Judy, a purebred pointer, was the mascot of several ships in the Pacific, and was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and taken to a prison camp. There she met Aircraftsman Frank Williams, who shared his small portion of rice with her.
Judy raised morale in the POW camp, and also barked when poisonous snakes, crocodiles or even tigers approached the prisoners. When the prisoners were shipped back to Singapore, she was smuggled out in a rice sack, never whimpering or betraying her presence to the guards.
The next day, that ship was torpedoed. Williams pushed Judy out of a porthole in an attempt to save her life, even though there was a 15-foot drop to the sea. He made his own escape from the ship, but was then recaptured and sent to a new POW camp.
He didn’t know if Judy had survived, but soon he began hearing stories about a dog helping drowning men reach pieces of debris after the shipwreck. And when Williams arrived at the new camp, he said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes! As I walked through the gate, a scraggly dog hit me square between the shoulders and knocked me over. I’d never been so glad to see the old girl!”
They spent a year together at that camp in Sumatra. “Judy saved my life in so many ways,” said Williams. “But the greatest of all was giving me a reason to live. All I had to do was look into those weary, bloodshot eyes and ask myself: ‘What would happen to her if I died?’ I had to keep going.”
Once hostilities ceased, Judy was then smuggled aboard a troopship heading back to Liverpool. In England, she was awarded the Dickin Medal (the “Victoria Cross” for animals) in May 1946. Her citation reads: “For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners, and also for saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness”.
At the same time, Frank Williams was awarded the PDSA’s White Cross of St. Giles for his devotion to Judy. Frank and Judy spent a year after the war visiting the relatives of English POWs who had not survived, and Frank said that Judy “always provided a comforting presence to the families.”
Frank and Judy spent the year after the war visiting the relatives of PoWs who had not survived; Frank remarked that Judy always seemed to give a comforting presence. They raised money for charities and appeared at dog shows throughout the country. Upon meeting David Niven, he remarked that she was the “loveliest bitch he had ever clapped eyes on”. On 22 July 1946, the pair were demobilised. Frank took Judy home to Portsmouth.
On 10 May 1948, the pair left to work on a government-funded groundnut food scheme in East Africa. There was some difficulty in getting permission for Judy to travel, and it was feared that she and Williams would be split up.
This issue was promoted in the Evening Standard, and after the involvement of William Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme, permission was given for Judy to travel with Williams. She had a third and final litter of puppies during her time in Africa. After two years there, Judy was discovered to have a mammary tumour; an operation removed the growth, but a tetanus infection soon set in, and she was euthanized on 17 February 1950 at the age of nearly 14.
She was buried in her RAF jacket, with her campaign medals, the Pacific Star, the 1939–1945 Star, and the Defence Medal. Frank spent two months building a granite and marble memorial in her memory, which included a plaque that told of her life story.
On 27 February 1972, Judy was remembered in church services across Gosport and Portsmouth. Her story was told in a book entitled The Judy Story in 1973, and in 1992 it was featured in the British children’s TV show Blue Peter.
In 2006 her collar and Dickin Medal went on public display for the first time in the Imperial War Museum, London, as part of “The Animals’ War” exhibition It was presented to the IWM by Alan Williams, Frank’s son.