And Then I Read: MASCOT OF THE MELROY by Keith Robertson

Cover illustration by Jack Weaver

It’s World War Two, and some of the crew of a U.S. Destroyer are on a dock in Newfoundland loading supplies when Slim Teague hears the whimper of a puppy, a Newfoundland puppy shivering and abandoned on the dock. Despite the fact that his ship has a strict “No Dogs” policy laid down by their captain, he smuggles the frozen puppy back to the ship in his jacket, thinking he will drop it at the next port. That next port is a long time coming, as “The Melroy” is about to join a convoy escorting ships to Europe. Before long everyone knows about the puppy, now named Bosun, except the officers and captain. When Bosun alerts some of the men to a fire in their bunkroom, he becomes a beloved member of the crew, and eventually is discovered by the Captain. Slim is punished when they finally return to New York harbor for resupply and Bosun is given to a crewman’s wife, but he finds his own way back to the ship and stows away on their next voyage, to the captain’s annoyance.

Eventually, even that hard heart is won over and Bosun becomes the official ship’s mascot. When “The Melroy” goes to war in Operation Torch in the Mediterranean Sea, his training in water rescue comes in handy, but in the confusion of a sinking vessel, he’s left behind, to become the property of several new owners on the shore of North Africa. Will he somehow find his way back to Slim?

This is the last of many Keith Robertson books I hadn’t read, I’ve collected almost all of them from my childhood to now. He’s probably best known for his “Henry Reed” books, but wrote many others I love just as well. He lived in and sometimes wrote about New Jersey, my home state, and served as the captain of a destroyer himself in World War Two. I thoroughly enjoyed this 1953 book, and am a bit sad that there are no more unread ones to find, but I will probably reread some of the ones I already have.

Recommended.

Mascot of the Melroy by Keith Robertson

7 thoughts on “And Then I Read: MASCOT OF THE MELROY by Keith Robertson

  1. Karen Shimkus

    I loved this book as a kid and read it 12 times! I wrote a letter to the author and he wrote me back a lovely letter thanking me.

  2. Elizabeth F. Richardson

    I received Mascot of the Melroy for Christmas 1954. It from Santa. Santa was my Father, Duncan Forbes Francis Captain USN. At that time, he was the skipper of the Destroyer USS Buckley #808.
    In WW2, My Dad had once been skipper of a destroyer escort in the Pacific. The U.S.S,. Miller sank a Japanese Submarine during the war.
    Daddy was a destroyer man most of his career. His last command at sea was the Cuban Missle Crisis. Just before he retired he taught Naval Science at Rice University in Houston Texas. He passed away in 1984.
    Daddy loved dogs and one of them was taught to salute uniformed servicemen. When we lived on base “Chuck” would always smartly salute the sentries at the gate from the back seat of our station wagon.
    I have been piped aboard many destroyers In my growing up years and knew my way around them just as Bosun did. On one occasion my sister and I were given a ride on the high line between the destroyers. We enjoyed many dinners in the wardroom sometimes with a movie afterward.
    My Mascot of the Melroy is one of my greatest treasures and I hope some day to see it made into a
    movie. Next time I visit the WW2 museum in New Orleans I plan bring my copy and approach a curator with my idea. Tom Hanks would be my choice of producer.

  3. Scot Gillies

    Hi, Todd. I’ve commented on a couple of your KEITH ROBERTSON posts before and we’ve interacted through some book sales as well. (And we have the whole New Jersey native thing in common, if another connection is necessary!)

    I’m posting a link to your MASCOT OF THE MELROY book review on a Facebook “Fans of Keith Robertson” group. Would love to have you join the discussion!

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/47149414102

  4. Tamzin

    I read Mascot of the Melroy as a kid in Washington DC. Since I had sick parents, I was practically raised by dogs, the first of whom was an Irish Setter owned by neighbors. I took her home one day when she was roaming by herself, and her kind owners, Miriam and Sam Kramer, told me I could take her for a walk anytime I wanted to do so. Penny helped me in many ways. I was orphaned at age 15 and left with nothing. However, I did very well on the National Merit exam my high school gave when I was in 9th or 10th grade, and I got a scholarship to college. By then, with money I earned delivering newspapers, I had bought my own first dog, a Collie. Later, I sent myself to medical school, and it was there that I met Dr Tom R, who was my professor of psychiatry. He had a Newfoundland that his wife had bred, and I delivered the puppies. Everyone knows that psychiatrists don’t deliver babies. I am now on my 7th Newfoundland, Kloofbear Rounds the Horn to Freedom’s Harbor; Captain J for short. She will be a year old on Jan 18th. I dreadfully miss the Freedom Septuplets, born July 4th, 2009. I had 3 of them: Freedom’s Victory at Trenton 1776, CDX, WRD, DD (Trenty) who died Nov 21 2021; Freedom’s Victory at Saratoga and Yorktown (Yorkie) who died May 4, 2022; and Ch Freedom’s Valley Forge Hero (George) who died Aug 15, 2020.
    I have always wondered whether, and to what possible extent, the story of Bosun, Mascot of the Melroy, had a basis in actual events. I do not remember the book referring to Operation Torch. I did not know that Keith Robertson was the Captain of a destroyer, though the book is dedicated “To my parents, who raised a sailor on the prairie.” So obviously he was a Navy man. Do you know to what extent the book is based on actual events?

  5. Todd Klein Post author

    Thanks for your comment, Tamzin. I don’t know the background behind the story, but there’s a Facebook group dedicated to the work of Keith Robertson, you might ask there.

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