Felines on the frontline

Believe it or not it wasn’t uncommon to see a Tabby amongst the troops.

24 Apr 2015 By Leanne Philpott Comments

There’s a bunch of stories about the brave men and women that served their country in the war but cats tend to have been overlooked. Yet it’s believed that 500,000 of our furry friends were dispatched during World War 1.

Cats were often seen prowling the trenches or on ships—where they were used to catch mice and rats, protecting the food stores, preventing rope and materials from being gnawed and helping to prevent the spread of disease. Of course, cats also provided comfort, companionship and furry fun for the sailors and soldiers and reminded them of home.

Pitoutchi has become a well-known World War 1 kitty. This little cat was born in the Belgian trenches. He was one of a litter of eight but sadly all of the other kittens died. He was raised and cared for by Lieutenant Lukeux and as such Pitoutchi stayed close by the Lieutenant's side—he would walk the trenches with Lukeux and jump on his shoulder and ride with him.

Pitoutchi's devotion to Lukeux saw him save the man's life. The Lieutenant was in hiding as three German soldiers approached him on patrol. Just as he feared he'd been spotted, Pitoutchi jumped out and drew the enemy's fire upon himself. Thankfully Pitoutchi survived this encounter and because of the little kitty’s bravery, so too did Lieutenant Lukeux.

Another wartime cat is Percy the black cat, who became the mascot of the tank crew of D20 (Daphne) and belonged to Lieutenant Harry Drader of the British Army. Unlike other cats, which roamed the trenches, Percy saw action from the tank.

In both World War 1 and WW2, many Australian warships became the home for a number of cats. The mascot of the HMAS Encounter didn’t ever have its name, or fate for that matter, recorded but it was captured on camera sitting inside one of the ship’s six-inch guns. HMAS Encounter returned safely to Sydney after the war so we hope that its feline passenger did too.

Another wartime ship’s cat was Pincher the tabby cat. Pincher was pictured sitting on the propeller of one of the seaplanes carried by the HMS Vindex—a Royal Navy seaplane carrier during the First World War.

Wartime cats and guns seemed to go hand in hand; another feline was spotted casually strolling along the barrel of a 15-inch gun on the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth while at the Gallipoli Peninsula, 1915.

Above is a portrait taken of a soldier in Melbourne, 1915, holding a wartime kitty.


24 Apr 2015 By Leanne Philpott Comments

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