Cats in the Second World War

We have previously written about Simon, the ship’s cat on board HMS Amethyst, and the only feline holder of the Dickin medal – the animal’s VC.  However, there is another cat who was decorated for her courage… 

Faith was the tabby and white coloured church cat of St Faith & St Augustine, Watling Street, just to the east of St Paul’s Cathedral.  In September 1940 she became restless and insistent on finding a sheltered place for her single kitten, eventually settling in the basement.  Three days later the rectory was demolished in a bombing raid.  Faith remained guarding her kitten until they were rescued from the rubble of the burning building.

She was later nominated for a PDSA award but did not qualify – as a civilian – for the Dickin medal, so Mrs Dickin caused a special silver medal to be struck and this was awarded in 1945.

Little remained of the church except the tower, the lower part of which was turned into a chapel.  A photograph of Faith with a caption praising the ‘bravest cat in the world‘ and certificates from the PDSA and the Greenwich Village Humane League Inc. of New York were placed in the chapel, but it is not known if they are lost, as the church was closed around 1960 and the tower has been incorporated into St Paul’s Cathedral Choir School.  Faith’s death, peacefully in her sleep, in September 1948 was reported in The Times (1 Oct. 1948 p. 2) and she was buried in the churchyard.

Mrs Day and her cat 'Little One', London 1941This photograph shows another cat from the Second World War, ‘Little One’ and his owner, Mrs Day.  ‘Little One’ is wearing a NARPAC collar.

According to the original Ministry of Information caption, the National Air Raid Precautions for Animals Committee was ‘an animal lover’s voluntary wartime organisation that ensures that, should he stray in blitz or black-out, he will be returned safely to his owner’.

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2 comments
  1. m symlie said:

    re cats of ww2 Guy Gibson had a cat as well as a well known dog. The cat was caled WINDY and Gibson said he was a great swimmer and flier. MICHAEL the spaniel flew on ops with his pilot until his new bride insisted he be grounded, terrified her husband would die trying to save his dog, if hit. The very next op. the pilot was hit and became a prisoner of war for the duration. He came home to a contented middle aged dog. One war widow with a 10 yr old son could not get food for her cat – called CAT I think. She tearfully told the cat that she felt the kindest thing would be to put it down. It seems that the cat understood, for the next day, it went out early and came home with a rabbit. It continued to bring a rabbit home, a minimum of three times a week, until the war ended. Some rabbits were bigger than the cat. It always gave her the rabbit and waited patiently for it’s share. Herbert Chalkley was photographed disembarking from HMAS EXETER after victory in the Battle of the River Plate, in Dec., 1939. He is seen holdng a cat. Mr Chalkley was awarded the DSM for saving lives – and also the ship’s cat, SCOUSE. A German bomber was shot down in Wales. The crew were dead but in the wreckage, a cat was found. It became the first feline POW and was named Tiger. At first, it was said to have a number of “German characteristics” (not explained), but went on to become far more laid back and presumably, British.

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