I love cats and for as long as I can remember there's always been a cat in my house, so hearing that there could have been a cat onboard the Bismarck I had to read into this further.
Although there is a picture of this cat hanging up in the National Maritime Museum, in Greenwich with the title 'Oscar, the Bismarck's Cat' many people, including myself, believe that this whole story is nothing more then a myth, but having said that, here's the story and I must admit, it's a fascinating one.
The cat's name was Oscar and as legend has it, he was found floating among the debris from Bismarck by the British destroyer HMS Cossack. Oscar enjoyed his stay aboard the Cossack for the next few months until the ship was torpedoed and sunk on October 14th, 1941. Oscar survived that sinking too and when picked up was taken to Gibraltar where the HMS Ark Royal was stationed, yes, the very ship who's Swordfish planes attacked and crippled Bismarck on May 26th, 1941. On Novemer 13th, 1941 the Ark Royal was torpedoed by a German U-Boat U-81 and once again Oscar found himself in the water and survived...yet again. From there Oscar never found himself on another ship as by now he was considered bad luck. He then found himself a home at the General of Gibraltar's office buildings where he stayed for a few years until he was taken, by ship, to Ireland where he lived out the rest of his days at a Home for Sailors. Oscar died in 1955.
Although this is certainly a fascinating story, I just can not bring myself to believe that it's true. First of all, I have a hard time believing that Admiral Lutjens would have allowed a cat to come aboard his majestic battleship. Even if there was a cat onboard, I doubt it would have survived the battle on May 27th, 1941 seeing that his home would have probably have been either on the bridge or the wardroom. These were one of the first to be destroyed in Bismarck's final battle. Also, none of the survivors from Bismarck's sinking ever remember there being a cat on board.
Some historians speculate on the fact if Oscar even ever existed, but regardless if he did or not, it's still a fascinating story.
So here's to you Oscar, regardless if you existed or not, you certainly earned your nine lives!
The painting in the photo above and in the background hangs in the National Maritime Museum and was painted by Georgina Shaw Baker.