Unsinkable Sam was a legend, a good story and perhaps a true cat. The little black cat with the white nose was down a few lives when he finally died of old age in 1955 in the Belfast “Home for Sailors”.
It was thought Sam started out aboard the German battleship Bismark. On May 27th 1941 it was sunk in a battle with British ships. Of the 2,200 crewmen aboard the Bismark, only 118 survived. Sam was found floating on a board and plucked from the sea by crewmen on the HMS Cossack - a British ship.
The crewmen of the Cossack named him Oscar. They had no knowledge of his prior name. Oscar lived on board the Cossack for a few months. But, on October 24th 1941, while the Cossack was escorting a convoy from Gibraltar to the United Kingdom, it was severely damaged by a torpedo fired by a German submarine. 159 crewmen on the Cossack died in the explosion. Oscar lived and was rescued by crew aboard the HMS Ark Royal. His name was changed to “Unsinkable Sam” as news of his misadventures and survival spread.
According to sources, Sam was plucked “angry but unharmed” from a drifting plank when the Ark Royal was sunk by a torpedo less than a month later.
After his third sinking Sam was transferred to a dry land living arrangement. First he lived in the offices of the Governor in Gibraltar, and later in the United Kingdom, where he saw out the remainder of his days at the seamens' home in Belfast.