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