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The Most Famous Ship's Cat

Post 18th June 2022

Perhaps the most remarkable cat was ‘Unsinkable Sam’. Previously named ‘Oscar’, he was the ship’s cat of the German battleship Bismark. ‘Oscar’ was named after ‘O’ in the International Maritime Signals for ‘Man overboard’! When she was sunk on 27 May 1941, only 116 out of a crew over 2,200 survived. Oscar was picked up by the destroyer HMS Cossack, one of the ships responsible for destroying Bismarck. Cossark was herself torpedoed and sunk a few months later, on the 24 October, killing 159 of her crew, but Oscar again survived and was taken to Gibraltar. He then became the ship’s cat on HMS Ark Royal, which was torpedoed and sunk in November that year.

Oscar was again rescued and it was decided to transfer him to a home on land and renamed ‘Unsinkable Sam’ because of surviving three sinking of ship and as the popular saying goes - still had another six lives! He became shore duty mouse-catcher in the offices of the Governor General Gibraltar and was eventually taken back to the UK where he spent the rest of his life at the ‘Home for Sailors’. A portrait of him exists in the private collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

The Royal Navy banned cats and other pets from all ships on the ocean in 1975 on hygiene grounds

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