Thursday, 1 June 2017

A Doggy Tale...

Have you ever heard of a dog that joined the navy?

If you go to Simon's Town, the former Royal Navy base that is the setting for my new novel, The Girl from Simon's Bay, you will find one that did! Meet Just Nuisance, a Great Dane that was enlisted into the Royal Navy in August 1939 with the rank of Ordinary Seaman. But how did this come about?

Nuisance was born in 1937 and became a familiar sight around the naval base where he regarded the port's sailors as his companions. He enjoyed taking his ease on board ship, his favourite spot being on deck at the top of the gangplank. He was also an adventurous animal because he learned to use the train and would hop on in Simon's Town and wend his way to Cape Town, or jump off at intervening stops for a sniff-around. So frequent became his commuting that the authorities grew incensed with this massive dog riding the line without paying a fare - even though sailors offered to pay for him. Matters came to a head when the railway warned that the hound would be seized and put down if he didn't stop his illegal trips. A huge outcry followed. In the end, the navy Commander-in-Chief hit upon the idea of enlistment into the Royal Navy. After all, during wartime, any volunteer (human or, er, animal) was entitled to free train travel.

In due course, Ordinary Seaman Just Nuisance was promoted to Able Seaman to allow him to obtain 'naval rations'. He became a celebrity around the world, even getting 'married' to a fellow Great Dane and producing puppies, two of which were auctioned to raise money for War Funds at a reception attended by the Mayor of Cape Town.

What more can be said of such a famous pooch? Of course I had to include him in my book! And he is forever commemorated in a statue that stands in Jubilee Square in the centre of Simon's Town. Pop along and size him up, if you ever happen to be in the neighbourhood!


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