Durban — Retired Drakensberg conservationist and KZN mountain club legend Bill Small, who is eight months shy of his 100th birthday, attended the Remembrance Day parade at Cape Town's cenotaph on Sunday as the oldest surviving South African navy veteran.
Apart from being a star attraction at the parade, Small enjoyed visiting the statue of the legendary naval dog Just Nuisance, known for accompanying navy seamen on the train from Cape Town to Simon’s Town during the war years. The navy gave the Great Dane the rank of able seaman to secure him free rail passes.
Small, himself an able seaman, remembered the hound lying next to him and his comrades.
“He got in everyone’s way and would half sit on you. He didn’t get his name for nothing,” said Small, who travelled to Cape Town from his home in Underberg at the invitation of the city’s mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis.
Small spent his war years providing convoy services to ships in the Mozambique Channel, on converted whaling vessels.
“Once, a whale came under the boat. We wondered if it wasn’t a torpedo, but it turned out to just be a whale scratching off its barnacles.”
He said he never witnessed a shot fired in anger and “had a good war”.
His Cape Town trip included a tour of the naval base at Simon’s Town, including the naval museum hosted by local Snoekie Shell Hole of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (Moths).
Small has been an active Moth in his post-war life.
Independent on Saturday