One hundred years ago the Battle of the Somme was underway and having just watched a film about the Battle of the Somme I discovered that a black cat called Percy took part in it.
Percy had, what must have been, an uncommon experience for a cat in World War 1: he saw action in a tank.
The Imperial War Museum have restored the ‘Battle of the Ancre and the advance of the Tanks’ film. It was filmed in late 1916 as a sequel to the more well known ‘Battle of the Somme’. Scenes of Harry, Percy and the crew of Daphne are included in The Battle of the Ancre, the official record of the British Army’s winter campaign on the Somme in 1916. In 2010 the Imperial War Museum embarked on a project to completely restore the film, a process that took two years. Here is a short clip from the film — the sequence with Harry and Percy, with the cat shown being carried into the tank.
The black cat was the mascot of the tank crew of D20 (‘Daphne’) and belonged to Lt Harry Drader, a Canadian who had been brought up in England from a young age. In August 1915, aged 18, he was commissioned into the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and went on to command a Mk 1 Male tank. Percy accompanied him throughout, and both man and cat survived the war, Drader having been awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in action.
Percy was a black cat who belonged to Harry Drader, he accompanied Harry in his tank throughout the war and both of them survived.
On 13th November Harry lead two tanks to attack isolated location near Beaussart.
I should imagine that there are very few cats that have seen that sort of action!
More information about Drader’s service in WW1 is at The First Tank Crews. The portrait of Harry seated with Percy is from the same site.
If you would like to read more please visit The First Tank Crews
This is what is written in the war diary:
At zero (6.00 am) tanks advanced to the attack and at 50 yards range, Lt Drader opened fire. The tanks still advanced and crossed the first line of the strong point. Simultaneously the enemy hoisted the white flag. The tanks at this moment became ditched and an awkward occasion arose, which was handled splendidly by both officers. A machine gunner was ordered to watch for any signs of treachery on the part of the enemy and the officers and crews then left the tanks and entered the German trenches with loaded revolvers, then coaxed the enemy out of their dug-outs and after about an hour, the prisoners who numbered about 400 were despatched to the rear with an infantry escort.