Just Nuisance was a Great Dane and the only dog ever to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy, serving on HMS Afrikander from 1939 to 1944.
He was born in 1937 in Rondebosch and was owned by Benjamin Chaney who ran the United Services Institute in Simon’s Town, a major naval base. He became popular with the ratings who fed him and took him for walks and Nuisance eventually began to follow them when they took the train to Cape Town.
The ratings tried to hide Nuisance on the train, but this was no easy feat as he was a large dog, even for a Great Dane, and the conductor would invariably turn him off when he was discovered.
This didn’t deter Nuisance who would simply hop on the next train to come along and the railway company finally warned Chaney that the dog would have to be put down if he didn’t stop his fare dodging.
This appalled the sailors who appealed to the naval authorities and the solution was simple — to officially enlist the dog who would then be entitled to free rail travel.
He was enlisted on 25 August 1939: his surname was entered as ‘Nuisance’ and rather than leaving the first name blank he was christened ‘Just’.
His trade was listed as ‘Bonecrusher’ and his religious affiliation as ‘Scrounger’, although it was later altered to ‘Canine Divinity League (Anti-Vivisection)’. He was also promoted from Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman in recognition of his long-standing unofficial service and to allow him to receive rations.
Just Nuisance’s service record was not exemplary. Aside from the offences of travelling on the trains without his free pass, being absent without leave, losing his collar and refusing to leave the pub at closing time, his record shows that he was sentenced to having all bones removed for seven days for sleeping in an improper place — one of the Petty Officer’s beds.
He also fought with the mascots of ships that put in at Simon’s Town, resulting in the deaths of at least two of them.
Just Nuisance never put to sea, but he appeared at promotional events, including his ‘marriage’ to another Great Dane, his wife Adinda, and two of their five puppies were auctioned in Cape Town to raise money for the war effort.
He was involved in a car accident that left him partially paralysed and he was discharged from naval service in January 1944. His condition worsened and he was taken to the Naval Hospital in April where he was put down.
His body was taken to Klaver Camp, where it was draped with a Royal Naval White Ensign and he was buried with full naval honours, including a gun salute and the playing of the Last Post.
There is a room in the town’s museum dedicated to his memory and there is an annual parade of Great Danes in Simon’s Town in Just Nuisance’s honour.