Royal Navy Reindeer submariner’s starring role on BBC’s The One Show

Commander Sladen with Pollyanna the submariner reindeer of HMS Trident

The true story of Pollyanna, the reindeer submariner of HMS Trident in 1941 will feature on a festive edition of BBC’s The One Show, this Thursday 11th December from 7pm.

 

Presenter Gyles Brandreth visited Gosport’s Royal Navy Submarine Museum earlier this year and met with National Museum of the Royal Navy archivist George Malcolmson to discover more about the intriguing story.

 

Pollyanna was a gift from the Russians at Polyarnoe in Northern Russia to the captain, Commander Geoffrey Sladen D.S.O, D.S.C and crew of HMS Trident during World War 2. The reindeer was loaded through the torpedo loading hatch with a barrel of moss and Petty Officer James Riddoch was detailed to look after her.  He was always thereafter known as the “zoo attendant” by his crew mates.

George Malcolmson, archivist at the National Museum of the Royal Navy said, “Pollyanna spent six weeks with HMS Trident on patrol off Norway after rumours that elements of the German fleet were on the move.”

 

“Accounts show that Pollyanna became quite settled with life on the submarine and moved about easily. She had taken up residence in the captain’s cabin next to his bunk and got used to the noises of the submarine. She would be the first to trot into the control room to be ready for the main hatch to open and the fresh air to pour in. On diving she would go back to her resting area.”

 

“After the barrel of moss ran out, she would help herself from the buckets of leftovers from the officer’s mess and got a taste for condensed milk. She even ate some of the navigation charts”

 

When HMS Trident finished her patrol and arrived at Blyth Northumberland, Pollyanna had to be hoisted out of the main hatch as she had put on weight.  Eventually Pollyanna was presented to Regents Park Zoo London where she became a firm favourite.

 

George Malcolmson said, “Trident survived the war, but by a sad irony both perished within a week of each other five years later, Pollyanna in Regents Park Zoo and Trident in the breakers yard. It was rumoured that she never forgot her submarine career for whenever she heard bells or a sound like a submarine tannoy she would lower her head as though preparing for diving stations.”

Umbra Crew

Crew of the HMS Umbra.