A cat named "Simon" from the Royal Navy's Amethyst sloop, awarded Britain's highest military award for animals - the Mary Deakin Medal.
In March 1948, 17-year-old junior sailor George Hickinbottom, a member of the crew of the British patrol ship HMS Amethyst, found Simon at the Hong Kong shipyards. At that time, Simon was about one year old, he was sick and severely emaciated. Hickinbottom secretly took the cat aboard the ship. Thanks to his good ability to catch and kill rats that swarmed the lower decks, Simon quickly gained the trust of the crew. The cat became famous for his antics: he brought killed rats to sailors in bunks, often settled down for the night in a captain's cap. The crew considered Simon to be the ship's mascot.
At the end of the 1948 year, Ian Griffiths, the former captain of the ship, handed the cat over to his successor, Bernard Skinner, who also liked the friendly cat. Skinner's first assignment aboard the Amethyst was to sail up the Yangtze River to Nanjing to replace the HMS Consort. Halfway up the river, Chinese communist batteries opened fire on a patrol ship (historians would later call the incident "the Yangtze River incident"). One of the first volleys went through the captain's quarters, killing Skinner and seriously injuring Simon.
Badly wounded cat crawled out on deck. The sailors saw him and rushed to the ship's infirmary. In the infirmary, the doctors who survived the shelling gave him first aid. Simon was covered with burns and shrapnel wounds. The burns were treated and four shrapnel bullets were removed from the body. Few thought that he could last at least until the morning. However, the cat survived and even returned to his duties. As the ship docked at the river bank, hordes of rats rushed aboard. Simon vigorously set to work to destroy them. He also visited the ship's infirmary. At the sight of the cat, even very young sailors understood that injury was not a reason to lose heart.
Fame came to Simon immediately after the ship returned from the river. He was featured in the news not only in Britain but around the world. He was awarded the Maria Deakin Medal ("Victoria Cross for Animals"), the Blue Cross Medal, the Amethyst Medal for the campaign, and even received the unusual title "Cat - Excellent in Marine Service". Simon received so many letters that the officer of the "Amethyst" who was assigned to answer these letters had to be relieved of all other duties. Simon was honored at every port the Amethyst stopped at on the way home, but he was especially welcomed in November when the ship returned to Plymouth. However, like all animals entering the UK, Simon was quarantined and spent some time at an animal shelter in Surrey.
At the shelter, Simon contracted a viral infection. The wounds exacerbated the infection, and despite the care of veterinarians and thousands of fans, Simon passed away on November 28, 1949. Hundreds of people, including the entire crew of His Majesty's Amethyst, attended Simon's funeral in Ilford, east London.
Read about another cat in maritime - The "Unsinkable Sam"