"Bunga, Bunga!" - The Great "Dreadnought" Hoax

"Bunga, Bunga!" (Alleged Abyssinian exclamation of delight)

10 February 1910: Today, five years after the launch of HMS "Dreadnought" and 102 years ago, the "Bloomsbury Group" of London intellectuals pulled the "Dreadnought Hoax".

The Bloomsbury Group in Abyssinian Regalia (Virginia Woolf  is the bearded one on the far left)

The Bloomsburies set up a faked official visit from an Abyssinian delegation, dressed up four members of the group (among them Virginia Woolf) in a 1001 Nights-garb and were received among the most modern warship of the world, the pride of the Royal Navy.

Since the notes of the Abyssinian anthem were not to be had, the band stroke up the one from Zanzibar, the banterers answered with a gibberish of Latin and Greek - obviously unrecognisable to the Navy personnel present - and threw in "Bunga! Bunga!" for good measure.

HMS "Dreadnought" underway in 1906 - back then the eponymic world's most modern warship

The story, including photos taken, was passed to the "Daily Mirror" and the Navy looked a bit crestfallen. As sore losers, they insisted on criminal persecution, but since no actual crime was commited, the hoax went unpunished.

When Menelik II, the real Emperor of Abyssinia, visited London a couple of weeks later, children followed his entourage, crying "Bunga, Bunga!" (at least to the tunes of the real Abyssinian anthem) and when HMS "Dreadnought" by accident sunk the German U-boat U-29 during the war, one congratulation telegram read "BUNGA BUNGA".

"Once bitten, twice shy" Daily Mirror cartoon from February 1910

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