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HMS Glasgow and Tirpitz (pig)
Pigs were often kept on board warships to supply fresh meat. Tirpitz was aboard SMS “Dresden” when she was ordered into the South Atlantic to join with the forces of Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee to begin raiding allied merchants. Her first encounter with the “Glasgow” was at the Battle of Coronel, where the German fleet was victorious. They were subsequently defeated at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, though the faster “Dresden” managed to escape. She was located in Cumberland Bay on the Chilean island of Más a Tierra (today known as Robinson Crusoe Island), by HMS “Glasgow” and HMS “Kent” off the coast of South America on March 15 1915. The Germans scuttled the ship, but Tirpitz was left on board as she sank.
Capture and Royal Navy service
Tirpitz was able to make his way above deck and swim clear of the sinking “Dresden”. He struck out for the nearby Royal Navy ships and was spotted an hour later by a petty officer aboard HMS “Glasgow”. The officer entered the water, but the frightened Tirpitz nearly drowned him. He was however eventually able to rescue the pig and bring him aboard. ‘Tirpitz’ was subsequently adopted by the crew of HMS “Glasgow”, who made him their mascot, and named him ‘Tirpitz’, after Alfred von Tirpitz, the German Admiral, and Secretary of State of the Imperial Naval Office. Tirpitz remained with the “Glasgow” for a year and was then placed in quarantine until he was allowed to be adopted by the Petty Officer who had first seen him, who transferred him to Whale Island Gunnery School, Portsmouth for the rest of his career. A contemporary newspaper reported:
‘During the Falklands Isles battle, the Germans escaped to the shore after causing an explosion which sank the Dresden. Tirpitz was left to his fate, but on finding himself in the water he struck out boldly, and an hour later was seen swimming near the Glasgow. Two sailors dived into the sea and brought him aboard. The ship’s company of the Glasgow awarded Tirpitz the Iron Cross for sticking to his ship after his shipmates had left, and he became a great pet on board.
As a fundraiser
Tirpitz was eventually auctioned off for charity as pork. He ultimately raised £1,785 for the British Red Cross. Tirpitz’s head was mounted and is still in the Imperial War Museum in London. Another of Tirpitz’s legacies was bequeathed to the next HMS “Glasgow”, which retained a pair of silver mounted carvers made from Tirpitz’s trotters.
Tirpitz and his story was later featured as part of the Imperial War Museum’s ‘The Animals’ War’ exhibition.