Able Seaman Just Nuisance

24 January 2018 11:00

Just Nuisance, a Great Dane, was born near Cape Town, South Africa where his owner ran the United Services Institute providing comforts for all men of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force.

Able Seaman Just Nuisance
Just Nuisance the dog

Just Nuisance was particularly popular with Naval ratings who would feed him snacks and take him for walks. He began to follow them back to the naval base where his preferred resting place was the top of the gangplank of ships moored at the wharf. At almost two meters tall when standing on his hind legs, he presented a sizeable obstacle for those trying to board and he became affectionately known as “Nuisance”.

Nuisance was allowed to roam freely and, following the sailors, began to take day trips by train with them, but conductors would put him off the trains as soon as he was discovered. This did not cause the dog any difficulty as he would wait for the next train or walk to another station, where he would board the next train that came along.

Train users would offer to pay his fare but the State-owned railway company eventually warned that Nuisance would have to be put down unless he was either prevented from boarding the trains or had his fares paid up front.

The news that Nuisance was in danger of being put down spurred sailors and locals to write to the Navy pleading for something to be done, and it was decided to enlist him. As a member of the Armed Forces, Nuisance would be entitled to free rail travel. It proved to be an inspired idea.

He was enlisted in August 1939 under the name “Just Nuisance, Able Seaman. For the next few years he would be a morale booster for the troops serving in WWII.

One of our blind veterans, Don, now aged 96 and ex-Royal Navy, who lost his sight through age related macular degeneration, came across Nuisance in South Africa. Don was serving on HMS Dulverton, a hunter class destroyer escorting a convoy of troop ships to Cape Town.  From the beginning it was an ill-fated ship with its steering breaking while undergoing sea trials on the Clyde shortly after it was built. On the way to Cape Town the steering broke again and Don says:

"We flew the two black vertical balls, the signal for our ship not being under control – to warn other ships to keep out of our way ... We lost a Stoker over the side and everyone had to be roped to the ship”."
Blind veteran Don

Things got far worse when the ship was scuttled following severe damage inflicted by radio-controlled rocket glider bombs launched from German bombers. 77 members of the crew, including the Commander, were lost.  A nearby ship, HMS Belvoir, managed to rescue those sailors who had survived the attack.

Don was amongst those rescued and he ended up in Simon’s Town, South Africa and decided to make good use of his shore time by taking the coastal train to Port Elizabeth, further up the eastern coast.  Don explains:

"On the platform, also waiting for the train, was a huge dog, standing alone. When the train pulled in the dog boarded and proceeded to occupy the whole of one seat in our compartment, meaning us sailors had to squash up on the seat opposite."
Blind veteran Don

Don went into the Services Club, “I saw a huge mattress on the floor – it was his Lordship’s. I asked someone who the dog was and she explained the story of Able Seaman Just Nuisance”.

On returning home after being demobbed, Don came across a copy of the book “Just Nuisance AB – His Full Story by Terence Sisson” and realised it was the dog he had met.  Unfortunately someone borrowed the book and never returned it, so Don was absolutely delighted to be given another copy and this one had photos in. Don cannot read the print but using his magnifier provided by our charity he can see the photos of this amazing dog.

Nuisance never went to sea but fulfilled a number of roles ashore. His 'wedding' to another Great Dane, Adinda, produced five pups two of which were auctioned off to raise funds for the war effort.

Nuisance's Service record was not great. He fought with the mascots of ships resulting in the deaths of at least two of them.

At some point he was involved in a car accident. His condition deteriorated rapidly and, on the advice of the Naval Veterinary Surgeon, he was put down. His body was draped with the Royal Navy White Ensign and he was buried with full Naval Honours including a gun salute and the playing of the Last Post. A simple granite headstone marks his grave and a statue was erected in Jubilee Square, Simon's Town to commemorate his life.

Able Seaman Just Nuisance grave
Just Nuisance's grave

Simon's Town Museum has an exhibition dedicated to Just Nuisance’s story and since 2000 there has been an annual parade of Great Danes from which a lookalike is selected.