Review – Judy: A Dog in a Million – Damien Lewis – Military History, WWII, Animals

Review- Judy: A Dog in A Million

Damien Lewis

5 stars

The impossibly moving story of how Judy, World War Two’s only animal POW, brought hope in the midst of hell.

Judy, a beautiful liver and white English pointer, and the only animal POW of WWII, truly was a dog in a million, cherished and adored by the British, Australian, American and other Allied servicemen who fought to survive alongside her.

Viewed largely as human by those who shared her extraordinary life, Judy’s uncanny ability to sense danger, matched with her quick-thinking and impossible daring saved countless lives. She was a close companion to men who became like a family to her, sharing in both the tragedies and joys they faced. It was in recognition of the extraordinary friendship and protection she offered amidst the unforgiving and savage environment of a Japanese prison camp in Indonesia that she gained her formal status as a POW.

Judy’s unique combination of courage, kindness and fun repaid that honour a thousand times over and her incredible story is one of the most heartwarming and inspiring tales you will ever read.

 If you only read one book in your life read this book. And have the tissues to hand, as you’ll need them!

A puppy born in Shanghai started her life of adventure and courage by running away from her siblings, mother and human carers. Judy was finally rescued and adopted by the Royal Navy as a ship’s mascot on HMS Gnat, and then patrolling the turbulent and dangerous waters of the Yangtze river, during the China/Japan conflicts.  She fought pirates, gave early warning for hostiles and increased the morale on board. Later assigned to HMS Grasshopper Judy and her crewmates were engaged in warfare against the Japanese in World War Two and in 1942 the ship was torpedoed. Not only did Judy survive this but she pulled men to safety, found water on the largely hostile island the survivors of HMS Grasshopper and HMS Dragonfly found themselves and fought with local wildlife to protect her companions.

Judy and the soldiers trekked hundreds of miles – hoping to reach safety in Sumatra (then a British protectorate). They were too late, as it had fallen into Japanese hands.

Taken to a POW camp in Northern Sumatra the sailors, Judy included, were taken to the very pit of hell. One particular man shared his meagre rations with a starving dog and a life-long and incredibly close friendship was born.  Smuggled out of one camp and into another via a sack on the back of her human (which saved Judy’s life) she again was a rescuer when the ship transporting the captives was torpedoed, with great loss of life.  She dragged men towards what little floating wreckage there was, and pushed wood towards others when she was too exhausted to drag anyone else. The death count would undoubtedly have been higher that day if Judy had not been there.

The men were forced to work on the Pekanbaru Death Railway, and again Judy was there to keep soul and body together (such as there were then) and would even steal food from under the noses of the captors in order to help feed the starving, emaciated men she loved.

Primarily this is her story, but it’s also a story of human survival and the enormous capacity for love between humans and dogs. She kept man and mind together in the darkest days, with her love and her loyalty. More than one man is quoted in the book that they would not have survived those terrible months and years without her. Lives were risked by men and dog every day in the fight to survive, and the fight to stay together.

Awarded the Dicken Medal (the animal VC) for bravery the citation stated -“For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners and also for saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness.”

The author, clearly, has researched this book well, speaking to some of the remaining survivors of the terrible camps, and terrible days. She truly was ‘a dog in a million’.

For more information about the Dicken Medal – go here:

For more info on Judy’s remarkable life please see the links below.

For more information on the Pekanbaru railway (believe me it’s not easy reading).


6 thoughts on “Review – Judy: A Dog in a Million – Damien Lewis – Military History, WWII, Animals

    1. I blubbed at the end ;). There are a couple more books about Judy, and loads of info on interweb, if you want to learn more. Of course, it’s not just her story – it’s a story of the courage of her human companions, many of whom survived against the odds. It’s not an easy read when they are in the camps, but then that reflects the horror of it, the awfulness of man’s inhumanity to man (and dog).

      Liked by 1 person

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