as mouse-catcher in the Governor General of Gibraltar's office buildings. He eventually returned to the UK and spent the rest of his life at the 'Home for Sailors'. A portrait of him hangs in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
Tarawa was a kitten rescued from a blockhouse during the Battle of Tarawa by the United States Coast Guard and named Tarawa. She was a mascot aboard an LST, but did not get along with the LST's other mascot, a dog named Kodiak, and jumped ship ashore.
Camouflage was the ship's cat aboard an LST. He was known for chasing enemy tracer rounds across the deck.
On the HMS Duke of York, the ship's mascot was a tabby cat named Whisky who became famous for sleeping through the battle during which the German ship Scharnhorst was sunk.
A cat named Susan attended the D-Day invasion after making herself at home on a landing craft of the Royal Navy.
Windy was the pet of Wing Commander, Guy Gibson, VC, the dam-buster of World War II. Windy accompanied Gibson on dangerous war time missions. Windy flew in planes and knew how to swim. This cat put in “more flying hours than most cats.”
From Cat World by Desmond Morris
See also The Cat Who Raised the Ship's Morale
See also The Cat Who Circumnavigated Australia