9 Lives: The Tale of Unsinkable Sam and 9 Other Cats that Sailed the High Seas

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3. Blackie

HMS Prince of Wales had a ship’s cat too. Named Blackie, the cat was aboard during the battle with Bismarck and remained with the ship throughout the summer of 1941. In August of that year, Prince of Wales was dispatched to carry Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Argentia Bay, Newfoundland to meet secretly with an American squadron bearing with it the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The purpose of their meeting was to develop the means by which the Atlantic sealanes could be kept open to allow American aid to reach England. Churchill had a heavy burden on his shoulders. By this point England was fighting alone and American public sentiment was heavily in favor of keeping out of Europe’s war.

As Churchill prepared to leave Prince of Wales to meet with FDR on an American cruiser standing by, Blackie approached the deeply worried Prime Minister. Churchill, a devotee of cats for most of his long life, took a moment away from the concerns of protecting the world from Nazism, and stooped to pet the welcoming ship’s cat.

Newsreel cameramen and photographers, there to record his meeting with Roosevelt for posterity (once the conference was over and both leaders safely home) took the opportunity to record Blackie’s brief meeting with the Prime Minister. Once the newsreels made it to the public eye, Blackie became an overnight celebrity. Blackie was given the additional name of Churchill.

Late that year Prince of Wales was sent to Singapore to bolster British defenses against the Japanese. On December 10 Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulsewere sunk by Japanese air attacks off Singapore. Blackie survived and made it to Singapore with several other survivors. As the Japanese prepared to take Singapore from the British, the survivors were moved to another location at which time Blackie could not be found. He was presumed to be out hunting and unable to wait, the evacuees left him behind to his fate.

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