The Feast Day of St David, patron saint of Wales.

The Old Roman New Year’s Day.

1803: Ohio became the 17th state of the Union.

1845: The US annexed Texas.

1867: Nebraska became the 37th state of the Union.

1880: Pennsylvania became the first US state to abolish slavery.

1881: All the US states ratified the Articles of Confederation.

1932: The 20-month-old son of US aviator Colonel Charles Lindberg was kidnapped from his nursery. He was found dead on 12 May. Bruno Hauptmann, a carpenter, was later charged with the crime.

1936: Golden Miller won the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the fifth consecutive year.

1940: Vivien Leigh won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.

1949: Joe Louis, US world heavyweight boxing champion known as the ‘Brown Bomber’, retired aged 35, after a record 25 successful defences of his title.

1950: Klaus Fuchs was found guilty of passing British atomic secrets to Soviet agents. He eventually served seven years in prison.

1954: The US carried out the first hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.

1959: Archbishop Makarios ended his exile and returned to Cyprus.

1961: President Kennedy formed the Peace Corps of Young Americans to work overseas as part of US aid to developing nations.

1966: The Soviet unmanned spacecraft, Venus 3, touched down on Venus.

1972: A London schoolboy, Timothy Davey, was jailed by a Turkish court for ‘conspiring to sell cannabis’ despite pleas from British Prime Minister, Edward Heath. Timothy was 14 years old.

1978: Charles Chaplin’s coffin was stolen from a Swiss cemetery three months after burial. It was later found ten miles away (on 17 May 1978).

1988: The massacre of Armenians in the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan began as a result of conflict over disputed regions with Muslim Azerbaijanis.

1990: Daily rum tots for sailors aboard Royal New Zealand Navy ships were stopped. It was the last navy in the world to scrap rum rations.


The Feast Day of Chad, British patron saint of medical springs.

1717: The first ballet was performed in England by dancing master, John Weaver. The Loves of Mars and Venus was staged at Drury Lane.

1725: A night watchman found a human head by the Thames, where the Tate Gallery now stands. It was later displayed on a pole until it was recognized as belonging to the husband of Catherine Hayes. She and her two lodgers were arrested for murder. One accomplice was hanged, the other died in prison before the execution, while Catherine was sentenced to be strangled and burnt. The executioner failed to strangle her, so she was burnt alive.

1793: Birth of Sam Houston, American soldier who became the first President of the Republic of Texas after defeating the Mexicans.

1882: Robert Maclean tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Queen Victoria at Windsor.

1923: Birth of Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, the first monk to hold this position.

1931: Birth of Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev, Soviet leader and general secretary of the Communist Party who introduced glasnost and sought better relations with the West.

1946: Ho Chi Minh was elected President of North Vietnam.

1949: The first round-the-world non-stop flight was completed by Captain James Gallagher and his 13-man US Airforce crew. The flight took 94 hours, during which the plane, Lucky Lady II was refuelled four times in flight by tanker aircraft.

1955: Severe floods in North and Western Australia killed 200 people, leaving 44,000 homeless. Hundreds of thousands of sheep were also drowned.

1958: Sir Vivian Fuchs and a British team completed the first crossing of the Antarctic. The journey took 99 days using Sno-cat caterpillar tractors and dog teams.

1958: Gary Sobers scored 365 not out against Pakistan at Kingston, Jamaica.

1960: An earthquake in Morocco destroyed the town of Agadir, killing 20,000 and injuring many thousands more.

1970: Rhodesia broke away from Britain and the Commonwealth and became a Republic under Ian Smith.

1974: The US Grand Jury said Nixon was involved in the Watergate cover-up.

1986: The Queen signed the Australia Bill in Canberra, formally severing any Australian constitutional ties with Britain.

1988: In Britain, a new political party was born when Liberals merged with the Social Democrats to form the Social and Liberal Democrats.

1988: A report from China claimed that a worker at a boiler factory in Xinjiang province emitted electric charges strong enough to knock down people when he touched them. If he married, would his wife have to be earthed?


1802: Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, ‘the most famous piano composition in the world’, was published.

1845: Florida became the 27th state of the Union.

1875: The first performance of Bizet’s Carmen was staged at the Opéra Comique, Paris.

1895: In Munich, bicyclists had to pass a test and display licence plates.

1924: In Turkey, the Caliphate was abolished and the Islamic religion was disestablished as Kemal Atatürk began his drastic programme to transform Turkey into a modern state.

1928: Ronnie Dix of Bristol Rovers scored a goal against Norwich in Division 3 (South) of the English Football League. Aged 15, he was the youngest goal scorer in League history.

1931: The world première of King Kong was held in New York.

1943: At an air raid shelter in Bethnal Green, 178 people died, not as a result of a bomb, but because a woman carrying a baby fell down a flight of steps and an elderly man fell over her. People continuing to enter fell over others, causing the carnage. The mother survived; her baby died.

1974: A Turkish Airlines DC 10 on a flight from Paris to London, crashed in a wood, a favourite picnic spot for Parisians. All 344 people on board, of which 200 were British, were killed.

1988: A motorist in California who failed to use his seat belt was killed when his car spun off the road and plunged 37 feet. He had strapped his teddy bear in the passenger seat. The bear survived undamaged.


1394: Birth of Prince Henry the Navigator, Portuguese explorer.

1789: The first Congress of the US was held in New York.

1791: Vermont became the 14th state of the Union.

1824: The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was founded.

1873: The New York Daily Graphic became the first illustrated daily newspaper.

1877: The first performance of Swan Lake (Le Lac des Cygnes) was staged by the Russian Imperial Ballet in Moscow.

1882: The first electric trams in Britain ran from Leytonstone, east London.

1890: The Prince of Wales opened the longest bridge in Britain, the 1,710 ft Forth railway bridge in Scotland.

1913: Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as the 28th US President.

1919: Lenin formed the Communist International, better known as the Comintern.

1924: ‘Happy Birthday to You’ was published by Clayton F. Summy.

1927: A diamond rush in South Africa included many trained athletes hired by major companies to stake claims.

1941: British forces, assisted by local Norwegians, raided the German-occupied Lofoten Islands, destroying 11 German ships.

1958: The US nuclear submarine Nautilus became the first to travel under the North Pole ice cap.

1964: Malta became fully independent.

1967: The first Third Division football club to win a Wembley final was Queen’s Park Rangers, when they beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 in the League Cup.

1971: Canada’s Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau married 22-year-old Margaret Sinclair in secret.

1974: Following the election, British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, failed to persuade the Liberals to join a coalition and resigned. Harold Wilson would become Prime Minister for a third time, but with a narrow majority.

1975: Charles Chaplin was knighted at Buckingham Palace.

1976: England’s John Curry won the men’s figure skating world championship in Stockholm, following his gold at the Winter Olympics.

1986: Eddie Shah’s Today newspaper became the first national daily to carry colour pictures in Britain.


1133: Birth of King Henry II, the first Plantagenet king of England, in France.

1461: Henry VI of England was deposed, and succeeded by Edward IV. Henry was unpopular for having lost English territories in France.

1751: Birth of James Madison, fourth US president.

1770: British troops opened fire on a crowd in Boston, Massachusetts, killing five in what was called ‘The Boston Massacre’.

1856: Covent Garden Theatre was destroyed by fire.

1857: James Townsend Saward, alias ‘Jim the Penman’, the most notorious forger of his age, was convicted of forging cheques. Saward was a respected solicitor with chambers in the Temple. He and his accomplices were sentenced to transportation to a penal colony in Australia.

1871: Birth of Rosa Luxemburg, one of the founders of the extreme-left Spartacus movement in Germany, which was crushed by the Nazis.

1879: Birth of William Henry, 1st Baron Beveridge, English economist and civil servant who produced the famous Beveridge report which laid the foundations of the British welfare state.

1933: The Nazis won almost half the seats in the German elections.

1936: The Spitfire made its first flight from Eastleigh aerodrome, Southampton.

1946: Churchill, on a US tour, at Fulton, Missouri, said in reference to the Russian threat to the West, ‘An iron curtain has descended across Europe.’

1960: Elvis Presley was discharged from the army having completed his service with US forces in Germany.

1988: A baby with two heads was born in Naples. Doctors said they expected it to lead a normal, healthy life although it would not be possible to remove one of the heads surgically.


The National Day of Ghana, commemorating the independence of the former British Gold Coast. Ghana was the first British colony in Africa to gain independence.

1834: York in Upper Canada was incorporated as a city under the name Toronto; its first mayor was W L Mackenzie.

1836: The Battle of the Alamo ended. The fort, besieged by the Mexicans under Santa Anna, fought to the death. Only six Texans survived out of the original 155. The legendary frontiersmen, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were both killed in the 12-day battle.

1853: Verdi’s opera La Traviata was performed for the first time, in Venice.

1899: Felix Hoffman discovered the pharmacological properties of acetylsalicylic acid and formulated the world’s most famous drug, the aspirin, which he patented this day.

1926: The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon was completely destroyed by fire.

1930: Birds Eye frozen foods, developed by Clarence Birdseye, went on sale for the first time in a US store in Springfield, Massachusetts.

1937: Birth of Valentina Nikolaevna Tereshkova, Russian astronaut, who, aged 26, became the first woman in space when she circled the world in the Vostok spacecraft in June 1963.

1944: Daylight raids on Berlin from US bases in Britain began.

1953: Georgi Maksimilianovich Malenkov succeeded Stalin as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

1964: Constantine II acceded to the throne as King of the Hellenes on the death of Paul I.

1987: The Herald of Free Enterprise ferry capsized just outside Zeebrugge harbour. She had set out with her bow doors open allowing water to pour in. Over 200 passengers were drowned.

1988: Three IRA terrorists were shot dead by SAS men in Gibraltar reviving the ‘shoot-to-kill’ controversy.

1988: Dr Kurt Waldheim, Austrian President and former director-general of the UN, admitted he knew that Allied commandos interrogated by his unit during the war would be executed contrary to the Geneva Convention, sparking off fresh demands from both Austria and other countries for his resignation.


1804: The Royal Horticultural Society was founded by John Wedgwood, son of pottery manufacturer, Josiah.

1838: Jenny Lind, the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ made her debut at the Stockholm Opera in Der Freischütz.

1850: Birth of Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakian patriot, scholar and philosopher who led the revolutionary movement against the Austrian Empire. When the Republic was finally formed he was elected the first President.

1876: Alexander Graham Bell patented the first telephone capable of sustained articulate speech. Three days later on 10 March, the first telephone message, ‘Come here, Watson, I want you’, was relayed by Bell to his assistant.

1905: Birth of Jacques Chaban-Dalmas, former French Prime Minister who was responsible for the military planning of the Resistance during the Second World War.

1912: Frenchman Henri Seimet became the first aviator to fly non-stop from Paris to London. The flight took three hours.

1917: ‘The Dixie Jazz Band One-step’ was issued by the US Victor Company - the world’s first jazz record. A previous recording, in January, by Columbia, of the Original Dixieland Jazz band, was not thought a success and was never released.

1918: The Bolsheviks changed their name to the Russian Communist Party.


Feast Day of John of God, patron saint of hospitals and the sick, as well as booksellers and printers, because he used to peddle sacred books and pictures, eventually opening a shop in Granada, in 1538.

1702: Queen Anne acceded to the British throne following the death of William III, who fell from his horse when it stumbled on a molehill at Hampton Court. He left no children and the crown passed to the daughter of James II.

1910: The first pilot’s licences were granted to a Briton and a Frenchwoman. The Royal Aero Club granted licence number one to J T C Moore Brabazon (later Lord Brabazon of Tara), while in France, Mlle Elise Deroche, who assumed the title Baroness de Laroche, also qualified for a licence.

1930: Birth of Douglas Hurd, British Home Secretary in Mrs Thatcher’s government, and author.

1944: In an English Football League match between Third Division North Crewe and Bradford Park, four penalties were awarded in one five-minute period.

1952: An artificial heart was used for the first time on a 41-year-old man which kept him alive for 80 minutes; his death was not related to the heart machine.

1966: At 8.30 pm, Ronnie Kray, notorious East End gangster, flanked by two Glaswegian ‘hard men’, walked into the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel Road. Kray, brandishing a 9mm Mauser automatic, shot rival gangster, George Cornell, through the head. This crime was to lead to the eventual imprisonment of the Kray twins.

1973: Paul McCartney was charged with growing pot on his farm in Scotland.

1988: Soap opera writers in the US went on strike for improved terms, threatening major shows such as Dynasty and Dallas.

1988: In a small southern Indian village, 3,000 residents were kept indoors by police who put up road blocks to enforce a government ban on the nude worship of a Hindu god.


1454: Birth of Amerigo Vespucci, Italian explorer who made numerous voyages to the New World, which he was inaccurately credited with discovering, and which now bears his name.

1564: Kissing in public was banned in Naples, contravention being punishable by death.

1763: Birth of William Cobbett, English political journalist who championed the working class and became its first leader.

1796: Napoleon married Joséphine de Beauharnais, widow of a former French officer guillotined during the Revolution.

1831: The French Foreign Legion was founded with headquarters in Algeria.

1864: General Ulysses Grant was appointed General-in-Chief of the Union Forces in the US Civil War.

1881: Birth of Ernest Bevin, British union leader and Minister of Labour during the Second World War who created the ‘Bevin Boys’; young men chosen by ballot to work down the mines as part of their war service.

1890: Birth of Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (Skryabin), former Soviet Prime Minister and foreign secretary who negotiated a non-aggression pact with Hitler. He has the dubious honour of having the home-made bomb, a Molotov cocktail - a bottle with a wick filled with petrol - named after him.

1891: Four days of storms began off England’s south coast, sinking 14 ships.

1932: Eamon de Valera was elected President of Ireland.

1932: Pu-Yi, the last Chinese emperor, was installed as head of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo.

1934: Birth of Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin, Soviet astronaut, the first man in space, 1961.

1937: George Orwell’s examination of unemployment and life during the Depression in the north of England, The Road to Wigan Pier, was published.

1956: Britain deported Archbishop Makarios from Cyprus to prevent further conflict between Greeks and Turks on the island, and for ‘actively fostering terrorism’.

1967: Svetlana Alliluyeva, the 41-year-old daughter of the late Joseph Stalin, defected to the West.


512 BC: The rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem after the Jewish deportation by Nebuchadnezzar was allegedly completed this day with much celebrating.

1906: London Underground opened the Baker Street to Waterloo section and named it the ‘Bakerloo’ line.

1914: The Rokeby Venus in London’s National Gallery, one of the nation’s most important paintings, was slashed by a suffragette Mary Richardson, using a meat chopper, who wanted to ‘destroy the most beautiful woman in mythological history’ as a protest against the government’s efforts to ‘destroy’ Mrs Pankhurst, the suffragette leader. Velasquez’s masterpiece was severely damaged.

1964: Birth of Prince Edward, third son of Queen Elizabeth II of England, and the most famous tea boy with Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company.

1965: Goldie, the London Zoo golden eagle which escaped, was captured nearby on this, its 13th day of freedom. Large crowds had been attracted to the zoo in Regent’s Park to watch Goldie fly from tree to tree, occasionally landing to accept titbits from spectators.

1968: A New Zealand car ferry capsized in a severe storm in Wellington Harbour and 200 were drowned.

1969: James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to the murder of Martin Luther King and was sentenced to 99 years in jail.

1974: A Japanese soldier was discovered on Lubang Island in the Philippines. He still believed the Second World War was being fought, and was waiting to be relieved by his own forces.

1979: Lee Marvin’s ex-girlfriend, Michelle Triola Marvin, sued for ‘palimony’, demanding half the $3.6m he made during the time they lived together. The case was later dismissed.

1980: Jean Harris, a US headmistress, shot the inventor of the Scarsdale diet, Dr Herman Tarnower, four times in the back after a passionate 44-year affair ended.

1988: An avalanche in the Swiss ski resort of Klosters killed one member of the Prince of Wales’ party and injured another, but Charles narrowly escaped.


1682: The famous Chelsea hospital for soldiers (‘Chelsea Pensioners’), and venue for the famous Chelsea Flower show, was founded.

1702: The first successful English newspaper, a single broadsheet called the Daily Courant was published.

1794: The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, opened.

1845: A Maori uprising against the British in New Zealand began.

1845: Henry Jones invented self-raising flour.

1864: A reservoir near Sheffield burst its banks, killing 250 people.

1916: Birth of (James) Harold Wilson, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, British Labour Prime Minister from 1964-70, and again from 1974-6 until he resigned. During his period in office, according to Peter Wright in Spycatcher (1987), he was suspected of being a likely Soviet agent by British intelligence who may have been involved in ‘dirty tricks’ to destroy his reputation.

1931: Birth of Rupert Murdoch, Australian media magnate, owner of The Times, the Sun and Sky Television as well as media in the US.

1926: Eamon de Valera resigned as leader of Sinn Fein in Ireland.

1932: Birth of Nigel Lawson, former editor of the Spectator turned politician who was Margaret Thatcher’s Chancellor of the Exchequer 1983-9.

1941: The US Congress passed the Lend-Lease Bill enabling Britain to borrow millions of dollars to purchase additional food and arms needed for the Second World War. The loan was only to be paid back after the war.

1945: The huge Krupps factory in Germany was destroyed when 1,000 Allied bombers took part in the biggest ever daylight raid.

1985: Mikhail Gorbachev, at 54 the youngest member of the ruling Politburo, became leader of the USSR following the death of Konstantin Chernenko.

1985: The Al-Fayed brothers won control of the House of Fraser group to become owners of Harrods.

1988: The Bank of England pound note, first introduced on 12 March 1797, ceased to be legal tender in Britain at midnight. When the deadline for returning old notes was reached, it was estimated that some 70 million were still outstanding. ‘We have no idea where they are - perhaps they are with collectors,’ a Bank spokesman said.

1990: Jennifer Capriati became the youngest finalist in a professional tennis tournament, in Florida, just 18 days before her 14th birthday.


1609: Bermuda became a British colony.

1832: Birth of Charles Cunningham Boycott, English estate manager in Ireland. Following the crop failure and famine in the 1880s, the demand for lower rents grew, but was rejected by Boycott. The Irish statesman Parnell urged tenants not to resort to violence, but instead to refuse to communicate with Captain Boycott, who gave his name to a new form of protest.

1863: Birth of Gabriele d’Annunzio, Italian soldier, poet, journalist, novelist and playwright who wrote La Gioconda. His escapades in the First World War inspired a new nationalism which would ultimately lead to Fascism. He was made a prince in 1924.

1881: Birth of (Mustafa) Kemal Atatürk, Turkish statesman and general who became President in 1923. His reforms to modernise Turkey included the creation of a secular state, encouraging western dress and banning the fez.

1912: The Girl Guides (later called Scouts) were founded in the US by Juliette Gordon Low.

1913: Canberra became the federal capital of Australia.

1918: Moscow was designated the capital of Russia.

1930: Mahatma Gandhi began his 300-mile march to the sea in protest against the British tax law securing a monopoly for salt. With hundreds of supporters he planned to produce a symbolic amount of salt from the sea and provoke arrest.

1944: Britain banned all travel to and from Ireland and Ulster in an effort to prevent German spies operating in neutral Eire from learning of the Allied invasion preparations taking place in Britain.

1969: Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman, US photographer, and on the same day, another Beatle, George Harrison and his wife Patti were arrested and charged with possession of 120 marijuana joints at their home.

1988: Diamond mine owners, De Beers, unveiled a 599-carat diamond second only in size to the one in the British royal sceptre. Worth tens of millions of pounds, the diamond’s discovery had been kept secret so that De Beers could present it in their centenary year.


1781: Sir William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, originally named Georgius Sidus after George III.

1873: Eight clubs met to form the Scottish Football Association.

1914: Henriette Caillaux, 36, the wife of the French Finance Minister, entered the offices of the newspaper Le Figaro and shot dead chief columnist Gaston Calmette, who had published a copy of a letter written by her husband to his first wife. Fearing the first Madame Caillaux had further letters revealing more indiscretions, Henriette was told by lawyers that there was no law in France to protect her husband against libels by newspapers, so she took the law into her own hands. In court, she pleaded the gun had gone off accidentally and was found not guilty.

1926: Alan Cobham landed at Croydon Aerodrome, near London, after a 16,000-mile flight to Cape Town and back to establish a commercial air route across Africa.

1928: Flooding from a burst dam near Los Angeles drowned 450 people and caused extensive damage.

1930: Clyde Tombaugh of Lowell Observatory announced on the 75th anniversary of Percy Lowell’s birth the discovery of Pluto as predicted by the Observatory’s founder.

1938: Germany invaded Austria, which was made a province named ‘Ostmark’. The following day, Hitler arrived in triumph to be greeted by a huge welcoming crowd.

1961: Pablo Picasso, 79, married his model, Jacqueline Rocque, 37, in Nice.

1970: Susan Wallace, an English schoolgirl, became the first 18-year-old eligible to vote. She cast her vote in a by-election at Bridgwater, Somerset.

1972: Clifford Irving admitted to a New York court that he had fabricated Howard Hughes’ autobiography after receiving a $750,000 advance from his publishers. He had hoped the reclusive millionaire would not venture into the public limelight to denounce him.

1974: The Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris was opened.

1979: Sir Edward Gairy, Prime Minister of Grenada, was ousted while away at the UN by Maurice Bishop, leader of the People’s Revolutionary Party.

1986: The Russians launched a Soyuz T-15 from the Balkonur Cosmodrome to establish a permanent human presence in space when it docked at the Mir space station, launched three weeks before. On the same day, Halley’s comet was seen again just four minutes before midnight. The European Space Agency’s Giotto, surviving the impacts of the dust particles from the comet’s tail, passed within 605 km of the nucleus, sending back sensational pictures.

1987: Rajendra Sethia, the world’s biggest bankrupt, who fled from England in 1986 owing £170m, was charged in New Delhi with criminal conspiracy and defrauding an Indian bank of another £5m.


1805: Master Betty (William Betty) played Hamlet on the London stage, aged just 14. He was such a success, the House of Commons was adjourned to enable members to watch his performance. His success was short-lived and, not long afterwards, he was hissed off the stage.

1820: Birth of Victor Emmanuel II, who was proclaimed King of Italy in 1861. He reigned for 17 years as the first king of a united Italy.

1885: The first performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado at the Savoy Theatre, London.

1891: Telephone cable was laid along the English Channel bed by the submarine Monarch.

1953: Nikita Khrushchev replaced Malenkov as First Secretary of the Communist Party.

1964: Jack Ruby was found guilty in Dallas, Texas, of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F Kennedy, and was sentenced to death. He died of a blood clot in the lung on 3 January 1967.

1985: Five lionesses at Singapore Zoo were put on the pill because the lion population had grown from two to 16.

1988: A scuffle broke out at a Warwickshire restaurant when one diner took food from another man’s plate and then bit off his ear when he objected. Stephen Flint, 23, admitted wounding and was jailed for two years.


44 BC: Gaius Julius Caesar was assassinated by conspirators, including Brutus and Cassius in the Senate House in Rome. ‘Beware the Ides of March!’

1767: Birth of Andrew Jackson, seventh US president. ‘Old Hickory’, as he was nicknamed, was one of the generals who fought the British in 1812 and later became the first Governor of Florida. He became President in 1828, serving two terms before retiring in 1837.

1820: Maine became the 23rd state of the Union.

1869: The Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-pro baseball team.

1877: The first cricket test between England and Australia was played at Melbourne with victory going to the home team by just 45 runs.

1907: The Finns elected the very first women members of parliament, while in Britain women had not yet been given the vote.

1909: The American, G S Selfridge, opened the store that bears his name in London; Britain’s first American-style department store.

1917: Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia, abdicated as the Revolution reached a climax. The following day, Kerensky’s socialist revolutionaries took control.

1933: Hitler proclaimed the Third Reich, which he said would endure for a thousand years. The Nazi flag would fly side by side with the German Imperial flag. Left-wing newspapers and kosher meat were banned.

1937: America’s first central blood bank was set up by Bernard Faustus, who coined the term ‘blood bank’.

1956: The first performance of My Fair Lady with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison on Broadway.

1964: Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton in Montreal.

1982: The director of The Romans in Britain, Michael Bogdanov, went on trial for presenting an ‘indecent’ production, but the next day the Attorney-General stopped the trial in the public interest.

1988: A man with a gun tried to rob a bank in Montpellier, France, the home of nougat. The would-be robber lost his nerve at the crucial moment and ate his gun. It was made of nougat.

1990: Farzad Bazoft, a journalist with the Observer, was hanged as a spy by the Iraqis. Daphne Parish, a British nurse who gave the reporter a lift to a military establishment, was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.


1751: Birth of James Madison, fourth US President, elected 1809. He retired at the end of his second term in 1817.

1774: Birth of Matthew Flinders, English explorer who circumnavigated Australia. The Flinders River in Queensland and the Flinders Range in South Australia are named after him.

1802: The famous US Military Academy at West Point was established.

1815: William of Orange was proclaimed King of the Netherlands and became William I.

1872: The first Football Association Cup Final was played. The venue was the Kennington Oval, London. The teams were the Wanderers, who beat the Royal Engineers 1-0. The gate: just 2,000.

1888: The first recorded sale of a manufactured motor car was to Emile Roger of Paris, who bought a petrol-driven car from Karl Benz’s new factory.

1900: Sir Arthur Evans revealed the ancient city of Knossos, Crete, which he began excavating in 1899. The site was originally offered to Schliemann, the German archaeologist and discoverer of Troy, who turned it down believing it showed little promise.

1912: Lawrence Oates, a member of Scott’s ill-fated South Pole expedition who was suffering serious frostbite and hampering the progress of his companions, left the tent saying, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ ‘A very gallant gentleman,’ Scott recorded. His body was never found.

1918: The famous ‘stuttering’ song, ‘K-K-K-Katy’ was published, words and music by Canadian Geoffrey O’Hara.

1926: The first rocket propelled by liquid oxygen and gasoline was successfully fired by Dr Robert H Goddard of Massachusetts. The rocket was just four feet high.

1935: Hitler renounced the Versailles Treaty and introduced conscription, the next step in his military build-up.

1968: Three platoons of US troops entered the village of My Lai in Vietnam. There were no Vietcong there, but the soldiers tossed grenades and shot at anything that moved - women, children and old people - killing 175 villagers.

1973: The Queen opened the new London Bridge. (The old one was sold to a US oil tycoon for £1m and rebuilt piece-by-piece in the US.)


St Patrick’s Day, the patron saint of Ireland.

The Feast Day of Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of the recently dead, who would help them on their way to the other world.

In the Middle Ages, this was reckoned to be the day Noah entered the Ark as the great Flood began.

1337: The Duchy of Cornwall was created when Edward the Black Prince was made the first Duke.

1845: Elastic bands were patented by Stephen Perry of a London rubber company.

1873: Birth of Margaret Grace Bondfield, British Labour politician who became chairman of the TUC in 1923 and Minister of Labour in 1929, the first woman to hold office in the Cabinet.

1897: Bob (Robert Prometheus) Fitzsimmons, the only British boxer to win a world heavyweight title, who was born in England and reared in New Zealand, took the title off Jim Corbett in Carson City, Nevada and held it until 1899. The fight was filmed by the Veriscope Company of New York on the first wide-screen process using 70mm film.

1899: The classic Neapolitan song ‘O Sole Mio!’ was published. The composer was E di Campana with words by G Capurro.

1899: The first radio distress call was sent from a lightship off Kent to the nearest lighthouse on the coast, summoning a lifeboat to assist a merchant ship which ran aground on the Goodwin Sands.

1968: A huge demonstration in London’s Grosvenor Square against the continuance of US involvement in the Vietnam War led to violent confrontations with 91 police casualties and over 200 demonstrators were arrested.

1969: Golda Meir became the Prime Minister of Israel.

1978: The oil tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground on the coast of Brittany. Over 220,000 tons of crude oil seeped out of the crippled ship, causing serious pollution to the coastline.

1979: Wales beat England 27-3 at Cardiff to win the Triple Crown for the fourth successive year under captain J P R Williams.

1980: Britain’s first woman stationmaster took charge of Burgess Hill station, Sussex. She was economics graduate, Penny Bellas.


1609: Birth of Frederick III, King of Denmark and Norway, whose reign involved him in war with Sweden.

1662: The first public buses ran in Paris. Louis XIV intended them for use by the poor of the city who could not afford carriages, but they were taken up by the fashionable who crowded out the less fortunate. The poor decided that buses were not for them, and when the Parisian ‘trendies’ got bored, the service was discontinued.

1834: The ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’, six Dorset farm labourers, were sentenced to be transported to a penal colony for forming a trade union.

1837: Birth of Stephen Grover Cleveland, who was elected 22nd President of the US in 1885. He was defeated when standing for a second term, but won again in 1892 to become the 24th President.

1850: The American Express Company was set up in Buffalo, New York.

1869: Birth of Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who became British Prime Minister in 1937. His appeasement policy towards Hitler led to his downfall in 1940, when he handed over to Churchill.

1871: The Communards began their uprising in Paris, which would lead, in May, to the first socialist government in history.

1889: Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria, chief of the Russian secret police, one of the most powerful and feared men in the Soviet Union.

1895: The first petrol-driven motor bus, a five-hp Benz, in the North Rhineland, went into service. It was capable of carrying between six and eight passengers.

1922: Gandhi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for sedition, accused of stirring up disaffection against the existing government in India.

1925: Two floors of the Madame Tussaud’s waxworks in London were destroyed by fire.

1931: Electric razors were first manufactured by Schick Incorporated, Stanford, Connecticut.

1932: Sydney Harbour bridge was opened. It was the world’s longest single-arch bridge.

1935: The 30 mph speed limit in built-up areas was introduced into Britain and has remained in force ever since.

1947: The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, became a naturalized Briton.

1949: NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty organization) was set up with Britain and seven other European countries.

1958: Young English ladies of class and/or money (the latter being rather important to pay for ballgowns, expensive parties, etc.) were presented to the Queen for the last time at Buckingham Palace. But despite official lack of recognition, débutantes continued to survive and gather annually for a season of parties and balls.

1965: Lt Col Aleksey Arkhipovich Leanor left the spacecraft Voskhod II. Connected only by a nylon cord, he floated in space for 12 minutes nine seconds, during which time he travelled around 3,000 miles at a speed of 17,500 mph.

1967: The Torrey Canyon ran aground off Land’s End, Cornwall. When the oil tanker’s cargo began to seep out, the RAF were called in to napalm bomb the slick to reduce the risk of coastline pollution.

1978: Pakistan Prime Minister Bhutto was found guilty of ordering the assassination of a political opponent and sentenced to hang.

1978: Former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigade. Two months later his body was found in the boot of a small Renault in central Rome.

1989: Britain’s first National Fat Women’s conference was held. More than 150 overweight ladies planned to establish associations throughout the country to urge fat women to stop worrying about their weight.


The Feast Day of Joseph, patron saint of fathers, carpenters, procurators and bursars.

721 BC: The first eclipse ever recorded was observed by the Babylonians, according to Ptolemy.

1813: Birth of Dr David Livingstone, Scottish missionary and explorer who was the first European to discover the Victoria Falls of the Zambesi. While at Ujiji, on an expedition to find the source of the Nile, he became ill and it was here that newspaperman Stanley found him. Livingstone never did find the source; it was found instead by Sir Richard Francis Burton, English scholar, translator of the Arabian Nights and traveller, born 1821.

1848: Birth of Wyatt Earp, US lawman who was involved in five gunfights in Tombstone, Arizona including the Gunfight at the O K Corral. He is said to have survived by wearing a bullet-proof vest.

1906: Birth of Adolf Eichmann, Nazi colonel in the SS who played a key role in the ‘Final Solution’, the extermination of millions of Jews, political opponents and other ‘undesirable’ minorities within Europe. In April 1961 he was finally confronted by some of the few survivors of the death camps, in a Jerusalem court.

1920: The US Senate voted against joining the League of Nations, fearing they would have to go to war again if another member state was invaded.

1931: Alka-Seltzer was first marketed in the US.

1958: Britain’s first planetarium opened at Madame Tussaud’s, London.

1969: British paras and Marines were landed on the island of Anguilla and found no resistance from the ‘Republican Defence Force’ set up by ‘President’ Ronald Webster. The population welcomed the troops and the 40 London policemen sent out later to keep order. They spent most of their time sunbathing and swimming in the warm Caribbean sea.

1976: Princess Margaret separated from her photographer husband, Lord Snowdon, after 15 years of marriage.

1986: Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.


1602: The Netherlands government formed the Dutch East India Company. It became one of the most powerful companies in the world during its 96-year history.

1780: James Watt began manufacturing the first duplicator, which he had invented to help with the burden of office work generated by his steam engine business.

1806: The foundation stone of Dartmoor prison in Devon was laid. It opened three years later to house French prisoners of war, but by 1850 the first convicts were being imprisoned.

1815: After his banishment to Elba, Napoleon returned to take power once more in France. It was to be his last ‘Hundred Days’, leading to his defeat at Waterloo and his exile to St Helena, where he would die.

1819: The famous and still very elegant and exclusive Burlington Arcade opened in London.

1852: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, was published.

1926: Scotland beat England at Twickenham for the first time to win rugby’s prized Calcutta Cup. In 1937, it was England’s turn to beat the Scots on their famous Murrayfield turf to win the Calcutta Cup, International Championship and Triple Crown for the first time.

1934: Radar was first demonstrated in Kiel Harbour, developed by Dr Rudolf Kuhnold, Chief of the German Navy’s Signals Research Department.

1938: Birth of Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada.

1974: An attempt was made to kidnap Princess Anne in the Mall by a gunman who fired six shots, then tried to drag her out of the car. He fled as passers-by joined her bodyguard and police to foil the attempt, and was later caught. Ian Ball, who was charged with attempted murder, claimed he did it to highlight the lack of mental care facilities.

1976: Patricia Hearst, the newspaper heiress who had been kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, was found guilty of helping her former kidnappers in an armed robbery and was given a seven-year jail sentence.


1801: Birth of Benito Pablo Juárez, Mexican President who suspended Mexico’s foreign debt to try and stabilize his impoverished country. This brought military pressure from debtor nations, including Britain and France, who set up Maximilian, brother of the Australian emperor, in his place. When Maximilian was shot by a firing squad, Juárez was again elected President.

1829: The Duke of Wellington, aged 60, fought a bloodless duel with the Earl of Winchelsea. The reason for the duel was the Duke’s support of Catholic emancipation. Wellington was both Prime Minister and leader of the Tory Party at the time.

1908: Henri Farman, the French aviator, took up the first passenger and flew over Paris. The official first air passenger was the Wright brothers’ mechanic who flew in Kitty Hawk on 14 May 1908.

1933: The ceremonial opening of the first Parliament of Nazi Germany with Hitler as Chancellor, was held at the Garrison Church, Potsdam, on the same day as Bismarck opened the first parliament of the newly founded German Reich in 1871.

1946: In Britain, Aneurin Bevan announced the government’s proposals for a National Health Service, but the doctors immediately announced the setting-up of a fighting fund to oppose legislation, fearing a loss of earnings.

1952: Dr Kwame Nkrumah was elected the first African Prime Minister south of the Sahara, when he won the Gold Coast (later renamed Ghana) elections.

1960: In South Africa, a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville against the government’s oppressive pass laws turned into a massacre. The 75 policemen in the local police station panicked as a crowd of 15,000 converged on them, suddenly opening fire and killing 56 and injuring 162.

1963: This was the last night at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay for the convicts. In its 29 years as a penitentiary, it had housed Al Capone as well as the famous ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’.

1969: John Lennon and new wife Yoko Ono staged their ‘Beds in Peace’ at the Amsterdam Hilton; Yoko’s idea to get over their peace message while on honeymoon.

1989: Australia’s Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, cried on television after confessing to adultery. He said in a national broadcast that he had stopped womanizing and thanked his wife for her understanding.

1990: A massive poll tax demonstration in Trafalgar Square turned into a riot. 417 people were injured, 341 arrested.


1459: Birth of Maximilian I, German Emperor who did much to foster the arts while at the same time playing a game of European ‘Monopoly’ with the various states and nations, using his relations as tokens to acquire more territory and power.

1774: Tommy Thumb’s Song Book, a collection of English nursery rhymes which included ‘Baa, baa, black sheep’, was published by Mrs Mary Cooper.

1824: The British Parliament voted to spend £57,000 to purchase 38 pictures from John Julius, to establish a British national collection. The existing building in Trafalgar Square opened in 1838.

1859: In Melbourne Ben Douglas, a plasterer, became chairman of the Political Labour League of Victoria, the first ‘Labour Party’.

1888: The English Football League was formed by representatives from 12 clubs meeting at an hotel in Fleet Street, London.

1895: The first celluloid film presented publicly on a screen was a short film by Auguste and Louis Lumière in Paris. It showed workers leaving the Lumière factory at Lyons at the start of their lunch hour.

1903: Due to a drought, the US side of the Niagara Falls ran short of water.

1904: The first colour picture appeared in a newspaper, the Daily Illustrated Mirror in the US.

1906: The first rugby international between France and England in Paris ended with a 35-0 victory to England.

1907: The first cabs with taxi meters began operating in London.

1930: Sir Lynden Pindling, first black Prime Minister of the Bahamas following independence from Britain and elections in 1967.

1933: Dachau concentration camp, a former First World War munitions factory near Munich, opened.

1942: The BBC began the first Morse code broadcasts to the French Resistance.

1945: The Arab League was formed in Cairo, and, exactly one year later, the former British protectorate, Jordan became independent.

1978: Karl Wallenda, one of the great high-wire acrobats, plunged to his death while promoting a touring circus in Puerto Rico. 16 years earlier, on the same day in 1962, his nephew and son-in-law, also part of ‘The Great Wallendas’, had been killed when their human pyramid act collapsed, and in 1972, Richard Guzman accidentally touched a live wire while climbing a pole to join his father-in-law, Karl Wallenda, during a performance. The shock made him lose his grip and he also plunged to his death.

1988: The first official mercy killing took place in Australia when a life-support system of a terminally ill patient was turned off by doctors at a Melbourne hospital.


The National Day of Pakistan; on this day in 1956, it was declared an Islamic Republic.

1752: The Halifax Gazette, the first Canadian newspaper, was published.

1765: The Stamp Act came into force requiring the stamping (or taxing) of all publications and legal documents in British colonies provoking the American colonies to claim ‘no taxation without representation’. Although repealed the following year, the War of Independence was growing nearer.

1860: Birth of Horatio William Bottomley, English journalist and financier who wanted a life of luxury but whose grandiose business schemes kept leading to bankruptcy. When found guilty of fraud for a third time, he was sentenced to seven years in jail. The founder of the journal John Bull, Horatio Bottomley had been a Member of Parliament, and gone through millions of pounds when he died in poverty in 1933.

1861: London’s first tram cars began operating from Bayswater. The cars were designed by a Mr Train from New York.

1918: ‘Big Bertha’, the giant German gun, began shelling Paris from 75 miles away.

1918: In London at the Wood Green Empire, Chung Ling-soo (William E Robinson, US-born magician) was about to perform his ‘Defying Bullets’ trick which required him to ‘catch’ two bullets fired at him from separate guns. Because of a mechanical failure of one of the guns, the bullet was actually discharged and pierced his lung. He managed to cry ‘Lower the curtain’, and died the following morning in hospital.

1919: Italian Socialist journalist, Benito Mussolini, formed the Fascists to fight liberalism and communism.

1921: Birth of Donald Malcolm Campbell, son of former world land and water speed holder, Sir Malcolm. Much in awe of his father, he was determined to carve his own name as a world speed record-breaker which he managed in 1955.

1923: ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’ with words and music by Frank Silver and Irving Conn, was published.

1925: Tennessee state banned the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution. One teacher later disobeyed and sparked off one of the most bizarre court cases ever, known as the ‘Monkey Trial’.

1929: Birth of Sir Roger Bannister, neurologist and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, where as a student in 1954, he ran the world’s first four-minute mile.

1933: Hitler became dictator of Germany.

1962: The world’s first nuclear merchant vessel, the Savannah, was launched at Camden, New Jersey.

1966: The first official meeting for 400 years between the Catholic and the Anglican churches took place in Rome between the Pope (Paul) and Dr Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

1984: Sarah Tisdall, the young British civil servant who tipped off the Guardian newspaper that Cruise missiles were on their way to Britain, was sent to jail for six months.

1985: Ben Hardwick, Britain’s youngest liver transplant patient at just three years old, died in hospital; he inspired a national fund raising campaign.


1603: James I, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, united the English and Scottish crowns when he acceded to the throne following the death of Elizabeth I.

1877: The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race ended in a dead heat for the first and only time.

1911: Denmark abolished capital punishment.

1922: The Grand National at Aintree saw only three of the 32 horses finish. The winner was Music Hall.

1926: Marian B Skaggs started the first Safeways supermarket in Maryland in the US.

1953: A Jamaican tenant at 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill Gate, London made a ghoulish discovery while examining wallpaper in the kitchen. It concealed a wardrobe. Inside was the naked body of Mrs Ethel Christie.

1976: Isabel Perón was deposed as President of the Argentine in a bloodless coup.

1978: The tanker Amoco Cadiz split in two off Brittany spilling 50,000 tons of crude oil which polluted the French coastline.

1980: Gunmen burst into the small chapel of a nuns’ hospital and shot dead Mgr Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, as he was saying mass. They were believed to be in the pay of right-wing fanatics headed by Major Roberto d’Aubuisson.

1988: Mordechai Vanunu was sentenced by an Israeli court to 18 years in prison for disclosing Israel’s nuclear programme to The Sunday Times in London.

1989: A claim by Professor Stanley Pons of Utah University and Professor Martin Fleischman of Southampton University that their Anglo-American collaboration had produced controlled nuclear fusion in a test tube was greeted with scepticism by the scientific community and later Harvard University said they were unable to replicate the experiment.


National Day of Greece, marking this day, 1924, when it became a republic after King George of Greece was deposed.

1133: Birth of Henry II, King of England.

1306: Robert the Bruce was crowned King of the Scots. His reign would last until 7 June 1329.

1609: English navigator, Henry Hudson, undertook his third (and last) voyage of exploration, this time for the Dutch East India Company. He was trying to find the North West Passage, believing it to be the shortest route to the spice islands of the east. He discovered the great bay that bears his name.

1769: Birth of Joachim Murat, French field marshal who was made ‘King of Naples’ by Napoleon, whose sister he married.

1807: The British parliament abolished the slave trade, largely as a result of the campaigning of Wilberforce supported by the Quakers.

1876: The first Scotland v. Wales football match took place at Glasgow. The home team won 4-0.

1929: Mussolini claimed to have won 90 per cent of the vote in the Italian elections.

1949: Hamlet became the first British film to win an Oscar. There was also an Oscar for its star, Laurence Olivier.

1957: Six nations signed the Treaty of Rome to establish the EEC (European Economic Community). They were Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Holland and Luxembourg.

1989: A father and son celebrated a double wedding in Okehampton, Devon. Barrie Hall, a divorcee and his son, Christopher, married Caroline and Teena Atherton, sisters in the same pub skittles team.


1780: The first Sunday newspaper in Britain was published; the British Gazette and Sunday Monitor.

1840: Birth of George Smith, English Assyriologist who studied cuneiform inscriptions in the British Museum. A former banknote engraver, he eventually deciphered the Chaldean account of the Deluge at about the time of Noah.

1863: The first steeplechase under National Hunt rules was run at Market Harborough, when Mr Goodman on Socks was the winner.

1885: ‘A lady well-known in literary and scientific circles’ was the only clue The Times gave to the identity of the woman who was cremated by the Cremation Society in Woking, Surrey. She was the first person to be officially cremated in Britain.

1898: The Sabi Game Reserve was officially designated in South Africa to become the world’s first game reserve.

1920: The ‘Black and Tans’, so-called special constables from Britain, arrived in Ireland. Their nickname came from the colours of their uniform.

1924: Bernard Shaw’s St Joan, starring Sybil Thorndike, was performed for the first time at the New Theatre, London.

1936: New Zealand radio began broadcasting the first parliamentary broadcasts.

1964: The first performance of Funny Girl on Broadway with Barbra Streisand. It established her as a star.

1973: After 171 years, the first woman stockbroker, Mrs Susan Shaw was able to set foot on the floor of the London Stock Exchange; she was one of ten women elected as members.

1979: Prime Minister Begin for Israel and President Sadat for Egypt signed a peace treaty at the White House, witnessed by President Jimmy Carter.

1990: Birth of Princess Eugenie of York, second child of Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York.


1785: Birth of Louis XVII, King of France, second son of Louis XVI. He would only live ten years and was poisoned.

1794: The US Navy was officially created.

1809: Birth of Baron Georges Eugène Haussmann, French financier and town planner who made sweeping changes to Paris, widening streets and laying out boulevards and parks.

1871: The first international rugby match between Scotland and England took place at Edinburgh with a victory for the hosts.

1880: The Salvation Army uniform was authorized, but the distinctive bonnets for women did not appear until June.

1912: Birth of Leonard James Callaghan (Lord Callaghan of Cardiff), Labour Prime Minister, 1976-9.

1914: The first successful blood transfusion took place in a Brussels hospital.

1942: British commandos destroyed the U-boat base at St Nazaire. The destroyer Campbeltown rammed the dock gates at 20 knots with five tons of explosives on board. She put out the main dry dock on the Atlantic coast. A German ship trying to cut off the British commandos as they made their getaway in fast launches was sunk by German guns in error.

1958: Nikita Khrushchev toppled Marshal Bulganin to become the Soviet leader.

1961: The first women traffic wardens began ticketing in Leicester.

1964: Six months after the ‘Great Train Robbery’ in Buckinghamshire, 20 of the gang were still at large, but the ten who were arrested were found guilty of stealing more than £2.6m from mailbags. They included Ronnie Biggs. Sentences totalled 307 years in jail.

1977: Two jumbo jets collided on the ground at Tenerife airport killing 574 people. The world’s worst air disaster was caused by a misunderstanding about which aircraft was taking off, and was not helped by fog. A Pan-Am taxied on to the runway while a KLM jumbo began its take-off without clearance.

1980: A mine lift cage at the Vaal Reef gold mine in South Africa plunged 1.2 miles, probably the longest fall by any lift, killing all 23 passengers.

1989: In the first elections for the Soviet parliament, the voters dealt a devastating blow to the Soviet old guard. In Moscow, the Communist party leader and his deputy were defeated.


1515: Birth of St Teresa of Avila, Spanish founder of the reformed Carmelites who originally came from an aristocratic Castilian family. In 1970, she was declared a Doctor of the Church, the first woman saint to be so honoured.

1660: Birth of George I, King of England from 1714, in Hanover.

1862: Birth of Aristide Briand, French statesman and Nobel Peace prize winner who was Prime Minister 11 times between 1925-32.

1910: The first seaplane, designed by Henri Fabre, took off near Marseilles.

1912: In the University boat race, both the Oxford and Cambridge boats sank in the Thames and the race had to be rerun.

1913: The first Morris Oxford left the Cowley, Oxfordshire, factory.

1917: The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Britain’s first women’s service unit, was founded.

1920: Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, the King and Queen of Hollywood, married.

1925: Cambridge won the boat race as Oxford sank. Oxford sank again in 1951, but it was not until 1978 that the Cambridge boat sank.

1930: Constantinople had its name changed to Istanbul by Kemal Atatürk, and the town of Angora (where the wool comes from) was changed to Ankara, the new capital of Turkey.

1939: The Spanish Civil War ended as Franco and his Nationalist troops took Madrid.

1941: British naval forces destroyed seven Italian warships off Crete without a single loss at the Battle of Cape Matapan.

1942: Birth of Neil Kinnock, Welsh-born leader of the Labour Party.

1945: The last German V2 rocket fell on Britain.

1964: Radio Caroline, Britain’s first pirate broadcasting station began transmitting from the Channel just outside British waters.

1973: Marlon Brando refused his Oscar for The Godfather in protest at Hollywood’s portrayal of American aborigines.

1979: A crippled reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station in Pennsylvania threatened disaster to a wide area, but authorities decided against evacuation. The building was badly contaminated. Defective equipment and operating errors are thought to have been the cause of the accident.

1989: The San Diego Yacht Club was stripped of the America’s Cup for violating the rules, according to a court judgement. The Cup was to be returned to the New Zealand Mercury Bay Boating Club, whose mono-hull New Zealand had been no match for the US Stars and Stripes, a catamaran, and therefore the race had not been ‘evenly matched’. The US club subsequently won an appeal, continuing the saga.


An old folk belief claimed this to be a ‘borrowed day’, since it was believed the last three days of March had been taken from April.

1461: Edward VI secured the crown of England by a victory over the Lancastrians in the War of the Roses at Towton, North Yorkshire. It is believed to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil with the loss of over 28,000 men.

1790: Birth of John Tyler, tenth US President, who was involved in the annexation of Texas.

1871: The Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria, and, in 1904, her son Edward VII opened Richmond Park to the public.

1886: Coca-Cola, invented by Dr John Pemberton of Atlanta, Georgia, was launched as an ‘Esteemed Brain Tonic and Intellectual Beverage’. It was not until 1894 that mass production bottling began.

1918: Marshal Foch was made Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies in France.

1920: Sir William Robertson, who enlisted in 1877, became a field marshal in the British Army, the first man to rise to this rank from private.

1927: Sir Henry Segrave beat Malcolm Campbell’s land speed record in his Mystery car on the Daytona Beach, clocking 203.841 mph; in Italy, the first Mille Miglia was won by Ferdinando Minola and Giuseppe Morandi.

1951: The first performance on Broadway of The King and I with Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence.

1971: Major William Calley, the US lieutenant who allowed the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese civilians to take place, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life. Two years later to the day in 1973, US troops finally left Vietnam.

1974: US Mariner 10 took close-ups of the planet Mercury.

1982: David Puttnam’s Chariots of Fire won the Oscar for best film.

1987: The ‘Iron Lady’, Mrs Thatcher, visited Moscow and received a warm reception, led by Mr Gorbachev.

1988: Ian Botham plus elephants began a fund-raising trek across the Alps in Hannibal’s footsteps. On the same day, he learned his contract with Queensland Cricket Association had been cancelled because of his behaviour. It still had two years to run.

1988: Lloyd Honeyghan became the first British boxer to regain a world title since Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis, 71 years before. Honeyghan knocked out Jorgé Vaca of Mexico in the third round at the Wembley Arena, London.


1135: Birth of Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon), Jewish philosopher born in Córdoba, Spain, who migrated with his family to Egypt, where he became Saladin’s physician. His contribution to Jewish thought in a number of commentaries rates him second to Moses.

1842: Ether was used as an anaesthetic for the first time by Dr Crawford Long in Jefferson, Georgia, to remove a cyst from the neck of a student.

1858: Hyman Lipman of Philadelphia patented a pencil with an eraser attached to one end.

1867: ‘A lot of dollars for an awful lot of ice,’ critics cried when US Senator William H. Seward bought Alaska from the Russians for $7.2 million - approximately two cents an acre. No one knew about the oil.

1882: Birth of Melanie Klein (Reizes), Austrian-born child psychologist who settled in London. She made important contributions in analysing children’s behaviour and published several books including Narrative of a Child Analysis (1961).

1893: The first US ambassador to Britain, Thomas Francis Bayard, took up his post.

1943: The first performance of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical destined to be a landmark, Okalahoma!, on Broadway.

1951: Julius Rosenberg (a US Army signals corps engineer) and his wife, Ethel, were found guilty of passing atomic secrets to the Russians and sentenced to death.

1960: Having outlawed all black political movements following the Sharpeville massacre, the South African government declared a state of emergency.

1978: The Tory Party, led by Margaret Thatcher, called in the advertising agency, Saatchi and Saatchi to give their image and new leader a face-lift.

1981: In Washington, John Hinkley III shot and wounded President Reagan as well as several of his entourage as he walked from a hotel. The bullet lodged in Reagan’s left lung.

1984: Britain’s heaviest man, Peter Yarrall, 59 stone (826 lb/374.73 kg), who suffered from a glandular disorder, died in his flat in London’s East Ham. Ten firemen took five hours to demolish the bedroom and winch his body to the street using a crane.

1988: A former paratrooper bit off the ear of his sister’s boyfriend after an ‘unprovoked attack’ following a heavy drinking session, an Exeter court was told. The attacker laughed as he bit off half of the left ear, chewed and swallowed it in front of the victim and said ‘Yum, yum’. At the police station, the accused had said, ‘His nose was next’.

1989: US actor Kurt Russell proposed marriage to actress Goldie Hawn on stage at the Oscar award ceremony which was televised to 1.5 billion people in 91 countries. She was not amused.


1596: Birth of René Descartes, French philosopher and mathematician who is considered the ‘father of modern philosophy’.

1836: Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers appeared as a monthly-part work, his first major break. Three weeks later, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth.

1854: Japan opened its ports to US traders after the signing of a treaty.

1872: Arthur Griffith, Irish nationalist and President of the Irish Free State when it signed the peace treaty with Britain.

1889: The 985 ft (359.06 m) high Eiffel Tower, costing £260,000 at the time, was officially opened by French Premier Tirard. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, it had taken two years to erect.

1892: The world’s first fingerprinting bureau was formally opened by the Buenos Aires Chief of Police, although it had been operating unofficially since 1891.

1896: Whitcomb L Judson, a Chicago inventor, patented the first zipper, but it had too many imperfections, and it would not be until 29 April 1913 that a Swede living in New Jersey would produce the zipper as we know it today.

1901: The Daimler factory turned out its first car.

1915: D W Griffith’s Birth of a Nation had its first US screening and provoked a storm of criticism regarding its favourable attitude towards the Ku Klux Klan; it presented the hooded riders as heroes.

1920: In London, Parliament passed the Irish ‘Home Rule’ bill.

1924: The first British national airline, Imperial, was founded at Croydon Airport.

1934: The most wanted man in the US, John Dillinger, blasted his way out of a police trap after escaping from prison in Indiana using a fake wooden pistol.

1950: Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl published his account of the ‘Kon-Tiki Expedition’, which he undertook to demonstrate that the Polynesians came originally from South America. To do this, he built a balsa wood raft similar to those used by the Polynesians, and, with a Scandinavian crew, took 101 days to travel the possible route.

1953: John Halliday Christie was arrested after a manhunt. As well as that of his wife, Ethel, the bodies of seven women were found hidden in the house and garden at 10 Rillington Place. Three were found together in a secret alcove in the small kitchen. The dull-witted Timothy Evans, another tenant in the house, had been convicted three years previously of the murder of his wife, Beryl Evans, and her 14-month-old daughter, Geraldine, and hanged. Christie had kept all the press cuttings of the murder, which he probably committed.

1959: The Dalai Lama fled Tibet following Chinese repression, and sought asylum in India.

1978: Red Rum won the Grand National for the third consecutive year and was retired.

1986: A fire damaged the south wing of Hampton Court Palace. A woman died and there was extensive damage to the building.

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