Hoaxes in History The Boarding of the H.M.S. Dreadnaught Part 2

About the famous hoax in history were practical joker Horace de Vere Cole was able to board the H.M.S. Dreadnaught.


The Boarding of H.M.S. Dreadnought

At Paddington Station, Cole informed the stationmaster of the royalty in attendance, and though mystified as to why he had not received prior notice, the stationmaster dutifully arranged for a spur-of-the-moment reception committee to observe the protocol procedures consistent with such an extraordinary situation. The royal party bowed politely, entered the train, and set off to Weymouth.

No sooner did the train pull out of Paddington Station than a seventh conspirator-whose identity was never revealed-fired off a telegram to the admiral of the Home Fleet, informing the officer of the prominent personages heading his way. The telegram concluded, "Kindly make all arrangements to receive them," and was signed with the name of the bona fide permanent head of the British Foreign Office, who would not be informed of the forgery until many days after the fact.

On the train bound for Weymouth, Cholmondley (Cole) and Kauffmann (Stephen) dined in a style befitting a career diplomat and a translator for royalty. But the emperor and his princes-at Cole's insistence-were forbidden to eat anything for fear of ruining their makeup. As the hunger situation grew desperate, however, Cole relented and allowed his errant Ethiopians to munch on some buns.

When the train at last reached Weymouth and the conspirators descended from their coach, they were amazed to find a red carpet spread across the station floor in their honor and beside the carpet a saluting naval officer in full ceremonial garb. Gawking spectators pressed against a hastily erected barrier as the hoaxers followed their official escort to a special car for the ride to the harbor.

Taken by launch from the harbor to the Dreadnought, Cole and his cohorts were received by Home Fleet Adm. Sir William May. After inspecting a marine guard, the party was taken on a tour of the ship, during which Herr Kauffmann explained the various sights to the wide-eyed Ethiopians. Unsure of what sort of dialect to use, Adrian Stephen suddenly began spouting passages of Vergil's Aeneid, mispronouncing it sufficiently to make it unrecognizable as Latin. Later, when he could remember no more Vergil, he switched to Homer, mispronouncing the Greek in the same manner he had altered the Latin.

For their parts, the four in blackface could not have responded more enthusiastically to all that they were shown. Although Virginia-fearful of being discovered a woman-limited her commentary to an occasional "chuck-a-choi, chuck-a-choi," the others let go with loud exclamations of "bunga, bunga" at everything from an electric light bulb to the ship's heaviest armaments.

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