A Naval Menagerie

Denis was a pig, a very special sort of pig, a pig of German origin,

and perhaps the only animal of his species in whose favour a special

dispensation was made by the Board of Agriculture. He originally

belonged to the German light cruiser _Dresden_, and, after the

destruction of that vessel at Juan Fernandez by the _Kent_, _Glasgow_,

and _Orama_, was seen swimming about in the water close to the

_Glasgow_. A blue-jacket promptly jumped overboard and rescued him

from a watery grave, and Denis, instead of being converted into pork or

sausages, became a prisoner of war and a pet. He did not seem the

least dismayed by his change of nationality, and, being an adaptable

creature of robust constitution, throve on a miscellaneous and

indiscriminate diet of ships' provisions, eked out by tobacco,

cigarette ends, and coal. Moreover, within a month, so history

relates, he was quite accustomed to sleeping in a hammock, where he

snored exactly like a human being.

But the regulations as to the importation of animals into Great Britain

are necessarily stringent, and on the _Glasgow's_ arrival in home

waters there were complications as to the disposal of Denis. He could

not be landed in the ordinary way, but eventually, after some

correspondence, the Board of Agriculture solved the momentous question

by giving special permission for him to be put ashore at Whale Island,

the naval gunnery school in Portsmouth harbour. There, so far as I

know, he still remains as a naturalised Briton.

But a pig is by no means the strangest animal which has made its home

on board a man-of-war. In a small gunboat in China some years ago the

ship's company acquired a so-called tame alligator. Algernon, as they

christened him, came on board as a youngster a few weeks old and about

four feet long, and soon developed a habit of appearing when the decks

were being scrubbed in the mornings, when he revelled in having the

hose played upon him and in having his scaly back well scrubbed with a

hard broom. He devoured a tame rabbit and two cats, but the crux came

when he taught himself a trick of waiting until some unsuspecting

person had his back turned, of making a sudden rush at his victim and

capsizing him with a well-placed whisk of his horny tail, and then

running in with a good-humoured smile and a ferocious snapping and

gnashing of his yellow teeth. It was all very funny, but so many

innocent persons were wrought almost to the verge of nervous

prostration by Algernon's ideas of sport, that at last the fiat went

forth that he must die. He was shot at dawn, and, less lucky than

Denis, reached England in a stuffed and rather moth-eaten condition.

Goats are comparatively common as pets in the Navy, but the goat of all

the goats was a white creature rejoicing in the unromantic name of

William who lived on board a cruiser. His staple articles of food

seemed to consist of tobacco, cigarettes, stray rope-yarns, bristles of

brooms, and odds and ends of old canvas, while he was not averse to

licking the galvanised compound off the newly painted quarter-deck

stanchions whenever an opportunity of doing so presented itself. He

was a healthy goat of voracious appetite. His gastric juices would

have dissolved a marline-spike, and he even made short work of the

greater portion of a pair of ammunition boots belonging to the

Sergeant-Major of Royal Marines, and devoured with every symptom of

relish a sheaf of official and highly important documents lying on the

writing-table in the navigator's cabin.

William, in spite of his varied diet, always looked well-nourished and

in the rudest of health, and on Sundays was wont to appear at divisions

with his hair and beard parted in the middle, wearing an elaborate

brass collar, and with gilded horns and hooves. He had charming

manners, and even condescended to drink an occasional glass of sherry

in the wardroom on guest nights. Of his ultimate fate I have no

knowledge, but, with the very miscellaneous contents of his interior,

he would have provided a most interesting subject for a _post-mortem_


Several ships have had bears as pets, but one in particular, which was

the mascot of a cruiser on the Mediterranean station, was a bear with a

pronounced sense of humour. On one occasion it so happened that the

vessel to which he belonged was lying alongside the mole at Gibraltar,

while another cruiser, fresh from England, was made fast just astern of

her. It was Sunday afternoon, and all hands and the cook, except those

on duty, followed the usual custom of the Service by selecting sunny

spots on deck and then composing themselves to peaceful slumber. At

about 2.30 p.m. Master Bruin, freeing himself from his chain, landed,

ambled along the jetty, and approached the newly arrived vessel on a

tour of investigation. The sentry, not liking the look of the animal,

found something important to do at the other end of his beat, while the

bear proceeding on board unmolested, frightened nearly out of his wits

a burly petty officer doing duty as quartermaster, and then followed up

his moral victory by chasing him round and round the upper deck. The

petty officer, a well covered man, nearly dropped from heat and

exhaustion, but just managed to barricade himself in the galley before

being overtaken and fondly hugged. The sleepers, meanwhile, hearing

unusual sounds of revelry, woke up to see a wild-looking animal seeking

another victim, and thinking that Bostock's menagerie had broken loose,

rose from their couches and stampeded for the mess-deck.

The bear then waddled aft in search of further recreation, and seeing

the curtained doorway of one of the upper deck cabins, promptly elbowed

his way in. Inside was an officer fast asleep on the bunk, who,

hearing the sound of heavy breathing, opened his eyes to see the shaggy

bulk of his huge visitor interposed between him and the doorway. For a

moment he was non-plussed, and, keeping quite still, endeavoured to

mesmerise the animal by looking him full in the eyes. But the

ferocious look on the bear's face, a pair of fierce twinkling eyes, an

open mouth with its rows of sharp teeth, and a long red tongue dripping

with saliva, warned him that mere mesmerism would be useless if he were

to avoid a tussle. There was only one other exit besides the door, so

without further ado he sprang for ... the open scuttle. He wormed his

way successfully through the small orifice with some loss of dignity

and greatly to the detriment of his Sunday trousers, flopped gracefully

into the water with a splash, and, swimming to the gangway, clambered

back on board again. Then, rushing to his cabin, he slammed the door

and imprisoned his unwelcome visitor inside.

Next, seeking out the sentry, he desired him to eject the intruder.

But the marine, a wise man, firmly but politely intimated that he had

joined his corps to fight the King's enemies, not bears of unknown

origin and ferocious aspect, and added that the only conditions on

which he would undertake the job was with the assistance of his rifle,

a fixed bayonet, and some ball ammunition. The bear, meanwhile, locked

in the cabin, was thoroughly enjoying himself in clawing and tearing to

ribbons everything within reach, and by the time his breathless keeper

from the other ship arrived upon the scene to conduct his charge home

in disgrace, the cabin was in a state of utter desolation. A bull in a

china shop is nothing to an unwieldy brute of a bear in a small

apartment measuring ten feet by eight. All's well that ends well, but

the officer's best trousers were completely ruined, and he himself

never heard the end of his Sabbath afternoon adventure. The bear

received six strokes with a cane for his share in the proceedings.

The last escapade of his that I heard of was when he hugged and removed

most of the clothes from a low class Spanish workman from the dockyard

at Gibraltar. The man had baited him, eventually releasing the

terrified, half-naked wretch, and chasing him at full speed for nearly

half a mile. A crowd of excited, laughing blue-jackets went in pursuit

of the bear, but the faster they ran, the faster went the animal and

his quarry. Bruin enjoyed it hugely. Not so the Spanish workman.

Dogs and cats are as common in the Navy as they are elsewhere, and it

is surprising how soon they become accustomed to naval routine. The

cats never go ashore unless their ship happens to be lying alongside a

dockyard wall, when they usually desert _en bloc_ and attach themselves

to some other ship, a fresh detachment coming on board in their stead.

The dogs are more faithful, and their wisdom becomes positively

uncanny, for always at the routine times for boats going ashore they

will be found waiting ready at the top of the gangway.

"Ginger" was an Irish terrier of plebeian origin belonging to a

battleship. He invariably landed in the postman's boat at 6.45 a.m.,

and once ashore went off on his own business. Nobody ever took the

trouble to discover what he did, but punctually at eight o'clock he

used to reappear at the landing place and return to the ship in the

boat which took off the married officers. On one occasion, however, he

was badly sold, for though the postman landed at the usual time, the

ship sailed at 7.30 to carry out target practice. Half an hour later,

therefore, there was no boat for Ginger, and his ship was a mere speck

on the horizon; but nothing daunted, the wise hound proceeded to the

Sailors' Home and spent the day there. He was discovered the same

afternoon when the ship returned into harbour, and his admirers always

averred that his temporary absence was the result of a carefully

thought out plan to avoid the sounds of gunfire, which he detested.

There must be many officers and men in the Navy who remember "North

Corner Bob," another red-haired Irish terrier, who used to frequent the

landing place at North Corner in Portsmouth dockyard. He was not a

large dog, as terriers go, but was a ferocious creature of wild and

bedraggled appearance, who seemed to regard North Corner as his own

especial domain. He fought every other animal who dared to venture

near the place, and many a naval dog bore the marks of Bob's teeth to

his dying day.

He even boarded strange ships lying alongside and carried on his

campaign of frightfulness there. In fact he terrorised all the dogs in

Portsmouth dockyard, including two spaniels belonging to the Admiral

Superintendent. But an officer in a certain ship whose wire-haired

terrier Cuthbert had been badly beaten by Bob some days before,

conceived a brilliant idea for having his revenge. Early one morning,

at Bob's usual time for passing by the ship on his way to North Corner,

Cuthbert, wearing a brand new muzzle, was taking his morning

constitutional on deck. Bob, punctual to the minute, came trotting by

in his usual don't-care-a-damn-for-anyone manner, but the sight of

Cuthbert putting on an equal amount of side on board his own ship was

too much for him, and rushing up the brow connecting the ship with the

shore he came on board licking his lips in joyful anticipation and the

lust of battle shining in his eye.

Cuthbert, a naturally good-natured dog, hurried forward to meet him,

but Bob, spurning his friendly advances, circled round on tip-toe, with

his teeth bared and hair bristling. Cuthbert, seeing that a fight was

inevitable, adopted similar tactics, and for some moments the two

animals padded softly round and round nosing each other and preparing

to spring in to the attack. Then, quite suddenly and for no apparent

reason, there came a shrill yelp of pain from Bob, and before anyone

realised what had happened his tail went down, he rushed madly over the

gangway, and shot along the jetty like a flash of greased lightning.

"What the devil's the matter with him?" queried the officer of the

watch, staring in amazement after the rapidly disappearing figure of

the well-known fighter.

"Matter!" spluttered Cuthbert's owner, weak with laughter. "Lord!

I've never seen anything like it! Did you see the way he skipped?"

"Did I not!" answered the O.O.W., laughing himself. "But what on earth

made him streak off like that?"

"Come here, Cuthbert," said his master.

The dog came forward, wagging his tail, and had his muzzle removed.

"D'you see that?" asked his owner, pointing to the end of it. 'That'

was a long and very sharp-pointed pin firmly soldered to the business

end of Cuthbert's headgear.

North Corner Bob never visited that particular ship again.

A Man Overboard A Scene On The Atlantic Ocean facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail