Did felines win the Second World War?


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 Sir Winston Churchill, the great British Prime Minister who led his country to victory in the Second World War, was an avid animal lover, with a particular penchant for cats.

Of all the British leader’s felines – and he cared for many of them – the most significant was his last, a large marmalade tom with four white socks and a white bib called Jock, the nickname of one of his private secretaries, Sir John Colville, who gave Churchill the cat for his 88th birthday.

Churchill and Jock only spent two years together before the statesman died aged ninety on 24 January 1965. But in that short time the leader was totally besotted: the cat always sat on his lap, even for the formal photos of his grandson’s wedding. Jock is believed to have been sitting on Sir Winston’s bed when he passed away at his residence in London.

The cat remained a member of the family, living at Churchill’s country home Chartwell, in Kent, until he too passed away, in 1974.

Jock was buried in a pet cemetery on the Churchill family grounds. Sir Winston bequeathed his magnificent family estate of Chartwell to the British government and on his death it was turned into a national monument. Today’s the rooms are more or less the same as they were when he lived there, with paintings, books and personal documents charting his career and his passions.

And there is still a Jock in residence too: indeed one of the Churchill’s last requests was that a ginger tom with white paws and a white bib named Jock would always live on the Chartwell grounds. Jock the Second spent most of his life sleeping in the house during the day while venturing forth to patrol the gardens at night. Jock III was a very good looking but extremely aggressive cat: even though he seemed to love the visitors, he was prone to scratching people. On sunny days he could usually be spotted sleeping in the flower beds.

Jock IV was installed in 2008 but he died just two years later. Jock V, who was said to be keen on jumping in puddles, lived at Chartwell until earlier this year when he moved to Scotland with his owner, the then House & Collections Manager, Alice Martin, when she changed job.

In March 2014, Chartwell welcomed Jock VI, a seven-month-old kitten donated by the Croydon Animal Samaritans. Adopted by the new House & Collections Manager, Katherine Barnett, Jock VI likes lounging about on the Persian rugs and is pampered by everyone. Churchill surrounded himself with all kinds of animals throughout his life: not only cats but also dogs, sheep and pigs, a pony called Lily, a lion cub called Rota, various tropical fish, kangaroos, black swans and a gold macaw named Charlie, which it is claimed Sir Winston taught to utter obscenities against Hitler and the Nazis.

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