Saturday, 23 May 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 12) Don't Ask

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 31) Barbara Love (b.1937) competed in the US swimming trials for the 1952 Olympics, in which 32) Marjorie Larney (b.1937) competed before being involved in the anti-Vietnam War  protests in which 33) David Mixner (b.1946) took a leading role, who was later joined in another campaign by 34) Leonard Matlovich (1943-1988).

While 33) David Mixner was organising the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam 34) Leonard Matlovich was recovering from the injuries he received after stepping on a land mine in Da Nang in central Vietnam. This was during his second tour of duty as a sergeant in the US Air Force.

Leonard Matlovich is best remembered for being a pioneer in the fight for the acceptance of lgbt personnel in the US armed forces. For most of his military career he was regarded as an exemplary sergeant. He was described in 1974 by Major Donald D. Baines as “one of the most outstanding NCOs I have had the pleasure of working with during my Air Force career… Matlovich is an absolutely superior NCO in every respect and should be promoted to Master Sergeant well ahead of his contemporaries”.
The military honours of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich.
Sadly, the opposite happened. At the time Matlovich was beginning to recognise that he was homosexual. In March 1974 he read an interview in “Air Force News” with 35) Frank Kameny (1925-2011), an openly gay ex-serviceman who lost a Supreme Court case to overturn his discharge from the US Army Map Service. He had become an activist and supporter of other personnel who had been discharged.

Leonard contacted Frank who confessed that he had been hoping to find a serving openly gay military personnel with a perfect record to create a test case on the ban on lgbt people in the armed services. Matlovich’s air force record was perfect and he agreed to be that person. Matlovich wrote a letter which he handed in to his commanding officer on 6th March 1975 containing an admission of his homosexuality.

The result was an administrative discharge hearing and a formal honourable discharge. The subsequent appeals, campaign and fame of Leonard Matlovich, which included being the first openly lgbt person on the front cover of “Time” magazine, is well covered on the internet, so I needn’t go into it here. But let’s go back a step to David Mixner.

Despite being anti-war Mixner joined Bill Clinton’s campaign to become President of the USA in 1992. Mixner had experience in political campaigns and was persuaded to join Clinton’s race to the White House because he was a personal friend and because Clinton had promised to increase funds for AIDS research and to lift the ban on lgbt military personnel.

When Clinton was duly elected his policy on AIDS funding included the establishment of vaccine research, as mentioned in my immediately preceding article. His promise to end the ban on lgbt military personnel turned into “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, which was effectively nothing. Mixner led several protests against what he thought was Clinton’s betrayal.

The “Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask” policy was repealed by President Obama on 22nd December 2010. At the signing ceremony Frank Kameny was seated in the front row of the audience. As well as being a leading campaigner for the ending of the military ban Frank was also a co-founder of the Mattachine Society in 1961. The society organised protests and pickets outside US government buildings which were to inspire Craig Rodwell (mentioned here) to create the Annual Reminder, the forerunner of the modern Pride march. I’ll write more about that next month.

Even with people like Frank Kameny, Leonard Matlovich and David Mixner making advances in lgbt inclusion in the armed forces in the USA opposition still exists, particularly with the Trump administration and transgender personnel. While there may no longer be any military discharges for homosexuality it has a long history that goes all the way back to the American War of Independence.

The first recorded instance was in 1778 with the case of 36) Frederick Gotthold Enslin (c.1740- after 1778). Englin arrived in America from Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1774. In 1777 he enlisted into Col. William Malcom’s Regiment of the 3rd Pennsylvania Brigade. The regiment was stationed at Valley Forge. Also there was Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1794), who turned the army into a formidable fighting force. During the following winter George Washington arrived with his army to lead the war from there.

Less than a year after enlisting Lt. Frederick Enslin was reported to Col. Malcolm by a solider who had seen him having sex with another soldier. Enslin reported the witness for slander and the case eventually went before the commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Aaron Burr.

This is the same Aaron Burr who later became Vice President of the USA under President Thomas Jefferson. He had a famous feud with another Founding Father, the bisexual Alexander Hamilton, who was also at Valley Forge as an aide to Washington (Hamilton, von Steuben and Enslin all at Valley Forge at the same time!). The Burr-Hamilton feud was finally settled in a duel in which Burr killed Hamilton.
A fairly accurate artistic impression of the camp at Valley Forge in 1777-8, taken from the “Assassin’s Creed” videogame.

The outcome of Burr’s investigation into Frederick Enslin’s slander case was not in doubt. The case was thrown out and he was found guilty of perjury and the original charge of homosexuality. A report was then handed to George Washington who agreed with the verdict and ordered Enslin to be dismissed and, literally, drummed out of the army. The soldiers of Valley Forge gathered to see Enslin marched out of the camp to the accompaniment of pipes and drums.

No-one knows what happened to Enslin after that. His final known act was to be the first soldier discharged from the US military for his homosexuality. He was actually very lucky, because had his trial taken place in his native Netherlands he would have been executed.

Over a century earlier another Dutch colonial was burnt at the stake for his homosexuality. His name was 37) Joost Schouten (c.1600-1644).

Next time on “80 More Gays”: We go looking for trade in Japan, reacquaint ourselves with the Dog Shogun, and return to give thanks.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Quest For A Vaccine

2020 has turned into one of those historic years. The covid-19 pandemic has changed everyone’s life, and they may never be the same in our life time. The lgbt community has some insight into the impact of a sudden appearance of a deadly virus with the effects of HIV in the 1980s. What unites both pandemics is the search for a vaccine and a possible cure. One is also helping to treat the other.

While we hope a vaccine for covid-19 will be found we turn our attention today to the search for a vaccine for HIV and AIDS, because today is World AIDS Vaccine Day, or HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.

World AIDS Vaccine Day has its origin is a speech made by President Bill Clinton on this date in 1997. He was invited to give the speech at the graduation ceremony at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Clinton’s speech wasn’t solely about the search for an AIDS vaccine. The oft-quoted line within it which launched the World AIDS Vaccine Day is: “Only a truly effective, preventative HIV vaccine can limit and eventually eliminate the threat of AIDS.” A few moments later he continued: “Today, I’m pleased to announce the National Institute of Health will establish a new AIDS vaccine research center dedicated to this crusade. And next month at the Summit of the Industrialised Nations in Denver, I will enlist other nations to join us in a worldwide effort to find a vaccine to stop one of the world’s greatest killers.”

The new vaccine research centre, based mainly in Bethesda, Maryland, was set up shortly afterwards. At the Summit of the Eight (the G7 nations and the EU) in Denver in June a communique was released promising better international co-ordination and to provide resources to accelerate vaccine research.

The history of the search for an HIV vaccine is long and full of scientific terminology that I cannot do justice to here. Instead I’ll look at a couple of research programmes. Of course, the search began long before President Clinton’s speech.

HIV is a particularly tricky virus to develop a vaccine for because there are so many strains and it evolves so quickly. The HIV DNA sequence can even change within infected human cells. Early hopes for a vaccine were frequently dashed as trials proved to be ineffective. Scientists first estimated that one would be available within 5 years, and here we are nearly 40 years later without one.

One of the earliest hopes for a vaccine came from veterinary science. In 1969 Dr. William Jarrett, Professor Veterinary Pathology at Glasgow University, discovered a virus that causes cancer in cats. He called it FeLV (feline leukemia virus).

Over in the USA in the 1980s FeLV researchers noticed that some cats exhibited wasting symptoms that were being seen in gay men who had developed a new disease. For that reason Dr. Robert Gallo of the national Cancer Institute began looking at FeLV to see if there was a link to the human cases. Gallo discovered there was a human version of the virus which he named HTLV-III (human T-lymphotropic virus-III). After further research this name was abandoned in favour of HIV. Because Dr. Jarrett had developed a FeLV vaccine Dr. Gallo believed it could lead the way in developing an HIV vaccine. Tests and trials proved unsuccessful.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) was formed in 1996, the year before President Clinton’s speech. It was set up following a meeting arranged by the Rockerfeller Foundation in 1994 in Bellagio, Italy, involved 24 of some of the leading authorities and researchers on HIV. The IAVI founder, Dr. Seth Berkley, states that vaccine research was not being funded adequately at the time. With the support of 70 organisations Berkley added his voice to President Clinton’s and was another influence on the communique from the Group of Eight Summit.

There have been many tests and trials over the years, and many different medical angles have been investigated. In 2018 I wrote about the possibility that cow cells could give scientists at IAVI a clue to finding one area of research.

Until a vaccine is developed the world must rely on prevention, treatment and drugs. Just two months ago HIV drugs began to be tested on volunteer covid-19 patients in the hope that they will ease the symptoms or even stop the virus from replicating.

With covid-19 dominating the way we love our lives at the moment lets hope that vaccines for both covid and HIV can emerge soon.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Out of His Paternal Tree: Pete Buttigieg Part 2

In March I had a look at Pete Buttigieg’s maternal ancestry. Pete’s father’s line is very different and has some unexpected ethnic origins.

Pete Buttigieg’s father was originally from Malta. His name was Dr. Joseph Anthony Buttigieg (1947-2019), and he was a Professor of English. He became a US citizen in 1979, though he was born a citizen of the British colony of Malta, and then a Maltese citizen when it gained independence. The Buttigieg family is one of the oldest of Maltese families, having an unbroken recorded male line of descent for over a thousand years.

As mentioned at the end of the article on his mother’s ancestry the name Buttigieg translates as “owner of chickens” or, but it can also be translated as “chicken on a barrel”. I mentioned a coat of arms as well last time. It’s a perfect example of a heraldic pun. Whether the original family name really was actually meant to refer to a chicken on a barrel or evolved from the similar sounding name is uncertain but it has been used by the family since medieval times. I found three variations of the coat of arms for the family, and have yet to determine with certainty which one has been inherited by Pete Buttigieg (I favour the middle one).
Among the influential members of the Buttigieg family were Anton Buttigieg (1912-1983), 2nd President of Malta, and Monsignor Michele Francesco Buttigieg (1783-1816), 1st Bishop of Gozo. Along with Pete Buttigieg they are descended from Silvestrino Buttigieg (b.c.1500).

Let’s see how far back the family can be traced. From information in the Maltese National Archives and various online genealogies I’ve found that there is a continuous father-to-son bloodline for the family that probably goes back to 850 AD.

Silvestrino Buttigieg’s great-grandfather, Ansaldinu Buttigieg (b.1390), is listed as a Nobile, a title similar to the feudal lords of the manor in medieval England. Owners of these titles held great influence in the government of the Malta for several generations.

The Buttigieg’s title of Nobile was first held by Ansaldinu’s great-great-great-grandfather Antonio bin Buttigieg. You may have noticed a slight change to the surname, the “bin”, which indicates that Antonio belonged to a Muslim family. From unverified information this brings an intriguing element into Pete Buttigieg’s ancestry, because this Antonio is said to have been the son of a prince of the Muslim Kalbid dynasty.

The Kalbids were an Arab family who settled in the Maghreb, the region in North Africa between present day Morocco and Egypt. Arabs from the Maghreb captured Malta and Sicily from the Byzantine Empire in the 9th century, and al-Hasan al-Kalbi, the founder of the Kalbid dynasty and Pete Buttigieg’s direct male ancestor, because the Emir of Sicily and Malta in 947. The throne of Sicily-Malta separated in 1053 and the last Emir of Malta, Jafar III, Pete Buttigieg’s ancestral cousin, was deposed in 1240.

The Buttigiegs descend from the junior Kalbid line down to Prince Muhammad Kalbid, Hakim (i.e. governor) of Catania. Between 1000 and 1150 different lines of Pete’s ancestral Kalbid cousins were Kings of Badajoz, Majorca and Segura, and Emirs of Messina, Agrigento and Castrogiovanni.

The Kalbids were deposed by Norman invaders from Italy, led by Roger I de Hauteville (c.1031-1101), Count of Sicily. Malta thus became a part of the county of Sicily. Many Muslim family were permitted to remain and some converted to Christianity, including some of the Kalbid princes.

Pete Buttigieg’s father is also descended from the Hauteville dynasty. The bloodline goes down into the royal family of Aragon who were subsequent conquerors of Malta and Sicily. Princess Leonor de Aragona-Sicilie (c.1346-after 1369) was the daughter of Prince Giovanni, Duke of Athens and Regent of Sicily-Malta (son of King Federigo II of Sicily). Through her Pete Buttigieg acquires the bloodline from Roger de Hauteville.

Eventually this Hauteville and Aragon bloodline merged with the Kalbid bloodline in 1664 with the marriage of Giuseppe Buttigieg and the Aragon descendant Domenica Galea.

Five generations later another Giuseppe Buttigieg married Maria Micalief, a member of one of the many other influential Maltese families in Pete’s ancestry. If we follow Maria’s line back a few generations we find several lines of descent from a Spanish soldier who arrived in Malta called Jofre Albano de Borja. If that name sounds familiar it’s because his brother was great-grandfather to the notorious Italian Borgias and Pope Alexander VI.

The Maltese Borjas changed their name to Borg, and one of Pete’s distant cousins from this family was George Borg Olivier (1911-1980), who was twice Prime Minister of Malta. With Malta being a small nation it is not surprising that a very high proportion of people on the Maltese islands are interrelated or are distant cousins, more so than in the USA where there are millions of people. So, its also no surprise to learn that as well and George Borg Olivier and Anton Buttigieg (both above-mentioned) Pete Buttigieg is related by blood to most of the Presidents, Prime Ministers and medieval rulers of Malta.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 11) Olympic Dreams

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 28) Dorothy Allison (b.1949) has won two Lambda Literary Awards, created by 29) L. Page Deacon Maccubbin, owner of the Oscar Wilde Book Shop in which 30) Ellen Broidy (b.1946) worked at around the time she was an organiser of the first New York Pride march and a member of the Radicalesbians, as was 31) Barbara Love (b.1937).

31) Barbara Love was also one of the early members of the National Organisation for Women (NOW). She was one of the campaigners for the acceptance and inclusion of lesbians and lesbian rights within NOW, which had initially been opposed by the organisation’s president. While some lesbians chose to leave NOW and form separate groups Barbara remained within the organisation.

In 1971 Barbara and her partner Sydney Abbott (another lesbian feminist activist) wrote the ground-breaking book “Sappho Was a Right-On Woman”, one of the first positive non-fiction insights into lesbianism and feminism. Several decades later Barbara wrote the equally influential book “Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975”.

As well as feminism Barbara has championed another cause in the lgbt communities – families. In 1970 Barbara, who had come out to her parents a couple of years previously, was accompanied on the first Christopher Street Freedom Day march (the first New York Pride) by her mother Lois. In the 1972 march another activist, Morty Manford, marched with his mother, as mentioned in this article. Between them the Loves and Manfords formed Parents of Gays, an organisation which evolved into PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) which has taken part in hundreds of Prides around the world.

Outside activism Barbara Love’s real passion is swimming. She began when she was 3 and went on to compete in school and state championships, winning many of them. At the age of 15 Barbara qualified for the 1952 US Olympic swimming trials in Indianapolis. She competed in the 100 metres and 400 metres freestyle events. She didn’t make it into the finals, but it qualifies her to be included in my lgbt Olympian trials file. Barbara entered the trials again in 1956 in the same events, again not making the finals.

Barbara has never stopped competitive swimming and has won many national masters titles, and around a dozen Gay Games and Outgames medals.

The 1952 swimming trials were held for the Olympic Games in Helsinki. Only one lgbt athlete is currently known to have made it to those games, 32) Marjorie Larney (b.1937).

Marjorie, like Barbara, was a teenager in 1952, and was (and still is, as far as I can tell) the youngest javelin thrower to compete at the Olympics.

One of my favourite stories from the Olympics involves Marjorie and her time in Helsinki. It begins with her visit to a sports shop in the city where she spotted a really classy javelin. The elderly shop owner encouraged her to handle it. Marjorie had been trained in the Finnish style of throwing (no, I didn’t know there was more than one way either) and the shop owner seemed pleased that this was the way Marjorie went through the throwing movements. The javelin was expensive, but the shop owner saw Marjorie’s disappointment in not being able to afford it, so he crossed out the price and let her buy it half-price.

Olympic rules stated that she couldn’t use that javelin in the competition, but Marjorie was uplifted by something that happened during the cold, rain-soaked opening ceremony. As the athletes stood in the stadium to watch the lighting of the cauldron Marjorie suddenly shrieked and stared in disbelief. The person lighting the cauldron was the elderly shop owner. He was a Finnish sporting hero, Hannes Kohlemainen, double Olympic distance running champion from 1912.

Marjorie Larney was also a feminist activist in the 1970s. She was a member of Rif-Raf Radical Writers and founded Acacia Books. But there’s also another field of activism where Marjorie made her voice heard in the 1970s – the anti-Vietnam War campaign.

One of the biggest demonstrations was the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam held across the USA. One of the people who organised the Moratorium was a gay political campaigner and anti-war activist called 33) David Mixner (b.1946).

Mixner’s involvement in the Moratorium came though his friend Sam Brown who, in turn, had been contacted by the Moratorium’s proposer, Jerome Grossman. Joined by several of Mixner’s colleagues from a political campaign of a couple of years previously the team organised the Moratorium that took place on 15th October 1969. Millions of Americans joined the demonstration, stopping work and joining marches and peaceful protests in many cities.

Later in the 1970s David became involved in a prominent campaign in California. In 1977 Proposition 6 was an initiative to make it illegal to teach homosexuality in schools or employ lgbt teachers. Harvey Milk was a member of the “No on 6” campaign and his election to the San Francisco city council helped to defeat it. Sadly, as is widely known, Harvey Milk was assassinated three weeks after Proposition 6 was defeated.

Among the other “No on 6” campaigners was someone who was also leading his own personal campaign. His name was 34) Leonard Matlovich (1943-1988).

Next time on “80 More Gays”: We don’t ask, and find out that lgbt US armed service personnel, both male and female, have been victimised because of their sexuality for several centuries.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Game of Gay Thrones 4: Lyncestis, Byzantium, Sweden and Hawaii

What began as a one-off article to mark the end of the “Game of Thrones” series has turned into a series of its own, and today I’m able to include the first women among the queer wannabe monarchs who have emerged from under the dust-sheets of history.

As before, all of the people below either claimed a throne, were nominated for a throne, or were recognised as heirs. Also, as before, I don’t include anyone who was already a monarch.

1) The Lyncestian Brothers (4th century BC): heirs to the throne of Lyncestis.
This is the first time I’ve included siblings as queer claimants. They were Heromenes, Arrhabeaus and Alexander. They were coheirs to the dynasty that ruled the little kingdom of Lyncestis in northern Greece before it was annexed to Macedonia by King Philip II of Macedonia.

The Lyncestian brothers were were involved in the assassination of King Philip II in 336 BC. Or, at least, that is what Philip’s son, Alexander the Great, believed and he wasted no time in executing all of the conspirators – except Alexander of Lyncestis. He was spared because he was the first to proclaim Alexander the Great as king.

It is believed that the brothers took part in the plot in the hope of regaining their throne. The leader of the plot didn’t have this in mind – it was about the abuse he experienced from Philip II after he had dumped him for another lover. The whole story behind it is full of twists and too long to go into today.

While there’s no written record of any of the Lyncestian brothers having a male sex partner the assumption that they did is virtually certain. They were all living in a society where princes were required to be soldiers, and their training would have included taking younger trainees as regular sex partners. I’ve written about this many time on this blog.

The last surviving brother, Alexander, became a leading military commander. However, years later he was implicated in a plot to assassinate Alexander the Great and deprived of his command and held in custody. Three years later yet another assassination plot was uncovered. Even though Alexander the Lyncestian wasn’t involved, Alexander the Great thought it best to have him removed permanently and had him executed.

2) Eleutherius of Ravenna (d.620): claimant to the Byzantine Empire.
Eleutherius was a Greek eunuch. Our modern used of this word covers several male gender types that were described in the Byzantine Empire. I’ll write about them in more detail later in the year, but for now we’ll just say that these eunuch types referred to men who were either castrated, had deformed or crushed genitals, or were intersex. We don’t know which type applied to Eleutherius.

Eleutherius was one of the court chamberlains to Emperor Heraclius. His official job title was “cubicularius”, which was only given to eunuchs. It made Eleutherius one of the most trusted and close officials in the emperor’s personal retinue.

At this time the Byzantine Empire was in conflict with the Persian Empire to the east. Taking advantage of this the western province of Ravenna in Italy revolted against its Byzantine ruler (called an exarch) in 616 and killed him. Eleutherius was despatched to quell the revolt, which he did, and he became the new exarch.

There were other rebellions in Italy which Eleutherius believed were the result of the shift towards the Persians and that the emperor wasn’t doing enough. So Eleutherius declared himself emperor in 619. He hoped that the Pope would confirm his claim, but on the way to see him in Rome Eleutherius was assassinated by his own troops who were loyal to Heraclius – they sent him Eleutherius’s severed head as a trophy.

3) Anna Eleonor Ekelöf (c.1745-after 1765): posed as Crown Prince Gustaf of Sweden.
No-one knows who Anna Eleonor Ekelöf really was. There is a Swedish noble family called Ekelöf but she doesn’t match any female in the family tree.

Virtually the only information we know about Anna comes from her trial in 1765. She claimed that she was a sea captain’s daughter and had run away from home to marry her boyfriend. Whether the boyfriend existed isn’t known; she certainly didn’t get married.

Anna went to live near the Norwegian border and assumed the identity of “Count Carl Ekeblad”. She assembled a small retinue which included a police officer’s wife to “amuse” herself with, as stated at her trial. Not long after that Anna was claiming to be Crown Prince Gustav of Sweden in disguise. She was apparently well-educated and had apparent knowledge of what the real Crown Prince looked like, as she was very similar in age and build.

At her trial Anna claimed that she only said she was the Crown Prince because she was drunk, but it was taken seriously by the authorities. Anna was firstly arrested by the Danish-Norwegian authorities, during which her true gender was revealed. This seemed to be enough for the authorities to disregard her claim and released her. However, the Swedish authorities didn’t like this imposer prince and arrested her in 1765.

Her trial revealed that Anna was a serial imposter, posing as many people over the years. Whatever the trial’s verdict Anna wasn’t around to hear it. She managed to escape from custody and hide out on a farm, again posing as the Crown Prince. With the help of a speedy horse provided by the gullible farmer Anna rode away and was never heard of again.

4) Abigail Kawānanakoa (b.1926): coheir to the throne of Hawaii.
In 2017 many news agencies reported the marriage of Abigail Kawānanakoa, a millionaire heiress, to her long-time partner Veronica Gail Worth.

There are a couple of people who are considered heir apparent to the Hawaiian throne. Abigail is the last surviving member of the family to be specifically designated as heir, though the bloodline heirs are the son of her first cousin and his children.

As a child Abigail was adopted by her grandmother, Princess Abigail Campbell Kawānanakoa with the intention of placing the young child as heir to the throne should it be restored.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Homohoax: Dreadnought

On April 1st I introduced you to Horace de Vere Cole and Adrian Stephen and their prank, the Zanzibar Hoax of 1905. Today you’ll hear about the “sequel”, the Dreadnought Hoax of 1910.

There’s so much information on the internet about the Dreadnought Hoax that it’s difficult to say anything new about it. So, instead I’ll look at how the hoax was recalled by two of its participants, the lgbt siblings Adrian Stephen (1883-1948) and Virginia Stephen (1882-1941), better known by her married name of Virginia Woolf.

First, here’s the YouTube video which describes the Dreadnought Hoax.
There are three different sources for information on the Dreadnought Hoax. Firstly, there are the newspaper reports published shortly afterwards. Secondly, there’s the account written by Adrian Stephen, “The ‘Dreadnought’ Hoax”, published in 1936. Thirdly, there’s Virginia Woolf’s talk to the Rodmell Women’s Institute in 1940, preserved in the archives of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes held in the Women’s Library at the London Metropolitan University.

As with the preceding Zanzibar Hoax it is believed that the press got hold of the Dreadnought story from Horace Cole himself. In his account Adrian Stephen was certain of this fact, though it appears he didn’t actually ask Cole if that was the case. Virginia was equally sure it was Cole.

As far as Adrian and Virginia were concerned their prank was over and done with as soon as they got home, but Horace Cole insisting on all the participants gathering together and posing for photographs the next day. Adrian and Virginia believed that these photos were just meant to be private momentos. They were both surprised to see one of those photos splashed all over the front page of the Daily Mirror a couple of days later.

Below is a reproduction of the front page of the Daily Mirror on 16th February 1910. The Daily Mirror was, and still is, one of the more sensationalist and unreliable national newspapers in the UK. It has often courted controversy for the accuracy of its content. The Dreadnought story covered three pages and it wasn’t long before other newspapers took up the story.
The Daily Mirror reminded its readers that Cole had been the ring-leader of the 1905 Zanzibar Hoax and printed the “momento” photo for which the Zanzibar hoaxers posed in costume in addition to the new Dreadnought photo. This is another reason to be sure it was Cole who gave the newspaper the story – only he and Adrian Stephen had been involved in both hoaxes and only they had both photos.

One of the most famous legacies of the Dreadnought Hoax may actually have been invented by the press. That is the phrase “bunga bunga”. Nowhere in either account by Adrian Stephen or Virginia Woolf did they ever say that they used the words “bunga bunga” at any time during the hoax. Both refer to it in relation to events that happened after the press published the story. Adrian mentions that it was first included in a newspaper interview. He supposed this was with an assistant to the costumier who supplied their Arabian costumes and make-up. It certainly wasn’t a first-hand account – he wasn’t there.

It doesn’t appear that Horace Cole ever wrote his own personal account of either the Zanzibar Hoax or the Dreadnought Hoax. He was content just to pass the story on to the press. After his death in 1936 there was renewed interest in both hoaxes, and Adrian Stephen was persuaded to write his own account. A small book was the result. But this time his sister Virginia was a well-known writer and was married to Leonard Woolf. Together Virginia and Leonard founded the Hogarth Press, and it was they who published Adrian’s book.

Adrian states clearly from the start that he doesn’t think he has the right talent to write an account, but he manages to give a very readable and engaging little book. It is presented in a straight-forward manner which supports his other claim that he lacks the imagination to exaggerate. His book was a hit. Not a best-seller but popular enough to help keep the memory of the hoax alive to be reprinted by Chatto and Windus in 1983.

Virginia Woolf, even with her reputation as an accomplished writer, never had her account published in print. Instead she decided to turn it into a talk that she gave to the Women’s Institute in Rodmell in 1940. It gives us a glimpse into Virginia’s sense of fun.

She was invited to give a talk on books and publishing. Why she chose to speak about the Dreadnought Hoax instead was a result of a BBC radio broadcast on April Fool’s Day three months earlier. Virginia began her talk by asking her audience if they had heard that broadcast also. It was a programme about Horace Cole and his practical jokes. Virginia mentioned her own involvement with the Dreadnought Hoax and proceeded to entertain the audience with her version of events.

The talk was a resounding success, and it is recalled by one attendee as leaving everyone helpless with laughter. Virginia enjoyed the reception so much that she gave the talk again a while later at the Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club, a select group of members of the literary, artistic and academic circle formed by the Stephen siblings at their home. E. M. Forster was present at that second talk and he, too, recalled being helpless with laughter.

Virginia didn’t give her talk again after that. She died the following year. Her brother Adrian died in 1948. The only known manuscript of the talk passed to Virginia’s widower, Leonard Woolf. In 1955 Dame Frances Farrer of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes wrote to Leonard to ask if he had a copy of the talk for the institute’s archives. Leonard sent his copy, requesting that it be copied and returned as it was the only one. Whether Dame Frances did return it is uncertain, because the copy that went with the Women’s Institute archives to the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University is the original, with Virginia Woolf’s hand-written notes in the margins.

The fact that there is still so much about the Dreadnought Hoax on the internet is a testimony to its outrageous audacity and its legendary status. Perhaps the Zanzibar Hoax would not be remembered outside Cambridge if it weren’t for Adrian Stephen and Virginia Woolf writing down their accounts of the Dreadnought Hoax. Without them all we would have of the Zanzibar Hoax would be newspaper reports and some private correspondence.

Even if some people have yet to learn of the either the Zanzibar or Dreadnought Hoax they may have come across its famous catchphrase, even if it wasn’t used. So, to end, the only thing left to say is “bunga bunga”!