Remembering The Cats of War

Today we remembered those men and women who served and gave their lives in wartime, however it also appropriate to acknowledge and remember the millions of animals who served alongside them. Horses, dogs, donkeys and even pigeons all work animals, protectors, messengers many saving the lives of humans while giving their own. Lesser known and often forgotten, are the cats of war. They were more than just mascots who comforted officers and boosted morale, they played key roles.

Throughout the “war to end all wars,” cats were a common sight in the trenches and aboard ships, where they hunted mice and rats. Beyond their “official” duties, they were also embraced as mascots and pets by the soldiers and sailors with whom they served.

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Ship’s cat aboard the HMAS Encounter. [Wikipedia]

An estimated 500,000 cats were dispatched to the trenches, where they killed rats and mice; some were also used as gas detectors. At sea, cats had the run of the ship — a tradition dating back thousands of years.

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Faith the Faithful Church Cat

Faith, a cat who made her home at Saint Augustine’s Church in London in 1936. On September 6, 1940, the mother of one apparently had a funny feeling and moved her recently born kitten from the warm upper floors to the basement — just a day before London was hit by German air bombs. She and her kitten, Panda, were rescued from beneath the rubble by Father Henry Ross, and she was later awarded a special medal for “steadfast courage in the Battle of London.”

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Able Seacat Simon

Able Seacat Simon (his official title), of the Royal Navy’s HMS Amethyst, began his career in 1948 as the Amethyst’s formal ratter. During the time he served, Simon performed his duties so well that he was twice awarded in 1949. The first after a particularly grueling incident with Chinese forces, Simon was awarded an Amethyst campaign ribbon for his valiant service. The next was the Dickin Medal for animal gallantry. Simon is the only cat to have received the Dickin Medal, and when he died, he was buried with full naval honors.

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Famous image of Miss Hap the kitten – Korea, ca 1953

Accepting her fate as an orphan of war, ‘Miss Hap’ a two-week old Korean kitten chows down on canned milk, piped to her by medicine dropper with the help of Marine Sergeant Frank Praytor … The Marine adopted the kitten after its mother was killed by a mortar barrage near Bunker Hill. The name, Miss Hap, Sergeant Praytor explained, was given to the kitten ‘because she was born at the wrong place at the wrong time’.”

Click here for more photos of the cats of war.

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