SEAMAN JUST NUISANCE, R.N
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.
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.
He was a very friendly dog and as such was treated to all sorts
of tidbits, 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 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
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 knew which station he wanted. He soon became well known
on the trains and would jump on and off at different stations.
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, it would
also raise his profile almost overnight and certainly guarantee that
he would become one of the worlds' 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 that 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 seamen 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.
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 "helped back home" were
not even stationed in Simon's Town!
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.
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.
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 Redoubt.
Conduct Sheet, now in the Simon's Town Museum, shows three recorded
on the railways without a pass.
Punishment Awarded: Confined to the banks of Froggy Pond, Lily
Pool, with all lamp posts removed.
sleep in an improper place, namely in a bed in the Petty Officers'
Punishment Awarded: Deprived of bones for seven days.
resist ejection from the Sailors' & Soldiers' Home: No punishment
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.
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 its collection all Just Nuisances'
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.
On 1st April 2000 an inaugural "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.