The Feast Day of Brigid, or Bride, patron saint of scholars.

1787: The first edition of the Botanical Magazine, edited by a former English apothecary, William Curtis, was published in London.

1790: The first meeting of the US Supreme Court took place.

1840: The first dental college opened in Baltimore, Maryland, US.

1880: The Stage newspaper (Stage Directory) was published in London.

1884: The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published.

1893: Thomas Alva Edison opened the first film studio. It was set up in New Jersey, US, to make films for peep-show machines.

1896: Mimi’s tiny hand was frozen for the first time as Puccini’s opera, La Bohème opened in Turin.

1910: The first 80 Labour Exchanges opened in Britain to try and find jobs for the unemployed.

1920: The North West Mounted Police (‘The Mounties’, who always get their man), became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

1924: The first British Labour Government recognized the Soviet government.

1934: Austrian Chancellor Dollfus dissolved all political parties except his own ‘Fatherland Front’.

1939: A British White Paper proposing the formation of the Home Guard (which became better known as ‘Dad’s Army’ because of the average age of the volunteers) was published.

1941: The British Air Training Corps was founded.

1942: Vidkun Quisling was made Norwegian Premier.

1958: The United Arab Republic was formed by a union with Egypt and Syria.

1965: P J Proby, the US rock singer, was banned by ABC Theatres and the BBC after he had deliberately split his trousers during his act. It had happened accidentally while playing south London the previous week. The mainly female audience and the tabloids, who claimed Proby’s act was obscene, went wild. It was the beginning of the end for this flamboyant performer who years later ended up as a shepherd on the Yorkshire Dales.

1974: Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs, who escaped from a British jail, was arrested by Brazilian police in Rio de Janeiro. He escaped extradition because he was the father of a child by his Brazilian girlfriend.

1977: The ultra-modern Pompidou Centre for arts in Paris, designed by English architect Richard Rodgers and the Italian, Renzo Piano, was opened.

1979: Ayatollah Khomeini returned from 14 years of exile in France to become the Iranian leader following the forced departure of the Shah.

1979: Liverpool gravediggers called off their strike which resulted in a long queue of coffins awaiting burial.

1979: Trevor Francis, 24, became the first £1m footballer in England, signing for Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest.

1981: Gro Harlem Bruntland became Norway’s first woman Prime Minister.

1983: British Independent Television’s breakfast time station, TV-am began broadcasting.

1989: Omiuri, the 16 ft python believed by millions of Luo tribesmen to have magical powers, died in Kenya. The subject of heated debates in the Kenyan parliament over her welfare, she was always shown to important visitors.


Candlemas Day, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when after the birth of Christ she was ritually cleansed in the Temple.

1650: Birth of Nell (Eleanor) Gwynne, former orange seller at Drury Lane Theatre, who became a comedy actress and later mistress of Charles II, by whom she had two sons.

1709: The real Robinson Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk, on whom Defoe based his famous novel, was rescued by Captain Thomas Dover, having spent five years on the uninhabited island of Mas à Tierra.

1754: Birth of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, French statesman and politician who was Napoleon’s foreign minister and later ambassador to Britain.

1801: The first parliament of Great Britain in which Ireland was represented, was assembled.

1848: The war between the US and Mexico ended after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalope Hidalgo.

1850: Birth of Jesse Boot, first Lord Trent, English chemist and philanthropist, founder of the Boots the Chemist chain.

1852: The first ‘Gents’ opened in Britain in Fleet Street, followed on 11 February with the first ‘Ladies’ at Bedford Street, off the Strand.

1878: Greece declared war on Turkey.

1901: Kaiser Wilhelm II attended the state funeral of his grandmother, Queen Victoria.

1914: Cub Scouts were formed in England, the first pack being in Sussex.

1926: Birth of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, former French President, in Koblenz, Germany, although he was educated in France. He was elected President in 1974 and was defeated by Miterrand in 1981.

1943: The German Army surrendered to the Soviets at Stalingrad.

1971: Major-General Idi Amin declared himself the absolute ruler of Uganda.

1972: A mob burned down the British Embassy in Dublin during riots over the deaths of 13 Catholics in Londonderry the previous Sunday.

1986: Women were allowed to vote for the first time in Liechtenstein.


The Feast Day of Margaret, the patron saint of pregnant women. According to legend, having been swallowed whole by a dragon, she was able to burst out of its belly.

1488: The first European to land on southern African soil, the Portuguese navigator Bartholomew Diaz came ashore at Mossel Bay on the Indian Ocean side of the Cape.

1730: The first stock exchange quotations were published in the Daily Advertiser, London.

1809: Illinois was organized as a Territory of the US. Almost nine years later, on 3 December 1818, it became a state.

1821: Birth of Elizabeth Blackwell, in Bristol, who became the first woman doctor in the US where her parents emigrated.

1830: Birth of Lord Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, statesman and British Prime Minister.

1877: ‘The Celebrated Chop Waltz’ - better known as ‘Chopsticks’ - was registered at the British Museum. Arranged as a duet and solo for pianoforte by Arthur de Lull (a pseudonym for Euphemia Alten, the music publisher’s sister who wrote it when she was 16), it has since been played on millions of pianos throughout the world.

1916: Ottawa’s parliament building was destroyed by fire.

1919: The first meeting of the League of Nations was held in Paris, with President Woodrow Wilson as chairman.

1931: A severe earthquake hit Napier and Hastings in New Zealand causing 216 deaths.

1945: The Allies used over 1,000 planes on daylight bombing raids on Berlin.

1954: The Queen visited Australia, the first reigning monarch to do so.

1957: Severe floods and high winds caused extensive damage to England’s east coast from Lincoln to Kent. Over 280 people were drowned and thousands were made homeless.

1958: The Benelux Economic Treaty was signed.

1960: Macmillan made his historic ‘The wind of change is blowing through the continent’ speech to the South African parliament in Capetown.

1966: The first controlled landing on the moon was made by the USSR unmanned spacecraft, Luna IX.

1969: Yasser Arafat was appointed leader of the PLO at the Palestinian National Congress in Cairo.

1977: Teferi Bante, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, was executed, together with six others.


The Feast Day of St Joan of Arc, patron saint of soldiers.

1740: Birth of Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kosciusko, Polish patriot who has Australia’s highest mountain named after him. It took both the Russians and Prussians to defeat and imprison him.

1861: The Confederate States of America was formed; an alliance of secessionist states which met at Montgomery, Alabama.

1897: Birth of Dr Ludwig Erhard, German statesman who directed his country’s economic recovery after the Second World War, before succeeding to the Chancellorship of the Federal Republic following Konrad Adenauer.

1902: Birth of Captain Charles Lindberg, US pioneer aviator, the first to fly solo across the Atlantic. He became an international celebrity and was in the news again, first when his baby was kidnapped and murdered, and later when he advised the Nazis on aviation matters prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

1904: The Russo-Japanese War began over the former’s occupation of Manchuria.

1906: Birth of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and anti-Nazi who took part in the failed plot to assassinate Hitler. He was later executed in Flossenberg concentration camp. His Letters and Papers from Prison (1951) was published posthumously.

1911: Rolls-Royce commissioned their famous figurehead ‘The Spirit of Ecstasy’ by Charles Sykes who used as his model Lord Montague’s mistress, Eleanor Thornton. 60 years later to the day, Rolls-Royce was declared bankrupt due to a disastrous contract to supply aero engines to Lockheed. The British government would come to its rescue.

1920: Two South African aviators took off from Brooklands, Surrey, on the first flight to Cape Town from England. The journey would take Lt Col Pierre van Ryneveld and Flight Lt C J Quinton 28 days.

1927: Malcolm Campbell reached over 174 mph in Bluebird on the Pendine Sands in Wales to set a new land speed record. A year later in 1928 at Daytona Beach, Florida, he reached 206.35 mph. Four years and one day later, in 1931, he reached a record-breaking 245 mph, again at Daytona Beach.

1928: In Munich, black US singer Josephine Baker brought protests from the Nazis, but she was only banned from further appearances a year later because of her ‘indecent behaviour’ on stage.

1938: Adolf Hitler assumed command of the German Army. Von Ribbentrop became Foreign Minister.

1948: Ceylon became independent. It would later change its name to Sri Lanka.

1962: The first colour supplement in Britain was published by The Sunday Times.

1968: The world’s largest hovercraft was launched at Cowes, Isle of Wight.

1976: The Guatemalan earthquake killed 23,000 people.

1987: Dennis Connor’s US crew won back the America’s Cup from Australia.


The Feast Day of Agatha, the patron saint of nurses and of Malta.

1781: Lord George Gordon was acquitted of treason. He had organised the ‘Gordon Riots’ over the Catholic Relief Act of 1780 which removed penalties from British Roman Catholics.

1782: Minorca was captured by the Spanish from British forces.

1788: Birth of Sir Robert Peel, the first commoner to become British Prime Minister (Conservative), although hardly from humble beginnings - his father was a cotton millionaire. Peel was the founder of the Metropolitan Police, first nicknamed ‘Peelers’, then ‘Bobbies’, after his name.

1811: The Prince of Wales was declared Prince Regent. He later became George IV.

1816: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville was first performed, in Rome.

1840: Birth of Sir Hiram Stevens, who perfected the machine gun that bore his name.

1840: Birth of Scottish veterinary surgeon, John Boyd Dunlop, inventor of the pneumatic bicycle tyre.

1900: Birth of Adlai Ewing Stevenson, US statesman and UN ambassador. His strong liberal views were once labelled ‘red’ by Senator McCarthy during the anti-communist witch-hunts.

1919: Birth of Andreas Papandreou, Greek Prime Minister who, aged 69, took an airline hostess as a companion while both in office and married. This and financial scandals cost him the 1989 elections.

1920: The RAF College at Cranwell was founded.

1935: In New York, boxing authorities ruled that no championship bout should exceed 15 rounds.

1945: US troops under the command of General MacArthur entered Manila.

1957: Bill Haley and the Comets arrived in London at the start of their British tour and received a wildly enthusiastic welcome.

1974: Patty Hearst, 19-year-old US heiress, was kidnapped from her San Francisco apartment. On the 22nd, it was revealed that she was in the hands of the Symbionese Liberation Army, an extreme left-wing group who wanted the ransom money to be used to buy food for the poor of San Francisco.

1982: The small, independent Laker Airlines, created by former British pilot Sir Freddy Laker to cut prices and make air travel more accessible, collapsed with debts of £270m.

1983: Klaus Barbie, the Nazi war criminal nicknamed ‘the Butcher of Lyons’, was flown to France to face prosecution for war crimes.

1983: Amongst old papers in Odense, Denmark, an unknown symphony by a nine-year-old Mozart was discovered.


New Zealand Day, or Waitangi Day. On this day, in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi between Britain and the Maori chiefs proclaimed British sovereignty and protection of New Zealand.

The Feast Day of Dorothy, one of the patron saints of gardeners.

1508: Maximilian I assumed the title Holy Roman Emperor.

1665: Birth of Queen Anne of Britain and Ireland, the last Stuart ruler, second daughter of James II. She bore Prince George of Denmark 17 children; 16 died in infancy, the remaining child when aged 12. Her desire for national unity led to the union of the English and Scottish parliaments (1707).

1788: Massachusetts became the 6th state of the Union, and ratified the Constitution of the United States.

1804: A locomotive converted from a steam-hammer power source, ran on a line near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, developed by Cornish engineer, Richard Trevithick.

1865: General Robert E Lee became Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate Armies.

1897: Crete proclaimed a union with Greece.

1905: Birth of Wladyslaw Gomulka, Polish Communist leader who led Poland from 1956 until 1970 when he was forced out of office because of riots over escalating food prices.

1911: Birth of Ronald Reagan, 40th US President and former film actor in mainly B-features. A one-time Liberal, he evolved into a staunch Republican Conservative. He proved to be one of the most popular presidents of modern times, serving the full two terms from 1980-89, despite the Irangate scandal.

1911: Ramsay MacDonald was elected Chairman of the British Labour Party.

1912: Birth of Eva Braun, Bavarian salesgirl who first met Hitler in the early 30s when he came into the Munich photographer’s shop in which she worked, and later became his mistress. They married the day before their suicide in the Berlin bunker (30 April 1945).

1918: The Representation of Peoples Act passed by the British Parliament received the Royal Assent, granting the vote to women over 30. Their first opportunity to use it would come at the General Election on 14 December 1918.

1919: The German airline Lufthansa was established, flying between Berlin and Weimar.

1928: A 35-year-old woman arrived in New York claiming that she was Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the Tsar, and that she had managed to survive her family massacre.

1952: Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the British throne. She and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, were on tour in Kenya when they heard the news of the death of her father, King George VI.

1958: Seven Manchester United footballers - ‘Busby’s Babes’ - were amongst the 23 killed when their plane crashed in thick snow on the runway at Munich airport during take-off. Manager Matt Busby, seriously ill, survived. The team had just won the European Cup in Belgrade.

1961: Spurs football team captain, Danny Blanchflower became the first person to say ‘no’ to Eamonn Andrews live on television’s This is Your Life when he refused to take part in the show.

1964: France and Britain again agreed to a Channel Tunnel.

1989: Sky Television’s satellite service was launched by Rupert Murdoch.


301: Edward of Caernarvon (later King Edward II) became the first Prince of Wales.

1478: Birth of Sir Thomas More, English statesman, Lord Chancellor and author of Utopia, who was executed by Henry VIII for refusing to deny Papal authority. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935.

1845: The Portland Vase, a cameo-glass Roman vase believed to date from 25 BC and to have belonged to the Emperor Augustus, was broken by William Lloyd, a drunken visitor to the British Museum. It was soon ‘rebuilt’, and reassembled again in 1949. Following the discoloration of the glue, work began yet again in 1800 when the 200 fragments were ‘dismantled’ and put back together once more, including 34 pieces which had been omitted earlier.

1863: The HMS Orpheus was wrecked on the New Zealand coast with the loss of 185 lives.

1886: While building a cottage for a prospector in the Transvaal, South Africa, an Englishman, George Walker found a clear streak of gold. On 7 October 1853, Pieter Marais had discovered a few specks of gold in the river Crocodile on the slopes of the Witwatersrand, but until Walker’s discovery no one realized that they were above the richest gold reef in the world.

1974: Grenada became independent. Eric Gairy became the first Prime Minister.

1976: Joan Bazely became the first woman football referee of an all-male match at Croydon, Surrey.

1976: Diana Thorne became the first woman jockey to win under National Hunt Rules on ‘Ben Ruler’ at Stratford.

1986: The hated Haiti dictator, ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, fled to exile in France to avoid a national uprising which began the following day, taking over £100m with him. He and his father, ‘Papa Doc’ ruthlessly ruled Haiti for over 28 years.

1989: It rained sardines over the Australian town of Ipswich, 30 miles from the Australian coast. A violent storm probably caused updraughts which took the fish from the shallow Brisbane waters into the atmosphere, scientists suggested.

1990: After 70 years of guaranteed monopoly rule, the Communist Party’s Central Committee agreed to back the amendment of Article Six of the Soviet Union’s constitution which clamed ‘full authority in government’. It was the first step towards democracy.


1725: Catherine the Great became Empress of Russia in succession to Peter the Great.

1740: The Great Frost of London, which started on Christmas Eve 1739, came to an end. In contrast, this day 1750 was unseasonally hot and London experienced an earthquake. People fled to Hyde Park until the quakes, which caused little damage, ended.

1820: Birth of William (Tecumseh) Sherman, Union general and military commander during the US Civil War who made a famous march to the sea with 65,000 men. When Grant became President he was made head of the army.

1886: A peaceful demonstration by unemployed people started in Trafalgar Square and turned into a riot with looting in Oxford Street and Pall Mall.

1910: The Boy Scouts of America movement was formally incorporated.

1924: Gee Jon, a member of a Chinese tong (gang), became the first man to be executed in a gas chamber at Nevada State Prison, Carson City.

1964: A hysterical welcome awaited the Beatles on their arrival at J F Kennedy airport in New York at the start of their first US tour.

1965: Cigarette advertisements were to be banned from British television, it was announced by Health Minister Kenneth Robinson.

1969: The world’s biggest passenger plane, the Boeing 747, made its maiden flight.

1971: At the Nuremberg International Toy Fair, a British plastics firm making educational toys was shown a board game which had been rejected by established companies. Invented by an Israeli telecommunications expert, Mordecai Meirowitz, the game, renamed ‘Mastermind’ by Invicta Plastics, would sell over 55 million sets in some 80 countries, making it the most successful new game of the 70s.

1972: The Albert Hall management cancelled a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention concert because of the ‘obscene lyrics’ of one of their songs. Fans demonstrated outside the hall.

1974: After 85 days in Skylab space station, the US astronauts Gerald Carr, Edward Gibson and William Pogue returned safely to earth.

1976: The Dutch government ordered an inquiry into allegations that Prince Bernhard, Queen Juliana’s husband, had taken bribes of around £555,000 from the US aircraft giant, Lockheed.

1983: The Derby winner Shergar was kidnapped in Ireland and a £2 million ransom was demanded. The horse was never seen again.


The Feast Day of Apollonia, patron saint of dentists and toothache sufferers.

1540: The first recorded race meeting in England was held at Roodee Fields, Chester.

1649: The funeral of King Charles I took place. He was buried at Windsor.

1773: Birth of William (Henry) Harrison, ninth US president. He was elected in 1840 and at the inaugural ceremony on 4 March 1841 he addressed the assembly in a cold drizzle, without a hat or coat. He contracted pneumonia and died a month later.

1801: The Holy Roman Empire came to an end with the signing of the Peace of Luneville between France and Austria.

1830: Explorer Charles Sturt discovered the termination of the Murray, Australia’s longest river.

1849: Rome was proclaimed a republic by Giuseppe Mazzini.

1854: Birth of Edward Carson, Anglo-Irish politician and barrister born in Dublin, who made his reputation cross-examining Oscar Wilde in 1895. As an MP, he organised opposition to Home Rule for Ireland with some 80,000 Ulster Volunteers.

1865: General Robert Lee took command of the Confederate Armies in the US Civil War.

1923: The Russian state airline, known as Aeroflot, was formed.

1926: Birth of Dr Garret Fitzgerald, Irish Prime Minister who sought to reduce tensions between the republic and Northern Ireland.

1933: The famous Oxford Union Society debate on the proposal ‘That this House will in no way fight for King and Country’ was held.

1942: Fire gutted the French liner, Normandie.

1949: Robert Mitchum was jailed in Los Angeles for two months for smoking marijuana.

1972: The British government, led by Prime Minister Heath, declared a state of emergency as a result of the miners’ strike, then in its third month.

1972: Britain and East Germany established diplomatic relations.

1981: General Wojciech Jaruzelski took over as Poland’s Prime Minister to try and squash the ‘Solidarity’ movement.

1986: Halley’s Comet made its expected return but poor weather conditions reduced opportunities to see it with the naked eye.

1988: For three months, the walls of a house in southern France echoed to an average 100 bangs from 10 pm until midnight and became a major tourist attraction. Police, geologists and Professor Yves Lignon, head of France’s only paranormal research team, were unable to trace the source, although Professor Lignon felt the noise was probably provoked by tension within the family.

1989: Polish archaeologists claimed to have unearthed the world’s oldest boomerang thought to be 23,000 years old.


The Feast Day of Scholastica, patron saint of convulsive children.

1354: Oxford University students clashed with townspeople in a three-day street battle. There were several deaths and many injuries until the students were overpowered.

1763: Following the Seven Years War, the Treaty of Paris was signed, with France ceding Canada to Britain, and on this day in 1840, Upper and Lower Canada were united.

1774: Andrew Becker demonstrated his practical diving suit in the Thames.

1824: Birth of Samuel Plimsoll, English reformer of the mercantile navy. He devised the Plimsoll Line, which acted as a regulation for the weight ships may safely carry. Rope sandals for sailors were also named after him.

1840: Queen Victoria married Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

1889: The use of the revised version of the Bible in church services was authorized by the Church of England.

1894: (Maurice) Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, who, as British Prime Minister after Eden’s resignation following the Suez crisis, claimed ‘You’ve never had it so good’ and warned South Africa that ‘the wind of change’ was blowing through the continent. He was nicknamed ‘Supermac’ by cartoonist Vicky.

1931: New Delhi became the capital of India.

1942: US bandleader and composer, Glenn Miller, was presented with the first gold disc ever, for officially selling over one million copies of ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’. (The first unofficial million-seller, achieved over many decades, was probably Caruso singing ‘On With the Motley’ from Pagliacci).

1988: Sir John Gielgud made theatrical history when, after an absence of ten years from the stage, he played the longest role ever for an actor of his age. Just weeks away from his 84th birthday he played Sydney Cockerell in The Best of Friends by Hugh Whitmore at the Apollo.

1989: Jamaican-born Tony Robinson was elected the first black Sheriff of Nottingham.


National Founding Day; Japan commemorates the Imperial House Law of 1889 which regulates the descent from the throne.

1765: English wig makers petitioned George III seeking financial relief as the male fashion of wearing wigs came to an end.

1810: Napoleon, having divorced Joséphine, married Marie-Louise of Austria.

1821: Birth of Auguste Edouard Mariette, French egyptologist who excavated the Sphinx.

1826: London University was granted a charter.

1858: Bernadette Soubirous, a young asthmatic French girl, saw a vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes.

1861: Troops suppressed a riot in Chatham, Kent, when convicts broke out of a prison.

1878: The first weekly weather report was published by the meteorological office.

1889: The Japanese constitution was granted allowing the Emperor to retain wide powers.

1899: The first motorcyclist was killed in Britain when George Morgan crashed in Exeter.

1908: Birth of Sir Vivien Fuchs, English geologist and leader of the Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition (1956-8).

1920: Birth of King Farouk of Egypt who, in 1952, was forced to abdicate.

1922: Honduras was declared an independent republic.

1929: The 109 acres of the Vatican in Rome was made an independent sovereign state by the Lateran Treaty.

1945: The Yalta Conference in the Crimea ended. The world leaders, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill had agreed to the formation of the United Nations Organization, and the division of Europe and the East when Germany and Japan were defeated.

1975: Mrs Thatcher became the first woman leader of a British political party.

1976: John Curry became the first Briton to win a gold medal for men’s figure skating.

1988: At the Winter Olympics in Calgary, English ski-jumper and plasterer Eddie Edwards, who had stayed at a mental home in Finland while training, became the surprise sensation of the Games. This bespectacled yet fearless contestant came last, but won all the headlines and the nickname ‘The Eagle’.

1990: After more than 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, the world’s most famous political prisoner, walked to freedom from a prison near Cape Town, watched by millions on television throughout the world.

1990: James ‘Buster’ Douglas, after being floored in the eighth round, got up after a controversial late count by the referee, and two rounds later knocked out the world heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson. The shock win in Tokyo was temporarily overruled because of the late count, but a few days later Douglas was declared the official victor.


1588: Birth of John Winthrop, Puritan and lawyer, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company.

1663: Birth of Cotton Mather, American writer and Puritan. He was the Congregational minister associated with the Massachusetts witch trials.

1688: The conclusion of the ‘Glorious Revolution’. James II fled with his family to France, and the Prince of Orange and Princess Mary were declared King and Queen of England, France and Ireland.

1809: Birth of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US, who tried to preserve the Union during the Civil War having proclaimed freedom for slaves in 1863. His Gettysburg Address declared that ‘all men are created equal’.

1818: Chile’s independence was proclaimed in Santiago.

1831: Rubber galoshes were first marketed by J W Goodrich, Boston.

1851: A discovery at Summerhill Creek in New South Wales, Australia, set off a gold rush.

1861: The first inter-club football match was held at Sheffield between Sheffield and Hallam. It was also the first time admission charges were made.

1887: Alexander Graham Bell’s ‘articulating’ telephone was demonstrated between Boston and Salem.

1893: Birth of Omar (Nelson) Bradley, US general and commander who led the US First Army’s invasion of France during the Second World War.

1898: Henry Lindfield of Brighton, Sussex, became the first British motorist to be killed in a car crash as a result of a steering failure, near Croydon, Surrey. Lindfield died of shock following a leg amputation.

1912: China became a republic with the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty.

1924: Howard Carter, having discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun 12 months before, lifted the lid off the sarcophagus to reveal a golden effigy of the young king. There was also a small wreath of flowers which still retained their original colours.

1954: The British Standing Advisory Committee on cancer claimed that the illness had a definite link with cigarette smoking.

1990: Dr Carmen Lawrence became the first woman Premier of an Australian state, three years after taking her seat in the Western Australian Parliament.


1668: Portugal’s independence was recognized by Spain.

1689: William III and Mary II ascended the throne and would reign as British King and Queen until 27 December 1694.

1692: The massacre of the Macdonalds at Glencoe in Scotland was carried out by English forces led by John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane.

1728: Birth of John Hunter, Scottish physiologist, surgeon and dentist who wrote a treatise on ‘Blood and Gunshot Wounds’ and made important discoveries concerning arteries.

1793: Britain, Prussia, Austria, Holland, Spain and Sardinia formed an alliance against France.

1832: The first cases of Asiatic influenza were reported at Limehouse and Rotherhithe in London.

1849: Birth of Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill, British Conservative politician who became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1886. He later resigned over policy disagreements, and a sudden illness caused serious mental disabilities, forcing him to resign his seat in 1894. He had only a year to live. He married American Jennie Jerome in 1874.

1854: Britain’s first public school for girls, the Cheltenham Ladies College, was opened.

1866: The James-Younger gang carried out their first bank robbery in Liberty, Missouri. Jesse James was just 19.

1917: Mata Hari was arrested by the French for spying.

1920: Switzerland was admitted to the League of Nations.

1943: The Nuffield Foundation was established by Lord Nuffield (William Morris, the English motor car manufacturer) and became Britain’s biggest charitable trust.

1945: 1400 RAF and 450 US Airforce planes bombed Dresden in three waves over a 14-hour period, devastating one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

1948: The Science Museum in London announced that it would return the Wright Brothers’ biplane, Kitty Hawk, the first to fly, to the Smithsonian Institution. It had been sent to England in 1928 by Orville Wright when he found that the Smithsonian had labelled another plane as the first capable of sustained flight.

1969: An announcement stated that eggs removed from a woman volunteer had been fertilized in a test tube as a result of work done at Cambridge University in collaboration with Dr P Steptoe at Oldham General Hospital.

1971: US Vice President Spiro Agnew hit three spectators with his first two shots in the Bob Hope Desert Classic golf match.

1974: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of The Cancer Ward (1968) and Nobel prize winner, was expelled from the Soviet Union following internment in labour camps.

1987: London’s property boom resulted in a 5ft 6in x 11ft broom cupboard opposite Harrods being offered for sale at £36,500 - over £600 per square foot.

1989: Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Mohammed scored the second slowest 150 in cricket history, taking 11_ hours to reach 159 not out against New Zealand at Wellington.


The Feast Day of Valentine, patron saint of lovers, probably based on a pagan holiday to honour Pan and Juno that fell on this day.

1477: Margery Brews sent a letter to John Paston in Norfolk, addressed ‘To my right welbelovyd Voluntyne’, probably the world’s first known Valentine.

1766: Birth of Thomas Robert Malthus, English economist and author of An Essay on the Principles of Population (1798), which saw famine, disease and disaster as a method of controlling the earth’s fast-growing population.

1797: The Spanish fleet were defeated off Cape St Vincent by Admiral John Jervis and Captain Horatio Nelson who subsequently became a British national hero for his part in the action.

1852: London’s famous children’s hospital in Great Ormond Street accepted its first patient, three-and-a-half-year-old Eliza Armstrong.

1893: Hawaii was annexed by the US on the 114th anniversary of Captain Cook’s death.

1894: The planet Venus became both a morning and evening star this day by rising 43 minutes before the Sun, and setting 43 minutes after it.

1895: The first night in London of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

1912: Birth of Juan Pujol Garcia, Spanish wartime double agent codenamed ‘Garbo’ by MI5 (who got him an MBE for his services) and ‘Arabel’ by the Germans (who gave him an Iron Cross). His activities saved thousands of Allied lives. He died sometime in October 1988 leaving behind one unsolved mystery. As a friend of the English traitor Blunt, was he also working for the Russians?

1912: Yuan Shi-kai became the first president of the Chinese republic.

1922: Marconi began regular broadcasting transmissions from Essex, England.

1929: ‘The St Valentine’s Day Massacre’ took place, when seven members of George ‘Bugs’ Moran’s gang were ‘rubbed out’ at 10.30 a.m. in a Chicago garage. The Al Capone gang was suspected of the killings.

1939: The German 35,000 ton battleship, Bismarck was launched.

1944: Birth of Carl Bernstein, US journalist who with Bob Woodward exposed the Watergate scandal and co-authored the award-winning All the President’s Men (1976).

1946: The Bank of England was nationalized.

1946: At the University of Pennsylvania, IBM began operating its computer using 18,000 electronic valves.

1956: Nikita Khrushchev denounced the policies of Joseph Stalin at the 20th Soviet Communist Party Conference.

1963: Harold Wilson became leader of the British Labour Party.

1984: Britain’s Torvill and Dean skated their way to a Gold at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, getting maximum points for artistic expression.

1989: The spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, condemned Salman Rushdie’s award-winning novel, The Satanic Verses as an insult to Islam and issued a fatwa (edict) calling on Muslims to kill the author for committing blasphemy. Rushdie and his family went into hiding.

1989: Skyphone, the world’s first satellite telephone service, was launched on the British Airway’s 14.00 hrs flight from London to New York. The cost of a call was from $9.50 (£5.47).


1519: Birth of Pedro Menedez de Aviles, Spanish navigator and explorer who established Florida as a Spanish colony.

1710: Birth of Louis XV, King of France who concerned himself more with his mistresses, Madame Pompadour and Madame du Barry, losing both Canada and India to the British.

1748: Birth of Jeremy Bentham, English philosopher and founder of utilitarianism who believed that the object of legislation should be to bring ‘the greatest happiness to the greatest number’. The French Republic made him a citizen in 1792.

1812: Birth of Charles Lewis Tiffany, US jeweller, founder of the famous New York shop.

1845: Birth of Elihu Root, US Secretary of State, and winner of the Nobel Peace prize in 1912 for advocating an international organization to avoid wars. The League of Nations, however, was a world war away.

1874: Birth of Sir Ernest Shackleton, British Antarctic explorer, in Ireland. He went on Scott’s original expedition in 1901-4 before leading his own in 1907, which got within a short distance of the South Pole.

1882: The first cargo of frozen meat left New Zealand bound for Britain on the SS Dunedin.

1898: The US sent their battleship Maine to Havana on a goodwill mission, but in the harbour she struck a mine and sank; it was enough to spark off the Spanish-American War.

1913: Sir Barry Jackson opened the first repertory theatre at Birmingham with Twelfth Night.

1922: The first session of the Permanent Court of International Justice in the Hague was held.

1933: An attempt by an Italian-born anarchist, Giuseppe Zangara to assassinate US President F D Roosevelt failed.

1942: The Japanese captured Singapore.

1944: Allied bombing of Monte Casino monastery began.

1945: British troops reached the Rhine.

1971: Britain went decimal. Out went old pennies and half crowns.

1974: The battle for the Golan Heights between Israeli and Syrian forces began.

1982: A violent storm off Newfoundland wrecked an oil rig killing 84 people.


1659: The first British cheque was written by Nicholas Vanacker and is now in the archives of the National Westminster Bank.

1801: Pitt (the Younger) resigned as British Prime Minister when George III rejected his plans for the emancipation of Irish Catholics.

1887: To celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, 25,000 prisoners in India were set free.

1932: The Fianna Fail party, led by Eamon de Valera, won the Irish General Election.

1937: Dr Corothers and his US research team patented nylon.

1940: In a daring night raid, a boarding party from HMS Cossack successfully rescued over 300 British prisoners from the Altmark, a 12,000 ton German tanker in Norwegian waters. The prisoners had all been taken from ships sunk by the Graf Spee.

1945: US forces captured Bataan in the Philippines.

1959: Fidel Castro, aged 30, became president of Cuba after the constitution had been amended to lower the age of qualification.

1960: The first nuclear submarine to travel around the world under the sea, the US Triton began its journey.

1983: Fires started in South Australia in temperatures over 110°F. Arson was suspected as they grew and spread, destroying homes and livestock. Over 8,500 were left homeless, 200,000 sheep were burnt to death and damage was estimated at around £500m.

1987: The trial of John Demanjanuk, a 66-year-old Ukrainian who had settled in Ohio after the Second World War, began in Israel. Allegedly ‘Ivan the Terrible’, once a guard at the Treblinka death camp, he had been extradited by the US. He claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.

1989: Dr Raymond Crockett, a Harley Street nephrologist, resigned as the director of the National Kidney Centre after revelations that kidneys had been purchased from impoverished Turks to be used in transplants for wealthy patients.


1818: Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun patented the ‘Draisine’, the forerunner of the bicycle which he exhibited in Paris that April.

1864: The US corvette Houstanic was sunk in Charleston harbour by the Confederate submarine Hunley armed with a ram torpedo. The small hand-propelled submarine was the first to use a torpedo to sink a ship and was blown up by the force.

1880: A bomb exploded in an attempt to assassinate the Tsar of Russia, Alexander II, in his Winter Palace in St Petersburg.

1883: Mr A Ashwell of Herne Hill, south London, patented Vacant/Engaged signs for toilet doors.

1929: Birth of Yasser Arafat, co-founder of al-Fatah and President of the Palestine Liberation Organization from 1969.

1938: A surprise item at the Dominion Theatre, London: the first public experimental demonstration of Baird colour television on a big 12 ft x 9 ft screen. Transmitted from Crystal Palace, the short programme consisted of fashion plates and a cartoon.

1968: One of the greatest Alpine skiers ever, Austrian Jean-Claude Killy won three Gold medals at the Winter Olympics, Grenoble.

1972: The British parliament voted to join the European Common Market.

1972: Volkswagen motor cars broke the record held by the Model T Ford by selling the 15,007,034th production model of the Beetle.

1987: A group of male Tamils stripped to their underwear at London’s Heathrow Airport in an attempt to prevent their return to Sri Lanka.


1517: Birth of Mary I, Queen of England, ‘Bloody Mary’ or ‘Mary Tudor’, daughter of Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon.

1678: Pilgrim’s Progress was published. Bunyan began it during his second term in prison for preaching on behalf of the Baptists.

1876: A direct telegraph line was established between Britain and New Zealand.

1892: Birth of Wendell Lewis Wilkie, US politician who stood against Roosevelt for President. He was against US isolationism and made many trips to Europe on behalf of the President who defeated him in 1940.

1911: Over 6,000 letters and postcards were flown five miles from Allahabad to Naini Junction in India by Henri Pecquet - the first official air mail.

1922: Birth of Sir Eric Gairy, Prime Minister of Grenada whose autocratic rule was eventually ended by a bloodless coup.

1922: Birth of Helen Gurley Brown, US magazine editor who established Cosmopolitan as a leading international journal.

1930: At Lowell Observatory in the US, Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet Pluto as a result of a series of pictures taken the previous month.

1948: After 16 years as Irish Premier, Eamon de Valera lost his office due to discontent at the economic decline of the Republic.

1988: A thoroughbred, unbeaten female racing camel was sold by a breeder in Muscat for the equivalent of £85,000.


1800: Napoleon established himself as first Consul after overthrowing the French government. It made him a dictator.

1855: Bread riots took place in Liverpool.

1878: Thomas Alva Edison patented the phonograph two months after he first demonstrated the model (7 December 1877).

1897: Considered essentially English, the Women’s Institute was actually founded this day in Ontario, Canada by Mrs Hoodless. A Mrs Watt introduced the WI to Britain during the First World War.

1906: William S Kellogg formed the Battle Creek Toasted Cornflake Company to make a breakfast cereal he had invented for patients suffering from mental disorders.

1909: President Theodore Roosevelt called for a world conference on conservation.

1914: ‘Colonel Bogey March’ was registered at the British Museum by its composers Kenneth J Alford and F J Ricketts.

1922: When Ed Wynn’s The Perfect Fool was broadcast in New York, a new sound was heard for the first time on radio - the studio audience.

1942: Japanese aircraft bombed Darwin, Australia.

1959: Cyprus’s independence was guaranteed by an agreement signed between Britain, Turkey and Greece in London.

1960: Birth of Prince Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II.

1975: The Queen knighted cricketer Gary Sobers on her visit to Barbados, the island of his birth.

1976: Iceland broke off diplomatic relations with Britain after the two countries failed to agree on limits in the ‘cod war’ fishing dispute.

1985: The first episode of the BBC soap opera, EastEnders was screened.


1653: Admiral Blake defeated the Dutch Fleet under Van Tromp off Portsmouth.

1811: Austria informed the world she was bankrupt.

1817: An event at the Drury Lane Theatre indirectly affected American history. A promising young actor, Junius Brutus Booth, played Othello to Edmund Kean’s Iago to see which of the two was the nation’s finest actor. Booth patently failed to impress and retreated to the US. Here, his sons became leading actors. The younger, John Wilkes Booth, also became Lincoln’s assassin.

1861: Violent storms hit England. Crystal Palace was damaged and the steeple was blown off Chichester cathedral.

1904: Birth of Aleksei Nikolaevich Kosygin, Russian Prime Minister from 1964, succeeding Khrushchev. He resigned two months before his death in 1980.

1938: Anthony Eden resigned as British Foreign Secretary, no longer able to support Prime Minister Baldwin’s appeasement policies.

1947: Lord Louis Mountbatten was appointed the last Viceroy of India, the same day London announced that the British would leave India by June 1948.

1962: Colonel John Glenn in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7, became the first American to orbit the earth three times before making a safe splashdown in the sea.

1971: Major General Idi Amin promoted himself to General and President of Uganda.

1982: US entrepreneur John de Lorean’s luxury sports car project in Belfast set up with over £17 million of British taxpayers’ money, went into receivership. On his return to the US he was asked bluntly, ‘Are you a con man?’

1988: Torrential rain in Rio de Janeiro caused flooding and severe damage. Over 10,000 were reported homeless and around 500 dead.


1728: Birth of Peter III, Tsar of Russia, who married the future Catherine the Great. Feeble-minded, he was soon deposed in favour of Catherine and murdered by her lover.

1764: John Wilkes MP was expelled from the House of Commons for reprinting and publishing The Essay on Women, an ‘impious libel’.

1794: Birth of Antonio López de Santa Anna, Mexican revolutionary and President, who won his country’s freedom from Spain and later led the attack on the Alamo.

1801: Birth of John Henry, Cardinal Newman, English Roman Catholic who also wrote the hymn ‘Lead kindly light’ and the poem ‘The Dream of Gerontius’, which Elgar set to music.

1858: The first electric burglar alarm was installed by Edwin T Holmes of Boston, Mass.

1885: The 555ft high George Washington Memorial obelisk was inaugurated in Washington, DC.

1916: The Battle of Verdun began. It would last until December 16th.

1924: Birth of Robert (Gabriel) Mugabe, ZANU leader and the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) after waging guerrilla warfare against the former regime.

1943: General Dwight D Eisenhower became Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in North Africa.

1947: A Woman to Remember, the first television soap opera, began in the US.

1969: A device to monitor the function of the human heart was granted a patent. The inventor was ‘Sa Majesté H, Roi du Maroc II’, King Hussan of Morocco. This was the first patent granted by the US Patents Office to a king.

1973: Israel shot down a Libyan airliner, killing 74 people for failing to land after it overflew an Israeli military airfield in the Sinai.

1975: Former US Attorney-General John Mitchell, Chief-of-Staff H R Haldeman, and domestic advisor John Erlichman were given prison sentences for trying to obstruct the course of justice in the Watergate Affair.

1988: The grave of Boadicea, the warrior queen who fought the Romans in Britain nearly 2,000 years ago, was located by archaeologists under Platform 8 at King’s Cross railway station, London. British Rail said they had just refurbished the platform and anyone wanting to dig it up would have to come up with a strong case.

1989: Two members of Winnie Mandela’s bodyguard, the so-called Mandela Football Club, were charged with the abduction, assault and murder in Soweto of 14-year-old Stompie Mocketsi.


1732: Birth of George Washington in Virginia. He became President in 1789.

1797: The French landed in Britain at Fishguard, but were soon captured and no other foreign force has managed to invade Britain since.

1819: Spain ceded Florida to the US.

1847: The Mexicans were defeated at the Battle of Buena Vista by the American forces under General Taylor.

1857: Birth of Sir Robert (Stephenson Smyth) Baden-Powell, English hero of the siege of Mafeking during the Boer War. His innovative approach to the situation kept morale high and his experiences led to the founding of the Boy Scouts. His daughter, Lady Olave St Clair Baden-Powell, Chief Guide from 1930, was born on his 32nd birthday in 1889.

1862: Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America.

1879: Frank Winfield Woolworth opened his first ‘five and ten cent’ store in Utica, New York.

1886: The Times ran the first ever classified personal column.

1932: Birth of Senator Edward Kennedy, US senator, John F Kennedy’s younger brother who lost the chance to be nominated for president first in 1972, and later in 1980 because of his involvement in the Chappaquidick island car accident in which Mary Jo Kopechne was drowned (18 July 1969).

1933: Birth of the Duchess of Kent (Katharine Worsley) wife of Edward, second Duke of Kent.

1946: Dr Selman Abraham Waksman announced his discovery of streptomycin.

1956: The first football match to be played under floodlighting in Britain took place at Portsmouth. The home side lost 2-0 to Newcastle United.


1732: Handel’s Oratorio was performed for the first time at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, London on the composer’s 47th birthday, and was the first oratorio ever performed in Britain.

1820: The Cato Street conspiracy to assassinate the British cabinet and Prime Minister Castlereagh was uncovered. It was planned by Arthur Thistlewood in a house in Cato Street, off Edgware Road, London, where he was arrested. Found guilty, he was imprisoned in the Tower (the last prisoner ever held there), before being executed with other accomplices in May.

1836: The siege of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas by the Mexican army under General Santa Anna began.

1863: Captains Speke and Grant announced the discovery of the source of the Nile.

1874: Major Walter Wingfield patented an outdoor game he called ‘Sphairistike’, later known as lawn tennis.

1989: Emile Zola was imprisoned following the publication of his ‘J’accuse!’ letter, which accused the French government of anti-Semitism and wrongly imprisoning Captain Dreyfus.

1905: The Rotary Club was founded in Chicago.

1906: Johann Hoch was executed in Chicago for murdering six of his wives. He used to advertise for ‘widows without children’, and married 13 times.

1915: French actress, Sarah Bernhardt, had her right leg amputated, but was to be back on stage by November.

1917: The February Revolution began in Russia.

1919: Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in Italy.

1920: The first regular broadcasting service in Britain started from Marconi’s studio in Chelmsford; the 30-minute programme was transmitted twice daily.

1945: The US forces raised the ‘Stars and Stripes’ on the island of Iwo Jima, only 750 flying miles from Tokyo, and within reach of the US bombers.

1981: It was announced that the heir to the British throne, Charles, Prince of Wales, would marry 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer.

1981: Lt Colonel Antonio Tejero led a group of Civil Guards into the Spanish Cortes and fired shots into the ceiling of the parliament building in an attempted right-wing coup that was witnessed on television. That evening, a tough speech on television by King Carlos helped maintain Spain’s new, fragile democracy.


303: The persecution of the Christians officially began in Rome with the issuing of an edict by Galerius Valerius Maximianus.

1582: Pope Gregory XIII announced the introduction of the new Gregorian calendar (in use to this day) which replaced the Julian calendar. It took Britain almost 200 years to follow suit, and as a result the year of its adoption, 1752, consisted of only 354 days - 11 days had to be deducted!

1885: Birth of Chester Nimitz, US admiral and commander of the Pacific Fleet during the Second World War.

1887: The first two cities to be linked by telephone were Paris and Brussels, while in 1902, the London Telephone Service invited subscribers to join their system.

1920: The National Socialist German Workers Party published its programme for the creation of the Third Reich. Their spokesman was a former Austrian postcard painter, Adolf Hitler.

1920: Lady Nancy Astor became the first woman to speak in the British Parliament. She opposed a motion for the abolition of the Liquor Control Board.

1923: The Flying Scotsman locomotive began hauling scheduled services between London and Scotland.

1932: Malcolm Campbell in Bluebird beat his own land speed record at Daytona Beach by reaching 253.96 mph.

1938: A nylon toothbrush went on sale in New Jersey, the first nylon product ever. Exactly one year later, nylon stockings would make their first appearance in US shops.

1946: Juan Perón was elected President of Argentina.

1966: Dr Kwame Nkrumah, first President of Ghana, was exiled following an army coup.

1969: The unmanned Mariner 6 was launched by the US to fly close to Mars.

1988: The first baby born from an embryo frozen after the fertilization of a donated egg was delivered at Dulwich Hospital, south London, to Mrs Ann Forrester, 37, by Caesarean section.

1989: An elephant calf was born to South Africa’s last wild elephants, staving off extinction.


1308: Edward II of England was crowned.

1570: Queen Elizabeth I was excommunicated by Pope Pius V who declared her a usurper.

1778: Birth of José de San Martin, Argentinian revolutionary who played a major role in gaining independence not only for his own country, but also for Chile and Peru.

1841: Edward John Eyre set off to explore the Great Australian Bight.

1862: ‘Greenbacks’ (green paper dollars) were introduced by Abraham Lincoln during the US Civil War.

1868: President Andrew Johnson was impeached because of his policy of reconciliation with the defeated South. He was acquitted in May.

1879: After a very large breakfast, Charles Frederick Peace, English burglar and murderer, was led to the scaffold at Armley Gaol, Leeds. Salty bacon had made him thirsty, and as the hood was placed over his head, he asked for a glass of water. He was hanged, thirst unquenched.

1888: Birth of John Foster Dulles, US diplomat and Secretary of State.

1913: Federal Income Tax was introduced in the US.

1918: Food rationing began in the southern English counties.

1922: Birth of Donald MacLean, Scottish potato expert who had the world’s largest private collection of potatoes; 367 varieties from the remotest parts of the world.

1935: Louis Lumière screened an experimental 3D film to the Académie des Sciences.

1939: The first Anderson bomb shelter was erected in Britain in a garden in Islington.

1946: The first bananas arrived in Britain following the war, but a Bridlington girl died after eating four.

1953: At an inquest, crew members admitted that a ferry which sank off Belfast, the Princess Victoria, had sailed with her giant bow doors open, drowning 128 people. The same tragedy would be repeated on 6 March 1987 outside Zeebrugge harbour when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized.

1964: Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), the 7-1 underdog, knocked out Sonny Liston in the seventh round in Miami to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.

1978: Princess Margaret and her friend, Roddy Llewellyn, left for a holiday on the romantic island of Mustique. On 10 May an announcement was made that the Princess intended to divorce Lord Snowdon after two years’ separation. A few days later, Roddy said he had no plans to marry the Princess.


1531: Severe earthquakes caused the death of 20,000 people in Lisbon, Portugal.

1797: The Bank of England issued the first £1 note.

1802: Birth of Victor (Marie) Hugo, French novelist and poet, author of Les Misérables (1862), which he wrote while in temporary exile in Guernsey.

1808: Birth of Honoré Daumier, French painter and caricaturist.

1815: Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from the island of Elba.

1839: The first Grand National Steeplechase was run at Aintree near Liverpool. The winner was ‘Lottery’ ridden by Jem Mason.

1848: The Second French Republic was proclaimed.

1852: The British troopship, Birkenhead, sank off Simon’s Bay, near Cape Town, South Africa, with the loss of 485 lives. In 1916 the French transport ship Provence II was sunk by the Germans with the loss of 930 lives.

1888: Birth of Lotte Lehmann, German soprano who was chosen by Richard Strauss to sing in Der Rosenkavalier. In 1938, she settled in the US.

1901: The leaders of the Boxer Rebellion in China, Chi-hsui and Cheng-yu, were beheaded in public. Japanese troops escorted the men to the place of execution while American, French and German troops guarded the streets.

1935: At Daventry, England, Robert Watson-Watt first demonstrated Radar (radio detection and ranging).

1936: Hitler launched the ‘people’s car’, the Volkswagen, designed by Ferdinand Porsche.

1951: From this date, with the passing of the 22nd Amendment, US presidents could serve no more than two terms of four years.

1952: Churchill told the House of Commons that Britain now had an atomic bomb which it intended to test in Australia.

1959: A State of Emergency was declared in Southern Rhodesia by Sir Edgar Whitehead to allow forces to round up African nationalists.

1979: Accused of forging old masters, painter Tom Keating’s trial at the Old Bailey was halted due to Keating’s ill health. Keating, a brilliant technician, went on to present a television series on painters and became a celebrity in his remaining years.

1980: Israel and Egypt established diplomatic relations.

1983: Irishman Pat Jennings became the first footballer to take part in 1,000 first-class matches in the English league.

1986: After rigged elections, President Marcos was finally deposed and Mrs Corazon Aquino became the new President of the Philippines. A mob ransacked the palace as Marcos and his extravagant wife Imelda fled the country.

1988: A Malaysian witch doctor, Pak Awang, 84, who specialised in love charms, married for the 80th time. Most of his marriages ended in divorce.


274: Birth of Constantine the Great, the Roman Emperor who became a Christian. At one time, there were six emperors each claiming a section of the empire. Constantine eventually became sole Emperor, granting civil rights to Christians, but being equally tolerant to paganism.

1558: Exactly one year to the day after opening the first Russian embassy in London, a trade mission from Russia reached London, bringing with it many sable skins with the teeth, ears and claws of the animals preserved.

1776: Pitt the Younger resigned his commission in the army rather than fight America.

1861: Birth of Rudolf Steiner, Austrian social philosopher and educationalist who developed techniques for teaching maladjusted children.

1881: The Battle of Majuba in South Africa ended with victory by the Boers over the British forces.

1897: Paris saw the first couple to leave their wedding in a decorated motor car.

1900: The British Labour Party was founded. Ramsay MacDonald became secretary.

1900: Kitchener’s British forces won the Battle of Paardenberg after ten bloody days outnumbering General Cronje’s civilian militia six to one.

1933: The Reichstag building (the German parliament) burned down. While a Dutchman was accused of arson, it was actually a ploy by the Nazis to suspend all civil rights and freedom of the press.

1939: General Franco’s rebel government in Spain was recognized by both Britain and France.

1939: Britain’s most haunted house, Borley Rectory, was mysteriously destroyed by fire.

1940: Paddy Ashdown, British politician and leader of the newly formed SDLP, a merger of the Social Democratic Party - excluding Dr David Owen’s SDP die-hards - and the old-established Liberal Party, previously led by David Steel.

1948: The Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia and forced President Benes to resign.

1952: The United Nations held its first session in its new building in New York.


1712: Birth of Marquis de Montcalm Gezan de Saint Véran, Commander of the French forces in Canada. He was the unsuccessful defender of Quebec against Wolfe in 1759.

1784: John Wesley signed the ‘deed of declaration’ of the Wesleyan faith.

1874: Arthur Orton, who claimed to be the long lost heir to the wealthy Tichborne estate, was found guilty of perjury after 260 days, the longest trial in England, and was sentenced to 14 years’ hard labour. The real Sir Roger Tichborne perished at sea in 1853.

1900: In the Boer War, General Buller finally managed to relieve Ladysmith, which had been besieged by Boer forces for 118 days. There were extraordinary scenes of jubilation in Britain.

1912: Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from a plane over Missouri.

1922: Princess Mary, only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, married Viscount Lascelles in London.

1931: Having left the Labour Party, Oswald Mosley formed the New Party in Britain.

1948: King George VI, the Queen, Princess Elizabeth, her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Margaret went to see Danny Kaye at the London Palladium, the first ‘non-command performance’ attended by a reigning monarch.

1966: The Cavern Club, Liverpool, where the Beatles and other pop groups began, was forced into liquidation.

1972: The French police seized 937 lbs of pure heroin at Marseilles. The operation was later immortalized in the film The French Connection.

1975: At 8.37 am in the London rush hour, a Northern Line underground train crashed through the buffers at Moorgate station and hit a solid dead-end wall, killing 41 people and seriously injuring 50. The rescue operation took three days to complete.

1976: Spain withdrew from the Spanish Sahara.

1988: A 90-year-old man was charged in Miami with the murder of his 76-year-old bride. He beat her to death with a hammer because of an argument over honeymoon plans.

1989: In London’s Covent Garden, the world’s biggest litter bin was unveiled; it was sponsored, appropriately, by fast-food operator Kentucky Fried Chicken.


Leap Year Day, which occurs every four years to make the calendar year ‘catch up’ with the solar year which actually takes only 365.242199 days.

1880: The St Gotthard tunnel linking Switzerland and Italy was completed. The rail link ran just over nine miles.

1896: Birth of Ranchhodji Morarji Desai, former Indian Prime Minister who was twice imprisoned with Mahatma Gandhi during the civil disobedience campaign. As leader of the Janata Party, he opposed Indira Gandhi in the 1977 elections which he won, but internal unrest forced him out of office in 1979.

1904: A White Paper was published which claimed that the British colonies preferred a metric system (decimalization) to the Imperial measurement system.

1908: Dutch scientists produced solid helium.

1916: The German Navy was ordered to sink any armed merchantmen on sight.

1948: The Jewish Stern Gang mined the Cairo to Haifa train killing 27 British soldiers and injuring 35.

1956: Pakistan became an Islamic republic.

1968: The discovery of the first ‘pulsar’ (pulsating radio source) was announced by Dr Jocelyn Burnell of Cambridge.

1984: The flamboyant Canadian Premier, Pierre Trudeau, resigned as leader of the Liberal Party. He had succeeded Lester Pearson in 1968.

1984: John Francome rode his 1,000th National Hunt winner at Worcester. He ended his career the following year with a record 1,138 winners.

1988: Lisa Dluchik of Swindon, England, celebrated her first birthday. She had been born in 1984. Her mother, Suzanne, was also born on this day, in 1956, so she officially celebrated her eighth birthday. The odds of a mother and daughter sharing a Leap Year birthday are two million to one.

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