The Dreadnought hoax: Bunga Bunga!

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Filed under: Political Pranks, The History of Pranks

Submitted by Chris Cook as seen in this article from the BBC about the origins of the phrase “Bunga Bunga”, February 5, 2011:

The infamous Dreadnought hoax, circa 1910, was dreamed up by aristocratic joker Horace de Vere Cole, who contacted the British Admiralty pretending to be the Emperor of Abyssinia. He informed officials that he wished to inspect the Home Fleet while on a forthcoming visit to Britain.

After enlisting some friends – artists from the Bloomsbury group, including writer Virginia Woolf – to masquerade as his entourage, he turned up at the navy’s state-of-the-art ship, the Dreadnought.

Officials, taken in by the dark stage make-up, false beards and oriental regalia, treated the group to an official civic reception.

They were reported to have cried “Bunga, bunga!” while marveling at the ship. An account of the visit plus a picture were sent to the Daily Mail newspaper – probably by Cole himself.

Virginia Woolf said that when the real Emperor of Abyssinia arrived in London weeks later, wherever he went, ”the street boys ran after him calling out ‘bunga, bunga!'”

Read the rest of the article here.