A Very Strange Case Of Mistaken Identity

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Throughout history opposing factions, whether in politics, racial campaigns, sports competitions or even wars, have used cartoons as a medium to promote their side and to denigrate the opposition.

Nowhere was this better seen than during WWII when both sides used thousands of derogatory cartoons to depict the ‘enemy’.

But one of the most humorous incidents occurred much earlier, during the Napoleonic war between France and England.

It allegedly took place in the little town of Hartlepool on the north-east coast of England.

As part of the propaganda campaign in England during this war the enemy, the French, had been portrayed as short and hairy, sort of monkey-like. The cartoon below will give you the idea.  

Napoleonic Wars propaganda cartoon of a Frenchman
Napoleonic Wars propaganda style cartoon of a Frenchman

Also, during the Napoleonic Wars there was great fear that the French had plans to invade Britain and therefore much public concern about the possibility of French infiltrators and spies.

As a consequence the fishermen of Hartlepool kept a close watch on French vessels sailing near the English coast.

One day, as they watched, a French vessel was seen struggling against a storm. It took a severe battering in the rough seas and eventually sunk.

The Hartlepool fishermen then turned their attention to the wreckage washed ashore.

Among the wreckage lay one wet and sorrowful looking survivor. It was the ship’s pet monkey and, to amuse the sailors, it had been dressed in a military style uniform.

Stupid individuals are one thing, annoying but they can be handled. Group stupidity on the other hand is extremely dangerous. The stupidity level seems to increase by at least ten times the number of morons gathered together. I’m sure there’s a mathematical formula for this, there should be.

So, severely intellectually challenged, and thinking they had captured the enemy, the Hartlepool fishermen apparently questioned the monkey and held a beach-based trial.

Unfamiliar with what a Frenchman looked like, and unable to understand what he (the monkey) was saying (presumably “ooh ooh aah”, as opposed to “oh la la”), they came to the conclusion that this poor primate was a French spy.

They quickly sentenced the French spy (monkey) to death and the unfortunate creature was hanged, with the mast of a fishing boat (a coble) providing a convenient gallows.

A very strange case of mistaken identity indeed!

Hartlepool Fishermen Hanging Of The French Monkey Spy
Hartlepool Fishermen Hanging Of The French Monkey Spy

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