Rare Photos Of Soldiers And Their Cats During World War I And II

“Military mascots” came in several shapes and sizes during World War I and II. Some units had dogs, horses, and camels, while others had cats. These brave felines joined soldiers on the front lines, providing much-needed comfort. In the trenches cats had the most important job, helping protect the food supply from mice and other animals. The most famous cat was Simon, who was even honored with a medal when he came home! Here are photos of Simon, as well as other cats with the soldiers who loved them!

One cat even won a medal for his bravery during the war!

Cats Were Members Of The Team

cats in a hammock on board a warship during World War II
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Not only were cats seen as food protectors during World War I and II, but they were also friends to the soldiers. Having the animals around provided a morale boost, and most became the “mascots” of their regiments.

These two cats were so beloved by the crew on the HMAS Nizam, that a custom hammock was made for them to relax in. The N-class destroyer ship was used by the Australian Royal Navy during World War II.

These Cats Served On The HMS Vindictive

hms vindictive cats during world war i
Maurice-Louis Branger/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

The HMS Vindictive was commissioned by the United Kingdom in 1918 and served until 1946, surviving through both World War I and II. This photo, which includes the ship’s two mascots, was taken during the first great war.

In World War I, the Vindictive participated in the raid on Zeebrugge, a mission that saw the Royal Navy work to prevent German ships from entering the port. The attack ended with 600 casualties.

An airborne cat is coming up!

Ready For First Flight!

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Keystone/Getty Images

Taken near the end of World War II, this cat is showing support for a member of the Royal Airforce before a mission. The furry friend did not participate in the flight but was the mascot on the aircraft carrier.

After the war, cats remained a staple on ships for 30 years. In 1975, the Royal Navy banned the practice of having cats on ocean-bound ships for hygiene purposes (where this plane likely launched from).

Mascot In Training

pebbles with his best soldier friend playing together o the HMS Western Isles
Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer/ IWM via Getty Images

Pebbles served at Battle School for U-Boat Hunters in Scotland and was known as one of the smartest mascots in the Royal Navy. According to former soldiers, he would greet strangers by shaking their hands and loved jumping through loops.

While aboard the HMS Western Isles, Pebbles made friends with Lieutenant Commander R.H. Palmer. The two loved playing together and had a beautiful bond that went beyond just shipmates.

A medal-winning feline is just ahead!

Simon Received The Dickin Medal After WW II

simon was one of the most decorated cats of the great war.
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In 1943, the Dickin Medal was created to recognize animals who served above and beyond their duties during the war. Only one cat was given the honor, and his name was Simon.

Simon served aboard the HMS Amethyst in the aftermath of World War II and received the Dickin Medal for “heroism in the line of duty and the disposal of many ship rats despite injury.” Engraved onto the medal presented to Simon were the words, “For Gallantry. We Also Serve.”

Simon At Work

simon getting pets but staying on guard for any vermon that might cross his path
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As you can see, Simon took his job aboard the HMS Amethyst very seriously. Even as a soldier is petting him, Simon is on guard and ready to pounce on any rat that crosses his path.

During his tour of duty, Simon even survived an attack by a Chinese gunship! He was wounded and wasn’t supposed to last the night, but miraculously survived. Shortly after he recovered, the ship was overrun with rats, which Simon disposed of with vigor.

Pincher Proudly Served On The HMS Exeter

pincher the war cat in 1940 just before meeting winston churchill
Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images

This photo, taken on February 15, 1940, shows Pincher, the mascot cat who served aboard the HMS Exeter during World War II. The ship was part of the fleet that sunk Graf Spee, a German battleship. The picture appeared in the Daily Herald Newspaper.

When the crew returned to port, they were met by Winston Churchill, who was overjoyed to greet Pincher. At the time, Churchill was Britain’s First Lord of The Admiralty.

Not only men served in the war. Just ahead we have a picture of brave female soldiers with their mascot!

The Auxiliary Territorial Service Mascot Cat

ats mascot cat being held by female soldiers at a gun site in california in 1941
© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

In 1938, the British Army formed the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), which was the country’s women’s branch. Just like other branches of the army, the ATS was given mascot cats to help with food protection and morale.

This 1941 photograph shows an ATS mascot cat at an anti-aircraft gun site in California. It’s also one of the only photos we have in color, showing just how amazing this feline’s fur is.

Convoy Gets All The Benefits Of His Human Counterparts

convoy the cat about the HMS Hermione in 2941
Lt. S J Beadell/ IWM via Getty Images

Convoy was so beloved by his army mates that he was afforded all the luxuries a human was. That meant he was kept in the ship’s book and had a full kit.

While serving on the HMS Hermione, he was given the name Convoy because of how often he joined in for duty patrols. Convoy became an indispensable part of the crew, and, as you can see, was given special treatment for his unique personality.

Tiddles Was A Navy Lifer

Tiddles the cat served aboard the HMS Victorious during World War II
Lt. C H Parnall/ IWM via Getty Images

Tiddles was the captain’s cat on the HMS Victorious and lived a spoiled life in the navy. Here he is on his favorite station, posing for just a second before playing with his favorite bell-rope.

Life at sea was all Tiddles ever knew. He was born on the HMS Argus before switching ships to the HMS Victorious, where the captain took a liking to him. It was here he served during World War II, ensuring that no rat came near the crew’s food supply.

The Patient Wait

cat waiting during world war i for soldier to feed it.
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Sometimes during the wars, cats had nothing better to do than wait for their soldiers to come home to the trenches. This cat waited patiently and now looks like it’s going to be rewarded with food.

It’s also possible this soldier is playing with this cat. We really can’t see what he’s holding, but the way the cat is sitting and waiting makes us think there are treats in his hands!

A cat caught in the snow is just ahead!

A Frolic In The Snow

cat during a world war playing in the snow with a soldier
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This chilly situation was made more bearable for this soldier by the company of his mascot cat. Here you can see them playing together in the snow, finding a common bond while trying to stay warm.

This picture serves as a reminder that wars lasted for years, and soldiers were exposed to extreme and harsh conditions. Being able to have the companionship of mascots, especially felines, was a great way for soldiers to stay grounded.

Taking A Break From The Action

cat during world war I posing with a gunner in france
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Here’s a gunner in the trenches taking a break to pet his regiment’s mascot. During World War I, an estimated 500,000 cats served alongside soldiers. Many, like this cat, stayed in the trenches, while others served bravely on ships.

Aside from killing rats and keeping morale up, some cats were also used to detect gasses. It was the first war to use chemicals as a weapon, and cats tended to be more sensitive to them than humans, creating an early warning system.

Spark Plug Is The Best Lookout Cat

cat on a plane looking for rats during war
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The name Spark Plug couldn’t be more appropriate for this cat. There’s no better way to look for rats on the prowl then by taking the high ground. It’s not like this plane is going to take off any time soon.

Without cats like Spark Plug, soldiers would have been left to fend off rats themselves, often times with their bayonets. One false move, however, and the bayonet would be ruined, making the cats a true blessing for soldiers of every army.

Good Luck Mascots

two mascot cats who served on the HMAS Melbourne
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This soldier aboard the HMAS Melbourne in 1917 couldn’t be happier to be holding the ship’s two mascots. Soldiers tended to be superstitious on boats and believed cats to be good luck.

Having two cats on board was a spoil of riches for a superstitious soldier! Even if one cat was a black cat (usually considered bad luck), it was still seen as a good sign by soldiers putting everything on the line for their country.

Another airborne kitty is coming up!

Royal Air Force Training

aircrew the cat getting trained the Royal Australian Air Force
Flickr

Before serving, soldiers needed to be trained for their duties. We don’t exactly know if cats were trained for war too, but this cat, named Aircrew, was present at the Cressy Royal Australian Air Force Flying School

As a kitten, Aircrew looked a little intimidated to be serving, but it wouldn’t be long until he was acting like “one of the guys.” He had to earn his wings somehow, after all, not just for being adorable.

Pitouchi Saved One Soldier’s Life

pitcouchi the cat on a shell
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Pitouchi is one of the most heroic cats that ever served. As a kitten, he was rescued by a soldier, and the pair became bonded together. If it wasn’t for this bond, that soldier would not have survived the war.

Tasked with drawing German trenches, Lt. Lekeux didn’t notice a pair of German soldiers getting close. But the soldiers heard him wrestling around, and so Pitouchi the cat jumped out of the ditch, and then jumped quickly back in while getting shot at. The German soldiers then walked away laughing.

A Meeting Of Brilliant Minds

blackie the cat meets Winston Churchill in 1941
Capt. Horton/ IWM via Getty Images

The love of cats during World War I and II went far beyond the soldiers. This amazing picture of Winston Churchill greeting Blackie, the mascot of the HMS Prince of Wales, is proof of that.

Churchill met the cat in 1941 at the Atlantic Conference. Blackie was on his way to climb aboard an American destroyer while the National Anthem was playing when the British Prime Minister intervened. The soldiers in the back could hardly keep their composure.

Cats And Kilts

mascot cat in 1916 with scottish soldiers during world war i
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These two Scottish soldiers look absolutely exhausted in the trenches in 1916, two years into World War I. If they didn’t have a cat with them, who knows how low their morale would be.

Among stranger responsibilities, felines like this one might have also helped transport messages. Soldiers would slip notes into the cat’s collar, allowing trenches to communicate with each other. Some of these cats were captured and even held as spies!

Posing For A Picture

a cat during war posing with a soldier for a picture
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Sometimes soldiers and their cats were able to get away from the trenches and pose for pictures like this one. The name of this soldier is J.G. Harrison, while the name of his kitten is unknown.

The posed photo was taken in a studio and shows just how incredible the bond between soldier and cat was. No matter how hard times got, it’s clear that the term “brothers in arms” refers to more than just humans.