b. 02/1936 Shanghai, China. d. 17/02/1950 Tanzania.
DATE OF DM ACTION: 1942-1945 China, Ceylon, Java, England, Egypt, Burma, Singapore,
Malaya, Sumatra and East Africa.
Judy was a pure-bred liver and white Pointer. She was born in February 1936 in the Shanghai Dog Kennels, a boarding kennel used by English expatriates in Shanghai, China. Judy was one of seven puppies to a dog named Kelly owned by a couple from Sussex. At the age of three months, she escaped 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, she was found by a worker from the kennel and returned there. She was originally called Shudi, which was anglicised to become Judy. By the time she returned to the kennel, her mother and siblings were no longer there.
In the autumn of 1936, the crew of the Insect class gunboat HMS Gnat voted to get a ship’s mascot. 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 kennel and presented her to the crew. As her mother was known as Kelly of Sussex, Judy was listed as Judy of Sussex in her Royal Navy paperwork. It was hoped to train her as a gundog, but the men began to treat her like a pet instead, and several days after her arrival, Jefferey’s log stated that “our chances of making her a trained gundog are very small.” Her time spent on the streets of Shanghai was blamed for her lack of hunting instinct, the only time that she would point in the traditional manner was when she could smell food.
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. 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. 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.
Five days after the Grasshopper was bombed in February 1942, a tongkang arrived which took the survivors to Singkep Island, the largest of the Lingga Islands. 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. 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 miles (320 km) cross-country trek across the island in an attempt to reach Padang. During the journey through the jungle, Judy was attacked by a crocodile and suffered a cut to her shoulder. The survivors patched up the 6 inches (15 cm) cut with their limited first aid supplies. She continued to warn them of approaching predators, and one crewman claimed she saved him from a Sumatran tiger. They emerged from the jungle at Sawahlunto, where they caught the train towards Padang. The group missed the last evacuation ship by nine days, with the Japanese due to arrive to take over the city at any moment. After the arrival of the Japanese, the survivors from the Grasshopper along with Judy, were taken into custody as prisoners of war on 18 March.
The crew became prisoners of war, initially held in Padang, but were soon moved onto Belawan. They smuggled Judy on board the transport trucks, hidden under empty rice sacks. After five days they arrived at the Gloegoer prisoner of war camp in Medan. 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”. She was looked after by Les Searle from the Grasshopper, and a Private named Cousens who had a job making leather goods for the guards. Cousens would feed scraps of leather to Judy, but died of malaria a short time after the two servicemen had stolen a large quantity of rice from the Japanese.
In August, Judy met Leading Aircraftman Frank Williams, who adopted her and shared his daily handful of rice. In the camp Judy would intervene by distracting the guards when they were administering punishment. She was the only animal to have been officially registered as a prisoner of war during the Second World War, 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. Judy’s official prisoner-of-war name was ’81A Gloegoer 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. She also made excursions from the camp, looking for food, and would bring back rats and snakes to Williams. 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.
n June 1944, the men were transferred to Singapore aboard the SS Van Warwyck, renamed to the Harukiku Maru by the Japanese. 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 by HMS Truculent. 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. Over five hundred of the passengers did not survive.
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, and others recalled how the dog would bring them flotsam to keep them afloat. The dog would also allow men to hold onto her back while swimming them to safety. 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.
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!” 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. 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.
In early 1945, Frank began to find that Judy was more aggressive towards the Japanese and Korean guards. Although he’d normally send her into the jungle to avoid them, on one occasion, the guards gave chase and shot at the dog. He later found Judy bleeding from the shoulder where she had been grazed by the bullet. He covered the wound with some palm fronds, but could do nothing else to treat or reward her. After moving camps once more, Judy was sentenced to death by the Japanese as part of a plan to control a lice breakout. She disappeared for three days, with guards conducting sweeps in an attempt to find her. She only reappeared when the Japanese forces abandoned the camp.
Two members of the Royal Air Force (RAF) parachuted in, and informed the residents to remain until allied troops arrived. Judy was smuggled aboard the troopship Antenor heading to Liverpool. Together with Williams, Searle, and two others, 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. Frank revealed Judy to the crew after six weeks, as the ship was three days from arriving in Liverpool. Although some low-ranking crew members had become aware of the dog before this, the Captain had not. Initially angry, he was talked around by Frank. Between the Captain and RAF serviceman Brian Comford, whose father was a barrister, the authorities were convinced to allow the dog to land. Upon her return to the UK, Judy stayed for six months in quarantine in Hackbridge, Surrey. Frank visited regularly, as did a number of servicemen who had known the dog during their internment in Asia. The quarantine was not free, and Frank was required to pay £12 to cover the costs. He could not afford this, so an advert was placed in the December 1945 edition of the Tail-Waggers Club magazine. A total of £18, 18 shillings and eight pence was raised from 61 donations. Judy was released from quarantine on 29 April 1946 to Frank, and the pair headed immediately to London. A ceremony was organised by the Kennel Club, with chairman Arthur Croxton Smith awarding her a “For Valor” medal.
During his posting to Sunninghill Park with Judy, where he underwent refresher training from the RAF, Frank would sell photographs of the dog to raise money for the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. They were then posted to a base in West Kirby, Merseyside. The story of Judy grew over time, with features in national newspapers calling her “Gunboat Judy”. At an event held in Cadogan Square by the PDSA in May 1946 and attended by Maria Dickin, Judy was awarded the Dickin Medal, which is often referred to as the animal metaphorical equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Williams was given the White Cross of St Giles, with each awarded by Major Viscount Tarbat MC, chairman of the Returned British POW Association. Judy was enrolled as the association’s only canine member.
On 10 May 1948, the pair left to work on a government-funded groundnut food scheme in East Africa. 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. She had a third and final litter of puppies during her time in Africa. After two years there, Judy was discovered to have a mammary tumour; an operation removed the growth, but a tetanus infection soon set in, and she was euthanized on 17 February 1950 at the age of nearly 14. She was buried in her RAF jacket, with her campaign medals, the Pacific Star, the 1939–1945 Star, and the Defence Medal. Frank spent two months building a granite and marble memorial in her memory, which included a plaque that told of her life story.
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.
BURIAL LOCATION: BURIED IN TANZANIA.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.