In 1948, a sailor named George Hickbottom picked up a starving cat in on docks of Hong Kong. he brought the approximately 1 year old cat onto his ship, the HMS Amethyst. Seaman Hickinbottom smuggled Simon aboard and he soon settled in to his new military life, and made himself popular by waging war on the rats that infested the lower decks. As typical with cats, he had no sense of propriety, and became famous for sleeping in the Captain's hat and leaving dead rats in the bunks of his favorite sailors. Simon became the mascot of the ship and stayed on even after the Captain left. The new Captain, Bernard Skinner, was ordered to take the ship up the Yangtze River to Nanking to replace the ship stationed there. On the way, the Amethyst was fired on by Communist Chinese artillery batteries. One of the first shots struck the Captain's cabin and severely wounding Simon. He was able to crawl onto the deck and was rushed to the medical bay where he was treated for burns and had four pieces of shrapnel removed but was not expected to survive the night. Just like any good alley cat, he pulled through and was soon back on duty, exterminating the rats that had invested the ship while it was anchored in the Yangtze River. He was also credited with raising the morale of the sailors on board with his antics and good nature.
Simon soon became a celebrity following the end of the "Yangtze Incident" and was the subject of many stories in the British and International news. He was awarded the Dickin Medal, also known as the the Animal Victoria Cross and also received the Amethyst Campaign medal, the Blue Cross, and the rank of "Able Seacat". he received so much mail that Lt. Stuart Hett was given the title of "cat officer" and the duty of dealing with all of his mail. Simon was presented with honor at all of the Amethyst's ports of call on the cruise back to England.
Sadly, Simon was subject to the quarantine regulations for all animals entering the UK and died of a viral infection caused by his shell wounds. Hundreds of people, including the entire crew of HMS Amethyst attended his funeral in Ilford in East London. His gravestone reads:
MAY 1948 — SEPTEMBER 1949
AWARDED DICKIN MEDAL
DIED 28TH NOVEMBER 1949.
THROUGHOUT THE YANGTZE INCIDENT HIS BEHAVIOUR WAS OF THE HIGHEST ORDER