Unsinkable Sam began his service in the fleet of the Nazi regime, the Kriegsmarine, and ended it in the Royal Navy.
Unsinkable Sam served on a total of 3 vessels during World War 2. Each ship sank during battle and surprisingly Sam survived each sinking!
The Bismarck sinking
The black and white tuxedo had been owned by an unknown crewman of the German battleship Bismarck. He was on board the ship on May 18, 1941, which is when it set sail on Operation Rheinübung, Bismarck’s first and only mission.
Ultimately, the ship did sink, and only 118 from its crew of over 2,200 survived. Some hours later, Sam was found floating on a board and picked from the water, and was the only survivor to be rescued by the homeward-bound British destroyer HMS Cossack. The crew didn’t know the cat’s name and they were calling him Oscar.
The HMS Cossack sinking
The cat then served on board Cossack for the next few months as the ship carried out convoy escort duties out in the Mediterranean and north Atlantic.
Ultimately, the destroyer was hit by a torpedo, and 139 of its crew were killed. On October 27, 1941, a day after the tow was slipped, Cossack sank a bit to the west of Gibraltar, and Oscar was found clinging to a piece of plank; he made it and was soon brought to the shore establishment in Gibraltar.
When they learned what had happened, British officers changed his name to Unsinkable Sam – an extremely fitting name for a cat that survived the sinking of two warships.
The HMS Ark Royal sinking
Unsinkable Sam was then taken in by the crew of the HMS Ark Royal – ironically, a ship that was instrumental in sinking the Bismarck. Ark Royal survived several near misses and gained a reputation as a very ‘lucky ship’.
However, luck didn’t last, and when returning from Malta on November 14, 1941, this ship too was torpedoed, this time by an U-boat.
Sam was found, this time, clinging to a floating plank by a motor launch, and described as “angry but quite unharmed”.
Having served and survived 3 sunk battleships, Sam officially retired.
After the sinking of the Royal, Sam was then transferred to a job on land and spent the remainder of his days hunting mice in the building of the Governor General in Gibraltar.
Eventually, he was sent back to the UK where he remained at a ‘Home for Sailors’, which is located in Belfast until the end of his earthly days.
Sadly, Sam passed away peacefully in 1955.
A pastel portrait of Sam (titled “Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat”) by the artist named Georgina Shaw-Baker is in the possession of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
True Proof that cats have 9 lives!
We know for a fact that Unsinkable Sam used at least 3 of those lives on sunken ships!