Unsinkable Sam was a remarkable cat who survived the sinking of three naval vessels during World War II.

Initially aboard the German battleship Bismarck, and later rescued by British sailors, he went on to survive the sinking of both the HMS Cossack and the HMS Ark Royal.

His extraordinary resilience earned him the nickname “Unsinkable” and he became a symbol of hope and survival during wartime.

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From Oscar To Unsinkable Sam

Unsinkable Sam’s journey began on the German battleship Bismarck. The Bismarck was one of the largest battleships ever built by Germany, and during its time, was considered one of the mightiest warships in the world.

A portrait of Unsinkable Sam by Georgina Shaw-Baker.

The cat, originally named Oscar, boarded the ship sometime before its ill-fated mission in May 1941. The Bismarck met its end at the hands of the British Royal Navy, sinking after a relentless pursuit. Out of its crew of over 2,200, only 115 survived. Among the survivors, miraculously, was Oscar.

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Unsinkable Sam In The Royal Navy

British sailors, upon finding Oscar floating on a plank amidst the wreckage, took him aboard the HMS Cossack, a British destroyer. They renamed him Unsinkable Sam, a moniker that would soon prove fitting. A few months later, in October 1941, the HMS Cossack was also struck by a torpedo and sank. Once again, against the odds, Sam survived and was rescued.

HMS Cossack pictured in 1938.

He was subsequently transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which ironically had been instrumental in the hunt and destruction of the Bismarck. In an unfortunate twist of fate, the Ark Royal too was torpedoed and sank in November 1941. And yet, Sam was found clinging to a floating piece of wreckage, living up to his name once more.

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What happened to the Unsinkable Sam the cat?

Sam the cat survived three sunken ships: The Bismark, HMS Cossack, and the Ark Royal. After the sinking of the third ship, Sam remained on land. At first, Sam lived in the Governor of Gibraltar’s offices. Then, Sam was taken to Belfast. Until his death in 1955, Sam lived in a seaman’s home.

The Legacy Of Unsinkable Sam

After his trio of naval disasters, the British Royal Navy decided that perhaps the sea was not the best place for Sam. He was transferred to a job on dry land in Gibraltar to hunt mice in the Government of Gibraltar’s offices.

Sam was then sent to Belfast, living out his days in the home of a sailor. He sadly passed away in 1955.

His legend, however, did not fade. Unsinkable Sam became a naval legend, and his story was shared widely both during and after the war.