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).


We must remember. D-Day 70th anniversary commemoration

This is not my usual type of posting but as this is such a monumental event I felt I had to mark the occasion. I am the daughter of Armed Forces parents, and although they did not fight in World War II, my father was wounded in action when he fought in a later conflict.

World War Two is a generation, or even two away, but still it shapes the world in which we live. Had the outcome been different Europe would have been unrecognisable and more people would have suffered. 2014 is a year in which we commemorate not only the outbreak of World War One, but today, the 6th of June is seventy years since the D-Day landings, possibly the turning point of the war which followed less than a generation later.

In the months leading up to D-Day, misinformation was given to the Nazis, hoping they would not realise what was really afoot. The amphibious assault was preceded by air strikes, and naval bombardment. The landing sites were Omaha, Gold, Sword, Utah and Juno, which have rightly gone down in history. The troops landed under heavy fire from the enemy and many perished, as they had in previous battles.  The beaches were mined, and this was a journey into hell.  Over 4000 men died, and double that number were wounded from an allied force of over 150000. This was just one side. Imagine that, 150000 people charging on those beaches! I cannot comprehend the numbers, or the danger. The town I was raised in did not have 150000 inhabitants.

This is, of course, a very brief account.

So why, seventy years later, should we remember? D-Day and the Normandy Landings, or Operation Neptune, was a great undertaking; the combined alliance of many armies,  Free French, British, Canadian, Australia,  USA, Free Greece, Free Belgium, Free Norway and many others. It was a feat unparalleled in human history.  Called the Longest Day by Rommel it was decisive for the Allies and devastating for the Axis Powers. The bravery of those who fought on those beaches, those who died on that June day and those who returned, often changed men must never be forgotten. Sacrifice and heroism was in abundance on that sand.  Such heroism must be recounted, recalled, so in our, largely, safe and free lives we can understand what was given and by whom.  Most of those who survived and are still living are in their 90s so this is likely to be the last major commemorative event.

Heroism such as this is timeless, it defines us as nations and as a species.


The Last March of the Honourable.

© A.L Butcher

They stand abreast, so proud, so sombre,

Old men now, some blind, some lame.

Upon chests of valour medals gleam.

They reflect upon the past,

Comrades buried beneath the serenity,

They ran on, they fell and died for our future.

They charged into the mouth of hell,

Upon that summer day,

Numbers dwindling then as now.

Men of such honour,

Heroes of our time,

All time.

Then, now and forever.


If you want to learn more please visit the links below.