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A little-known piece of Australian 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.
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.

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