If you are a dog who is friend to hundreds of people, a dog who gets a lot of pets, but also hears the troubles of men who trust that their secrets are safe with you because, well, you are a dog, you might be a mascot for the military.
Venus was such a dog.
Venus, a Bulldog, is seen in the photo above at the wheel of HMS Vansittart, a modified W-class destroyer built for England’s Royal Navy. The ship was ordered to be built by William Beardmore & Company in January 1918, but she wasn’t commissioned until the fall of 1919, so she had no part in WWI. She did serve in the Atlantic Fleet until 1925 when she was transferred to the Mediterranean which is where she got her nickname, “Fancy Tart,” some say a derisive term known on the lower decks of her sister ship. That probably changed on July 1, 1940 when she sank a U-102 with depth charges in the Atlantic south west of Ireland, and picked up 26 survivors from U-102’s last “victim,” the British merchant ship Clearton. For this action, her captain, Lt Cdr Walter Evershed was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, a British military decoration awarded to officers who performed distinguished service in war.
An official RN Photographer, Tomlin H W (Lt), took several photographs of Venus, and a year later, the Vansittart rescued 133 survivors from HMS Wild Swan which had been bombed and sunk by Ju 88 bombers while escorting Convoy HG84 in the Western Approaches.
For a dog, Venus saw a lot of action.
We talk a lot about mascots on these pages because many of them were purebred dogs, and they mattered to the people whose spirits were buoyed by them, often during difficult times.
While it wasn’t the norm for Brits to have dogs on board their military vessels owing to sailor safety and the extra responsibility of caring for a dog, Venus was a famous exception. She belonged to the captain of the Vansittart, and it was in this way that she became the ship’s mascot. Sailors helped care for her, and no doubt, more than one was tasked to walk her around. The trail of her story ends abruptly, and we hope she lived out a long life.
The top image of Venus was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. Photographs taken by a member of the forces during their active service duties are covered by Crown Copyright provisions. Faithful reproductions may be reused under that licence, which is considered expired 50 years after their creation, and because this was several years ago, the image is now in the public domain.