If you’re a dog lover or a fan of World War II history, have I got a book for you. I’ve just read a book from author Damien Lewis called Judy: The Unforgettable Story of The Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero.
Judy was a brown-and-white English pointer who acted as the mascot of HMS Gnat and then HMS Grasshopper. Born in Shanghai in 1936, Judy was an energetic, adventurous dog as a puppy, intensely curious about the world beyond the Shanghai Dog Kennels. She wriggled her way underneath a fence, ran away from her kennel and experienced life on the streets for a while, but later made her way back.
Judy was adopted by the crew of the HMS Gnat and became an immediate hit. She possessed an extraordinary ability to sense approaching danger and would bark furiously if she detected enemy ships or aircraft, acting as an early warning system. More than once, she alerted the Gnat of an approaching threat and bought them precious time to prepare their defenses.
My favorite story from the book is about when a rear admiral came to inspect the Gnat. Near the end of the inspection, Judy looked up at the sky and began barking her special warning bark. A Japanese warplane appeared and buzzed around the Gnat before departing. Judy had never been in aerial combat, yet she instinctively understood that the plane represented a threat. It impressed the heck out of one very tough rear admiral.
Judy easily recognized who was a friend and who wasn’t. When the crew of the Grasshopper was taken to a Japanese war camp and made to work in deadly conditions on the Trans-Sumatran Railroad, she understood who to avoid and would hide quickly with a quiet snap of human fingers. She even scavenged food for herself and her shipmates to augment their starvation rations.
She would comfort anyone in need of a morale boost and found water when the Grasshopper crew and some passengers they’d rescued were shipwrecked on an island. She was almost human in her ability to read people.
This intelligent dog saved many men and some risked their lives for her as well. She survived the war, was awarded the Dickin Medal for her courage (the animal version of the Victoria Cross) and lived with Grasshopper Petty Officer Frank Williams in Tanzania until her death in 1950.
The book is a wonderful read and Lewis is a terrific storyteller. I highly recommend it.
The amazing video below contains more info about dogs used for World War II military service. Enjoy! (Video credit: PuppysKiss101/Lauren Castleman from YouTube.)