Several cats earned awards and medals for their distinguished service during wartime. Created in 1943, the Dickin Medal, also known as the Animals Victory Cross, is awarded to animals for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” while serving in Britian’s military or civil service. The only cat to have gotten this award to date is Simon, the mascot of the British frigate HMSA Amethyst during the Yangtze Incident in 1949. A young Ordinary Seaman, George Hickinbottom rescued the malnourished cat from the docks of Hong Kong and took him aboard the HMSA Amethyst, which was soon hit by Chinese fire on the Yangtze River. Simon was badly wounded by the blast from a Communist shell, and at least four pieces of shrapnel were removed by the ship’s medic. He seemingly recuperated and stayed at his post to kill rats throughout the ship’s 101 day ordeal. Even though 23 of the crew and the captain were killed, Simon had survived.
At only about a year old, he returned to Britain only to eventually die of his wounds a month later on the 28th November 1949. Hundreds attended his funeral as well as all the ship’s crew at the Ilford Animal Cemetery. His tombstone reads:
MAY 1948 — NOVEMBER 1949
AWARDED DICKIN MEDAL
DIED 28TH NOVEMBER 1949.
THROUGHOUT THE YANGTZE INCIDENT
HIS BEHAVIOUR WAS OF THE HIGHEST ORDER
Simon’s Dickin Medal was auctioned for more than $42,000 in 1993.