A little-known piece of Navy history dating back to the First World War is being kept alive with a British Bulldog by the name of Hank becoming the first mascot for ‘the Steel Cat’, HMAS Brisbane (III).
Hank — who carries the honourary rank of Leading Seaman — took pride of place when Brisbane’s 200 officers and sailors recently exercised their Freedom of Entry with a march through the streets of Brisbane.
The Freedom of Entry march was one of many activities the Air Warfare Destroyer fit into the maiden port visit to her namesake city.
Hank’s owner, Jason Jenness, who previously served in the Royal Australian Navy, said he was thrilled that Hank could represent Australia’s newest warship as her official mascot.
“It’s an amazing honour to march with the Ship’s Company, even more so that I am ex-military.”
“I toured the ship and was gobsmacked at the capability,” Mr Jenness said.
Auditions for the ship’s mascot were arranged and held by the Queensland Maritime Museum prior to HMAS Brisbane’s visit.
“I actually didn’t know about the auditions until a neighbour stopped me in the street when I was walking Hank,” Mr Jenness said.
“Falling in between the second and third platoons during the Freedom of Entry march was exciting.”
“Hank was resting all morning, but as soon as the band started playing he stood straight up and was ready to march. I am honoured to own the mascot of the deadliest warship in the fleet,” he said.
The tradition of a British Bulldog representing warships goes back over a century to the First World War.
In 1941 an advertisement was placed in the Courier Mail newspaper calling for a “Brisbane British Bulldog to give to the men of HMAS Brisbane”, a naval base in Bulimba.
Churchill the Bulldog auditioned and won the title of ship’s mascot, marching in naval parades and providing an effective morale boost during the Second World War.
Historically animals on ships would not only be a source of morale amongst the crew, but also contributed to pest control, however today the main duties of a ship’s mascot are purely ceremonial.
HMAS Brisbane is the second of three Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers built for the Royal Australian Navy and is based in Sydney.