by Caroline Golon
For some British soldiers in WWII, the only reason they survived was due to the bravery and loyalty of a military dog named Judy. In 1945, Judy was awarded the United Kingdom’s Dickin Medal, which honors the wartime service of animals.
According to National Geographic, Judy, a purebred English pointer, began her career as somewhat of a mascot for a group of British soldiers aboard the H.M.S. Grasshopper.
When Japanese planes bombed the ship, the survivors swam to shore. Stranded without food and water, the desperate men were incredulous when Judy sniffed out a freshwater spring under the sand and dug deep to bring the drinkable water up to the surface.
Eventually the men and Judy traveled inland where they were captured by the Japanese and marched to a POW camp. While it was dangerous to have the dog with them, the men refused to leave Judy behind and kept her hidden until they arrived.
Leading Aircraftman Frank Williams of the Royal Air Force (RAF) was already interned at the camp when Judy and her companions arrived. Williams was drawn to Judy; he began sharing his meals with her and soon became her self appointed caretaker.
But Judy looked after all the men in the camp, much to the annoyance of the guards. She would intervene when the guards beat the prisoners, often provoking a beating of her own.
Knowing the guards would eventually kill Judy, Williams pled with the camp commander to make Judy an official POW, which would afford her a degree of protection. Drunk on sake, the commander agreed, and Judy became POW 81A.
For the next three years, Judy tolerated abuse from the guards and tangled with wild animals like tigers and alligators, in the surrounding jungle.
Eventually the prisoners were moved, boarding the S.S. Van Warwyck en route to their next camp. When a torpedo hit the ship, the men escaped overboard and Williams pushed Judy through a porthole into the water below before he escaped himself.
For two hours Williams swam in the debris-filled water and searched for Judy. He found her, busy saving the lives of her fellow prisoners. She would guide the men to floating pieces of the ship or let the men hold onto her back as she swam them to safety.
Judy and the surviving men were soon recaptured and held until the end of the war. When they were finally freed in August 1945, her loyal comrades smuggled Judy onto the ship that carried them home.
Judy lived peacefully with Williams until she died in February 1950 at age 13. Williams buried her in a custom made RAF coat, honoring her as a hero until the very end.