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Meet Judy- the dog which was an official war prisoner

Goran Blazeski

Judy was the ship’s mascot on the board of the HMS Gnat and HMS Grasshopper gunboats which were stationed on the Yangtze River before and during WW2.

Lieutenant Commander J. Waldergrave and Chief Petty Officer Charles Jefferey purchased the English Pointer puppy from a kennel in Shanghai, China and they named it Judy.

Animals were often adopted by warships as used as mascots which helped with security, pest control, and companionship for the people on board.

HMS Gnat, photographed in 1922
HMS Gnat, photographed in 1922

Judy’s job was to alert the sailors about the presence of river pirates and to announce the approach of hostile Japanese aircraft, provided by her superior sense of hearing. She also alerted her men about scorpions, crocodiles, tigers and poisonous snakes.

Crew members of HMS Gnat including Judy, transferred to the HMS Grasshopper in June, 1939. It was 1942 when HMS Grasshopper was struck by a torpedo and the crew abandoned the ship and headed to an uninhabited island away from Sumatra.


IWM Caption: Judy sits up and listens to a sailor's commands on the deck of HMS GRASSHOPPER
IWM Caption: Judy sits up and listens to a sailor’s commands on the deck of HMS GRASSHOPPER

The situation looked grim for the survivors of HMS Grasshopper since they couldn’t find any water on the island but Judy found an underground spring that provided fresh water for her and the other survivors of HMS Grasshopper.

Few days later, the crew managed to “commandeer” a Chinese junk and set off to Sumatra. After trekking across 200 miles of the jungle for five weeks, the crew and Judy arrived a day after the final vessel had left and subsequently became war prisoners of the Japanese.

 HMS Grasshopper, photographed in 1940

HMS Grasshopper, photographed in 1940

They were transported to the Gloergoer POW camp and they Judy with them. It was August 1942 when Judy bonded with Leading Aircraftman Frank Williams from Portsmouth who shared his portion of rice with her.

Frank was afraid that the guards would kill the dog and somehow he managed to convince the commandant to give Judy official POW status, offering him one of Judy’s puppies as a gift for his local mistress.

Now Judy was the only official canine POW during WW@I – Prisoner of War 81A Gloergoer, Medan. Frank knew that Judy was safe then and that the guards wouldn’t dare to kill  an official POW.

One of Judy's litters of puppies
One of Judy’s litters of puppies

In June 1944, the prisoners were transferred to Singapore and Frank managed to take Judy with him.

It was 26th June, 1944 when the SS Van Warwyck was torpedoed by a British submarine, unaware that the vessel was used to transport Allied war prisoners.

Frank made his own escape but didn’t know if Judy survived. He was recaptured and sent to a new camp but there was no sign of Judy for days.

Eventually, Judy showed up and they were reunited again. They spent a year in Sumatra before the war ended in 1945.

Judy's grave in Tanzania, Africa
Judy’s grave in Tanzania, Africa

When WW2 ended, Frank and Judy went back home in Britain where Judy was welcomed with national adoration. She ultimately received the PDSA Dickin Medal, an animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

In 1960, Frank was working in Tanzania and took Judy with him. On 17th February, 1950 Judy died at the age of 13 due to a mammary tumor.

Here is another tragic and fascinating ” war dog” story from us:  Sergeant Stubby – The first war dog in America

She was buried in Tanzania and Frank built a monument on the grave on which he attached a large metal plaque, which records the history of Judy’s life and all her daring feats.

Goran Blazeski

Goran Blazeski is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News