Just Nuisance - a Royal Navy Able Seaman who lived a dog's life

No ordinary dog

On 25 August 1939 one of the most unusual Able Seamen ever to serve in the Royal Navy began his service. He was Able Seaman Just Nuisance, on the pay sheet of H.M.S. Afrikander, under the command of Commander C.B.O. Shakespear, RN.

In fact this AB was unique - the one and only Great Dane to achieve this rank. His story begins some two years previously.

Around 1 April 1937 a Great Dane pup was born in Rondebosch, suburb of Cape Town.He was bred by a breeder Mr M. Bosman.

At the age of 11 months the puppy was bought by a Mr Benjamin Chaney who later told writer Leslie M. Steyn that the dog had a wound on the end of his tail and when brought to Mr Chaney's home, his enthusiastic tail wagging left proof of his happiness all over whatever item of furniture, or whichever wall, his tail happened to hit.

"The first night Nuisance was in my home I showed him round the place, including the kitchen. Standing next to the refrigerator, I pressed the handle down and told Nuisance that if he could do likewise he could help himself to two pounds of mutton inside. The following morning I missed the mutton!"

"That incident," said Chaney, "Indicated that I was master of no ordinary dog."

AB Just Nuisance

In the harbour on the False Bay side of the Cape Peninsular, Simonstown, then still a Royal Naval base, a United Services Institute provided facilities and entertainment for the sailors from ships either based in or passing through the harbour.

Chaney was put in charge of this Institute soon after the Second World War started, brought Nuisance with him, and so the dog began to make the acquaintance of the Naval ratings who made use of the facilities.

The sailors very soon began to play with Nuisance and even take him for walks. Soon the dog was ready to be a friend to anyone wearing the uniform.

Nuisance soon realised that many of the sailors on shore leave would take the train from Simonstown Station to Cape Town and, with some encouragement from his "ship mates", he soon began to accompany them on the train trip, a distance of about 25 miles.


The last train home.
The last train home.

AB Just Nuisance on guard

Often the sailors in Cape Town would do what people in sometimes dangerous and often boring occupations will sometimes do to take the edge off - they went to bars. It being wartime and all they would often end up not quite as upright as they had been when they arrived - and often rather sleepy too!

AB Just Nuisance got to know the bars frequented by his shipmates and would go around them rounding the lads up and getting them back to Cape Town Station for the last train back to Snookie, as Simonstown ws affectionately known.

This led to some hilarious confrontations with railways personnel, like this one related by Leslie Steyn, who wrote the book Just Nuisance - True story of an Able Seaman who led a Dog's Life (Johannesburg: Spectrum Publishers, 1968):

"Able Seaman Just Nuisance lay full length across a seat in the last train from Cape Town to Simon's Town, the former South Atlantic Royal Naval Base - a distance of 25 miles. In fact, a portion of his head protruded into the aisle between the row of seats. His chin was resting on one front paw which hung listlessly, swaying to the motion of the train, over the edge of the seat. Numerous sailors sat on the seats near him, some were sleeping, others lolling, smoking and chatting.

"A ticket examiner walked into the carriage. "Whose dog is that?" he asked.

"One of the sailors looked up, winked at his pals and said: 'Not mine, chum. Why, what's the matter?'

"'He belongs to you fellows,' glared the official, 'and he'll have to get out at the next station. You'd better put him off.'

"'Dogs can't travel like that.'

"'Oh no,' Answered the sailor who was acting as spokesman, 'You saw him first, you put him off.'

"And Able Seaman Just Nuisance continued the journey to Simon's Town undisturbed."


Certificate of Service of AB Just Nuisance
Certificate of Service of AB Just Nuisance

The volunteer matelot

The railways authorities were at first not too happy about Nuisance's free travel; on the trains, and various threats were made about putting the dog down if he did not stop.

That was why the Navy decided to regularise his travel arrangements. Since sailors of the Royal and South African navies on war service were able to travel on the trains without paying the the Officer Commanding H.M.S. Afrikander decided to enlist Nuisance as a volunteer.

Thus it was that on 6 June 1939 Able Seaman Just Nuisance volunteered and on 25 August was enrolled in the ship's company and became a full-time member of the Royal Navy. From that day on his trips by train to and from Cape Town were "legal" and he could no longer be threatened or thrown off the trains.

On his Certificate of Service his religion was noted as "Scrounger" (later changed to "Canine Divinity League [Anti-Vivisection]") and his trade as "Bonecrusher". The period of service he "volunteered for was noted as "Period of the present emergency".

His OC, Commander Shakespear, noted that AB Just Nuisance was the only member of the ship's company who resolutely refused to salute him!

Although fully enrolled as an Able Seaman, Nuisance did not draw pay with the rest of his shipmates. As Leslie Steyn noted, "His charm and reputation obtained for him more free meals and kindness than a sailor's pay could buy."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Nuisance on his bedJust Nuisance sired some pups, two of which were brought to Cape Town. Here the sire meets his pups.A gropus of Boy Scouts formed a guard of honour for Nuisance at the Cape Town station.Nuisance was brought to Cape Town station with a special escort to meets his pups.The Mayor of Cape Town headed the welcoming party for the pups.
Nuisance on his bed
Nuisance on his bed
Just Nuisance sired some pups, two of which were brought to Cape Town. Here the sire meets his pups.
Just Nuisance sired some pups, two of which were brought to Cape Town. Here the sire meets his pups.
A gropus of Boy Scouts formed a guard of honour for Nuisance at the Cape Town station.
A gropus of Boy Scouts formed a guard of honour for Nuisance at the Cape Town station.
Nuisance was brought to Cape Town station with a special escort to meets his pups.
Nuisance was brought to Cape Town station with a special escort to meets his pups.
The Mayor of Cape Town headed the welcoming party for the pups.
The Mayor of Cape Town headed the welcoming party for the pups.

Just Nuisance - the legend

Many tales were told of AB Just Nuisance's exploits, and his Conduct Record in the Navy gives an insight into some of these:

  • He did commit an act to the prejudice of commonsense and good humour, in that he did travel on the South African Railways without a ticket. Punishment Awarded: Confined to the banks of Froggy Pond, Lily Pool, with all lamp posts removed.
  • Did sleep in an improper place, namely in a bed in the Petty Officers' dormitory at the Sailors' and Soldiers' Home, Simon's Town. Punishment Awarded: Deprived of bones for seven days.
  • Did resist ejection from the Sailors' & Soldiers' Home, Simon's Town: No punishment awarded.

Nuisance did not sleep curled up on a bed as most dogs would. He lay full length on the bed with his head on the pillow. He was also extremely possessive about his own bed.

The story goes that Nuisance arrived back at the barracks in Simonstown to find that another sailor was asleep in his bunk. Tired and irritable from his toils in Cape Town and the long train ride home, Nuisance was in no mood to accept sleeping anywhere but in his own bunk. He began to pull the other sailor out of the bunk, but the other sailor was also in no mood to be disturbed, for the same reasons as Nuisance!

The resulting tussle caused a huge uproar and great amusement to the other sailors. In Steyn's words, "After Nuisance had tole the intruder with a few expressive barks exactly what he thought of him, his family and his future generation, he walked out., obviously annoyed and did not return to camp for about three weeks."

Illustration from the book Just Nuisance by Leslie Steyn
Illustration from the book Just Nuisance by Leslie Steyn

Nuisance the life saver

Very late one cold Saturday night in Cape Town taxi driver Jan van Tonder was parked in the rank in Addderley Street, Cape Town, when he heard an unfamiliar sound. Looking up, he saw this enormous dog barking excitedly.

Van Tonder luckily recognised Nuisance and, when Nuisance walked off a short distance, turned and barked again, Van Tonder realised the dog was trying to tell him something. He got out of his cab and went towards Nuisance, who backed off further towards a little side street.

Van Tonder followed Nuisance and was led to a sailor lying unconscious in the road with a serious knife wound which was bleeding profusely.

An ambulance was called and when it arrived the sailor was loaded and Nuisance also climbed in next to the man. Nothing would induce him to get out, so he accompanied the sailor to the hospital, where he stayed, keeping watch over the man.

The next day, after being given a hearty breakfast, Nuisance was persuaded that his chum was in no danger, and took a ride home to Simonstown.

AB Just Nuisance's grave. Photo by Andrew Massyn/Wikipedia
AB Just Nuisance's grave. Photo by Andrew Massyn/Wikipedia

The end of the story

There are many more stories that make up the legend of this mighty hound. A Hub would have to be many thousands of words long to record them all.

I first heard of AB Just Nuisance from my father who served in the South African Navy during the war. He had met the great AB a couple of times when going to Simonstown on Naval business.

And when I served in the navy in the early 1960s the legend was still spoken about with awe. Such was the power of the legend.

But like all things earthly, the legend had to come to an end.

For AB Just Nuisance the end came in 1944, when he started to develop a paralysis in his hind legs, possibly caused, according to Mr Fred Burrington, the veterinarian who attended him, by his jumping off moving buses and lorries and sustaining injuries.

By March of that year it was clear that Nuisance was not going to make it. So, on 1 April,he was fetched from Burrington's kennels and taken to Simonstown Naval hospital where a naval surgeon put him to sleep. His end was reported in all the newspapers in South Africa.

AB Just Nuisance was buried with full miliatry honours, as befits a serving member of the armed forces. His body was wrapped in the White Ensign of the Royal Navy and a firing party fired a salute as his body was lowered into the grave.

A lone bugler sounded the "Last Post" and many were overcome with grief at the passing of their friend, the unique sailor of the Royal Navy.

Note on the illustrations

All the photos in this Hub, except the one of the gravestone, are by Leslie Steyn and are taken from his book Just Nuisance.

In the preface to this book Nuisance's OC, Commander Shakespear, wrote: "The pictures you see in this publication were taken by Mr Steyn and sold in Cape Town for the Distressed British Seamen's Fund."

Mr Steyn was at the time a journalist on a Cape Town newspaper.


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Comments 51 comments

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

What a great story this is, a perfect start to a new day. With all the sad things going on in the world, it is nice to read a story like this one. Great hub my friend.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Another great, historic hub. I really look forward to these, Tony


jandee 5 years ago

Tony, hello !

what a spellbinding tale. Love people who have the time to remember the brave animals in war who didn't have the choices to decline their services.

I have a picture of my friends Great Dane stretched luxuriously along her bed ! They are a beautiful and elegant breed,thanks Tony for the Sunday reality which made me feel better from this murderous cold,m


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

A dog life needn't be an inglorious one,thanks for remembering a delightful story tonymac.;)


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Great hub. This made me smile. Just Nuisance must have been a great source of joy and amusement for the servicemen. If I were in the army, I'd want him around. Thanks for letting us know about this.


sampsondog profile image

sampsondog 5 years ago

that is a brave dog


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Tony..Great story! Just Nuisance probably earned his rank for the comfort and joy he provided those seamen as they served away from home! It always amazes me how an animal can make such a difference in people's lives! However, being an animal person myself, I totally understand!

Cheers!


Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

@Tony, I first read about Just Nuisance in the Readers Digest (South African version, of course) in the 60s. I'd forgotten about the dog. Thank you for a great reminder. :)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Poolman - I'm so glad you enjoyed this story. It is a fascinating one isn't it?

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Alek - thanks for the kind words and I'm glad you enjoy the historical stuff I write. Makes it all worthwhile!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Maxine - glad to have bought some warmth to your cold Sunday! This pooch was certainly a character, by all accounts. And Great Danes do seem to be a wonderful breed.

In South Africa we have another monument to animals - the Horse Memorial in Port Elizabeth which memorialises the horses used in the Boer War of 1899 to 1902. I think it is unique in the world.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Acer - indeed not! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Much appreciated.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Rob - thanks for stopping by. He must have brought a lot of pleasure and comfort to those men. A great dog!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Sampson - he was indeed, by all accounts! Thanks for the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Scribenet - thanks for stopping by. I guess he did at that!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Sophia - glad to have revived the memory for you! Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment.

Love and peace

Tony


sameerk profile image

sameerk 5 years ago from India

very nice hub , loved it


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Sameer - thank you so much for the visit and the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Gee Tony! It brought a tear to my eye! God bless Dog! Thank you brotherman!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Micky - thank you so much, my dear brotherman! Glad you liked this one. If you need another tissue I'll email you one! LOL!

Love and peace

Tony


Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 5 years ago

Remarkable dog, interesting story. I should tell this story to my son.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Tony - I love this story about Nuisance. What a great pal and good friend to the servicemen he protected. Glad to hear he had a proper memorial and tribute from the Navy. Dogs play such an important role in our lives and in our families, even in our jobs. Thanks for another great read.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

I loved reading this true story of this magnificent dog who certainly led an interesting life. That must have been such a touching send off when with full Royal Navy honors he was laid to rest. I'll bet that there was not a dry eye at the gravesite! Hitting all kinds of buttons on this hub!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Is it not a wonder that a dog can be such an awesome creature? They absorb tension between people… break the ice between strangers … bond husbands and wives…

I have to tell you this - My daughter and son-in-law was married for about a year when they had an argument in the car on their way to somewhere. Then they saw their dog – a mongrel between a poodle and fox terrier – on the back seat trembling lordless with fear. So that was it: Rule number thirty - No fighting in the presence of the dog…

I love this story, Tony. Nuisance was an extra-ordinary Great Dane. He certainly never knew he was a dog. Tot weersiens my vriend!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Ingenira - thanks for stopping by and I hope your son enjoys the story!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Peg - dogs are very good to humans, in the main. Thanks for stopping by and commenting so kindly.

Love and peace

Tony


nomoretrucks profile image

nomoretrucks 5 years ago from scotland

Ha! Cheered us up on this cold wet dark day over her Tm. Wonder if this dude got seasick!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Peggy - you are so kind! Thanks so much. I have often wished that I had met Nuisance - he must have been quite magnificent.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Martie - my liewe vriend, baie dankie vir die mooi woorde. Soos altyd waardeer ek hulle vreeslik baie.

'n Hond kan soos 'n kind wees. I like Rule #30!

Wanneer kom jy weer die kant toe? Ek dink ons skuld mekaar 'n koffie, of hoe?

I still want to get to Klerksdorp sometime as I want to write about my late aunt's farm there and would like to see what it looks like now and maybe get some photos, but I don't know when I'm going to be able to get there.

Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

NMT - thanks for stopping by. Nuisance didn't go to sea often - in fact I think only once, and it is not recorded whether he got seasick or not!

Hope the cold doesn't get to you too much and I wish I could share some of our warmth and susnshine with you!

Love and peace

Tony


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

I loved this Tony,everyone said that it brought a smile,and it did,but it caused me to shed some tears.You wrote it in such a manner that it was funny,yet so sad.Thank you for writing about something/someone i have never heard of.Your writing skill is wonderful.

Love and Peace


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Makes me think of other gravesites where dog statues are placed in memory of the humans that they loved. I do not know of another one however that was officially a part of the Navy! Great story!


Madhatterni profile image

Madhatterni 5 years ago

i loved this story


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

What a nice story. I had three Great Danes throughout my life and all of them were really distinguished by sweetness and, unlike our friend here, their complete lack of intelligence :-)))


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Ruby - your kind words make me blush! Thanks so much for them, I really and sincerely appreciate them, es;pecially coming from you.

Stay well, dear friend.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Peggy - to my knowledge Nuisance was the only dog ever enlisted, certainly in the Royal Navy! Thanks for coming back!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Madhatterni - glad you liked it!

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Dimitris - so your Great Danes were intellectually challenged? Nuisance here doesn't seem to have been. Was it something you fed them? LOL!

Thanks for stopping by - as always I appreciate your comment most sincerely!

Love and peace

Tony


Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 5 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

Beautiful story about one great and intelligent creature. He certainly deserves to be remembered. Awesome Hub, thank you so much Tony.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This was a lovely and interesting story. It would have been nice if Nuisance had lived for longer than seven years, but it sounds like he had a good life.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Tatjana - he was indeed a great and intelligent creature! Thanks so much for your kind comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Alicia - it would have been nice, wouldn't it? But as you say he brought a lot of happiness to people and so lived a pretty good, if rather short, life.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


richtwf profile image

richtwf 5 years ago

A beautiful piece Tony and I really found it interesting and amusing too. Dogs really are a man's best friend or in this case a matelot's best friend!

Cheers for sharing these thoughts and God bless you my friend.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Ritchie - glad you enjoyed it, my friend! Thanks very much for stopping by and bless you too!

Love and peace

Tony


lionel1 profile image

lionel1 5 years ago

Tony, thank you for another great hub, the legend of the mighty hound was really interesting, and we really appreciate these amazing hubs that you bring to us. Thank you very much.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Lionel - thanks so much, my friend. I appreciate your comment as always!

Love and peace

Tony


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

I can remember getting my photo taken with his statue at Simonstown!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Cindy - I have actually never seen the statue in spite of having grown up with stories about the pooch!

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you are keeping well.

Love and peace

Tony


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 4 years ago from The Other Bangor

'Atta boy!


raymond fowler 3 years ago

my great uncle has told many many stories about this dog my uncle is now in is 90 years able seaman fredrck raymond fowler dooes any one remember him if this name rings a bell get in touch via enail kerry1209'blue yonder . co .uk he is very special and tells me of great stories and the dog is an amasing loyal dog what a tonic it must have been for all of you serving men GREAT ADMERATION FOR YOU ALL his great niece kerry and may i say the stories of you all still remain in my uncles heart and hiss memories xxxxxx


Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis Rix 6 weeks ago from UK

My father told stories of when he encountered Just Nuisance at the train station when he was stationed at Simonstown during WW2. I didn't at first believe what I thought were tall stories so had to check out Just Nuisance on the web.

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