For many years animals have had a strong link with the Royal Navy – some even became rather famous (or perhaps infamous!) and undertook some extraordinary journeys.
In celebration of World Animal Day (4 October) we’ve looked back at some of the mascots of Royal Navy ships.
There are many stories of dogs being mascots. Mentioned in the Dockyard’s newspaper ‘Periscope’ in 1970, is the story of bulldog Joey. Joey first went to sea as a puppy in early 1916 in the battle cruiser HMS Renown. He later moved to the battle-ship Queen Elizabeth and accompanied Admiral of the Fleet, Earl Beatty, in the 1919 Peace Parade through London. At the time of the article, Joey was the longest serving, and most famous, animal in the Royal Navy.
Some animals, like the cat and the mongoose were kept for practical, pest control purposes but other, more exotic animals, were not an uncommon sight. A Gibraltar rock ape was given VIP treatment during a passage to Britain on board Darlrymple after being presented by the Governor of Gibraltar to Ilfracombe Zoo. There was also “Percy the Python” owned by a young officer serving in the Far East on the submarine HMS Andrew. Percy was six feet long and often taken ashore on outings by his owner in an air travel bag! By far the most common animals kept onboard were exotic birds.
A bouncing lion cub was the mascot for the naval air squadron at the R.N. Air station at Yeovilton, whilst HMS Jaguar was presented with a live Jaguar during a visit to Rio de Janeiro. The list goes on with Eagles, pumas for HMS Puma, a Lynx for HMS Lynx and even our very own submarine HMS Ocelot was gifted an Ocelot!
In 1975, the Royal Navy banned the practice of taking animal mascots to sea.
Discover more about the Royal Navy’s traditions on your next visit to the Historic Dockyard Chatham.