Simon (c. 1947 – 1949) was the ship’s cat who served on the Royal Navy sloop HMS Amethyst. In 1949 Simon protected food stores from an infestation of rats on board the HMS Amethyst during the 101-day siege known as the Yangtze Incident in which 17 marines were killed.
Simon was found wandering the Honk Kong dockyards in March of 1948 by a young British seaman. Simon was grossly underfed and sporting a nasty fever. Taking pity on the cat, Simon was smuggled aboard the ship. Simon soon bucked up (as they say in England) and began life aboard the Amethyst. His main duty, by necessity and desire, was the catching and killing of rats. The rats spread disease, ruined food caches and brought down morale. Simon gained a reputation for cheekiness, leaving presents of dead rats in sailors’ beds, and sleeping in the captain’s cap. You gotta love a cat with style.
On the 20th of April, 1949 the Amethyst came under attack by the People Liberation Army of China. One of the first shells to hit pierced the Captian’s quarters where Simon was sleeping. The missile that hit the Captain’s quarters left Simon with severe burns, numerous pieces of shrapnel and lacerations. Even though Simon was badly wounded he managed to make his way top side.
Along with the other injured sailors his injuries were treated although doctors did not expect him to make it through the night. As the ship lay aground and under siege rats began to stream on board. Simon, even though still injured and under doctors’ orders for bed rest, limped out of bed and continued his task of fighting back the infestation of hundreds of rats. Simon worked day and night to stem the infestation. Simon saved the crew and buoyed their morale.
Eventually the Amethyst was saved by the HMS Consort and all the sailors and Simon were sent home. With all of his work done Simon expired immediately upon arriving in England. Simon was posthumously presented with the “Animal Victoria Cross”, the Dickin Medal, as well as a Blue Cross medal.