The story of Able Seaman Just Nuisance is well known by most ex-navy veterans on the WWII period and still related by serving naval personnel whether living in South Africa or visiting Cape Town on holiday.
Able Seaman Just Nuisance, a Great Dane, was born on or around 1st April 1937 in Rondebosch, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. His owner, Benjamin Chaney, later ran the United Services Institute (USI) in Simon’s Town. The Royal Navy at the time was in charge of the Naval Base and the sailors would frequent the USI in their off-watch time. Just Nuisance was a very friendly dog and was “lashed up” to food and drink and the occasional walk.
He was very canny at recognising sailor’s uniforms and appeared to ignore personnel from the other services; his fondness of following sailors around and going on board ships in the yard earned him the name as many a sailor would step over him and comment that we was ‘just a nuisance’.
Just Nuisance’s love of sailors progressed to following them ashore to Cape Town, a 22 mile train ride and he got will known for his ability to dodge the ticket collectors by being hidden by the sailors or jumping on an off at the various stations en-route. The train companies became increasingly intolerant of the free-loading dog and threatened Mr. Chaney with legal action and the threat of having the animal put down if caught. It was this threat that resulted in Just Nuisance being enlisted in the Navy.
The many please of the Commander-in-Chief were answered on the 25th August 1939 when the dog was officially enlisted in the rank of Ordinary Seaman. This meant that as an enlisted volunteer, he was entitled to free rail travel – so problem solved! His recorded trade on his enlistment papers was indicated as “Bone Crusher” and his initial religious denomination listed as “Scrounger”.
Despite the love and care afforded to him by his fellow sailors and the reciprocated boost to morale, Just Nuisance was not a model sailor and his naval charge sheet was testament to this. He was found guilty of travelling on the railway without a pass, sleeping in an improper place (namely the Petty Officers accommodation), and resisting ejection from the Sailor’s and Soldier’s Home.
In order to get his full entitlement of rations Just Nuisance was advanced to the rate of Able Dog and not long after he got married, in a glare of publicity, to another Great Dane named Adinda. The union was blessed with five off-spring – two of which were auctioned by the Mayor of Cape Town to assist the war effort.
Just Nuisance was discharged from the Royal Navy on the 1st January 1944 and was suffering gradual paralysis following a motor vehicle accident. Sadly his condition deteriorated and he was put to sleep by a naval surgeon on the 1st April 1944, his seventh birthday.
He was buried with full military honours the following day.