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Seaman Just Nuisance, R.N.
Dane - Great Friend
Statue Of Just Nuisance In
Jubilee Square, Simon's Town
"Just Nuisance", as the dog was to
become known by, was by all accounts born on Thursday
1st April 1937
in Rondebosch, a suburb in the south peninsula
of Cape Town.
At an early age, the pup was sold to a Benjamin Chaney
who moved to Simon's Town to run the United Services Institute
(USI). The USI was frequented mainly by the Royal Navy sailors
- The Royal Navy at that time being in charge of the Simon's
Town Naval Base. This Great Dane soon grew to be a massive dog
and it was here in Simon's Town that he was to become a legend.
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He was a very friendly dog and as such was treated to all sorts
of titbits, pies and beer by the sailors who loved him and to whom
the dog in turn took a great liking, especially as they would often
take him for walks and as such, he considered that all sailors were
his friends. He recognised his matelot mates by their bell-bottom
trousers and square blue collars - they all looked pretty much the
same to him, so every sailor was his friend! Service men in a different
type of uniform were normally given the ‘by-pass’.
a cap and jacket -
going on parade with his friends...
the Union Jack Club in Cape Town with his sailor buddies.
Origin Of His Name
He started following them around and that led to the naval
base and dockyards and eventually onto the ships moored alongside, with
HMS Neptune being one of his favourite vessels. His favourite spot
was to lie on the deck on the brow at the top of the gangplank. No-one
could easily get past him and he was loathe to move. The sailors would
say - "You're just a nuisance, why do you have to lie
here of all places?!" - and that's how he got his name.
Nuisance making himself at home on a three-seater
bench on the Simon's Town - Cape Town train
Just Nuisance would regularly follow the
naval liberty men when they went for a "run-ashore"
in Cape Town some 22 miles and 27 stations north on the electric
railway, but he always new which station he wanted. He soon
became well known on the trains and would jump on and off at
different stations. Apparently, the sailors would try to hide
him from the Ticket collector, but as he was such a big dog
this was not always possible and he would be put off at the
next station, but being a very clever dog, he would walk back
to the previous station or just wait at the station in question
and board the next train to continue his journey. A few times,
when approached by an angry conductor, he showed how serious
he was about rail travel by standing on his hind legs, putting
his huge paws on the conductor's shoulders and growling in the
poor man's face. Amused civilians would sometimes offer to pay
his fare but exasperated railway officials sent a stream of
demands to Mr. Chaney his owner to confine the dog, pay his
fares, or get rid of him. The railways finally warned that they
would have to put him down if he persisted in boarding trains.
This resulted in a massive outcry from his sailor friends and
other people in the Peninsula who had come to know him well.
One amused regular passenger even offered to buy him a season
ticket but the Royal Navy had already put this in hand...
Many letters were written to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy at
that time. After much thought he decided to enlist him into the Royal
Navy! Not only would this brave act save Just Nuisance but it would
also raise his profile almost overnight and certainly guarantee that
he would become one of the world's most famous dogs. It was a wonderfully
simple solution to his love for train-hopping - a "volunteer" enlisted
during the War was entitled to a free pass on the train!
On Friday, 25th August 1939, Just Nuisance was enlisted
into the Royal Navy. He was given the Christian name of "Just",
the Trade of "Bone Crusher" and his Religious Denomination
as given as "Scrounger" (this was later upgraded
to Canine Divinity League [Anti-Vivisection]). Like all new
sailors, he underwent a medical examination which he duly passed
and was declared fit for active duty. The proper enlistment forms
were filled in and he signed them with a paw mark. Just Nuisance
was now a bona-fide member of the Navy and, as such, he expected
all the benefits that that brought - he started sleeping on sailors'
beds - his long frame fully stretched out with his head comfortably
placed on the pillow. One of the seaman was allocated to ensure
that Just Nuisance was regularly washed and he often appeared at
parades wearing his seaman's hat. Sailors being sailors there was
the odd fight. Just Nuisance did not like his sailor friends to
fight each other. If he came across a fight he would quickly put
a stop to it by standing up on his hind legs and pushing his huge
paws against their chests. After a short while he was promoted from
‘Ordinary Seaman’ to ‘Able Seaman’, which entitled him to naval
rations?! Just Nuisance was equally at home on any ship that called
in at the port, and was loved by everybody who met him though his
main interest was only with other ranks.
Nuisance wearing the cap of HMS Carnarvon Castle - one of the
many postcards of him sold for war funds.
Nuisance and Adinda, his "official" wife - the wedding portrait.
Just Nuisance's train journeys also did not stop with his enlistment.
Oftentimes he would find a drunken sailor on the train and escort
the man back to his bunk in Simon's Town. Some sailors "helped
back home" were not even stationed in Simon's Town!!
As Just Nuisance had become such a celebrity, he was often
required to assist the War Effort by attending functions.
A marriage between him and Adinda, another Great Dane,
was arranged. Five puppies resulted from this union and two
of them, Victor and Wilhelmina, arrived to an
almost ticker-tape welcome at Cape Town station where they
were auctioned by the Mayor of Cape Town for war funds.
Sales of a book about him ("Just Nuisance - Able Seaman
Who Leads A Dog's Life" by Leslie Steyn), as
well as postcards of him with his pups, were also raising
large sums of money.
Just Nuisance never went to sea, but used to go AWOL (Absent Without
Leave) to Wingfield where he would be taken up (albeit totally illegally)
to look for submarines by the pilot of the plane in the background
of the accompanying photograph, which was a Fairy Fulmer - a coastal
reconnaisance plane used to spot enemy submarines off the South
Nuisance at Wingfield Air Base.
Nuisance at Klaver Camp - having a nap with his matelot mates.
All things considered, Just Nuisance was more than just a dog.
He did much to boost the morale of all those involved in fighting
the War from the South Atlantic Station and he was renowned for
the love and care he showed for his sailor mates. However, Just
Nuisance was no angel, as his "Conduct Sheet" shows. He
was guilty of several misdeeds, such as travelling on the train
without his free pass, sleeping on a bed in the Petty Officer's
dormitory, going AWOL, losing his collar and resisting eviction
from pubs at closing time. His most serious offence was fighting
with the mascots of other Royal Navy vessels. He caused the death
of the mascots on both the HMS Shropshire and the HMS
His Conduct Sheet, now in the Simon's Town Museum, shows three recorded
- Traveling on the railways without a pass.
Punishment Awarded: Confined to the banks of Froggy Pond,
Lily Pool, with all lamp posts removed.
- Did sleep in an improper place, namely in
a bed in the Petty Officers’ dormitory. Punishment Awarded:
Deprived of bones for seven days.
- Did resist ejection from the Sailors’ &
Soldiers’ Home. No punishment awarded.
End Of An Era
Nuisance was buried with full military honours
at Klaver Camp - last post and gun salute.
Just Nuisance was discharged from the Royal
Navy at HMS Afrikander where he had been "stationed"
since 1940, on Monday, 1st January 1944. Great
Danes never live to a great age and a motor accident had left
him suffering with thrombosis which was slowly paralysing him.
On the recommendation of a veterinary surgeon, the Royal Navy
decided to put him to sleep. So, on 1st April 1944, the
day of his 7th birthday, Just Nuisance was taken by lorry for
his last ride to the Simon's Town Naval Hospital, seemingly
knowing what awaited him, where the Naval Surgeon then put him
to sleep. On Saturday, 2nd April 1944 at 11:30am,
his body was wrapped in a canvas bag, covered with a white Royal
Naval Ensign and he was finally laid to rest with full military
honours at Klaver Camp on top of Red Hill (the current site
of the South African Navy Signal School) - a solemn ceremony
that included a firing party of Royal Marines and a lone Bugler.
A simple granite gravestone marked his grave.
Nuisance being wrapped in the
Royal Naval Ensign for burial.
Legend Lives On
Since then, the life and story of Just Nuisance has become so much
a part of Simon's Town - a statue on Jubilee Square reminds us of him
and his grave on Red Hill is a regular stopping point for visitors.
The Simon's Town Museum has in it's collection all Just Nuisance's official
papers, his collar and many photographs. A special display has been
mounted in the Museum and a slide show giving the story of this famous
dog is shown daily to children and tourists from all over the world.
Bruce, a great, great, great, etc. grandson
of Just Nuisance visits his forefather's grave at Klaver.
On 1st April 2000 an innaugural "Just
Nuisance Commemoration Day Parade" was held through the
main street of Simon's Town. The event attracted 26 Great Danes
hoping to win the Just Nuisance Look-Alike Competition.
This will surely become an annual event, further ensuring that
his legend will continue for many years to come.