Simon

Pet type: Cat

Died: 28 Nov 1949

Owner:


Gifts for Simon

Add a gift to this tribute for Simon
Add your gift »

Simon the cat - a black and white Tom - was found wandering the Hong Kong dockyards in March 1948 by a 17-year-old sailor called George Hickinbottom who smuggled him onboard his ship - the British frigate HMS Amethyst.

Simon was probably about a year old and he was very hungry and in poor condition.

George kept him hidden at first, but when his presence became known he was welcomed because he proved to be a very efficient rat and mouse killer and he also boosted the morale of the ship's crew.

When HMS Amethyst got caught up in the Yangtze Incident - and became trapped for 101 days - Simon's vermin-killing ability really proved vital. By killing the rats and mice he protected the men's dwindling food supplies and also reduced the chances of them catching diseases from the vermin.

The ship came under enemy fire and 21 shipmates were killed. Simon was believed to have been in the Captain's cabin when it took a direct hit. The Captain, Lieutenant Commander Bernard Skinner, died from his injuries and Simon was badly injured. But, beating all the odds, he survived to resume his position as chief mouse and rat killer.

When the ship finally escaped the Yangtze river and headed for home - Simon's vital role became known and he was hailed a hero in the British press. It was decided to award him the Dickin Medal for his service. So many letters were sent to Simon that a special officer had to be appointed to deal with all his correspondence.

On arrival home on November 1, 1949, Simon was sent to quarantine in Surrey. Plans were made for Simon to receive his medal on December 11 in the presence of the medal's instigator - Maria Dickin - and the Lord Mayor of London.

But sadly, Simon became ill while in quarantine. A virus, possibly a complication from his war wounds, laid him low and he died on November 28, 1949. Some of his old shipmates said he had died of a broken heart after being separated from them.

He was given full naval honours at his funeral. His little coffin was draped with a Union Jack and he was buried at the PDSA cemetery in Ilford. His headstone bears the inscription: IN MEMORY OF "SIMON" SERVED IN H.M.S. AMETHYST MAY 1948 — NOVEMBER 1949 AWARDED DICKIN MEDAL AUGUST 1949 DIED 28TH NOVEMBER 1949. THROUGHOUT THE YANGTZE INCIDENT HIS BEHAVIOUR WAS OF THE HIGHEST ORDER.

A tribute was published in Time magazine and Simon was also awarded a medal by the Blue Cross.

In 2009, Simon's Dickin Medal - which had been sold by Christie's in 1993 for £23,467 - was loaned to HMS Collingwood for a year as part of an exhibition to mark the 60th anniversary of the Yangtze Incident.

At the handover, PDSA Veterinary Surgeon, Holly Mitchell, from Portsmouth PDSA PetAid hospital, who attended the ceremony on behalf of PDSA, commented: "His actions aboard HMS Amethyst show the value of animal companionship in wartime.”

Also present was retired Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Stewart Hett. As a young man he was the person appointed Cat Officer to deal with all the letters Simon received.

"Simon was a comforting reminder of home when home seemed so very far away,”
he recalled.

Other online resources about Simon:

Pet type: Cat

Died: 28 Nov 1949

Owner:


Gifts for Simon

Add a gift to this tribute for Simon
Add your gift »

Your memories and messages


No memories have yet been added to the tribute for Simon. Why not be the first to add one?

Sign in or register with the site to add your own memory to this tribute.

Pet type: Cat

Died: 28 Nov 1949

Owner:


Gifts for Simon

Add a gift to this tribute for Simon
Add your gift »
No images have yet been added to the tribute for Simon. Why not be the first to add one?

Sign in or register with the site to add your own image to this tribute

Pet type: Cat

Died: 28 Nov 1949

Owner:


Gifts given to Simon