Schoolgirl’s poem for decorated ship cat

Captain Steve Dainton with Ria Coles
Captain Steve Dainton with Ria Coles
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WHEN kindhearted Ria Coles learnt about Simon the ship’s cat and his tale during a history project at school, she was inspired to write a poem.

Simon received a top honour after he was hurt during the Yangze incident in 1949.

Ria’s school posted the Year 6 pupil’s work on a website and it was eventually forwarded on to retired Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Stewart Hett, who served on HMS Amethyst, alongside Simon the cat.

As a member of the Amethyst Association, Lt Cdr Hett knew that HMS Collingwood in Fareham, has a foyer dedicated to the Yangtze incident, of which Simon was part, within its Navigation Training Unit.

Lt Cdr Hett sent the poem to the base’s Commanding Officer Captain Steve Dainton, who agreed to include the poem in the display.

Cpt Dainton invited Ria and her family to HMS Collingwood to see the poem on display.

Ria, from Dulwich Hamlet, said: ‘I enjoyed researching Simon and writing it. I can’t believe it’s here on the wall.’

Simon was awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, after he was badly injured when HMS Amethyst came under fire from the Chinese Communist Forces as she made her way up the Yangtze River in April 1949.

HMS Amethyst was then held captive for 101 days and the ship’s rations became overrun with rats.

Simon’s prowess as a rat catcher helped protect the food and it was for this and his companionship that the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animalsawarded Simon the Dickin Medal in November 1949.

Lt Cdr Hett said: ‘I remember Simon well, he began his time on Amethyst as the captain’s cat but soon became a companion to everyone. Simon was a comforting reminder of home when home seemed so very far away.’