The Story of the Dog Who Became a Prisoner of War During WW2
In 1936, the crew of the British gunboat HMS Gnat purchased an English Pointer puppy they named Judy from a kennel in Shanghai, China, intending for her to both serve as mascot and as a gundog for hunting when the crew went ashore. The ship’s cook, Jan “Tankey” Cooper, was assigned the responsibility of caring for her.
Fast-forward to the start of WWII, in 1939, the HMS Gnat was recalled to port where Judy joined the crew members who transferred to the HMS Grasshopper in June of 1939.
Three years later, the Grasshopper was struck by a torpedo and the crew abandoned ship. Judy proved her worth when she joined the crew on an uninhabited island off of Sumatra. At first, the men were unable to find freshwater, but Judy’s sensitive nose led her to a point in the sand near the shoreline when the tide was low. She then began to dig until ultimately uncovering an underground freshwater spring, providing clean drinking water to herself and the survivors.
A few days later, the crew managed to “commandeer” a Chinese junk and set off to Sumatra. Once there, they began a 200 mile trek to the British-held Pedang; Judy, of course, went with them. They hoped to arrive in time to join the British evacuation of the area, but they missed the final boat and instead walked right into a Japanese-controlled village on their way and the men were taken prisoner. Unwilling to leave Judy behind, the soldiers hid her as they were taken to a prisoner-of-war camp in Indonesia.
Royal Air Force Leading Aircraftman Frank Williams was among the POWs housed at the camp a pilot in the Royal Navy, noticed that Judy did not have a proper owner. She was scavenging for food, so Frank decided to adopt her by giving her his food. From then on, she was his constant companion and the rest of the prisoners soon referred to her as his dog.
Whenever a British prisoner was beaten by a Japanese guard, Judy would jump in to protect the prisoner, even if it meant that she would get hurt instead. Frank was terrified that the guards would eventually kill her, so he convincing the commandant to give Judy official POW status which would guarantee that her life was spared.. He sealed the deal by offering the commander one of Judy’s puppies as a gift for his local mistress.
The plan worked. Judy became the only official canine POW during World War II- Prisoner of War 81A Gloergoer, Medan. From there on out, while guards could, and did, still occasionally beat her when she interfered with them, they were reluctant to kill a POW.