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Able Seaman Just Nuisance: The only officially enlisted dog in the Royal Navy

Tijana Radeska
Just Nuisance

Just Nuisance was the only dog ever to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. During the WWII, he served with HMS Afrikander, a Royal Navy naval base in Simon’s Town, a town in South Africa. Just Nuisance was a Great Dane whose birth is uncertain, but it is stated that he was born on 1st April 1937. He died in 1944, at the age of 7, and was buried with full military honors.

Just Nuisance was born in a suburb of Cape Town and his owner Benjamin Chaney later moved to Simon’s Town to run the United Services Institute (USI), which was the favorite hangout place for the Royal Navy’s sailors. Just Nuisance was very friendly and the sailors loved him. He was fond of them too, followed them everywhere, and soon became a kind of their mascot.

Able Seaman Just Nuisance

Not only among the sailors but also all around the town, Just Nuisance became a recognizable figure with whom people played, walked, shared food, mostly biscuits, and pies, while the sailors treated their friend with beer. In return, quite often he was escorting them back to their bunks when they were drunk. He was welcomed to the naval base, the dockyards and even on to the ships, but his favorite resting place was the top of the gangplank. A particularly large dog, even for a Great Dane (almost 2 meters (6.6 ft) tall when standing on his hind legs), he was always blocking the way for those trying to board or disembark, and that’s how he earned his name Nuisance.

 Just Nuisance statue by artist Jean Doyle Photo credit

As he was following the soldiers everywhere, quite often he was joining them on their train trips to Cape Town, which is 22 miles away. Even though the soldiers were trying to hide him from the Ticket Inspector, Nuisance was almost always found and put off on the next station. But he loved to spend time with his friends in Cape Town, so he just waited for the next train to the town and was simply getting on it.

This was making the railway officials furious, and they were sending demands to Nuisance’s owner to keep his dog away from the trains or to pay the fares for his trips. They also wrote letters to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, who came up with the most unexpected and simple solution – Since all enlisted in the Royal Navy had a free rail travel, he decided to enlist Nuisance into the Royal Navy.

Just as simple as that, Nuisance was signed up on 25th August 1939. “Nuisance” was written as his surname, “Just” as his name, “Bonecrusher” as his trade, while his religion was “Scrounger,” but was later changed to “Canine Divinity League (Anti-Vivisection)”. He signed the papers with his paw but that wasn’t all. Ordinary Seaman Just Nuisance was later promoted to Able Seaman to entitle him to free rations.

Just Nuisance Photo credit

Nuisance was the only dog enlisted in the Royal Navy and the only enlisted sailor who never went to sea. But he did have duties such as raising morale. Sailors were supposed to groom him and to prepare him for parades with his seaman’s hat. However, he wasn’t as disciplined as his job duties required him to be. He lost his collar on a few occasions. On one occasion he refused to leave the pub. He was caught sleeping in an improper place, namely a Petty Officer’s bed, for which he was denied bones for a whole week. He was riding the train without his pass, he was going AWOL, and was also prone to fighting. He caused the deaths of two other Royal Navy canine mascots.

Very sadly, on the 1st of January 1944, Just Nuisance had to be discharged from the Navy due to health issues. After being involved in a car accident, he developed a thrombosis which was slowly paralyzing him. His condition deteriorated rapidly, and it was decided that the kindest thing to do, was for Nuisance to be put down. So, on the 1st of April 1944, the Naval Surgeon put him to sleep.

Headstone for Just Nuisance’s grave. Photo credit

The next day, his body was taken to Klaver Camp, draped with a Royal Naval White Ensign, and buried with full naval honors, including a gun salute and the playing of the Last Post.

Read another story from us: Hachiko: The dog who continued to wait his owner for more than nine years after his death

To commemorate Nuisance’s life, in 1985, a statue was erected in Jubilee Square in Simon’s Town, while his papers and belongings (including his collar) are on display in the town’s museum.