Simon the cat, D.M.

I have been reading “The Animals’ VC: For Gallantry and Devotion” by David Long (Preface Publishing, 2012) which I stumbled upon in Oxford Central Library. The book tells the stories of the 63 recipients to date of the PDSA Dickin Medal, named after Maria Dickin CBE (1870-1951), the founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, an award considered to be the non-human animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. There are some amazing stories, none more so than that of Simon the ship’s cat, the only feline recipient of the Dickin Medal. Simon’s moment of glory came aboard HMS Amethyst, the Royal Navy vessel at the centre of the so-called “Yangtze Incident” during the Chinese civil war in 1949, when the ship came under heavy fire from the communist People’s Liberation Army. Crippled by the attack with her captain dead and many others including Simon injured, the stricken ship was unable to move for ten weeks, during which time Simon’s ability to dispose of the many rats that plagued the ship and his companionship towards the injured sailors proved invaluable. Promoted to the rank of Able Seaman, Simon was later awarded the Distinguished Amethyst Campaign Ribbon, his citation mentioning that “on April 26, 1949, though recovering from wounds … (Simon) did single-handedly and unarmed stalk down and destroy ‘Mao Tse Tung’, a rat guilty of raiding food supplies which were critically short”. Later in the year, his story having featured in Time magazine, Simon was awarded the Dickin Medal, alas posthumously, the poor cat having died in quarantine, weakened by his wounds and separated from his ship and friends. You can read Simon’s story at
http://www.purr-n-fur.org.uk/famous/simon.html .

Paul Appleby

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