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Cat Aids Crew of the HMS Amethyst
by Simone, Montréal, Quebec

Simone the Cat

Cats have been valued on ships for their rat-catching abilities and their furry friendliness. During wartime, when a seaman was far from hugs at home, a cat could bring a lot of comfort. Some cats became war heroes. Maybe you’ve never thought of a cat as a hero? Think again! Simon became the most celebrated and honoured cat of our time.

He was born in 1947 in Hong Kong on a busy dockyard for ships. Abandoned, he was adopted by a seaman who brought him back to his British ship, HMS Amethyst, to kill some of the rats onboard. Simon did his job well—he also became a cuddly friend of the men.

The Amethyst was sent to protect the British people on the Yangtze River in China, but one day in April, the ship was attacked. During the battle, some of the seamen were killed and the ship sailed into shore.

Men tried to escape from the ship, but many were killed as soon as they left the Amethyst. About 50 men remained onboard—some of them were hurt. The ship was heavily guarded by the enemy for three months.

Simon stayed onboard with the men. He was injured too, but he continued to do his job. He caught at least one rat a day, often more, which helped boost the crew’s spirits because he was helping to save their food supply. Simon also found another job. Several of the seamen lay unwell in the sick bay, shocked and wounded from their experiences under fire. The doctor onboard thought Simon could help, and he encouraged the cat to sit on their bunks, where he would knead his paws and purr, and tend to his own wounds. His own injuries helped the sailors relate to him and they started to welcome his visits, which helped them get over their own injuries.

Able Seaman Simon and crew from the H.M.S. Amethyst Source: Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)

After 101 days, the seamen were finally able to escape and sailed the Amethyst back to Hong Kong. News about Simon and the crew was grabbed by newspaper and radio reporters and shared with the world.

Simon became famous. Letters and gifts from around the world were sent to him, and there were even poems written about him!

Simon was soon awarded the Dickin Medal—the only cat to ever receive this honour. A special cat collar, woven with the Medal’s ribbon colours, was made for Simon to wear.

He was due to be presented with the Dickin Medal in December 1949; but the cat-hero died the month before. The Amethyst crew was very sad and upset. They buried Simon, with full Naval honours, in a pet cemetery near London, England. When Simon’s death was announced, his photograph and a story about his deeds appeared in Time, a magazine read by millions of people around the world.

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