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Judy (dog)

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Judy hu 42990.jpg
Judy on the deck of HMS Grasshopper
Other name(s) 81A Gloergoer, Medan
Species Dog
Breed Pointer
Born 1936
Shanghai, China
Died 17 February 1950[1]
Resting place Nachingwea, Tanzania
Occupation Ship's mascot
Employer Royal Navy
Known for Japanese Prisoner of war
Appearance Liver and white markings
Awards Dickin Medal

Judy (1936 – 17 February 1950) was a ship's dog on board HMS Gnat and HMS Grasshopper stationed on the Yangtze before and during World War II. She proved able to hear incoming aircraft, providing the crew with an early warning. After part of the crew transferred from the Gnat to the Grasshopper in June 1939 the ship was sent to Singapore after the British declaration of war on Germany. There she was on board the ship during the Battle of Singapore, which saw Grasshopper evacuate for the Dutch East Indies. It was sunk en route, and Judy was nearly killed having been trapped by a falling row of lockers. She was rescued when a crewman returned to the stricken vessel looking for supplies.

On the deserted island with the surviving crew, Judy managed to find a fresh water source saving them all. They made their way to Singkep in the Dutch East Indies and afterwards to Sumatra aiming to link up with the evacuating British forces. After trekking across 200 miles of jungle for five weeks, during which Judy survived an attack from a crocodile, the crew arrived a day after the final vessel had left and subsequently became prisoners of war of the Japanese. She was eventually smuggled into the Medan camp, where she met Leading Aircraftsman Frank Williams for the first time, who she would go on to spend the rest of her life with. Williams convinced the camp Commandant to register her as an official prisoner of war, with the number '81A Gloergoer, Medan'. She was the only dog to be registered as a prisoner of war during the Second World War.[1]

She moved around several more camps, and survived the sinking of the transport ship SS Van Warwyck where in the aftermath she saved several passengers from drowning. Les Searle from the Grasshopper smuggled her once again into the next camp, where she was reunited with Frank Williams. After the end of the war, Judy's life was put in danger once again. She was about to be put to death by the Japanese guards following a lice outbreak amongst the prisoners. However, Williams hid the dog until the Allied forces arrived. Searle, Williams and others smuggled Judy back to the UK aboard a troopship and she spent the next six months in quarantine after arriving. She was awarded the Dickin Medal by the PDSA,[2] considered to be the animals' Victoria Cross.[3] Judy died in 1950 in Tanzania from a tumour, after travelling with Williams there to work on a groundnut food scheme. Her Dickin Medal and collar were subsequently put on display at the Imperial War Museum in London as part of 'The Animal's War' exhibition.

Early life[edit]

Judy was a pure-bred liver and white Pointer.[4] She was born in a dog kennel in Shanghai, China, in 1936. She had escaped as a puppy, and had been kept in a back alley by a shopkeeper until she was six months old. Following an altercation with some sailors from a Japanese Navy gunboat,[5] she was found by a worker from the kennel and returned there. She was originally called Shudi, which was anglicised to become Judy.[6]

In the autumn of 1936, the crew of the Insect class gunboat HMS Gnat voted to get a ship's mascot.[7] This was due in part to the competitive nature of the gunboats, with HMS Bee, Cicada and Cricket already having mascots of their own. The Captain and the Chief Bosun's mate, Lt. Cmdr. J. Waldergrave and Chief Petty Officer Charles Jefferey, purchased Judy from the kennels and presented her to the crew. It was hoped to train her as a gundog, but the men began to treat her like a pet instead, and from her first day Jefferey's log stated that "our chances of making her a trained gundog are very small."[8][9]

Military career[edit]

HMS Gnat[edit]

HMS Gnat, photographed in 1922

Able seaman Jan "Tankey" Cooper was given the job of being the "Keeper of the Ship's Dog", who was also the ship's butcher. She was given an open box and a blanket to sleep on, and was trained to stop her from going into certain areas of the ship, such as those inhabited by the Chinese cooks as they disliked her. In November 1936, she fell overboard into the Yangtze River and was spotted by Jefferey. The ship was called to a full stop and a power boat deployed to retrieve her.[4][8] The incident was recorded in the ship's log as a man overboard exercise.[10] After undergoing trials following a refit, the Gnat met up with the Ladybird, who also had a ship's dog. However Judy had to be kept away as while he took a fancy to her, she did not care for him.[11] In the early morning after the Ladybird departed, Judy alerted the ship to the presence of river pirates who were about to board the Gnat in the darkness. The attack was easily repelled as the pirates lost the surprise element. Several days later, Judy was taken ashore with a shooting party for the first time but she was unsuccessful as a gundog.[12] Throughout her stay on the Gnat, the crew repeatedly tried to use her as a gundog, each time resulting in a failure.[13]

One of Judy's litters of puppies.

Judy was known for pointing out the approach of hostile Japanese aircraft long before any of the human crew could hear them.[14] This first occurred prior to the outbreak of war, when the aircraft would fly low over the Gnat with Judy barking at them until they had passed.[15] On an outing to Jiujiang, Jefferey took Judy for a walk outside of the city but she ran ahead, pulling him with her. He realised as he looked back that she had been pulling him away from a Leopard.[16] In November 1937, the Gnat met with the American river gunboat USS Panay. After the Panay held a party for the two ship's companies, the Gnat crew departed and only realised afterwards that Judy was not with them. They contacted the Panay via signal lamp, but they insisted that they had not seen her.[17] The following morning, the crew heard from a Chinese trader that Judy was on board the Panay after all. In retaliation, a party boarded the American vessel and stole the ship's bell. Afterwards they contacted the Panay and offered them the bell back in return for Judy. She was returned within the hour.[18]

In early 1938, both Jefferey and Cooper were sent back to Britain as part of the crew rotation.[19] While docked in Hankou, Judy took a liking to another Pointer on board a French gunboat Francis Garnier.[20] The two ship's companies held an impromptu wedding ceremony for the two dogs. The French Pointer, Paul, remained on the Gnat for three days before returning to his ship. Judy fell pregnant, and gave birth to thirteen puppies.[21] Ten of them survived and were eventually given away to a variety of sources including the Francis Garnier and the American gunboat USS Guam.[22] Judy was involved in an incident in October that year that resulted in the ending of her trips ashore in Hankou. Whilst being walked by two sailors from the Gnat, they were confronted by Japanese soldiers who pointed a loaded rifle at Judy. One of the soldiers was thrown into the Yangtze River. During the following days, several Japanese officers came on board the Gnat and it was decided that it would be better for Judy to stay on the ship.[23][24]

HMS Grasshopper[edit]

HMS Grasshopper, photographed in 1940.

In June 1939, several Locust class gunboats arrived on the Yangtze to take over operations from the existing Insect class vessels. Part of the crew of the Gnat transferred to HMS Grasshopper, including Judy.[24] Following the British declaration of war on Germany in September that year, several of the river gunboats, Grasshopper included, were redeployed to the British base at Singapore.[24] Judy was initially sea sick, but the crew ensured that she was properly exercised and by the time the ship arrived on station, she had recovered.[25]

Initially the stay at Singapore was peaceful, and Judy stayed with a customs official and his family for a week ashore.[25] The ship was rarely deployed until January 1942 when it was deployed with other gunboats to provide covering bombardments along the coast of Malaya for retreating troops, and occasionally to carry out evacuations.[26] The Battle of Singapore took place between 8–15 February. By 11 February, Grasshopper and its sister ship Dragonfly were the largest vessels left at Singapore.[27] On 13 February, the vessels were ordered to evacuate personnel and leave Singapore.[28] The ships left at 9pm that evening, and travelled together.[29]

The ships headed for Singkep Island in the Dutch East Indies,[30] hoping that the island group it sat in could be used as a hiding place. As they approached, Judy indicated the approach of Japanese aircraft and the anti-aircraft gunners took up their positions in readiness. The Grasshopper was hit with a single bomb before the planes departed.[31] Judy was below decks when the planes returned. The Dragonfly was hit by three bombs and sank quickly.[30] The Grasshopper was hit by a further two bombs, and the order was given to abandon ship as a fire spread close to an ammunition compartment. Boats were lowered and the crew and evacuees were ferried just over a hundred yards to shore whilst the Japanese planes strafed the vessels. It was only when they were ashore that they realised Judy was not with them.[32]

The island they arrived on turned out to be uninhabited with little food and no apparent water.[14] After a camp had been set up ashore, Petty Officer George White was sent back to the still floating Grasshopper to scavenge supplies.[33] He boarded the vessel and descended below decks to search for any items that might be of use. Whilst there, he felt Judy in the darkness, trapped under a row of lockers. He constructed a raft out of materials on the Grasshopper and rowed the items, along with Judy, back to the island.[34] The lack of water was becoming an issue, until Judy began to dig at a point on the waterline.[35] It took a couple of minutes, but Judy managed to unearth a fresh-water spring and was credited with saving everyone's lives.[14]

Five days after the Grasshopper was bombed, a tongkang arrived which took the survivors to Singkep. There they left their wounded, and Judy along with the other survivors travelled two days later on a Chinese junk to Sumatra where it was hoped that a British force remained which could take them to Sri Lanka.[14][36] Upon arrival, they took the vessel up a series of rivers until they narrowed so much that the junk could not pass. They then embarked on a 200-mile cross-country trek across the island in an attempt to reach Padang.[14] During the journey through the jungle, Judy was attacked by a crocodile and suffered a cut to her shoulder.[37] After a journey of five weeks, they arrived at Padang - but missed the last evacuation ship by a day as the Japanese were due to arrive to take over the city at any moment.[38] After the arrival of the Japanese, the survivors from the Grasshopper along with Judy, were taken into custody as prisoners of war.[39]

Prisoner of war[edit]


The crew became prisoners of war, initially held in Padang, but were soon moved onto Balawan.[40] They smuggled Judy on board the transport trucks, hidden under empty rice sacks. After five days they arrived at the Gloergoer prisoner of war camp in Medan.[14] Chief Petty Officer Leonard Williams recorded, "thus began 3-4 years of the most horrific labour, torture, starvation and every degradation the Japanese could inflict on us".[30] Once Judy arrived in the Medan camp, she met Leading Aircraftman Frank Williams, who adopted her and shared his daily handful of rice from August 1942 onwards.[4] In the camp Judy would intervene by distracting the guards when they were administering punishment.[1] She was the only animal to have been officially registered as a prisoner of war during the Second World War,[1] after Frank William's intervention to protect the dog from the guards, who would often threaten to shoot Judy as the dog growled and barked at them. Williams managed to convince the camp Commandant, who was drunk on sake, to sign the registration papers with the promise of one of Judy's future puppies.[4]

Judy's official prisoner-of-war name was '81A Gloergoer, Medan'. During her stay at the camp, she would alert the prisoners to the approach of the Japanese guards and also if other animals such as snakes or scorpions were around.[14] She also made excursions from the camp, looking for food, and would bring back rats and snakes to Williams.[41] Judy had another group of puppies, of which five survived. One of them was given to the camp Commandant as promised and another puppy was smuggled into the women's camp along with any food that the men could spare.[30][41] A further puppy was given to the Red Cross in Medan, one more was beaten to death by a drunken guard and the final one remained in the camp after Judy and Williams left.[42]

In June 1944, the men were transferred to Singapore aboard the SS Van Warwyck. Dogs were not allowed on board, but Frank Williams managed to teach Judy to lie still and silent inside a rice sack. When he boarded the ship, Judy climbed into a sack and Williams slung it over his shoulder to take on board. For three hours the men were forced to stand on deck in the searing heat, and for the entire time Judy remained still and silent in the bag on Wiliams's back. The conditions on board the ship were cramped with more than 700 prisoners. On 26 June 1944, the ship was torpedoed. Williams pushed Judy out of a porthole in an attempt to save her life, even though there was a 15 feet (4.6 m) drop to the sea. He made his own escape from the ship, not knowing if Judy had survived.[14] Over five hundred of the passengers did not survive.[43]

Return to Sumatra[edit]

Frank Williams was recaptured and was sent to a new camp without news of Judy's survival. However, stories began being told of a dog helping drowning men reach pieces of debris on which to hold,[14] and others recalled how the dog would bring them flotsam to keep them afloat.[30] The dog would also allow men to hold onto her back while swimming them to safety.[14] She had been found in the water by other survivors of the sinking, and once again hidden from the Japanese. Upon arrival at a dock, she was found by Les Searle who tried to smuggle her onto a truck with him. However, she was discovered by a Japanese Captain who threatened to kill her - whose order was countermanded by the newly arrived former Commander of the Medan camp and she was allowed to travel with Searle onto the new camp.[44][45]

Williams was giving up hope of finding Judy when she arrived in his new camp. "I couldn’t believe my eyes. As I entered the camp, a scraggy dog hit me square between the shoulders and knocked me over! I’d never been so glad to see the old girl. And I think she felt the same!"[14] After four weeks at the new camp, they were moved back to Sumatra by paddle steamer. They had been told that it was a "special mission" to pick fruit.[46] Instead they spent a year in Sumatra, with the Japanese using the men to cut through the jungle to lay railway track. Rations were a handful of maggot-ridden tapioca a day, which Frank continued to share with Judy.[14] She also proved useful in conducting trades with the locals, as she would indicate when someone was hiding near to the track.[47] Her barking deliberately alerted the guards to when there was something too large for her to handle in the jungle, such as tigers or elephants.[48] Frank credited Judy with saving his life during his time spent there, "She saved my life in so many ways. The greatest way of all was giving me a reason to live. All I had to do was look at her and into those weary, bloodshot eyes and I would ask myself: What would happen to her if I died? I had to keep going. Even if it meant waiting for a miracle."[14]

Post war and awards[edit]

An example of a Dickin Medal.

Once hostilities ceased, the prisoners of war were told to remain until allied troops came to relieve the Japanese guards. But during this point a lice outbreak led to the Japanese condemning Judy to death. Williams hid the dog for two days from the guards until the Allies arrived.[49]

Judy was smuggled aboard the troopship Antenor heading to Liverpool.[1][50] Together with Williams, Searle and two others,[50] Judy managed to avoid the dock police and was delivered into the care of the ship's cook, who ensured that she was fed on the voyage home. Upon her return to the UK, Judy stayed for six months in quarantine in Hackbridge, Surrey.[4] Williams and Judy were reunited on 29 April 1946 and headed immediately to London.[51]

Williams was given the White Cross of St Giles,[51] and Judy was awarded the Dickin Medal,[2] "the animals' VC", in May 1946 by Major Viscount Tarbat MC, chairman of the Returned British POW Association, and was enrolled as the association's only canine member.[3][52] Her citation reads: "For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners and also for saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness".[4] The Dickin Medal is often referred to as the animal metaphorical equivalent of the Victoria Cross.[53]

She was interviewed by the BBC for their coverage of the London Victory Celebrations of 1946 on 8 June and her barks were broadcast to the nation on the radio as part of the programme In Town Tonight.[14][54] Frank and Judy spent the year after the war visiting the relatives of PoWs who had not survived; Frank remarked that Judy always seemed to give a comforting presence.[14]

Judy's grave in Tanzania, Africa.

On 10 May 1948, the pair left to work on a government-funded groundnut food scheme in East Africa.[14] There was some difficulty in getting permission for Judy to travel, and it was feared that she and Williams would be split up. This issue was promoted in the Evening Standard, and after the involvement of William Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme, permission was given for Judy to travel with Williams.[55] She had a third and final litter of puppies during her time in Africa.[56] After two years there, Judy was discovered to have a tumour, and was euthanized at the age of 13. Frank spent two months building a granite and marble memorial in her memory,[14] which included a plaque that told of her life story.[1]

On 27 February 1972, Judy was remembered in church services across Gosport and Portsmouth,[57] and in 1992 her story was featured in the British children's TV show Blue Peter.[58] In 2006 her collar and medal went on public display for the first time in the Imperial War Museum, London, as part of "The Animals' War" exhibition.[3] It was presented to the IWM by Alan Williams, Frank's son.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Prisoner of war dog Judy - PDSA Dickin Medal and collar to be presented to the Imperial War Museum". People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. 21 August 2006. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Dickin Medal dogs". People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Medal awarded to dog prisoner of war goes on public display". Yorkshire Post. Johnston Press. 23 August 2006. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "PDSA Dickin Medal stories: Judy". Schools PDSA. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Varley (1973): p. 5
  6. ^ Varley (1973): p. 6
  7. ^ Varley (1973): p. 8
  8. ^ a b Varley (1973): p. 10
  9. ^ Varley (1973): p. 9
  10. ^ Varley (1973): p. 11
  11. ^ Varley (1973): p. 13
  12. ^ Varley (1973): p. 14
  13. ^ Varley (1973): p. 22
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Fryer, Jane (13 August 2010). "Judy, the dogged PoW who defied the Japanese". Daily Mail. DMG Media. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  15. ^ Varley (1973): p. 16
  16. ^ Varley (1973): p. 17
  17. ^ Varley (1973): p. 24
  18. ^ Varley (1973): p. 25
  19. ^ Varley (1973): p. 29
  20. ^ Varley (1973): p. 32
  21. ^ Varley (1973): p. 35
  22. ^ Varley (1973): p. 36
  23. ^ Varley (1973): p. 42
  24. ^ a b c Varley (1973): p. 43
  25. ^ a b Varley (1973): p. 44
  26. ^ Varley (1973): p. 48
  27. ^ Varley (1973): p. 51
  28. ^ Varley (1973): p. 52
  29. ^ Varley (1973): p. 54
  30. ^ a b c d e "Chief Petty Officer Leonard Williams". The Times. London: News UK. 22 January 2007. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  31. ^ Varley (1973): p. 57
  32. ^ Varley (1973): p. 58
  33. ^ Varley (1973): p. 60
  34. ^ Varley (1973): p. 61
  35. ^ Varley (1973): p. 62
  36. ^ Varley (1973): p. 64
  37. ^ Varley (1973): p. 67
  38. ^ Varley (1973): p. 68
  39. ^ Varley (1973): p. 70
  40. ^ Varley (1973): p. 73
  41. ^ a b Varley (1973): p. 80
  42. ^ Varley (1973): p. 82
  43. ^ Varley (1973): p. 90
  44. ^ Varley (1973): p. 92
  45. ^ Varley (1973): p. 93
  46. ^ Varley (1973): p. 94
  47. ^ Varley (1973): p. 98
  48. ^ Varley (1973): p. 99
  49. ^ Varley (1973): p. 117
  50. ^ a b Varley (1973): p. 120
  51. ^ a b Varley (1973): p. 122
  52. ^ "Judy to Receive Dogs' V.C.". The Age. Melbourne, Australia: Fairfax Media. 2 May 1946. p. 1. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  53. ^ Long (2012): p. xii
  54. ^ Varley (1973): p. 124
  55. ^ Varley (1973): p. 126
  56. ^ Varley (1973): p. 129
  57. ^ Howard, Phillip (25 February 1972). "Navy will pay tribute to Judy the pointer". The Times (58411). London: News UK. p. 17. 
  58. ^ Baxter, Biddy (8 August 1992). "Obituary: Dorothy Smith". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 


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