Books: “Animals at Sea” by Liza Verity

18 November, 2008 at 1:56 am Leave a comment

Last week, I’ve visited the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich; regular readers of my journal will know that I can’t pass any opportunity to indulge in my uniform fetish research naval history. They will also know that I possibly couldn’t spot a book with a title like

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and leave the shop without buying it!

Animals have shared the limited space aboard ships all through the ages. Dogs, monkeys, cats, parrots, wallabies, goats, elephants – you name it, it’s been at sea. Cats have certainly undergone the biggest “career move” of all animals. From the mass-destruction of the dark ages, where they were suspected to be in league with the devil and not welcome aboard a ship, to much-loved hunters of vermin. Considering the damage caused by rats, one can understand that seamen took a special liking to their four-pawed messmates.

“Animals at Sea” is a collection of life-stories for the unsing heroes of the seven seas. Trotsky the Bear, Peggy the Bulldog, Jacko the Monkey – they all left their paw-prints in the log books and on the hearts of the men around them. Admiral Collingwood’s much-beloved dog “Bounce” – a favourite of readers by now – is mentioned, and if you should be interested in the dog collar of “Nileus”, Lord Nelson’s dog, you can fand it in “Animals at Sea” as well, along with Nelson’s somewhat unsuccesful attempts at talking his daughter Horatia out of her dreams of getting a dog for herself. Parents among you will know how stubborn children can be when it comes to pets; Nelson sent her a gold necklace with a picture of a dog instead, explaining that “(…) the dog I could never have promised you as we have no Dogs on board ship. (…)” – we can assume that Collingwood was unwilling to part with Bounce…

There are amazing stories of loyalty and friendship between man and animal, but the most amazing story to me is the one of Oscar – he survived no less than THREE sinking of ships during WWII!

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OSCAR – surviving cat-astrophes from Hamburg to Belfast

Oscar started his career as mascot of the Bismarck, a German battleship which was sunk in 1941. The cat was fished out of the water by the men of HMS Cossack, but he had only just learned a couple of meows in English when the Cossack, too, sank in October of the same year. Fortunately, being a cat and having nine lives, Oscar was rescued again, this time by the aircraft carreir Ark Royal.

Unfortunately, the Ark Royal – yes, you guessed it – was torpedoed and sank, leaving Oscar floating all alone on a plank. Incredible but true: again he was rescued, and, as author Liza Verity writes, “(…) spent the rest of his nine lives peacefully in a Sailor’s Home in Belfast. (…)”

Each of the short biographies comes either with a photography or a painting, so you can find an officer of the Georgian Royal Navy with his dog next to a seaman of the US Navy – Edward Hutton with his puppy Swabby, sporting a customised life-jacket in 1944!

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The things cats do for a piece of fish… as demonstrated here by the ship’s cat of the German Pommern.

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“Animals at Sea” by Liza Verity is the perfect stocking filler, so don’t hesitate to book this charming little book. Depending on where you buy, it’s between £ 3.99 and £ 9.99. Buy now at

National Maritime Museum, Online Shop

Amazon UK

Happy reading!

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Entry filed under: art, books, cuthbert collingwood, nelson, resource, royal navy, ships. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Piracy: From Cutlass to AK-47 Resource: fantastic “new” picture resource – LIFE!

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