Big Ben Goes Digital

The BBC's overseas news service reported that Big Ben, in order to keep up with the times, was going to be given a digital readout. The segment included people's nostalgic reminiscences about the world's most famous clock, such as anecdotes about the day it stopped and when it chimed 13 instead of 12. Finally, the service announced that the clock hands, being no longer needed, would be given away to the first four listeners to contact them. One Japanese seaman in the mid-Atlantic immediately radioed in, hoping to be among the lucky callers. However, the BBC was shocked when it then began receiving a massive volume of calls from listeners who were furious that Big Ben was going to be meddled with.

Surprisingly, few people thought it was funny,

admitted Tony Lightley of the service. The BBC had to spend several days apologizing to listeners for upsetting them.

Bearskin Helmets Need Trimming

The April 1980 issue of Soldier magazine revealed that the fur on the bearskin helmets worn by the Irish guards while on duty at Buckingham Palace keeps growing and needs to be regularly trimmed. It explained that the helmets were originally made from the skin of Russian bears, and the thickness of this skin was such that it retained

enough of the essential hormones and animal fats to sustain hair growth - in temperate climates almost indefinitely.

The Cold War had eliminated new supplies of Russian bear pelts, but thankfully the fur of Canadian Grizzly bears turned out to have the same self-regenerating properties. An accompanying photo showed Guardsmen sitting in an army barbershop having their helmets trimmed. The editors of the London Daily Express were so impressed by the story that they passed the information on to their own readers, apparently not realizing it was an April Fool.

The Danish Currency Exchange

In early 1980, the National Bank of Denmark had issued a 20-kroner banknote featuring a picture of two sparrows. Curiously, one of the sparrows appeared to be one-legged. This was the backdrop for the April first announcement in the Roskilde Tidende that all bills with one-legged birds were actually fake, but that they could be exchanged at the post office for genuine bills depicting two-legged birds. The paper showed a picture of a supposedly authentic bill - which was just a regular bill onto which the paper's cartoonist, Jan Robert Thoresen, had drawn an extra leg. Lines at post offices soon became so long, with people eager to exchange their money, that post office employees had to put notices on the doors explaining that no currency exchange was taking place. Thoresen was subsequently questioned by the police, but was let go without any charges filed.