Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard Ships’ Cats in War and Peace

Ships' Cats in War and Peace, Val Lewis

Revised 2002, August 2002

It was a moment a ship's cat shared with great men making history in a time of crisis. In August 1941 Britain's Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, sailed aboard the battleship, HMS Prince of Wales to meet USA President Franklin Roosevelt.

America was not yet in the war. Germany had marched on Russia, which Churchill thought would be overrun. His mission: to persuade America to provide aid "on a gigantic scale" to Russia, with the effort co-ordinated by Britain. Roosevelt was aboard the heavy cruiser Augusta and the two ships met at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.

As Churchill, attended by a five-man guard, prepared to step

off the Prince of Wales, the ship's cat approached, seemingly to wish him well or to go aboard the Augusta too. It provided a moment for smiles from all ranks on both ships before the serious business began.

From August 11, in three days of negotiation, Churchill's team secured the American commitment they sought: more merchant ships to bring bombers and tanks to Britain, an escort of five destroyers and a cruiser for every North Atlantic convoy, taking over patrolling much of the ocean and delivering bombers and training to Britain and her forces in North Africa.

Further, Roosevelt and Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter, setting out their vision for the world after the war, with its far-reaching pledge "to respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they live".

The ship's cat was promptly renamed Churchill after his moment of fame was photographed for the world's press - an incident re-created here by noted Welsh illustrator Gwyn Hughes.

IT ALL STARTED IN THE AGE OF EGYPTIAN GREATNESS, 5,000 to 8,000 years ago, in the Nile river valley. The species felis sylvestris libyaca, otherwise known as the African wild cat, was gradually drawn to domesticity by the human shift from nomadic to agrarian living. Once people started to farm and cultivate crops they began to store their harvests. These attracted rodents which in turn attracted wild cats. The cats demonstrated their usefulness by controlling mice and rats, settling in as part of the community, revealing their affectionate, companionable natures and becoming beloved pets. These skills earned respect from the Egyptians to the point of worship.

The captains of merchant ships visiting Egyptian ports were impressed by the graceful, mysterious creatures that protected the nation's grain stores.

Recognising that such skills would be of immeasurable value on board their ships, which were often overrun with rodents, they recruited some of these wonderful animals.

These intrepid cats were more than willing to come aboard but, being of an independent nature, were just as likely to jump ship at the next port and mate with local, wild cats. And so different breeds evolved and spread from country to country worldwide.

Which is why, at heart, all domesticated cats are really ships' cats. These are their stories, in war and peace, discovery and disaster, fact and fable, poetry and ballad.


l .         Evolution of ships' cats

2.         World War II cats

3.         The cat that walked by itself

4.         Churchill of HMS Prince of Wales

5.         Lucky & Tommy D-D Heroes

6.         Shy Peggy of SS Julie

7.         Stripey of HMS Warspite

8.         Susan of Landing Craft T166

9.         Thomas Oscar of HMS Scorpion

10.       Nigger of HMS Orion

11.       Smokey of HMS Bulldog

12.       Annie of HMS Arson

13.       Beauty of HMS Black Prince

14.       Whiskey of HMS Duke of York

15.       Wreq,Figaro, the cat that might have graced a catwalk

16.       Unsinkable Sam

17.       When ships' cats were ordered to wear collars

18.       Forgotten cat of HMS Hermione

19.       Able Seaman Simon, hero of HMS Amethyst

20.       The sick cat that wasn't allowed ashore

21.       Tiger who chose his own ship

22.       Carlsen who refused to abandon his doomed ship

23.       Sarah who slept in a hammock

24.       Beeps who refused to leave the Discover

25.       Charlie's Last Post

26.       Fred Wunpound of HMS Hecate

27.       Siamese Princess of Sagamore

28.       Siamese cats on HMS Vanguard

29.       The WWI buccanneer who sank ships & rescued cats

30.       Sideboy of HMS Neptune

31.       Mascot kitten on HMS Belfast

32.       The cat that ate a bological specimen

33.       Nansen of the Belgica

34.       Cats that sailed on Discovery with Scott

35.       Nigger of the Terra Nova

36.       Mrs Chippy, who sailed with Shackleton

37.       Lummo of the Penola

38.       The cat that nearly froze to death in an Arctic winter

39.       The ship's cat that was dish of the day

40.       Matthew Flinder's cat Trim

41.       The bewitched cat on the Maria Teresa

42.       Smuggled cats on SS Great Britain

43.       The cat that stowed away to America

44.       Naomi James's cat Boris

45.       Matthew the Ferryman and his sixteen cats

46.       Cat that cruised the Inland Waterways

47.       Bengy the canal bargy cat

48.       Manx cats that charm away storms

49.       Freddy the cat shipwrecked on the Hawksdale

50.       Stray cats on Dutch Barges

51.       Dick Whittington's cat

52.       James Thurber's cat William

53.       The cat shipwrecked on a rum barrel

54.       Ancient Egyptian cats

55.       Mummified Egyptian cats shipped to Liverpool

56.       Three cats that sailed with a teenage dropout

57.       Joshua Slocum's low opinion of ships' cats

58.       Accident prone Indian cat

59.       Pussy Willow legend

60.       Swimming Cats that sailed on Noahs' Ark

61.       The Fat Cat that cruises the Mediterranean

62.       Cat O'Nine Tails

63.       Victor Hugo's cat Gavroche

64.       Isaac Newton's invention for cats

65.       The cat that was her master's scapegoat

66.       Chinese slum cat

67.       The cat rescued by a skiffe

68.       The kitten that fell into the ocean

69.       The cat that jumped into the devil's arms

70.       The cat that saved a dog from drowning

71.       Ricci's feline intuition

72.       The cat that nearly wrecked a sailor's manhood

73.       Mark Twain's cats

74.       Fishing cats

75.       The cat that drowned in a goldfish bowl

76.       The cat that went to sea in a pea-green boat

77.       T.S.Eliot's Mystery Cats - Growltiger

78.       T.S.Eliot's Mystery Cats - Cat Morgan

79.       The World's Great Explorers



Matthew Flinders mapped the coast of Australia in 1802, aboard the ship Tryall, accompanied b his remarkable black and white cat Trim. During the voyage, Trim learnt to swim and catch a rope. His intense interest in watching the officers at their navigation - convinced Flinders that his feline friend was interested in astronomy! Together, they circumnavigated Australia three times and the world once. To display his most distinctive feature, the white star on his chest, he is portrayed "dozing" - eyes closed, but he, up ready for action.


...and His Story

Written by Matthew Flinders, re-published by us to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the voyage. 50 page pocket book, 6x4".

Trim book, £4.95