FLASHBACK: How Petain the dog won hearts on board Chorley’s submarine

Three of Ursula's officers with Petain the dog
Three of Ursula's officers with Petain the dog

The story of a dog that briefly patrolled with Chorley and District’s sponsored submarine, HMS Ursula, in World War Two.

On December 3, 1942, a merchant vessel was sighted which was identified as being the ‘Sainte Marguerite II’.

“In the arms of one of the crew was a small black and white mongrel dog”

Commander Lakin of Ursula readied the men and the gun crew closed up in the control room and ammunition was prepared.

Within a minute of coming to the surface, the first shell was fired at an estimated range of 1,000 yards.

In no time at all, at least five hits were made on the target.

The crew of the merchant ship took to their lifeboats and fled.

Some of the men even chose to jump into the sea and then wait to be picked up by the lifeboat.

Eventually, running on the surface with electric motors, Ursula quietly nosed its way along starboard side to board the vessel.

1st Lieutenant Hamilton, Captain Livingstone and other selected crew members went aboard to see what they could find.

After 15 minutes, the boarding party came up on deck wearing civilian clothing, carrying charts, books, papers, and a little bread.

And in the arms of one of the crew was a small black and white mongrel dog.

The next couple of days went by without incident until on December 7, HMS Ursula became the first submarine to enter Algiers Harbour after the successful allied invasion.

Now back in port, the men of Ursula were left with the small mongrel dog, which they had named Petain.

They had taken to him very well and the men had found it amusing watching him trying to keep his footing when the submarine rolled around in the extremely choppy seas.

Petain was “scandalously petted and fussed over” by the crew, said Commander Lakin.

It is believed that Petain became a pet of the commander of the submarine depot ship, ‘Maidstone’, which arrived in Algiers the day after.