Friday, March 19, 2010

Lieutenant Just Nuisance Able Seaman

Simons Town off Cape Town in South Africa is the base of the South African Navy. The navy has its presence in this tiny sea port with a natural bay, since the early days of the Dutch colonisation of the country. I did see half a dozen naval vessels berthed in the harbor. It is a fishing town as well.

The town is busier than the Wellington Island in Cochin (the only naval town-ship I have been too in India). Simons Town is idyllic and perhaps life style a bit laid back. In any case South Africa has not much contingencies or events to engage its navy. Hence the sea men too are at ease.

Back in 1930's in Simons Town lived Lieutenant Just Nuisance Able Seaman. The name did sound strange to me when I heard of it and unforgettable too. Well, before he was commissioned into the South African Navy, Just Nuisance could be found  moving around the town and was very fascinated with the naval folks and. He was often found with the naval officers and sea mates loved him. He saw off at the wharf, sailors embarking to battle in the Second World War. He had this strange routine of traveling from Simons Town to Cape Town and back by train. This was unfailingly followed by him every day. If he missed one train he patiently waited for the next. But to the outrage of the Afrikaners he would only travel first class. Remember those were the times of segregation based on colour, and all coloured and natives were bete noire. The whites had no qualms in throwing coloured folks and natives from even moving trains. The incident at Pietermaritzburg train station back in the late 1800’s involving an Indian barrister Mohandas Gandhi and the criticism it evoked later did not deter the Afrikaners from boorishness. But, with Just Nuisance they could not have their way, they were helpless. He insistently traveled back and forth every day, by first class and ticket less. The whites were apparently outraged and annoyed but had to put up with his rebellious behavior which was in a way Gandhian “disobedience”.

The Mayor of Simons Town and the citizens got together at the town hall to brain storm this curious case of Just Nuisance. They concluded that they dispose him by putting a bullet through his brain. This was when the Navy intervened and offered to adopt Just Nuisance. In fact the name “Just Nuisance” was given later during his adoption ceremony. So the day dawned when the bloke was formally adopted by the Navy .He was christened Just Nuisance and since a sur name was necessary he was named Just Nuisance Able Seaman. He was commissioned into the navy. So one day in late the 1930's the South African (then British) navy became the first sea faring military to commission the first canine into service. Lieutenant Just Nuisance became the first dog to be commissioned into the navy and he became entitled to a fat salary. The salary was used by the navy to pay for his daily first class train journey to Cape Town. Being Lieutenant Just Nuisance had access to the officers’ bar at the naval barracks. The odd side of his was he had a weakness for alcohol and spirits. With Just Nuisance having nothing much to do apart from his daily train journeys, he spent rest of the time in the bar. Often he was found tipsy. One day he was involved in an accident with a motor car which created thrombosis. Also his predilection for excessive alcohol found him later with intestinal and liver ailments and died six years after his commission.
The Navy gave him a touching farewell service and was laid to rest in a specially built tomb up in the mountains where they have a cemetery for naval officers.

A few years ago when the South African Navy celebrated its Golden jubilee dignitaries from the visiting countries motored up the mountain road to the cemetery and paid respects at the grave of Lieutenant Just Nuisance Able Seaman. They laid wreath made out of proteas on his resting place.

‘Every Dog has its day “!!!


Balachandran V said...

That was one real strange and funny dawg stories!!!

kaalpanique said...

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