Ancient history

A cat "savior" of British pf from Mao's communists

Although dogs are considered man's best friends, one cat, Simon, proved himself worthy of them. The British Navy still honors the heroic cat, decades after his death. Simon was the mascot of the British frigate HMS Amethyst, which during the final phase of the Chinese Civil War, was trapped by Mao's forces in the Yangtze River for 101 days.

The frigate was sailing from Shanghai to Nanking, to support the planned evacuation of the British embassy there, when it came under fire from Mao's forces and ran aground due to damage. Despite the appeals of the British, the communists did not accept to allow the repair of the ship, nor the evacuation of the crew, nor the supply of food to the crew.

The British gradually began to suffer from starvation, as the Chinese had cut off all avenues of escape, and every now and then a British vessel was struck. Simon had been badly wounded by shrapnel from a Chinese shell. Nevertheless he dragged himself to the ship's infirmary. There he had four fragments removed, but his condition was dire and everyone expected him to be out of the night.

But as a true cat Simon proved to be seven-hearted and repaid the care he received by undertaking to clean the ship of the hundreds of mice that had overrun it, defending the ship's food supplies and saving the lives of most of the crew, except for 22 who were killed. The little cat's greatest service, however, was in keeping the morale of the beleaguered crew up. Everyone, from the captain to the last sailor, considered him their charm.

And that seems to have been the case, as, after a siege of 3 months and 11 days, during which only 60 of the 192-man crew remained afloat, other British vessels broke through the Chinese blockade and towed the holed ship to salvation. HMS Amethyst returned to Britain on November 1, 1949. But things were bad for the little cat.

His wounds became infected and he eventually died two weeks later. Simon, who had been rescued from Hong Kong harbor by a 17-year-old British sailor, was buried with full military honors at the British Naval Animal Cemetery, having been awarded the special animal medal, the Deakin Medal, the equivalent of the Victoria Cross , that is, for his contribution to raising the morale of the crew in those difficult conditions. The said medal has been awarded to 65 animals – 32 were homing pigeons, 29 dogs, three horses and one cat.

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