Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cat Bravery

Animal (and for me cat) bravery is very touching. In the UK there is a medal called the Dickin Medal which is awarded to animals for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while serving for the armed forces. It is the animals' Vitoria Cross.

The Victoria Cross is the highest award for gallantry in the UK. The award is very rarely made. There are some incredible stories of gallantry so you can image that the animals awarded the Dickin Medal have been outstanding in carrying out their duties in war.

60 Dickin Medals have been awarded since its inception in 1943 by Maria Dickin CBE who founded the PDSA a large animal charity employing about 1500 people.

Of these 60 there is only one cat, Simon who has been awarded the medal. Simon served on HMS Amethyst a ship of the size of a frigate as a rat catcher. He found his way on board when a member of the crew spotted him in Hong Kong. At the time he was smuggled on board he was sickly. He endeared himself to the crew and kept the rats down.

He was caught up in the Yangtze incident. This incident occurred on April 29th 1949 on the Yangtze river in China. The ship was bombarded by field guns on the shore that hit the ship 50 times and caused severe damage. The shelling killed 22 and and wounded 31.

The award was made posthumously (after his death) after the incident. Simon was wounded by one of the 50 shells that hit the ship. Four pieces of shrapnel were removed from him. he survived to continue his duties which included boosting the morale of the crew.

His "behaviour throughout was of the highest order.." The blast that injured him made a hole a foot diameter in steel plate.

Simon was an exceptional cat because he was able to function normally under such horrendous conditions for both human and cat. He died shortly after returning to England as a result of an infection while in quarantine. The entire crew of HMS Amethyst turned out for the funeral and hundreds of others.

Simon was smallish black and white moggie with a gentle face. There are pictures on the 'net of him but I do not have permission to use the photos at the time of writing this.

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