Animal Stories

A British Sailor whose name was Just Nuisance

Just Nuisance, a Great Dane, is the only dog ever to have been officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. During World War II between 1939 and 1944 the donkey-sized hound served with HMS Afrikander at the Royal Navy naval base in Simon’s Town (Simonstown), a once lovely, ordered and prosperous shoreline town in South Africa. The seaside community is located just 38 miles by road from Cape Town.

A naval officer touches noses with Just Nuisance. The dog befriended thousands of sailors who would pass through the naval base during the war

In 1939, the mutt was purchased when still a pup to Simon’s Town by his owner, Benjamin Chaney. Chaney managed the United Service Institute which was a favourite watering hole for sailors from the Royal Navy.

A very approachable dog, he soon became a familiar figure around the town, taken for walks and constantly treated to pies, biscuits and even beer by the sailors, to whom he became a sort of unofficial mascot.

Able Seaman Just Nuisance is the only dog ever to have been enlisted in the Royal Navy, serving from 1939 to his death in 1944

Naturally, the dog in turn became very fond of sailors, all sailors and followed them everywhere, to the naval base, the dockyards and even on to the ships. He was not a small dog; he was large even for a Great Dane. The canine made a habit of lounging about at the top of the gangplank, he blocked the gateway to the vessel and this earned him the nickname, Nuisance.

The front page of Nuisance’s official enlistment papers. In 1940 he got his first official posting to the shore base HMS Afrikander at the Simon’s Town base

The Great Dane would often escort drunken sailors safely back from the train or the pub to their bunks, even if they weren’t actually based in Simon’s Town.

However it was his habit of following sailors on to trains that really got him into trouble. When the sailors went on leave he liked to go with them on the train to Cape Town, some 30 or so miles away. Not having a ticket, the sailors would try to conceal him from the Ticket Inspector. But, more often than not, the stowaway would be exposed and Nuisance would be ejected from the train at the next station. It was not a problem for the affable canine as Nuisance he would simply jump on the next train to complete his journey.

Just Nuisance on a train seat on the railway line that got him into trouble before he was enlisted into the Royal Navy by sailors who didn’t want to see him put down

Frustrated railway officials sent demands to his owner, ordering him to keep the dog under control, pay his fares or have him put down. This demand incensed the naval community who had by now adopted this enormous dog as one of their own.

Just Nuisance’s official RN collar with his name and rank. By becoming a bona-fide member of the Royal Navy on August 25, 1939, he received full sailors rights

Letters were written to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, who came up with the perfect solution: Nuisance would be enlisted into the Royal Navy. An enlisted man was entitled to free rail travel and so on August 25, 1939, Just Nuisance was signed up as a rating – an Able Seaman no less. His surname was given as Nuisance, his first name Just: his trade was listed as ‘Bone-crusher’ and his religion Scrounger.

Sailors pose with Nuisance as, but he refuses the offer of a drink from a bottle

This sobriquet was later changed to ‘Canine Divinity League (Anti-Vivisection)’. Nuisance signed his papers with a paw mark. Ordinary Seaman Just Nuisance was later promoted to Able Seaman to entitle him to free rations.

Although an enlisted sailor, Just Nuisance never actually went to sea. His duties did however include fund raising and raising morale. A seaman was allocated to Nuisance to ensure he was regularly groomed and to prepare him for appearing at parades wearing his seaman’s hat. He also famously ‘got married’ as a money raising stunt for war funds!

However he was not exactly the perfect seaman, as his Conduct Sheet shows. He committed many minor offences; including riding the train without his pass to show inspectors, going ‘Absent without Leave (AWOL), losing his dog collar, refusing to leave the pub at closing time. And, on one occasion he was caught sleeping in an improper place, namely a Petty Officer’s bed. For this last misdeed he was denied bones for seven days. He was also prone to fighting, causing the deaths of two other Royal Navy canine mascots.

Just Nuisance being tended to by a nurse after being knocked down by a car at the naval hospital in Simon’s Town. He later died from his injuries

Unfortunately Just Nuisance had to be discharged from the Navy for health reasons on 1 January 1944. He had been involved in a car accident and developed a thrombosis which was slowly paralysing him. It was decided that the kindest thing to do would be to put him down and so on 1 April 1944 the Naval Surgeon put him to sleep.

His body was wrapped in a canvas bag covered with a Royal Naval Ensign flag and he was laid to rest with full military honours at Klaver Camp overlooking his old base

The following day he was placed in a canvas bag, covered with a white Royal Navy ensign and laid to rest with full military honours including the playing of the Last Post. A plain granite gravestone marks his grave at Klaver Camp on Red Hill behind the town. A statue in Jubilee Square and a display of Nuisance’s papers and belongings (including his collar) in Simon’s Town Museum ensure that this wonderful dog, who stole so many hearts, is never forgotten. by Ellen Castelow, Source 1, Source 2

A grave is marked with ‘Great Dane Just Nuisance. Able Seaman R.N. – HMS Afrikander. 1940-44. died 1 April 1994 age 7 years
A bronze statue of the Great Dane on Jubilee Square in Simon’s town has had a replica of his cap and collar chiselled off by thieves who are believed to have stolen it from scrap
Simon’s Town is 25 miles from Cape Town and first became a British port in the 1790’s, remaining so until 1957 when it was handed over to South Africa. It is now the joint home of their naval fleet

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Related books: The Leaving of Liverpool, Britannic Waives the Rules: Last of the White Star Liners, UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE SEA Volume I (The USAThe UK), UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE SEA Vol II (The USAThe UK), UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE SEA VOL. III ( The USA and The UK) UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE SEA VOL. IV ( The USA and The UK) and All I Ask is a Tall Ship by Liverpool writer Michael Walsh

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