For the longest time, dogs have been trusty companions we bring with us during times of war. They are brilliant and trainable, not to mention cute and fluffy. What more could we ask for?

For the crew of the HMS Grasshopper, their mascot dog was an English pointer named Judy. But, as it turned out, she would soon become the British POWs’ morale booster and only POW dog of WWII.

Judy Survived, Too

In 1942, the city of Singapore was placed under a Japanese siege. As a result, ships anchored in the harbor were given orders to retreat and regroup in the Dutch East Indies, part of the Allied waters, to avoid being captured. The ships that arrived at that time were the river gunboat HMS Grasshopper and HMS Dragonfly. The crew of these ships followed the orders but unfortunately strayed off course and were located and sank by the Japanese aircraft when they were just two miles away from the safe zone.

The crew abandoned the ships and found themselves on the shore of a small island in South China. When the adrenaline rush started to wear off, the survivor crew slowly realized their situation— they were on an island with very little food and no water source. Petty Officer George White swam back to the still smoking Grasshopper in hopes that he could get food, water, and medical supplies. As he started to search around the boat, he heard a whimper, and when he tracked the noise, he found Judy trapped under a large steel locker. White freed her; He was so excited when she arrived at the island, greeting her stranded friends with licks and tail wags, unaware of their current situation.

The Hero Dog

Judy would prove that she was not just a mascot.

The crew’s problem was still unsolved, and the survivors still did not have drinking water. With her amazing sniffing skills, Judy scoured around the ocean’s edge before stopping on a small patch of sand and began barking and digging. White noticed this and had a look at what the dog was up to. What he saw was fresh water starting to well up. Judy found water!


Judy sits up and listens to a sailor’s commands on the deck of HMS GRASSHOPPER. (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

After five days of being stranded, they secured a fishing boat with a Chinese crew with the help of residents of a nearby island. The plan was for them to ride the ship until the east coast of Sumatra, where they were expecting British Army trucks waiting. Then, the trucks would transport them to the port at Padang on the west coast. This would be the only route that could keep them away from the Japanese forces as they advanced on the Dutch East.

However, their hope was soon crushed. When they arrived at Sumatra, they were informed that no trucks could transport them to Padang, some 170 miles away through the thick jungle. Not having much choice, they began the first steps of their long trek in mid-February 1942.

Judy Chronicles

Perhaps in her dog mind, she was responsible for ensuring the group was safe. So, she acted just like a guardian, leading the troops around marshes and massive tree roots.

On the second day of their hike, Judy discovered that there was a crocodile waiting for them. Judy started barking at the crocodile, but the croc took a swipe using her sharp claw and wounded the poor canine’s shoulder.

It took them a month to reach Padang, only to be told that the last of the trucks had already left.

The survivors were brought to an old Dutch army barracks on the outskirts of town. But unfortunately, the place was turned into a Japanese POW Camp.

They were still deprived of food, and perhaps Judy knew what was going on as she started hunting for wood outside the fence, showing off what an escape artist she was.

In June 1944, the Japanese forces decided that the POWs would be shipped, and the crew knew they had to leave July behind. But not for Williams. He made a plan: He would carry Judy aboard in an empty rice bag and spend his time training the dog on how to sit still while in the bag.

In late 1944, the prisoners were again moved to Sumatra after assigning them to help complete a 300-mile railway. There, the situation got even worse, with diseases like malaria and beriberi lingering in the new camp.

Fortunately, Judy would survive the war and would become a media superstar. On April 19, 1946, she was released from his quarantine and given the Dickin Medal, the equivalent of the Victoria Cross. She and Williams went on national tours, receiving prizes, and getting featured on national television. Her bark was even broadcasted over the radio.

A photograph of the grave of Judy, the Dickin Medal-winning naval dog, in Tanzania, Africa. (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

She would spend the rest of her life with William before dying at 13.