header photo


(One Of The Last Gentlemen Only Hashes in The World)

Tales of Derring Doo - From On Pres' 52



This true  story today dates back to 1910 when the British Royal Navy really did rule the waves and HMS Dreadnought was the most powerful ship afloat. However, she, her officers and crew and indeed the whole Royal Navy was soon to be reduced to a laughing stock by one man and a few of his friends.

He was Herbert De Vere Cole an inveterate prankster from his Cambridge University days.

He and a few friends decided to have some fun with the Navy and Cole organised for an accomplice to send a telegram to HMS Dreadnought which was then moored in Portland Harbour.  The message said that the ship must be immediately  prepared for the visit of a group including The  Prince of Abyssinia one Prince Musaka and was purportedly signed by Foreign Office Under-secretary Sir Charles Harding.  Cole with his entourage then went to London's Paddington station where Cole claimed that he was "Herbert Chumlee" of the Foreign Office and demanded a special carriage to Weymouth; the stationmaster faced with a foreign office official and a group of foreigners in  flowing robes  arranged a VIP coach to be added post haste to the train to Weymouth  .

On the train De Vere Cole changed into his disguise as The Prince of Abyssinia and so, on  February 7, 1910 the Prince Musaka  and his entourage were received with full ceremonial pomp on the deck of the H.M.S. Dreadnought. The Abyssinian party acknowledged the greeting with bows as they shuffled onto the ship, and for the next forty minutes the Commander gave them a full guided tour of the vessel. The Abyssinians paused at each new marvel while murmuring the appreciative phrase "Bunga, Bunga!" in their supposed native tongue.  After bestowing fake Abyssinian medals on many of the ships officers, the royal visitors departed as "God Save the King!" played in the background.

The next day the Navy was mortified to learn that the party they had escorted around the warship had not been Abyssinian dignitaries at all. Instead it had been a group of young,  pranksters. .

By February 12 the British newspapers were full of the story of the stunt. "Bunga Bungle!"  trumpeted the National press. For a few days the Navy was the laughingstock of Britain. Sailors were greeted with cries of "Bunga, Bunga" wherever they went. The Times newspaper even suggested that the Navy should change the name of Dreadnought  to the Abyssinian.  Humiliated and furious, the Navy sent the warship out to sea until the episode blew over. It wanted to bring formal charges against the pranksters, but dropped the idea for fear that it would simply attract more publicity to the case.

In 1915 Dreadnought became the only Battleship ever to sink an enemy submarine. One of the congratulatory  telegrams received on board read Bunga Bunga signed Prince Musaka .