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Imported Cats

By Frank Tibbo

It is very strange to discover that, on at least one occasion, the RCAF actually rounded up some cats in Canada and brought them to Gander. My father once told me that when he was a boy growing up in Grand Bank, cats were in demand by certain ships. To catch rats you might ask? Well, according to him, the sailors from the Greek ships used to pay ten cents for a plump cat – a princely sum for a young fellow in the 1920s. He said the cats were not for catching rats on the boats. They were for the dinner pot! When cat lovers heard that a Greek ship was coming to port, the cry would go out in the town. Keep your cats inside or the young scalawags will catch them and sell them to the Greeks!

Whatever the reason in the early 1940s, the Canadians couldn't find any cats in Gander. I know that some readers think I make this stuff up, so to dispel your doubts that this is authentic stuff, I offer the following extract, exactly as printed, from the RCAF Station Diary:

May 10, 1944 The Air Transport Officer (164 Squadron) requested to obtain ten cats from Humane Society, Moncton and fly them in, in an effort to offset the damage to goods in the R.C.A.S.C. Storerooms. A call-up of all cats for this special duty over V.O.A.R. met with no response so bad-tempered Canadian Pussies must be forcibly enlisted.

(V.O.R.G (Voice of Radio Gander) was the Royal Canadian Air Force local radio broadcast station, the forerunner of the CBC radio broadcast station CBG, Gander.)

From an article published in the RCAF May-June 1944 magazine GANDER.

The Cat Squadron #2

Calling all cats! Calling all cats! Twice the call went out over VORG for the cats of the station to volunteer their services in a noble cause. The rat situation in the warehouses was getting out of control and traps were useless against the big, wily, Newfy Variety of rats. However the cats of the stations were unpatriotic and not one offered her services. (females were preferred as they are supposed to be the best hunters -  they always got their rat)

Since the situation was desperate the search was widened, and fourteen cats of all sizes, shapes and varieties were found. Like the pigs for our famous piggery, they were flown in. They didn’t exactly enjoy the trip, in fact several were airsick, but all arrived safe and sound.  When the cats arrived, the Equipment Section turned them hastily over to the Service Corps, who were very pleased to receive them.

They found that some of the cats were as wild as small tigers and could hold their own in any fight. One old tom has been seen stalking around that looks as if he had survived many a battle royal.  There were also a few house pets amongst them. In fact one them insists upon jumping up to anyone and everyone within reach – could this be a result of its ‘flip’? Another has already been adopted. If anyone else is looking for a kitten to adopt, please contact the Service Corps in a few weeks, There will be a good supply by that time.

The cats have done their duty nobly, and the rat situation in the warehouses of the station is well in hand. No longer can we sing “ There are rats, rats, big as alley cats, in the quartermaster’s store”, we now have the cats themselves.

Contributed by F. Tibbo

 

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