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The photo shows sailors with a young cat, which may be Frankenstein, on the starboard side of 'A' turret in about 1942.Belfast survived through the war and beyond, being decommissioned in 1963.The image of the kitten (centre) seen apparently hanging onto the ship's bell for dear life is used by courtesy of the HMS Barham Association.Later, perhaps in 1916, there appear to have been both a ship's dog and a ship's cat (outer), who were evidently friendly enough to have their photo taken together.They were especially important in wartime, when supplies could be short, and men were far from home for extended periods and welcomed feline companionship.Sadly, since 1975 the British Royal Navy has banned cats, and indeed all animals, from its ships.Instead a tableau shows a cat protecting ship's stores by catching a rat. Of more than 2200 men on board, only 116 survived, together with Oscar, the ship's cat (or Oskar, to use the German spelling).
HMS Anson The claim to fame of Annie, wardroom cat of this battleship, was the number of kittens she produced during an especially long voyage.
There were stories that the Americans tried to use cats during the Vietnam war, but they were too easily distracted and either started playing or disappeared into the jungle! During the nineteenth century it is said that the Belgians tried using cats to deliver letters, but with a marked lack of success.
There is one function that cats have fulfilled since time immemorial, though, and that is as ship's cats, where they kept the vessel's stores free from rodents and also acted as mascots and companions to the crew.
Cats do not have a natural or important place in mankind's wars in the same way as dogs, horses and some other animals do, since (as cat owners will know!
) it is very difficult to get a cat to do what you want.