The Dreadnought Hoax was a very embarrasing prank played on the Royal Navy in 1910 by the Bloombury Set. Led by the Irish Born prankster; Horace de Vere Cole, born in Ballincollig, Co. Cork.
Cole reprised an earlier prank, where he led a delegation of the Royal Family of Zanibar on a tour of Cambridge in 1905, greatly upsetting the Mayor who hosted a reception for them.
For the Dreadnought they pretended to be the Abyssinian Royals, with Virginia Wolfe sporting a beard and blackface as one of the delegates (far left in photo). Today we look a the photo above and marvel that they pulled it off with such poor disguises and obvious stage makeup, but the world was a smaller place in those days.
The visit was a diplomatic farce in any case. The Royal Navy had no Abyssinian flag on board so they flew the flag of Zanzibar and played the Zanzibar national anthem.
As the delegation wandered about the Royal Navy ship they called out “Bunga-bunga” to marvel at the various wonders. The phrase was taken up by the press and used as a catch all for the embarassment of the royal navy.
A hit song in the music halls that year was:
When I went on board a Dreadnought ship
I looked like a costermonger;
They said I was an Abyssinian prince
‘Cos I shouted ‘Bunga Bunga!
Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf
Most famously known for her love affair with Virginia Woolf the socialite, poet, garden designer and novelest Vita Sackville-West was born on this day in 1892. Below is a recently discovered poem that was written originally in French for another of her lovers, Violet Trefusis.
Vita was the inspiration for the character Orlando in Woolf’s eponymous novel.
Of course, just in case there is any confusion, Vita is no relation of Bilbo or Frodo Baggins, not even through the line of the Sackville-Baggins. However J.R.R. Tolkien did move in the same society as the aristocratic Bloombury set and would undoubtely have known of Vita Sackville-West. Perhaps they did not get on and he gave half her name and her hyphen to his most dislikable hobbit.
In a strange turn of coincidence one of the lead characters in the Lord of the Rings is played by Orlando Bloom.
Lost Poem; by Vita Sackville-West
When sometimes I stroll in silence, with you
Through great floral meadows of open country
I listen to your chatter, and give thanks to the gods
For the honest friendship, which made you my companion
But in the heavy fragrance of intoxicating night
I search on your lip for a madder caress
I tear secrets from your yielding flesh
Giving thanks to the fate which made you my mistress