Monday, June 20, 2011

Bulldogs on the briny

 Image: HMS New Zealand, from Wikipedia.

HMS New Zealand lasted for 11 years, from 1911 until she was sold for scrap in 1922. An account of her career can be found here.  Despite her scrapping, New Zealand was still paying the British Government for her up to the 1944/1945 financial year.

There are some relics left behind. This wooden casket was made from her timbers by the Scottish scrapyard workers where she met her end, and is on display today at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Alongside the casket is this display -- mementos of the "other" Pelorus Jacks, two bulldogs named after the more famous dolphin, and donated to serve on the New Zealand.

The first Pelorus Jack bulldog , as a pup, was presented to the ship's crew apparently by a Mr Pomeroy. It was formerly introduced to King George V at Portsmouth on 5 February 1913 (Poverty Bay Herald 14 March 1913). Two heavy silver collars were presented for the puppy. It isn’t known though whether he actually wore them. They seemed to be just for display.

This first mascot met with an early death.
The mascot, Pelorus Jack, a bull-dog puppy, came to an untimely death by falling down the funnel casing and being burned to death. His loss is mourned by the men, who had became very attached to the dog, as he was on deck barking at the shells all through the two engagements, and he was to have been presented with a medal. It is believed that the New Zealanders in England are going to present the ship with another mascot, as a little black kitten is the only pet they have now.

Evening Post 1 September 1915

Life on board for the navy bulldogs wasn't exactly easy. In late December 1915, early January 1916, while passing through the Red Sea with the surrounding water reaching a temperature of 96 degrees, the dog on board the hospital ship Maheno was only kept alive by being packed with ice. (Wanganui Chronicle, 12 January 1916)

The second Pelorus Jack bulldog, though, seemed to take to life on the high seas, amidst a world war, much better than his predecessor.  After the Battle of Jutland, it was reported: "the bulldog, which has taken the place of a better known predecessor in the role of mascot, the former animal having died last year by an accident, slept peacefully through the action." (Hawera & Normanby Star 11 August 1916)

"Pelorus Jack," a brindled bulldog, has been the mascot and wardroom pet on H.M.S. New Zealand for some four years past. He served through the battle of Jutland. He knows what is happening so well that when "stations" is sounded he seeks refuge, and when the guns begin to roar he has a rest down below.

Hawera & Normanby Star, 7 August 1919

All wars, thankfully, come to an end eventually, and the HMS New Zealand's  mascot was decommissioned, just as the ship itself would soon follow. He ended up here in Auckland, on the Hauraki Gulf.
A Press Association message states that the mascot of the battle-cruiser New Zealand, the bulldog Pelorus Jack, was handed over by Captain Leggett to the Deputy-Mayor as a gift to the citizens of Auckland: The "able sea dog" was immediately despatched to Motuihi Inland, where it will require to remain in quarantine about six months. The period may be less, seeing that since leaving Australia on board the New Zealand, Pelorus Jack has not been ashore at all. In the meantime its silver harness and its gold collar have been taken possession of by the Superintendent of Parks, who will eventually be the custodian of the dog.
Evening Post 4 October 1919

But, sadly, life as a landlubber after almost always knowing life on the sea, didn't suit.

Pelorus Jack, the mascot of the battle cruiser New Zealand, died on Motuihi Island on Wednesday last while being exercised, reports the New Zealand Herald. The dog was presented to the Auckland City Council during the recent visit of the New Zealand, 'and was placed' in quarantine on Motuihi for six months. When presenting Pelorus Jack to Auckland, Captain O. E. Leggett stated that the dog was four years old, and had been with the vessel in the North Sea fights. He was rated as an "able seadog."
Evening Post 12 April 1920


  1. What an intriguing amazing story. I'm fascinated!

    Great post!

  2. Wow, I'd have never associated dogs as mascots on board warships.

  3. Ohhh... i feel right at home LOL pass these every day :P Nice post!

    There's some very cool pics of animals and war here:

    In a similar about Mrs Chippy and the Endurance. Meow :)

    Chippy had to be shot tho :( - such is the life of an intrepid shipboard animal.



  4. Egad, they shot the poor cat!?! Poor Mrs. Chippy! Cheers, Sandy.

  5. Those two guns outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum are from this ship. The sailors reckoned it was a 'lucky ship' (never any casualties) because of a maori grass skirt and tiki that the captain wore during battle. Hmmm, I’d be a little worried myself, if I saw my captain standing on the bridge in a grass skirt!!

  6. They appear to hqave done a lot of remodelling out the front of the museum -- are the guns still there now?

    Re the grass-skirted captain -- heh, heh! But I think I read somewhere he did wear it underneath his uniform.

  7. There's a perfect opening here for postings about hair-shirts, scratchy grass skirts under uniforms and flagellation...but I couldn't POSSIBLY comment!!! LOL

  8. Heh! You crack me up, you do ... :-D