If you head down to Simon's Town in South Africa, you may come across a large bronze statue of a Great Dane in Jubilee Square. This is a monument to ï¿½AB Just Nuisance", the only dog to have ever served in the Royal Navy.
Just Nuisance is a large part of the town's history and is South Africa's second most famous dog after Jock of the Bushveldt. He is considered to be a local icon and more than just a dog. He was born on Thursday, 1st April 1937 in Rondebosch, a suburb of Cape Town.
A Special Dog
At a tender young age the pup was sold to a man called Benjamin Chaney who moved to Simon's Town to run the United Services Institute (USI), which was mainly frequented by the Royal Navy sailors who were in charge of Simon's Town Naval Base. The dog grew to an impressive size. He was a very friendly dog who soon became a local legend.
The dog was always treated with tidbits, pie and beer by the Royal Navy Sailors. He took a great liking to the sailors as they fed him and often took him for walks. He could tell his sailor friends by their dress of bell-bottom trousers and square blue collars, and service men in other uniforms were usually given a by-pass.
He started following the sailors around and that led him to the naval base and dockyards and eventually onto the ships moored alongside. The HMS Neptune was one of his favourite vessels. His favourite place to lie was on the deck on the brow at the top of the gangplank. This meant that nobody could easily get past him and he often refused to budge. This caused the sailors to exclaim "You're just a nuisance, why do you have to lie here of all places? - and that's how he got his name.
Mans Best Friend
Just Nuisance took to following the naval liberty men when they took leave to Cape Town which was 22 miles (13miles) and 27 stations away on the railway line, but he always knew exactly which the station he wanted was. He soon became known on the trains and would get on and off at the different stations. Sometimes the sailors would try and hide him from the ticket collector, but he was so big it was impossible, and he would be unceremoniously put out at the next station. Being an intelligent dog however he would just wait for the next train or walk to the next station and catch that train.
Occasionally when the conductor tried to turf him out, Just Nuisance showed how serious he was about his travels 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 the 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 Mr Chaney 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 come up with a plan.
Many letters were written to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy at that time. After much thought, the Commander-in-Chief decided to enlist Just Nuisance into the Royal Navy. This meant that Just Nuisance went on to become one of the world's most famous dogs. It also solved the problem of his train hopping as a "volunteer" enlisted during the War was entitled to a free pass on the train.
A Dog Enlists
Therefore on Friday, 25th August 1939, Just Nuisance was enlisted into the Royal Navy. On his enlistment form his Christian name was given as "Just," his trade was listed as "Bonecrusher" and his religious denomination as "Scrounger" which was later changed to "Canine Divinity League". As a sailor, he had to undergo a medical, which he passed and he was declared fit for duty. He signed his enlistment papers with a paw print. His new status allowed him new perks, such as being allowed to sleep on the sailors beds.
Just Nuisance was generally a peaceful dog and when his sailor friends got into a fight he would break it up by jumping up and putting his paws on the sailor's shoulders. After a short while he was promoted from the rank of Ordinary Seaman to that of Able Seaman which entitled him to rations.
Just Nuisance's train journeys also did not stop with his enlistment. Often he would find a drunken sailor on the train and escort the man back to his bunk in Simon's Town. Some sailors that he "helped back home" were not even stationed in Simon's Town. He became such a celebrity that he was required to assist the war effort by attending fund raising functions.
Romance was in the air and his marriage to another Great Dane, Adinda, was arranged and they had five puppies/. Two of the puppies were auctioned off at a large event by the Mayor of Cape Town to raise funds for the war. A book and photos of him and his family also helped to raise funds.
Although in the navy Just Nuisance never went to sea, but used to go AWOL (Absent Without Leave) to Wingfield airfield where he would be taken up (illegally) to look for submarines by one of the pilots. Just Nuisance's main role was to help boost the morale of those fighting the war from the South Atlantic Station.
Just Nuisance was generally well behaved, although his "Conduct Sheet" shows he did commit several offences, 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 Redoubt.
Just Nuisance was discharged from the Royal Navy on Monday, 1st January 1944. His health was failing following a motor accident which left him suffering from thrombosis which was slowly paralysing him. On the recommendation of a veterinary surgeon the Royal navy decided to have him put to sleep. So on the day of his seventh birthday he was taken to Simon's Town naval Hospital where he was put to sleep by the naval surgeon.
He was buried the next day with full military honours at Klaver Camp at the top of Red Hill. The funeral included a gun salute and a lone Bugler. His grave is marked by a granite gravestone.
His story became legendary and a visit to his grave and statue are popular tourist activities. The Simons Town Museum has a collection of his naval papers, his collar and many photographs. There is a special display and slideshow in the museum giving a full history of Just Nuisance.
The Simon's Town Museum is located in the Residency on Court Road, Simons Town. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 1 pm. You can visit his grave at the South African Navy Signal School.
See Simons Town hotel