Simon with his fellow crew members circa 1940s

Saturday Animal Stories – Simon the War Hero

For the last few months we have focused our Saturday Stories specifically on dogs. It’s now time to branch out and start including other animals as well! This week we are focusing on a cat named Simon. Whilst there are many cats with recognition for their actions during wartime, only one cat has ever been awarded the Dickin Medal (the highest British honour awarded for animal bravery in battle) – Simon!

Hong Kong 1948

Simon, a black and white tomcat, was found looking for food down by the docks in Hong Kong in 1948 by a British sailor named George Hickinbottom. George decided to adopt him, smuggling him onto his boat, the Amethyst, to help with a rodent infestation that posed a risk to their onboard food storage.

Simon stayed on board the ship for over a year. In 1949 it was ordered to head up a river to the British embassy in China, where a bloody civil war was taking place. Although Britain had not taken a side in the war, the Amethyst needed to make it there in case one side of the war won and forced all embassies to evacuate. A cease-fire was currently in effect between the two sides, so the hope was that the ship could make it to the embassy before the fighting resumed.

However, they did not make it in time, and about 60 miles away from their destination the ship was attacked from one of the armies on the shore. The ship took considerable damage, with explosions hitting it all over. Unfortunately 19 men, including the captain, were killed and 27 more wounded. The Amethyst took shelter in a nearby creek and begun negotiations with the army from the shoreline to allow the release of the cornered ship and its crew.

After being injured, Simon hung out in the sick bay to improve morale

During the initial attack Simon had been right next to a section of the wall that exploded. He was hit by shrapnel in his back and legs, and his face and whiskered had been burnt. He disappeared for several days but was eventually found and taken to the ship’s sick bay. He was given only a ‘fair chance’ at survival, but the medics did what they could. Whilst Simon recovered from his injuries, he started to hang out in the sick bay to help improve morale with the injured sailors. As Simon had been on the ship and endured the horrific attack with them, he was considered one of them and respected.

Negotiations continued for 3 months but were at a standstill, as the army on the shoreline were demanding the Amethyst’s men admit they had wrongly invaded Chinese waters and had fired first. With food, water, fuel and morale at an all time low, the ship’s new Captain decided they simply had to make a run for it. Waiting for darkness, they set off and attempted to make the 104 mile trip without being discovered.

It took 5 long and nerve-filled hours, but thankfully they made it safely, meeting up with another vessel who escorted them to safety.

Word soon spread about the Amethyst’s 101 days of being held hostage, and the entire crew, along with Simon, were hailed as heroes. The cat instantly became a celebrity, thanks to heavy coverage by the press, with his photo being captured at the return celebration in Hong Kong.

Awarded the Dickin Medal

For his bravery at not fleeing after the explosion and instead sticking around and helping out, Simon was awarded the Dickin Medal. All of the media attention meant Simon was receiving more than 200 pieces of fan mail per day – including cat food and toys. He was assigned an officer from the navy purely to help handle all the mail and gifts!

At Bowerland Cottage Holidays and Devon Dogs we love hearing about brave animals! We hold regular training and workshops to help boost your dog’s bravery and confidence! For more information please give us a call on 07717 696623 today! 

Read more of our Saturday Stories HERE.

Come and stay with us in our cottage style apartments, right in the heart of Dartmoor, and create your own unique dog stories to tell!

Chris Green

About the Author: Chris Green manages the office at Bowerland Cottage Holidays and Devon Dogs, using his technical expertise to assist wherever needed. In his spare time he likes playing guitar and bass, and hiking around Dartmoor.


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