“We had Simon on board because people liked him, he kept people company. It’s

the same reason you have one at home: Hearing a cat purr, and the like — it’s

very comforting to people. It’s someone you can talk to. If you’re in a stressful situation, an animal is attractive.”

–one sailor on Amethyst

Simon the cat lived aboard the HMS Amethyst during the infamous Yangtze Incident, a 101-day siege that trapped the British frigate on the Yangtze River during the Chinese civil war in 1949. Simon killed rats that threatened the ship’s food stores, and greatly boosted morale among the stressed sailors. Simon was gravely injured when the ship came under fire, but he received a hero’s welcome when the Amethyst docked in the UK on Nov. 1, 1949.

Sadly, Simon died three weeks later, but officials buried him with full military honours. Simon was posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal, given to animals for heroism in war. That’s the animal equivalent of the UK’s prestigious Victoria Cross.