Simon was Leonard Cheshire’s
pet poodle, apricot in colour and purchased in 1941 whilst Leonard was on leave from his RAF squadron with his crew
in London. The pet shop was behind Berkeley Square. On the same trip, Leonard’s wireless operator Jock
was left for a while to look after Simon at the Mayfair Hotel. Leonard later said, ‘When I came back, Jock was not alone. He said he had never had so many beautiful girls come up to him in all his life, and figured out that the passport to success was to buy a poodle puppy.’
Simon the poodle
Simon appears in Leonard Cheshire’s books and also in his biographies by Russell Braddon and Richard Morris. From these we have a good idea of his favourite activities. They included: chewing shoes and stealing caps, digging up the flowerbeds, chasing hens and following Leonard on his ritual tour of the base after every successful raid.
Flight Sargeant Len Sumpter, left with Simon the poodle and another airman with an alsatian dog at the Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa in 1944.
WAAFs wearing their waitressing uniform outside RAF Woodhall Spa Officer’s mess, the Petwood Hotel. Kitty McQuillan and Simon stand centre 1943/44.
Leonard was often away, and during his time as Wing Commander of RAF 617 Squadron
, Simon was left in the care of the WAAFs who walked him in the grounds of the Petwood hotel. When Leonard was posted to India and the USA in 1944, we believe Simon was left in the care of WAAF Kitty McQuillan.
WAAF Kitty McQuillan with Simon and another dog in the grounds of the Petwood Hotel, the RAF Officer’s mess at Woodhall Spa, Winter 1943/1944.
Simon posing majestically in the gardens of the Petwood Hotel, RAF Woodhall Spa’s Officers Mess, in the Spring of 1944.
We have photographs of Simon in our photograph collection at the archive; he is a very popular subject. However we were surprised to receive an enquiry a few years ago from someone whose father had looked after Simon at RAF Mildenhall. The photographs we were sent show Simon in June 1945 being walked around Mildenhall in Suffolk. Unfortunately we don’t know much more about how Simon had got there, or who he was living with, but in the photos it is obvious that he was well cared for and somewhat famous for being ‘Leonard Cheshire’s Poodle’.
Simon being walked at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk in June 1945. He is about to enter Morley’s Café. Photo thanks to Shaun Russell.
Simon with two RAF airmen at RAF Mildenhall, June 1945. Photo thanks to Shaun Russell.