WW2 cat hero, Simon, died of cold British weather not his injuries

Cat Bravery Awards
Cat Bravery Awards. Simon and the Dickin Medal.
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You may have heard of Simon. He is the only cat to have won the PDSA Dickin Medial, the animal’s equivalent of the human’s Victoria Cross (VC). He won it as a ship’s cat on HMS Amethyst fighting the Chinese communists in 1949. Simon is the world’s most highly decorated cat.

The ship was stranded on the Yangtze River for 101 days by communist forces who refused to grant permission for safe passage. Previously the ship had been under fire during which Simon was struck by shrapnel. Simon survived and proved to be a valuable ship’s cat in boosting the crew’s morale. He was also a classic rat catcher.

Simon become the celebrity cat of the era. They are commonplace nowadays with the internet but he was almost unique in his era. Simon received a lot of correspondence (letters) and money and food. As a result the navy appointed Lieutenant Stewart Hett as ‘cat officer’ to act as Simon’s ‘agent’.

Simon was 18-months-of-age at the time of his heroics; a young cat with his life of fame ahead of him. He died young. It was reported that he died of his injuries sustained on the Yangtze.

However, Commonader Hett (as he became) reported when he was 92 that the official story of Simon’s death is incorrect. He said:

“I would have thought it was more likely the climate in England – coming here in November from Hong Kong. We were mainly down in tropical climates. That’s what he had become used to.”

Simon died in quarantine in England. You can imagine what it was like. Very basic and cold in winter. This was 1949 when the attitude by the British towards domestic cats was not what it is today. The old adage to put the cat out at night gives you the clue as to attitudes.

Simon died a very premature death.

Commander Hett continues in an interview with the Times newspaper:

“Because of the medal we had to bring him back. He was a kitten in 1948 so by 1949 he was about one and a half year old.”

Simon’s medal lead to his premature death because if he had not received it he would not have been sent to the UK and into quarantine but would have remained in Asia as an unknown ship’s cat.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

7 thoughts on “WW2 cat hero, Simon, died of cold British weather not his injuries”

  1. Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

    Well, dang, my song is wrong. Remember that song I wrote about Simon and you posted it, Michael? The song implies he died because his wounds became infected. That is what I assumed happened— sepsis or something like that.

    I am planning on having my school choir sing Simon’s song next year for their spring concert. I played the recording for them and they are really excited about it, especially that it is in two parts. (They learned to sing in harmony this year.)

    I think Simon would much rather have stayed on the ship with his friends catching mice than to sit in a cold cage in quarantine. So that sucks.

    But the kids loved the song about Simon, even though they agreed his story is sad. They already have ideas for what instruments to add to it. I am not sure I can get a flute player, no band at my school because that starts in 6th grade, but as we work on it together it will become something a little different than how my former student Emily and I recorded it, but it will be fun to see how it turns out.

    1. Hi Ruth, Well, it is still a very nice song and the theory expounded on this page is just that: a theory. Hope you and Monty and hubby are well.

  2. Simon’s story is extremely amazing and inspirational. He was well loved. How sad that Simon had to endure the climate change coming from Hong Kong to England, which lead to his premature death. He was a very unusual and gifted feline soul. ???

    1. It is a sad tale and sadly it is an example of how humans can screw up. Of the all the cats they should have protected and cosseted Simon was the one they should have bent over backwards for but if the story is true they were careless.

    1. Oops, I get it, if he hadn’t gotten the medal, he wouldn’t have been brought back and then suffered the lousy weather and confinement conditions.

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