1792: Kentucky became the 15th state of the union, and this day 1796, Tennessee became the 16th.

1831: The magnetic North Pole was located by Sir James Clark Ross on his Arctic exploration expedition with Admiral Parry.

1874: The first Pullman cars in Britain were introduced on the Midland railway on the London to Bradford route.

1910: Captain Robert Falcon Scott set off to reach the South Pole, sailing from London’s East India Dock in the Terra Nova.

1911: The first electric trolley buses in Britain began running in Leeds and Bradford.

1913: French heavyweight, Georges Carpentier, only 19, knocked out British challenger for the European title, Bombardier Billy Wells in the fourth round. Carpentier was already European welter-, middle- and light-heavyweight champion.

1927: The BBC broadcast a commentary on the Derby at Epsom.

1935: The use of L-plates for British learner drivers became compulsory.

1938: Superman made his first flight in a DC Comic, created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegal, two US college students.

1939: In Liverpool Bay, while carrying out trials, the Royal Navy submarine Thetis leaked carbon monoxide, poisoning 70 crew; four escaped through a hatch. The Admiralty were criticized for delaying the rescue operation.

1946: Television licences were first issued in Britain at a cost of £2, which included a percentage for radio services.

1953: Gordon Richards became the first jockey to be knighted. Six days later he won the Derby at his 28th attempt. On this day in 1977 and 1983, Lester Piggott won his eighth and ninth Derbys.

1957: ERNIE selected its first £1,000 premium bond winner.

1966: Bob Dylan had purist fans booing at the Royal Albert Hall when he used an electric guitar for the first time on his British tour.

1967: The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was released.

1973: Greece became a republic.

1979: Rhodesia became Zimbabwe.

1988: Prisoners inside Oregon prison began walking the exercise yard in the first sponsored walk to take place in a prison. They were raising money for organ transplants and walked 3,400 miles.

1989: Dustin Hoffman played his first Shakespearean role on stage when he opened in London as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, directed by Sir Peter Hall.


The Feast Day of Erasmus, patron saint of sailors; also known as St Elmo’s Day.

1780: Lord George Gordon led the ‘No Popery’ or ‘Gordon Riots’ in protest at the ending of penalties against Roman Catholics.

1868: The Trades Union congress was first held in Manchester. It concluded on 6 June.

1896: Guglielmo Marconi patented his broadcasting system using electromagnetic waves and, in 1924, the first radio conversation between England and Australia was relayed by Marconi’s stations in Cornwall and Sydney.

1909: The ballet Les Sylphides was performed for the first time in Paris with choreography by Fokine to music by Chopin, and the leads danced by Nijinsky and Pavlova.

1910: The Hon. C.S. Rolls became the first Briton to fly across the Channel travelling from Dover to Sangatte and back in a Short-Wright biplane. The following year on this day, the Air Navigation Act came into force to control the requirements of both pilots and machines.

1937: The first performance of Alban Berg’s opera of Wedekind’s play, Lulu, in Zurich.

1937: In London’s Regent’s Park, Robert and Edward Kennedy opened the Children’s Zoo, the first of its type in the world.

1940: Birth of King Constantine II of the Hellenes, who was deposed by a military coup in June 1973.

1953: The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the first to be televised, was watched by millions.

1954: At age 18, Lester Piggott won his first Derby on the 33-1 horse Never Say Die, the first US horse to win the Derby since Iroquois in 1881.

1962: Britain’s first legal casino opened at the Metropole, Brighton.

1964: The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) was formed in Jerusalem.

1979: Pope John Paul II returned on a visit to his homeland, Poland, becoming the first pope to visit a communist country.

1985: English football clubs were banned indefinitely from playing in Europe, following continued hooliganism by British fans abroad.

1987: Lindy Chamberlain, the mother in the Australian ‘Dingo’ murder case, was pardoned.


1665: The Duke of York defeated the Dutch Fleet off the coast of Lowestoft.

1726: Birth of James Hutton, Scottish physician and geologist who wrote Theory of the Earth in 1785, which became the basis of modern geology.

1804: Birth of Richard Cobden, English political reformer and Liberal politician who fought to repeal the Corn Laws.

1808: Birth of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. He proclaimed a form of ‘humane’ slavery and when the Confederacy surrendered at the end of the Civil War was arrested and imprisoned for two years.

1837: The Hippodrome opened in London’s Bayswater to run steeplechase horse races.

1853: Birth of Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, English Egyptologist who excavated at the pyramids and temples of Giza.

1865: Birth of George V, King of England from 1910 to 1936 who married Princess May of Teck (Queen Mary) in 1893. He ruled during the First World War and changed the family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor in 1917.

1931: The Baird Company televised the Epsom Derby, which was transmitted by the BBC.

1937: The Duke of Windsor, the former King of England, married Wallis Simpson privately in a château near Tours, France.

1946: The first ‘bikini’ bathing suit was unveiled in Paris, invented by Louis Réard, a former motor engineer. He named it after Bikini Atoll where the first peacetime atomic bomb tests were being held because he thought the two-piece bathing costume would be ‘highly explosive’.

1956: Third-class travel on British Railways came to an end.

1965: Major Edward White became the first US astronaut to walk in space. He spent 14 minutes outside Gemini 4.

1971: No Sex Please, We’re British opened in London, with Michael Crawford in the cast. When it closed, it had become the world’s longest running comedy.

1972: Sally Priesand was ordained at the Isaac M Wise Temple, Cincinatti, Ohio as the first woman rabbi.

1975: Brazilian super footballer, Pélé, signed a three-year contract with New York Cosmos for a $7m fee.

1981: The Aga Khan’s horse Shergar won the Derby by a record ten lengths.


1738: Birth of George III, King of England from 1760. There was continual friction between him and his Prime Minister, Pitt, who was highly popular with the people. During his reign he mishandled the conflict with the American colony, which led to the War of Independence. He went insane in 1811 and the Prince of Wales was appointed Regent.

1805: The first Trooping the Colour ceremony took place at the Horse Guards Parade, London.

1831: Prince Leopold became the first King of Belgium.

1867: Birth of Baron Carl (Gustav Emil) von Mannerheim, Finnish military commander. He secured the independence of Finland from Russia in 1918 just after the Revolution and became Regent; he was later elected President in 1944.

1913: At the Epsom Derby, suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse, Amner, and was seriously injured as the horse fell and rolled over her. She died on the 8th and thousands of suffragettes marched across central London at her funeral, accompanied by ten bands.

1937: The first supermarket trolleys were wheeled in an Oklahoma supermarket, one of the Standard Supermarket chain owned by Sylvan Goldman.

1940: The evacuation of Dunkirk which had begun on 27 May, was completed. Thousands of little ships captained by British yachtsman, fishermen and other civilians, under heavy German attack, picked up trapped British Expeditionary Forces soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk and returned to the English south coast with 338,226 men.

1944: Rome was liberated by the Allies.

1946: Juan Perón became President of Argentina.

1963: London’s most fashionable nightclub, Annabel’s in Berkeley Square, was opened by Mark Birley and named after his sister.

1973: The Russian supersonic airliner that looked suspiciously like Concorde and was nicknamed Concordski, exploded while performing at the Paris Airshow, killing the six crew and 27 people on the ground.

1989: Tanks rolled into Beijing’s (Peking) Tiananmen Square and soldiers fired on the thousands of unarmed students and workers who had been peacefully protesting for democratic reforms. Thousands were massacred, machine-gunned or crushed by tanks.


National Day of Denmark.

1723: Birth of Adam Smith, Scottish political economist who wrote The Wealth of Nations, baptized on this day.

1819: Birth of John Couch Adams, English mathematician and astronomer who discovered the planet Neptune on 3 July 1841.

1878: Birth of Francisco Pancho Villa, Mexican revolutionary who led one of the factions against the autocratic Porfirio Díaz, 1910-17.

1944: The Café Gondrée was the first place to be liberated from the Germans on the eve of the D-Day landings when paratroopers from the 6th Brigade dropped on the town of Benouville to seize the vital canal bridge.

1947: US Secretary of State, George Marshall, announced the Marshall Plan to help Europe recover from near-bankruptcy following the war.

1967: The Six-Day War began between Israel and her Arab neighbours Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

1968: Senator Robert Kennedy, destined to be the next president of the US, was shot by Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan, as he entered the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. He was rushed to hospital, but died the following day.

1972: The Duke of Windsor, the former Edward VIII, was buried at Frogmore, Windsor.

1975: The Suez Canal was reopened after eight years by the President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat.

1988: Lone yachtswoman Kay Cottee sailed into Sydney Harbour to a huge welcome, becoming the first woman to circumnavigate the world non-stop. It had taken her six months.

1989: In Poland, Solidarity defeated the Communists in the first free elections since the end of the Second World War.


National Day of Sweden.

1683: The first public museum, the Ashmolean, was opened by Elias Ashmole in Oxford. Exhibits included stuffed animals and a dodo, and visitors were charged for the length of stay.

1727: The first title fight took place in London between James Figg and Ned Sutton who was defeated. Figg was undisputed champion for around 15 years and made England the leading country in this sport.

1755: Birth of Nathan Hale, American revolutionary who spied on the British and was caught. Before he was hanged, he is alleged to have said, ‘I regret I have only one life to lose for my country.’

1844: George Williams founded the YMCA at 72 St Paul’s Churchyard, London.

1868: Birth of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, English naval officer and Antarctic explorer who set out on a second expedition to reach the South Pole in 1910, which turned out to be an ill-fated race to beat Amundsen.

1901: Birth of Sukarno, leader of the Indonesian independence movement who struggled to remove the Dutch from his country, suffering imprisonment then banishment before achieving his goal.

1907: Persil, the first household detergent, was marketed by Henkel et Cie of Dusseldorf.

1933: There was room for the occupants of 400 cars to watch the first drive-in movie in Camden, New Jersey when it was opened by Richard Hollingshead.

1936: Gatwick Airport opened in Surrey. Half a century later, it became Britain’s second biggest international airport, and one of the world’s busiest.

1944: D-Day: Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in the biggest land, sea and air operation ever seen, under the command of General Dwight D Eisenhower.

1949: Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s prophetic novel of a world ruled by Big Brother, was published.

1954: The Eurovision television network was launched, linking Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland and Denmark.

1966: The first Till Death Us Do Part was televised by the BBC.

1984: Indian troops stormed the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the Sikh’s holiest temple, to arrest Sikh militants who had occupied the holy place. The attack resulted in 90 soldiers and 712 extremists being killed.

1988: Three giant snapping turtles ended up inside a Bronx sewage treatment plant. Each weighed about 50 lbs and had probably been unwanted pets, flushed down the loo when quite small.


1566: Sir Thomas Gresham laid the foundation stone of the first Royal Exchange in London.

1778: Birth of George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell, English dandy who inherited a large fortune, was a leader of fashion and a friend of the Prince Regent until they quarrelled. A great gambler, Brummell also accumulated large debts and was forced to flee to Calais in 1816. He was later imprisoned for debt, and died in a charitable asylum.

1879: Birth of Knud Johan Victor Rasmussen, Danish explorer who made the longest dog-sledge journey ever recorded across the American Arctic, making a study of the Inuit tribes.

1896: Birth of Imre Nagy, Hungarian leader who led the revolt against Soviet domination of his country in 1956, for which he was executed two years later.

1905: Norway refused to recognize the Swedish king and declared its independence.

1929: The Papal State, which had not existed since 1870, was revived, and the Vatican City was established in Rome.

1929: Mrs Margaret Bondfield became the first woman cabinet minister in the Labour government as Ramsay Macdonald’s Minister of Labour.

1933: The Seven Deadly Sins was performed in Paris for the first time, choreographed by George Balanchine, with music by Kurt Weill, libretto by Bertolt Brecht and songs sung by Lotte Lenya, Weill’s wife.

1942: In the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, the US Navy sank two Japanese aircraft carriers and damaged 12 other warships.

1945: Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes was performed for the first time, at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

1950: The first episode of the BBC’s radio serial of the lives of the farming folk of Ambridge, The Archers, created by Godfrey Baseley, was broadcast.

1973: The Chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt, began a historic and emotional visit to Israel.

1977: Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee celebrations began to mark her 25 years on the throne.

1988: An ailing parrot in a southern Brazilian zoo regained its appetite after a dentist fitted it with a plastic beak. The parrot’s lower beak had split, preventing it from eating.


1652: Birth of William Dampier, English explorer who became a buccaneer after exploring part of the Australian coastline. His piracy, mainly off the South American coast, netted £200,000 worth of booty in only two voyages. His ship’s log describes what is believed to be the earliest record of a typhoon encountered by a European.

1724: Birth of John Smeaton, considered the founder of English civil engineering, who built the all-masonry Eddystone lighthouse in 1756-9 at the same time developing cement which could be used underwater.

1772: Birth of Robert Stevenson, who built Bell Rock lighthouse, the first in Scotland.

1914: the first performance outside Russia of Prince Igor by Borodin was sung by the great Chaliapin in London.

1925: Noel Coward’s comedy Hay Fever opened, making three Coward plays running simultaneously in London. The Vortex had opened earlier this year, followed by Fallen Angels with the playwright in the lead.

1926: Dame Nellie Melba gave her farewell performance at Covent Garden. The audience, which included the Royal family, heard the 65-year-old diva sing a selection of her favourite arias.

1942: Japanese bombers made Australia their target, attacking Sydney and Newcastle.

1968: James Earl Ray, wanted for the murder of Martin Luther King, was arrested in London travelling under an assumed name with a Canadian passport.

1969: Spain closed the frontier with Gibraltar hoping to cripple its economy following Britain’s refusal to hand over the colony to Spain.

1978: Naomi James completed her round-the-world voyage, sailing solo, beating the record held by Sir Francis Chichester by two days.

1985: Barry McGuigan won the WBA featherweight title when he beat Panama’s Eusébio Pedroza.

1988: Japan’s Nippon Airways said that it had cut midair collisions with birds by 20 percent by painting huge eyeballs on its jet engines.

1988: The East German authorities said that an 11-year-old dog belonging to Brigitte Bornschein, who had defected to West Germany earlier in this year, would not be allowed to join her.


1549: The Church of England adopted The Book of Common Prayer compiled by Thomas Cranmer.

1672: Birth of Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia from 1689, who visited Holland and England before reorganizing Russia along western lines, building a fleet and restructuring the legal and education systems.

1836: Birth of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, English physician who was refused admission to medical schools, so studied privately and was licensed to practise in 1865. She created a medical school for women which became the New Hospital for Women, later named the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. She also became the first woman mayor of Aldeburgh.

1898: Britain took a 99-year lease on Hong Kong from China.

1899: In the 11th round, James Jackson Jeffries, US heavyweight boxing champion, knocked out Britain’s Bob Fitzsimmons to become the world heavyweight champion, a title he would safely defend until his retirement in 1905.

1902: The first automat opened in the US, in Philadelphia.

1908: King Edward VII visited Tsar Nicholas II. The controversial meeting on board the Royal yacht, anchored in the Baltic Sea, was the first between a Russian tsar and a British monarch. But the British parliament was divided, with the less enthusiastic claiming that the Tsar was a murderer and a persecutor of the Jews.

1913: Patrick Christopher Steptoe, English obstetrician and gynaecologist who faced enormous ethical problems and much criticism pioneering ‘test-tube’ babies as a way of overcoming infertility.

1933: Baird demonstrated high definition television at his Long Acre studio in London, showing the difference between the previous 30-line picture and the new 120-line tubes.

1953: Randolf Turpin, British boxing champion, won the world middleweight crown when he beat Charles Hunez of France on points at White City.

1959: The US launched the George Washington, first nuclear submarine equipped with Polaris missiles.

1975: A live broadcast from the House of Commons was relayed by both the BBC and LBC (London Broadcasting).


Time Observance Day in Japan, when people are supposed to be especially punctual.

1692: The first of 19 people - 14 women and five men - were hanged at Salem at the end of the hysterical witch-hunt trials conducted by Judge Jonathan Corwin. One other accused person was crushed to death under weights for refusing to plead.

1793: The first public zoo, the Jardin des Plantes, opened in Paris.

1829: The first Oxford and Cambridge boat race took place from Hambledon Lock to Henley Bridge, a distance of 2_ miles, and was won by Oxford.

1844: Birth of Carl Hagenbeck, German animal dealer and trainer who demonstrated that it was possible to control wild animals by kindness, not fear, and that they had surprising intelligence. He also created an open air zoo near Hamburg which was the prototype for the safari parks of the future.

1865: The first performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde took place in Munich.

1909: The Cunard liner SS Slavonia sent out the first SOS signal when she was wrecked off the Azores. The signals were picked up by vessels close by who took part in the rescue operation.

1921: Birth of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

1923: Birth of Robert (Ian) Maxwell, chairman of the Mirror Group, who was born in Czechoslovakia. He was also a Labour Member of Parliament (1964-70).

1931: Toscanini was allowed to leave Italy with his wife after his passport had been confiscated and they had both been attacked in Bologna because of his refusal to conduct the Fascist anthem at a concert. Two years later he again refused to conduct, this time at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival, in protest against the Nazis.

1943: Laszlo Biró, a Hungarian hypnotist, sculptor and journalist, patented his ballpoint pen, which he first devised in 1938.

1948: The first heart operations to unblock valves were carried out on three female patients aged between 11 and 23, called ‘blue babies’ because of the lack of oxygen in their blood which turned them that colour from birth. The surgeon who carried out the successful operations was Mr R C Broch at Guy’s Hospital, London.

1965: A BEA (now BA) de Havilland jet airliner from Paris made the first automatic landing (relying entirely on instruments) at Heathrow.

1967: The Six-Day War ended when Israel agreed to observe the UN ceasefire.

1983: Mrs Thatcher won her second term as British Prime Minister.

1985: Claus von Bulow was found not guilty at the end of his second trial of murdering his millionaire wife, ‘Sunny’, by injecting her with an overdose of insulin. But the battle for her $75 million fortune continued.

1986: Bob Geldof, an Irish citizen, and John Paul Getty II, a US citizen, were made honorary knights by the Queen.

1989: The body of France’s celebrated thief, Albert Spangiari who led 20 men through the sewers of Nice to steal £5 million from a bank in 1976, was secretly delivered to his mother’s house. He had been in hiding and apparently died from natural causes.


1509: Henry VIII married for the first time. Catherine of Aragon proved a good wife and queen until Henry’s desire for a male successor led to divorce.

1727: Following the death of George I on 10 June 1727, his son George II acceded to the throne.

1895: Birth of Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bulganin, Russian Premier from 1955-8 and former secret service officer.

1903: Harry Vardon, the Jersey-born golfer, won his fourth Open golf championship at Prestwick.

1940: Mussolini declared war on the Allies.

1952: Denis Compton hit his 100th century, and on this day in 1953 Len Hutton became the first professional to captain England.

1955: Three cars travelling at 150 mph crashed and ploughed into spectators at Le Mans, killing 80 people and injuring over 100 in the worst accident in motor racing history. The race was not stopped and Britain’s Mike Hawthorn was declared the winner.

1977: Dutch marines stormed a train at Assen where South Moluccan terrorists had held 55 hostages for 20 days. Six terrorists were killed and two hostages died in the action that followed.

1981: The musical Barnum opened at the London Palladium, starring Michael Crawford who personally performed all the stunts and acrobatics and was insured for £3 million.


1458: Magdalen College, Oxford, was founded.

1667: Jean-Baptiste Denys of Montpellier University and personal physician to Louis XIV carried out a successful blood transfusion using sheep’s blood. The patient was a 15-year-old boy. Although claimed as the first successful transfusion, the Incas practised successful blood transfusions much earlier than European doctors.

1839: Abner Doubleday invented baseball at Cooperstown, New York.

1897: Birth of (Robert) Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, who was British Prime Minister, 1955-7. At the time of the Suez crisis, he sent in British troops ahead of the Israeli invasion. The bitter controversy that this stirred up internationally, and the failing health of a man considered one of the ablest statesmen in the world, led to his resignation.

1922: Leigh Mallory and two British climbers reached a height of 25,800 feet up Everest without the aid of oxygen; the highest point ever achieved. Two years later, this same month, Mallory made another attempt with Andrew Irvine. Less than 1,000 feet from the summit, they were trapped by bad weather and were never seen again.

1924: Birth of George Bush, who became US President in 1989. He was Vice-President to Ronald Reagan. Dubbed a ‘wimp’, he finally produced a gutsy campaign to beat Michael Dukakis for the White House.

1930: Germany’s Max Schmeling became the first heavyweight boxer to win the world title as a result of a disqualification. Jack Sharkey of the US was disqualified in the fourth round for a foul.

1978: David Berkowitz, the New York killer called ‘Son of Sam’, was given life imprisonment for each of the six people he killed.

1979: A man-powered aircraft was ‘pedalled’ across the Channel by Bryan Allen from the US to claim the £100,000 prize.

1987: Princess Anne was made Princess Royal, the title awarded to the monarch’s eldest daughter.

1987: Mrs Thatcher started her third term as Prime Minister.


1381: Wat Tyler led the first popular rebellion in English history called the Peasants’ Revolt.

1842: Queen Victoria travelled by train for the first time, from Slough (near Windsor Castle) to Paddington, accompanied by Prince Albert. A special coach had been built earlier, but the Queen had been reluctant to try this new form of travel. On her first journey, the engine driver was assisted by the great civil engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

1893: The first Women’s Golf Championship, held at Royal Lytham, was won by Lady Margaret Scott.

1900: The Boxer Rebellion began in China to end the domination and exploitation of the country by foreigners. The Boxers were a secret society, originally formed to promote boxing.

1910: Birth of Mary Whitehouse, English co-founder of ‘Clean up TV campaign’ and Honorary General Secretary of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association.

1944: The first V-1 flying bomb landed in England. Hitler’s ‘secret weapon’ hit a house in Southampton, killing three people.

1951: Princess Elizabeth laid the foundation stone on London’s South Bank of the National Theatre.

1956: The first European Cup was won by Real Madrid in Paris when they beat Stade de Reims 4-3.

1988: The first Miss Moscow was Mariya Kalinina who won amidst much controversy. Prizes included a television set, publicity contracts and a Mediterranean cruise.


1645: Cromwell’s Parliamentarians (Roundheads) defeated the Royalists (Cavaliers) under Prince Rupert, defeating King Charles I, at the Battle of Naseby, Northamptonshire.

1755: Dr Johnson’s Dictionary went on sale, priced £4/10s for both volumes.

1777: The US Congress adopted the ‘Stars and Stripes’ as the official flag.

1800: The Battle of Marengo, in northwest Italy, ended with Napoleon and the French army crushing the Austrians during the French Revolutionary Wars.

1839: The first Henley Regatta was held. The annual event has since become an international festival for rowers and imbibers of Pimms No. 1.

1917: The first German bombs dropped by airplanes as opposed to Zeppelins killed over 100 and injured 400 people in London’s East End.

1919: At 14.13 GMT, Captain John Alcock and Lt Arthur Whitten-Brown took off from Newfoundland on the first non-stop transatlantic flight to Galway, Ireland, in a Vickers Vimy. They landed safely 16_ hours later, on the 15th.

1928: Birth of Che Guevara (Ernesto Guevara de la Serna), legendary Cuban revolutionary born in Argentina. He joined Fidel Castro’s revolutionary forces in 1956, but in 1966 he suddenly appeared in Bolivia after vanishing for a year. It was here, while training and fighting with guerrillas, that he was captured and executed.

1940: German troops entered Paris and the Swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower. Eight days later, on the 22nd, the armistice was signed and the Vichy government was set up.

1964: Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Robben Island, seven miles off Cape Town, sparking off international protests.

1982: The Argentinean troops on the Falkland Islands surrendered when General Menendez agreed to an armistice.

1988: Hot-air balloonists flying over Stockholm Zoo startled a bear cub, which fell from its tree perch and died. Authorities said they would ban further flights.

1988: In New Jersey, students in a school were kept in an extra 45 minutes by a six-foot black bear that had wandered into the playground. They kept it at bay by tossing out peanut butter sandwiches until the game warden arrived to take him away.


1215: The Magna Carta was sealed by King John at Runnymede, near Windsor.

1330: Birth of Edward the Black Prince, eldest son of Edward III, who got his popular title because he wore black armour in battle. He married his cousin Joan, ‘The Fair Maid of Kent’, who gave him two sons, one of whom was the future Richard III.

1752: Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with a metal frame during a storm as part of his experiments with electricity, to prove lightning is attracted to metal.

1825: The foundation stone of the New London Bridge was laid by ‘the grand old’ Duke of York. It now spans an artificial lake in Arizona.

1836: Arkansas became the 25th state of the Union.

1844: Charles Goodyear patented his vulcanized rubber process in the US, which made possible the commercial use of rubber.

1846: The 49th parallel was established as the border between Canada and the USA.

1860: Florence Nightingale started her School for Nurses as St Thomas’s Hospital, London.

1883: Germany’s prince and chancellor, Bismarck, instituted the first Health Insurance Act.

1887: Carlisle D Graham shot Niagara Falls in a barrel for the second time, and survived.

1913: Birth of Father Trevor Huddleston, English president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, chairman of International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, and author of Nought for Your Comfort (1956).

1937: The first performance of Checkmate, the ballet by Ninette de Valois with music by Arthur Bliss, was staged by the Vic-Wells Ballet (later renamed the Sadler’s Wells Ballet) in Paris.

1970: Olivier was made a Life Peer, the first actor to be thus honoured.

1977: Adolfo Suarez won the first democratic elections in Spain for 41 years.


1794: The first stone was laid of the world’s biggest grain windmill in Holland. Known as ‘De Walvisch’ (the whale), it is still in existence.

1858: Birth of Gustav V, king of Sweden from 1907 to 1950, the longest reign in Sweden’s history. A popular king, he managed to keep his country neutral during two world wars.

1880: The distinctive Salvation Army ladies’ bonnets were worn for the first time when they marched in procession in Hackney in London’s East End.

1903: Henry Ford formed his motor manufacturing company. He retained 25 per cent of the shares and was made Vice-President and Chief Engineer. On the same day, a company just one year old registered its trade name, Pepsi-Cola.

1904: The entire novel Ulysses by James Joyce takes place on this day, now known and celebrated in Dublin, where the novel is set, as Bloomsday, after the leading character, Leopold Bloom.

1929: Bentleys took the first four places at the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race.

1935: Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ was passed by the US Congress to start a recovery programme to beat the Depression.

1948: Chinese bandits hijacked a Cathay Airways Catalina flying boat; the captain, experiencing the first hijacking of an aircraft ever, refused to take their orders. There was gunfire and the plane crashed, killing all but the bandit leader.

1958: Yellow ‘No Waiting’ lines were introduced to British streets.

1961: Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West while at Le Bourget Airport, Paris, as the Kirov Ballet prepared to fly to London on the next stop of their tour.

1963: Valentina Tereshkova in Vostok 6 became the first woman to travel in space. She made 48 orbits of the earth before returning safely to land.

1972: German police captured the last member of the notorious Baader-Meinhof ‘Red Army Faction’ when they arrested Ulrike Meinhof in Hanover.

1976: The people of the huge black township of Soweto near Johannesburg rebelled against the enforced teaching of Afrikaans in their schools. Over 1,000 people died before security forces crushed the uprising. It has now become Soweto Day for blacks in South Africa.

1978: The electronic ‘Space Invaders’ game was demonstrated by Taito Corporation of Tokyo.


1239: Birth of Edward I, King of England (1272-1307) who invaded Wales in 1277 and ended the autonomy of the principality. He was less successful with Scotland where there was unrest and rebellion.

1579: Sir Francis Drake anchored the Golden Hind just north of what would one day be San Francisco Bay, and named the area New Albion.

1703: Birth of John Wesley, English evangelist who initiated the Methodist societies and brought about an evangelical revival not only in England, but also in North America.

1775: The Battle of Bunker Hill took place, one of the earliest battles of the US War of Independence during the Siege of Boston. Although the British eventually took the hill, the resistance displayed by the American ‘rebels’ had a marked effect on the war.

1823: Charles Mackintosh patented the waterproof cloth he was to use in making raincoats.

1867: Joseph Lister amputated a cancerous breast from his sister Isabella using carbolic acid as an antiseptic. The operation in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary was the first under antiseptic conditions.

1929: Hitchcock’s Blackmail was premiered at the Royal, Marble Arch, London. The first reel was shot before the studio was equipped for sound, and has only sound effects and music; the dialogue begins in reel two, although the leading lady, Czech actress Anny Oudra, spoke little English and her voice was dubbed by Joan Barry.

1944: Iceland became an independent republic.

1950: In Chicago, the first kidney transplant was carried out on a woman patient by surgeon Mr R H Lawler.

1970: Edwin Land patented his Polaroid camera.

1972: Five men were arrested at the Watergate complex in Washington attempting to bug the Democratic National Committee offices.

1982: Following the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi, its head, who had links with the Vatican Bank and the unofficial P2 Masonic lodge, was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, London. It was suicide, the court decided. It seemed to others a long way to come to hang oneself.

1988: Dennis Loban, a reggae poet and street vendor, was found guilty of the murder of reggae star Peter Tosh in Kingston, Jamaica. He was sentenced to hang.

1989: France celebrated the 100th birthday of the much-loved Eiffel Tower, the symbol of Paris which a century before had had critics claiming it was ugly, unsafe or both.


1583: The first Life Insurance policy was sold (according to records in London), and it was also the first to be disputed by the insurance company who refused to pay out on the death of the insured, but the court ruled against and payment was eventually made.

1769: Birth of Viscount Castlereagh, 2nd Marquis of Londonderry, a British statesman born in Ireland who, as foreign secretary to Lord Liverpool, organized the coalition against Napoleon; Europe enjoyed 40 years of peace due to his efforts.

1815: The combined forces led by Wellington and Blucher defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Two years later, on the anniversary of the famous battle, London’s Waterloo Bridge was opened.

1884: Birth of Edouard Daladier, three times French Premier, each for a short term.

1928: Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly the Atlantic when she and her two male companions landed safely in Wales.

1963: Henry Cooper floored Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) in round four at Wembley Stadium, London, but by the sixth, with Cooper badly cut, the fight was stopped and Clay remained world heavyweight boxing champion.

1975: The first North Sea oil came ashore from a Liberian tanker which berthed at BP’s Isle of Grain refinery.

1979: President Carter and USSR’s Brezhnev signed the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) in Vienna.


1556: Birth of James I, King of England and Scotland, son of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, who was proclaimed king in 1567 when his mother was forced to abdicate.

1623: Birth of Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and philosopher who invented the first calculating machines. Other research led to the invention of the syringe and hydraulic press and with it, Pascal’s law of pressure.

1829: Sir Robert Peel established the London Metropolitan Police by an Act of Parliament passed this day.

1846: The first official game of baseball was played at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, New Jersey by the New York Nine and the Knickerbocker Club.

1861: Birth of Douglas, 1st Earl Haig, British field marshal, born in Scotland, who during the First World War took charge of the army on the western front succeeding Sir John French. His war of attrition led to eventual victory, but at a terrible price. After the war, he devoted himself to the care of ex-Servicemen.

1896: Birth of Bessie Wallis Warfield, Duchess of Windsor, born in the US where she first married a naval officer in 1916. She married Ernest Simpson, a US-born Englishman in 1928. They mixed in high society and in 1936 she met the Prince of Wales. She divorced Simpson that same year, and when Edward, now king, told Prime Minister Baldwin he intended marrying a twice-divorced woman, he met fierce government opposition. They eventually settled in Paris in a luxurious exile; the king who abdicated, the queen who never was.

1910: Father’s Day was instituted in the US by Mrs John Bruce Dodd of Spokane, Washington.

1917: Birth of Joshua Nkomo, Zimbabwean politician, leader of ZAPU, who served in Mugabe’s cabinet despite their fierce rivalry.

1953: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg went to the electric chair in Sing Sing at 8 pm, guilty of spying for the USSR. They were the first married couple to be executed for espionage in the US. Demonstrations took place in the US and Europe to protest at the sentence of death during peacetime.

1957: ITV began screening The Army Game with Alfie Bass and Bill Fraser.

1960: Daimler was acquired by Jaguar Motors.

1970: Soyuz 9 landed safely after a record 17 days in space.


1756: The 146 captured defenders of Calcutta, all from the East India Company’s garrison, were imprisoned by the Nawab of Bengal in the Company’s lock-up for petty offenders known as the Black Hole. Only 23 survived.

1819: The paddle-wheel steamship Savannah arrived at Liverpool after a voyage lasting 27 days 11 hours, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic.

1837: Queen Victoria, just 18 years old, ascended the throne following the death of her uncle, William IV.

1887: On Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Buffalo Bill Cody staged a Royal Command performance of his famous Wild West Show and four European kings attending boarded the original Deadwood coach driven by Cody.

1887: Britain’s longest railway bridge over the River Tay was opened. The first bridge had collapsed in 1879 while the Edinburgh to Dundee train was crossing, killing over 90 people.

1949: ‘Gorgeous Gussie’ Moran, US tennis player, caused a sensation at Wimbledon wearing lace-trimmed panties under her short skirt, designed by Teddy Tinling.

1960: Halfway through the fifth round, Floyd Patterson of the US floored Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson to become the first boxer to regain a world heavyweight title.

1963: The White House and the Kremlin agreed to set up the ‘hot line’.

1966: Mohamet Yusuf Daar, formerly of Kenya, became PC 492 in Coventry, the first black policeman in Britain.

1969: The discovery of high-grade crude oil deposits in the North Sea was announced, ten years after the first natural gas was found.

1987: The All Blacks won Rugby’s first World Cup when they beat France.


1002: Birth of Leo IX, the pope who brought the conflict between Rome and the eastern Church to a head in 1054, ending with the Patriarch of Constantinople being excommunicated and the creation of the Schism.

1675: Work began to rebuild St Paul’s Cathedral in London by Sir Christopher Wren, replacing the old building which had been destroyed by the Great fire.

1788: The US Constitution came into force on the same day as New Hampshire became the ninth state of the Union.

1843: The Royal College of Surgeons was founded from the original Barber-Surgeons Company.

1854: The first VC was awarded to Charles Lucas, an Irishman and mate aboard the HMS Hecla for conspicuous gallantry at Bomarsrund in the Baltic. The medal was made from metal from a cannon captured at Sebastopol.

1868: The first performance of Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger took place in Munich.

1876: The first gorilla arrived in Britain.

1884: Birth of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, British general who revived the flagging Eighth Army to go back on the offensive against the German army under Rommel in the Middle East, but who was later replaced. History has reassessed his skills and judgement.

1919: German sailors scuttled 72 warships at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys even though Germany had surrendered. It was the greatest act of self-destruction in modern military history.

1937: Wimbledon was televised for the first time.

1942: Tobruk fell to Rommel with the capture of 25,000 Allied troops.

1948: The first successfully produced microgroove (long-playing) records were unveiled by Dr Peter Goldmark of Columbia Records.

1953: Birth of Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, elected in 1988 after the military regime had agreed to free elections following the death of President Zhia.

1970: Tony Jacklin became the first British golfer to win the US Open for 50 years, and with his British Open victory eleven months earlier, he became only the third golfer to accomplish this double within a 12-month period.

1975: Captained by Clive Lloyd, West Indies won the first World Cup Cricket series, beating Australia by 17 runs at Lords.

1978: The Lloyd Webber/Rice musical Evita, starring Elaine Paige, opened at the Prince Edward Theatre, London.

1982: Birth of Prince William, eldest son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

1988: The youngest person to bite a snake to death? An 18-month-old Bangladeshi boy is reported to have done just this.


1377: Richard II ascended the English throne following the death of his grandfather, Edward III, the previous day.

1611: Henry Hudson, English navigator, with his son and seven others was set adrift in a small boat in arctic conditions in the bay that later bore his name, after the crew mutinied. It was the last time they were seen alive.

1757: Birth of George Vancouver, explorer who carried out surveys of North America and after whom Vancouver Island and Vancouver, British Columbia are named.

1805: Birth of Giuseppe Mazzini, Italian thinker and writer who worked passionately for Italian unity only to find that it resulted in a kingdom instead of a republic.

1814: The first match at the new Lord’s cricket ground was played between the MCC and Hertfordshire.

1921: King George V opened the Northern Ireland Parliament; pleading for peace and reconciliation.

1937: ‘The Brown Bomber’, Joe Louis, became world heavyweight champion when he knocked out James J Braddock in the eighth round in Chicago. Exactly one year later, he avenged a previous defeat before becoming champion, by knocking out Germany’s Max Schmeling in the first round.

1984: The first Virgin Atlantic flight left Gatwick for New York, with tickets priced £99.


1757: British troops under Clive overthrew the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Passey, which made him the virtual ruler of Bengal and prepared the way for the British Empire in India.

1763: Birth of Empress Joséphine, on the island of Martinique, as Marie Rose Joseph Tascher de la Pagerie, who married Napoleon two years after her first husband, Beauharnais, was guillotined during the French Revolution. The childless marriage was dissolved on 16 December 1809, but she was allowed to retain the title Empress.

1848: Adolphe Sax was awarded a patent for the saxophone.

1894: Birth of Edward, Duke of Windsor who became King Edward VIII from 20 January to 10 December 1936 before abdicating to marry twice-divorced Mrs Wallis Warfield Simpson.

1912: Birth of Alan (Mathison) Turing, English mathematician, logician and computer pioneer. During the Second World War he served in the Code and Cypher School and was responsible for cracking German codes.

1956: General Nasser became the first President of Egypt in an unopposed election.

1980: Sanjay Gandhi, son of the Indian Prime Minister and ‘heir apparent’, was killed while performing aerobatics in a light plane which went out of control and crashed.

1985: Sikh terrorists planted a bomb in an Air India Boeing 747 from Canada which exploded over the sea 120 miles off Ireland, killing 325 people.

1987: The US Supreme Court backed the use of hypnosis to obtain testimony. The first to be affected was Mrs Vickie Lorene Rock who had shot her husband when he tried to prevent her leaving the house to buy a hamburger. Under hypnosis, she said her finger was not on the trigger and that the gun went off accidentally. The judge was unimpressed. He said hypnosis was unreliable, but the Supreme Court overruled him.


1314: Robert the Bruce defeated the English troops under Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn.

1509: Henry VIII’s coronation took place.

1717: The Grand Lodge of English Freemasons was formed in London.

1850: Birth of Horatio Herbert, Earl Kitchener, British field marshal, born in County Kerry. He achieved notable victories in foreign parts fighting for the Empire, and was Secretary of State for War at the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, mounting a major recruitment campaign and appearing on posters to exhort, ‘Your country needs you!’

1859: Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman travelling through Italy, saw the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino and was inspired to found the International Red Cross.

1901: Picasso’s first Paris Exhibition had critics predicting a bright future for the young artist.

1948: The Berlin Airlift began when the USSR blockaded Berlin, requiring the Allies to fly in food and other essential supplies.

1953: Jacqueline Bouvier announced her engagement to John F Kennedy, US senator.

1973: Eamon de Valera resigned as Ireland’s President, aged 90, the world’s oldest statesman.

1983: The first US spacewoman, Sally Ride, joined four other crew members aboard Challenger for the launch.


1788: Virginia became the tenth US state.

1797: At 2 pm during the battle off Santa Cruz, Admiral Nelson was wounded in the right arm by grapeshot and had it amputated that afternoon.

1867: Barbed wire was patented by Lucien B Smith of Kent, Ohio.

1876: Custer’s last stand took place at Little Bighorn, Montana. The Sioux Indians, led by Chief Crazy Horse, killed Colonel George Armstrong Custer and all 264 soldiers of his 7th US Cavalry. Whether Custer was a hero or a glory-seeker, his failure to wait for the arrival of General Terry’s men to attack the Sioux led to the disaster for his men.

1870: Birth of Robert Erskine Childers, Irish author and nationalist who resigned as a clerk in the House of Commons to promote Irish Home Rule. He was elected as a Sinn Fein member to the Dail (Irish assembly) and joined the IRA which eventually led to his arrest and execution for being in possession of unauthorized weapons. He was also the author of the spy novel, The Riddle of the Sands (1903).

1900: Birth of Louis (Francis Albert Victor), 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma who was Commander-in-Chief for the Royal Navy in South East Asia during the Second World War, and later Viceroy of India during the transfer of power from Britain to that country.

1903: Marie Curie presented her thesis at the University of Paris announcing the discovery of radium.

1932: India played their first test against England at Lords which they lost by 158 runs.

1950: North Korea invaded South Korea, crossing the 38th parallel border. The US and other allies, including Australia, said they would come to the aid of the non-communist south.

1953: John Reginald Halliday Christie was sentenced to death for the murder of four women, including his wife, in west London. His plea of insanity was dismissed. He is believed to have killed three other women including Beryl Evans and her daughter in 1950, for which Timothy Evans was found guilty and hanged.

1962: Sophia Loren and Italian film producer Carlo Ponti were charged with bigamy in Rome because Ponti’s Mexican divorce from his first wife was not recognized by Italy.

1969: Wimbledon saw the longest men’s singles match ever when Charlie Passarell was beaten by Pancho Gonzalez 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9.

1987: Joan Collins won a 45-second divorce from Swedish businessman Peter Holm, and claimed she did not want any more husbands.


1830: Following the death of George IV, his brother William VI ascended the throne.

1857: The first investiture ceremony of Victoria Crosses took place at Hyde Park. Queen Victoria awarded 62 service men the highest military honour.

1862: Kent bowler Joseph Wells, the father of H G Wells, became the first man in cricketing history to take four first-class wickets with four successive balls against Sussex.

1898: Birth of Willy Messerschmitt, German aircraft designer who built the first jet fighter to go into combat, his ME-262, in 1944. A former glider and sailplane designer, he developed a major aircraft business.

1906: The first Grand Prix took place at Le Mans. The Hungarian Ferenc Szisz was the winner, driving a Renault at an average speed of 63 mph.

1909: Edward VII opened the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

1913: Emily Dawson was appointed the first woman magistrate in Britain.

1917: The first contingent of the American Expeditionary Force arrived in France under General Pershing.

1959: Ingemar Johansson knocked out Floyd Patterson in New York to become Sweden’s first world heavyweight boxing champion.

1959: Queen Elizabeth and President Eisenhower inaugurated the St Lawrence Seaway.


1462: Birth of Louis XII, King of France from 1498 until his death in 1515. A popular king, he was known as ‘the Father of the People’, and retained the support of the people despite a disastrous invasion of Italy.

1550: Birth of Charles IX, King of France during the Wars of Religion, who ordered the Massacre of the Huguenots on St Bartholomew’s Day, pressured by his mother, Catherine de’Medici.

1693: The Ladies’ Mercury, the first magazine for women, was published.

1743: The last British king to lead his troops into battle was George II, who led the Pragmatic Army made up of British, Hanoverian and Hessian troops. At the Battle of Dettingen, he was victorious over the French.

1846: Birth of Charles Stewart Parnell, Irish nationalist leader who was Member of Parliament for Meath and later leader of the Nationalist Party supporting a policy of violence which led to imprisonment in 1881. His career ended when he was cited as the co-respondent in a divorce case and was dumped by his party.

1880: Birth of Helen Adams Keller, US blind, deaf and mute scholar and teacher who was taught by Anne Sullivan. She was the first person with these handicaps to not merely overcome her afflictions, but achieve such academic and international status with books and articles.

1900: The Central Line (Railway), now part of London Underground, began a service between Shepherd’s Bush and Bank.

1905: A mutiny erupted on board the Russian battleship Potemkin in the Black Sea when sailors were shot for complaining about bad food. The mutineers eventually overpowered the officers and raised the Red Flag with the ship anchored off Odessa.

1939: Sheer luxury took to the air on the first scheduled transatlantic airline service. Using Boeing 314 luxury-class flying boats, Pan Am operated the service from Newfoundland to Southampton.

1954: The first nuclear power station was opened in Obninsk, 55 miles from Moscow.

1967: The first cash dispenser in Britain became operational at Barclays Bank, Enfield, London.

1968: Maggie Wright, playing Helen of Troy in Dr Faustus in the Royal Shakespeare Company production in London, became the first actress in Britain to appear nude on the ‘legitimate’ stage.

1971: The first National Scrabble competition ever held was staged in London and won by Stephen Haskell, a young schoolteacher. Invented by Alfred Butt, a former US architect in 1932-3, he first called the game Lexico. In 1940, he thought he might have more luck by calling it Criss Cross Words, but in 1946 it was marketed as Scrabble. From 1946 to 1953 it sold an average 8,000 per annum, but its popularity suddenly grew and between 1953 and 1955 Butt’s game sold 4_ million sets!

1971: The Fillimore East, the legendary rock club in New York City run by Bill Graham, closed. Every major rock star had performed there over the past decade.

1976: Six Palestinians hijacked an Air France Airbus after it took off from Athens with 280 passengers on board, and forced the pilot to fly to Entebbe where they were sure of support from Uganda’s Idi Amin for their demands for the release of 33 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

1988: Dave Hurst and Alan Matthews, both from England, became the first blind climbers to reach the summit of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, which is 15,781 feet high.


1491: Birth of Henry VIII, King of England, second son of Henry VII, who married six times, beheaded two wives, broke away from the Catholic church to form the Church of England, executed Catholics who failed to recognize the church and Protestants who complained he should execute more Catholics, and still managed to remain a popular king.

1712: Birth of Jean Jacques (Henri) Rousseau, French philosopher who was born in Geneva. His concept of the ‘noble savage’ and his Social Contract (1762) influenced the leaders of the French Revolution.

1838: Queen Victoria’s coronation took place in Westminster Abbey. She was 19 years old.

1841: The ballet Giselle opened in Paris.

1883: Birth of Pierre Laval, French politician who was Prime Minister once, 1931-2 and again 1935-6. During the war, he was made head of the Vichy government on Hitler’s orders and played a major role in deporting French labour to Germany. After the war, he was tried for treason and shot.

1914: A 19-year-old student assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his morganatic wife, the Duchess of Hohenburg, who were out in their carriage in the streets of Sarajevo on the 14th anniversary of their marriage. Gavrilo Princep’s shots killed them both, and was the spark needed to ignite the First World War when Austria declared war on Serbia.

1919: The war over, it was on this day that the Germans finally and reluctantly agreed to sign the Treaty of Versailles. The financial demands made by the Allies on the defeated Germans of 20 billion gold marks would drag the nation down and allow the Nazis to appear as saviours. The Second World War was just two decades away.

1935: Roosevelt requested a building to hold all federal gold to be built at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

1950: The football ‘shock, horror’ story of the century in the World Cup in Brazil: England 0, the US 1 in the first round. The novice US team beat a side which included Billy Wright and Tom Finney.

1984: After 104 years, the British magazine Titbits stopped publishing.

1988: The longest trial in Spanish legal history ended after 15 months. 1,500 witnesses, including the former Prime Minister and two cabinet members, were cross-examined to decide who was responsible for poisoning 25,000 Spaniards in the toxic olive oil case. More than 600 died from the cheap olive oil, and thousands more were left partially paralysed or suffering from other afflictions in one of the worst public health disasters in modern history.


The Feast Day of St Peter, patron saint of fishermen.

48 BC: Julius Caesar defeated Pompey at Pharsalus to become the absolute ruler of Rome.

1613: During a performance of Henry VIII by William Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre, London, a cannon was set off to mark the King’s entrance, which accidentally set fire to the thatched gallery roof. The theatre was totally destroyed, but rose again in June 1614, this time with a tiled roof.

1801: The first census in Britain was carried out, revealing a population totalling 8,872,000.

1829: The first policeman to be murdered in Britain was Constable William Grantham in Somers Town, London who went to the aid of a woman involved in a fight between drunken men. When he fell, all three proceeded to kick him to death.

1838: To mark Queen Victoria’s coronation the previous day, the Sun published its entire issue in gold ink.

1855: The first edition of the Daily Telegraph in London.

1858: Birth of George Washington Goethals, US army engineer who built the Panama Canal and became the first governor of the Canal Zone.

1864: Samuel Crowther, the Bishop of Niger, was consecrated at Canterbury, the first black Church of England bishop.

1868: The Press Association was founded in London.

1871: An Act of Parliament made British unions legal.

1886: Birth of Robert Schuman, French statesman who proposed the Schuman Plan for European unity which advocated the setting up of the European Coal and Steel Community (achieved in 1952).

1887: A lady called Miss Cass was wrongfully charged by PC Endacott at Marlborough Police Station. The magistrate said she had done nothing wrong, and warned her not to do it again.

1905: The AA (Automobile Association) was formed in Britain to counter police harassment and to warn of speed traps.

1911: Birth of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, husband of Queen Juliana, founder president of the World Wildlife Fund International.

1913: Norway granted women equal electoral rights.

1916: Sir Roger Casement was found guilty of treason in a Dublin court and sentenced to death.

1956: Arthur Miller, US playwright, married Marilyn Monroe in London.

1966: Barclaycard was introduced by Barclays Bank, the first credit card in Britain.

1967: Mick Jagger and Keith Richard were sentenced to three months and one year respectively for drug offences, but after an appeal court hearing, their sentences were quashed.

1974: Isabel Perón, second wife of Juan Perón, was sworn in as President of Argentina, as a result of his illness.

1980: Vigdis Finnbogsdottir became Iceland’s first woman president.

1986: Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger II powerboat made a record-breaking Atlantic crossing, but there was strong objection to it claiming the Blue Riband.


1837: Punishment by pillory was finally abolished in Britain.

1859: The great tightrope walker, Blondin, crossed Niagara Falls from the US to Canada in just eight minutes. The rope was stretched 1,100 feet (335.28 m) and suspended 160 feet (48.76 m) above the Falls. Over 25,000 people watched him make the return with a tripod camera, stop midway and photograph the crowds. Many fainted.

1893: Birth of Harold (Joseph) Laski, English politician and economist who campaigned for social reforms. He became chairman of the Labour Party in 1945.

1893: Birth of Walter Ulbricht, Communist and East German leader who fled Germany during the Nazi rise to power. When the German Democratic Republic was formed in 1949, he became Deputy Prime Minister, assuming full control in 1960.

1893: In South Africa’s Orange Free State, the finder of a 971.75 carat diamond was awarded £500 plus a horse with bridle and saddle.

1894: London’s Tower Bridge was officially opened to traffic.

1926: During this month, the first pop-up toasters went on sale, marketed by McGraw Electric Company of Minneapolis.

1934: This was the Night of the Long Knives in Germany as Hitler eliminated all political critics, including the leader of the Brown Shirts and former close friend, Ernst Roehm.

1936: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell was published.

1948: Doctors John Barden and Walter Brittain demonstrated the transistor at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey.

1956: ‘I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas’, written and performed by arch-Goon Spike Milligan, entered the British singles chart six months after Christmas.

1960: The blood ran in the shower for the first time to a paying audience with the première of Hitchcock’s Psycho in New York.

1971: After a record-breaking 24 days in space, the crew of three Russian astronauts were found dead after landing safely. An oxygen failure in the final moments was the cause.

1974: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Soviet-born ballet dancer, defected while on tour in Canada with the Kirov Ballet.

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