The Bismarck's Cat

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.

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paulcadogan
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The Bismarck's Cat

Post by paulcadogan » Thu Jul 19, 2007 2:35 am

Hello all,

I have today learned something that for me, as a veterinarian, is completely fascinating and almost defies belief. I am surprised that I have not come across it before and I wondered if any of my fellow Bismarck enthusiasts in this forum have - the story of Oscar, the Bismarck's cat. (I sincerely hope that it is true!)

Oscar, a beautiful black cat with a splash of white on his nose and ventral neck, survived the sinking of the great battleship and was found clinging to floating debris and rescued by the destroyer Cossack. He was adopted by the crew and became the ship's mascot.

On October 24, 1941, exactly 5 months after the DS battle, while escorting a convoy from Gibraltar to Britain, Cossack was torpedoed by the U-563 and though she was taken in tow, the weather worsened and on October 27 - 5 months to the day after Bismarck sank - Cossack went down. Oscar survived his second sinking and was adopted by none other than the Ark Royal!

We all know what happened less than three weeks later on November 14 when the mighty Ark succumbed to the U-81's single torpedo hit and sank near Gibraltar. Oscar survived his third sinking in less than six months.

But this time poor Oscar was labelled for life as bad luck for ships and became a land lubber for the rest of his long life which ended 14 years later at a Home for Sailors in Belfast.

So here's to Oscar :clap: ....another Bismarck survivor who, despite the incredible traumas he experienced, lived a long and hopefully happy life. For me especially, another addition to the reasons for my fascination with the Bismarck!

You can see a picture of Oscar here:

http://www.battleshipbismarck.info/cat_oscar.htm

Best regards,

Paul
Qui invidet minor est - He who envies is the lesser man

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Post by Bgile » Thu Jul 19, 2007 5:52 am

Amazing story!

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Post by marcelo_malara » Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:52 pm

Hi guys:

This has already being discussed viewtopic.php?t=522 . I don´t believe either it is true. How would a cat reach the deck of a destroyer? A survivor can climb a rope ladder, but a cat...?

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Post by Bgile » Thu Jul 19, 2007 1:20 pm

I wouldn't know about the story one way or the other, but a cat climbing a rope ladder wouldn't surprise me at all. They have claws and can climb lots of things.

They don't like to swim though, and I'm not sure how it would get to the rope ladder.

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Post by paulcadogan » Thu Jul 19, 2007 2:52 pm

Thanks Marcelo, I missed that one. :oops:

But I see it's another controversial issue! It would not surprise me that Bismarck's survivors might not recall a cat aboard - after all on a ship as vast as Bismarck with 2200 men aboard many may never have seen him!

But why would anyone make up such a story?

Paul
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Post by marcelo_malara » Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:56 pm

But why would anyone make up such a story?
Well Paul, that is what one call a legend. Nobody knows how it started, but it goes on from mouth to mouth until so many people know of it that it is considered a truth.

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Jul 19, 2007 5:45 pm

Sailors are supertitious fellows. My dad told me that one day an albatross landed on the deck of a United Fruit ship he was traveling and that one practical joker took the bird to the cook to ask it be done for dinner. The cook took a knife and hunt the joker everywhere in the ship until the skipper intervened to save the guy.
Or remember that story about guys that were believed to be "Jonas" and were thrown overboard to escape bad luck...
So, the cat story doesn´t amaze me.
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Post by marcelo_malara » Thu Jul 19, 2007 7:02 pm

one day an albatross landed on the deck of a United Fruit ship
May be it was a third world avenger... :D :D :D

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Jul 19, 2007 8:33 pm

Hi Marcelo: :clap:

As a matter of fact I believe that ship sailed from Panama to the US and the incident took place in the Caribean.
My dad always told me that the ships in service for the United Fruit were very reliable vessels and that once he was on board one that was into a hurricane.
He used to work for the United Fruit in the 50ies.
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Post by paulcadogan » Thu Jul 19, 2007 11:26 pm

Hey Karl....
My dad always told me that the ships in service for the United Fruit were very reliable vessels and that once he was on board one that was into a hurricane.
He used to work for the United Fruit in the 50ies.
My grandfather worked for the United Fruit Company! I don't recall when, but it was in Jamaica. What a coincidence eh?

I guess we can put the "legend" of Oscar to rest, though it's a great tale!

When I think about it I can't see a destroyer in wartime stopping to pull a cat off wreckage, and such an animal would have succumbed to hypothermia long before such a pick-up would have occurred.

Paul
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Post by paulcadogan » Mon Jul 23, 2007 4:20 am

Hi All,

I had sent an e-mail to the HMS Cossack Association to hear their side of this story and I got a reply from them.

They have the story on their website http://www.hmscossack.org -click on "Memories" (their account even throws in Oscar going to the vet :cool: and being granted political asylum!) however this fact stands out to put it all to rest....The Ark Royal was nowhere near the site of Cossack's sinking at the time and so could not possibly have "rescued" Oscar.

According to the Association's secretary:

"I leave you to draw your own conclusions between the story and the facts.

An Admiral, who was President of our Association, had these facts pointed out to him. His answer was “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”. So we don’t!"


Long live the "Legend of Oscar"! :wink:

Paul
Qui invidet minor est - He who envies is the lesser man

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Re: The Bismarck's Cat

Post by Tiornu » Thu Jul 26, 2007 12:09 am

All right, this may not be relevant, but I can't help taking notice when I see a cat with this name:
Oscar the cat predicts patients' deaths
By RAY HENRY, Associated Press Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said.

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill

She was convinced of Oscar's talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn't eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.

Oscar wouldn't stay inside the room though, so Teno thought his streak was broken. Instead, it turned out the doctor's prediction was roughly 10 hours too early. Sure enough, during the patient's final two hours, nurses told Teno that Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.

No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.

Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.

If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.

Nursing home staffers aren't concerned with explaining Oscar, so long as he gives families a better chance at saying goodbye to the dying.

Oscar recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his "compassionate hospice care."

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Post by paulcadogan » Fri Jul 27, 2007 1:30 pm

The coincidence is uncanny.....

Maybe cats DO have nine lives..... :think:
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Steveo70

Re: The Bismarck's Cat

Post by Steveo70 » Mon May 13, 2013 3:06 pm

Hi All
It's is fact that HMS Cossack picked up the cat from HMS Bismarck, my grandfather Stoker Ivor Dean told us this as kids.
He never said much about his service during the war but this was one thing he told me and my brother as we were growing up.

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Re: The Bismarck's Cat

Post by Vic Dale » Thu May 23, 2013 2:30 am

Well there was always going to be more than one Oscar, wasn't there. It is a popular name for a cat. So there is a good chance that a stray cat finding himself aboard a British vessel might wind up being named Oscar.

Oscar was not known to any of Bismarck's survivors. Apparently he was found by men of Cossack clinging to a large piece of wood some hours after Bismarck went down. I doubt very much that a piece of wood from Bismarck would drift very far from where she went down, and I doubt very much that Cossack would have remained over the site of the battle. She was tasked to escort the flagship KGV to Lock Ewe, so the cat could in fact have come from anywhere and he may not even have been found on the actual day of the battle. Very few men in a destroyer in the Atlantic would have any idea of their position at any given time and days do tend to merge one into another on long patrols, when working two and three watches. Cossack did not rescue any men and was probably fully engaged in escorting the flagship, once the battle was over. I doubt very much that Captain Vian would have had cats on his mind whilst forming a bent-line screen for the C-in-C and the idea of him falling out of formation to rescue a moggy is quite ridiculous.

Certainly the big talking point in Cossack would be Bismarck for a good many months and a cat found clinging to a piece of wood at any time could only have come from the German. From there the legend will have grown and new men joining the ship, especially boy seamen would have listened in awe to the stories woven around this cat's colourful naval career.

It is a lovely story, but to my mind definitely apocryphal. It is the seagoing version of the Urban Legend and I heard a few of those in my time - and believed some of them for a while. Oscar has been photographed and filmed on a great many occasions, not least aboard Prince of Wales when Churchill went to meet Roosevelt in Canada. Perhaps though it was another moggy with the same markings. Camouflage can be confusing.

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