May Day, originally a Roman festival which began on 28 April and lasted several days to mark the commencement of summer. In England, middle and lower classes would gather flowers - ‘go a maying’ - and the prettiest village maid was crowned Queen of the May, celebrated with dancing around the maypole.

Labour Day, the annual Labour movement holiday, held on the first Monday each May, and linked to 1 May, became an official bank holiday in England from 1976. (In the US, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September).

1218: Birth of Rudolf I of Habsburg, King of Germany who was the founder of the Imperial Habsburg dynasty.

1707: The Union with Scotland and England was proclaimed.

1840: The first Penny Black stamps with Queen Victoria’s head went on sale five days before the official issue date. They are now worth at least £65,000 each.

1841: The London Library, founded by Thomas Carlyle, Gladstone, Lord Macauley and others, opened.

1851: Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, which ran until 11 October. The glass Crystal Palace was so popular it was rebuilt in south London.

1889: In Germany, the Bayer company introduced aspirin in a powder form.

1912: The first performance of L’Après-Midi d’un Faune, music by Claude Debussy and starring Nijinsky, was given in Paris. All performances sold out as controversy over its eroticism became the talk of the city.

1925: Cyprus became a British colony, having originally been annexed in 1914 when Turkey supported Germany during the First World War.

1927: Imperial Airways served the first hot meals on a flight from London to Paris. The galley could only provide meals for 18 passengers.

1931: President Hoover opened the Empire State Building in New York, then the world’s tallest (1250 ft high, with 102 floors).

1937: Picasso began work on his most political painting, Guernica, which depicted the agony of the Basque town which had been bombed only days before (26 April 1937).

1939: Batman, the creation of Bob Kane, made his debut (as The Batman) in the May edition (No 17) of Detective Comics.

1945: The German Army in Italy surrendered to the Allies.

1952: TWA introduced ‘Tourist Class’ air travel.

1955: Stirling Moss became the first British driver to win the Mille Miglia. His Mercedes Benz finished 30 minutes ahead of the second car, driven by the legendary Italian, Fangio.

1960: The USSR shot down the US U-2 spy aircraft piloted by Gary Powers. He was captured and later put on trial which ended with a ten-year sentence.

1961: Betting shops became legal in Britain.

1967: Elvis Presley married his childhood sweetheart, Priscilla Beaulieu, and held a lavish reception in Las Vegas.

1968: Legoland Family Park, the Danish toy maker’s answer to Disneyland, opened at Billund. It began as a permanent display of Lego models, but developed to become Denmark’s most popular tourist attraction after the Tivoli Gardens.


1670: The Hudson Bay Company was incorporated as ‘The Governor and the Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay’.

1729: Birth of Catherine II (the Great), Empress of Russia, whose infidelities led her to be banished to another residence before her husband, Peter, was first dethroned and then murdered. As Empress, she embarked on enlarging the Russian Empire.

1860: Birth of Theodor Herzl, founder of Zionism. As an Austrian journalist, he was sent to cover the Dreyfus affair in Paris. The resultant anti-Semitism convinced him that a national homeland was needed for Jews, and he outlined his views in a book, Jewish State (1896). He became the first President of the World Zionist Organization in 1897.

1892: Birth of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, former German cavalry officer who later joined the German Air Force and became the commander of the 11th Chasing Squadron, ‘Richthofen’s Flying Circus’. British pilots nicknamed him the ‘Red Baron’ because he flew a red Fokker during his many First World War aerial battles. He shot down 80 aircraft before he was finally brought down.

1923: The first non-stop flight across the US, lasting 27 hours, was made from Long Island to San Diego by Lieutenants Kelly and Macready in a Fokker T-2.

1923: At the BBC’s new studio (opened the previous day) at Savoy Hill, London the first Woman’s Hour programme was broadcast on radio.

1935: Birth of Faisal II, King of Iraq who was educated at Harrow. He succeeded his father, King Ghazi, who was killed in a car accident in 1939. The entire royal family and their household were assassinated in 1958, when Iraq became a republic.

1936: The Emperor Haile Selassie and his family fled from the Abyssinian capital, Addis Ababa, three days before it fell to Italian forces.

1965: The first satellite television programme Out of this World linked nine countries and over 300 million viewers. The first colour programme was satellited on the 17th May by NBC for US viewers. It was called A New Look at Olde England.

1973: The Lebanese Civil War began when 29 died as the army clashed with Palestinian refugees.

1982: The Argentinean battleship General Belgrano was torpedoed by the submarine Conqueror during the Falklands War. The crew of 362 seamen perished and there was considerable criticism in Britain as the ship was sailing outside the 200-mile exclusion zone at the time.


1469: Birth of Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, Italian author and statesman who wrote The Prince (1532), which insisted that all means are acceptable to achieve the maintenance of authority.

1494: Columbus, on his second expedition, discovered Jamaica.

1500: The Portuguese explorer, Pedro Alvarez Cabral, claimed Brazil for his nation.

1788: The first daily evening newspaper, the Star and Evening Advertiser, was published in London.

1808: The first duel fought from two hot-air balloons took place above Paris. The shots were carefully aimed, and a Monsieur Le Pique was killed.

1810: Lord Byron swam the Hellespont (Dardanelles) in Turkey which separates Europe from Asia. He took one hour ten minutes.

1874: Birth of François Coty (Francesco Giuseppe Spoturno), Corsican-born perfume manufacturer.

1898: Birth of Golda Meir (Goldie Meyerson, née Mabovitch), Israeli Prime Minister 1969-73. Born in Kiev, she was educated in the US, but settled in Palestine in 1921, where she worked on a kibbutz with her husband. She became Prime Minister when aged 70.

1951: King George VI opened the Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank, brightening the drab post-war scene.

1952: Newcastle United became the first team since 1891 to win two FA Cups in succession by beating Arsenal 1-0.

1968: The first heart transplant operation was carried out in Britain on a 45-year-old man at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone by a team led by Dr Donald Ross.

1977: The first World Badminton Championships were held in Malmö. The men’s singles championship was won by the Dane, Flemming Delfs.


The Feast Day of Florian, patron saint of blacksmiths and firemen.

1780: The first Epsom Derby was won by Charles Bunbury’s Diomed.

1827: Birth of John Hanning Speke, English explorer who joined Richard Burton’s African expedition. When Burton fell ill, Speke went on and became the first European to see Lake Victoria (1858), which he claimed was the source of the Nile. Burton disputed this, even after a second expedition. (The remotest head-stream is further south in Burundi, but the Nile proper does indeed begin from Lake Victoria.)

1839: The Cunard Shipping Line was founded by Sir Samuel Cunard.

1852: Birth of Alice Liddell, the inspiration of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865). She died in 1934.

1863: The Maori uprising against the British began in New Zealand.

1882: Birth of (Estelle) Sylvia Pankhurst, English painter and suffragette who was the third member of her family to fight for votes for women. Unlike her mother and sister who believed the vote should be for middle-class women, she wanted it for women of all classes.

1896: The first edition of the half-penny Daily Mail was published.

1904: A provisional agreement was signed in Manchester’s Midland Hotel by the Hon. Charles Rolls, seller and repairer of motor cars, and Henry Royce, electrical engineer and builder of a single motor car. Together they would produce Rolls-Royce cars. Rolls had driven a car at a world record 93 mph at Dublin’s Phoenix Park the previous year.

1926: The first General Strike in British history called by the TUC began. Troops were called in to man essential services and public volunteers helped on the buses and with the mail. Troops and armoured cars were out in all cities in case of trouble, but the strike lasted just nine days.

1928: Birth of Muhammed Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt.

1970: Two girls and two male students were shot dead and 11 injured by US National Guards at Kent State University, Ohio, during an anti-war demonstration against Nixon’s decision to send troops into Cambodia.

1976: ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was adopted as the Australian national anthem, but was replaced by ‘Australia Fair’ in 1986.

1979: Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first woman Prime Minister following the Conservative Party’s election win.

1982: HMS Sheffield was sunk by an Exocet missile during the Falklands war. 21 died, many others suffered appalling burns.

1989: Former marine Colonel Oliver North was convicted of three charges and had nine others dismissed in the US District Court regarding his action in supplying arms to the Contras from money made by selling arms to Iran.


1760: The first hanging took place in Tyburn in London; Earl Ferrers was executed for murdering his steward.

1800: Birth of Louis Hachette, French bookseller, publisher and editor.

1813: Birth of Soren Aaby Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian. A deformed Jew who converted to Christianity, he came into conflict with the Church over his views on existentialism.

1818: Birth of (Heinrich) Karl Marx, German author and founder of international Communism. With Engels, he co-wrote the Communist Manifesto (1848). Using the resources of the British Museum reading room to study economics and political thought, he produced Das Kapital (1867), although he didn’t live to complete the final volume.

1865: The first train robbery took place, near North Bend, Ohio.

1867: Birth of Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane), legendary US news reporter who pioneered modern investigative journalism with exposés on the treatment of the mentally ill, slum life and divorce. She was also famous for her stunts.

1952: The third verse of ‘Deutschland Über Alles’ was adopted as the national anthem of West Germany. On the same day in 1955, West Germany became a sovereign state with Dr Konrad Adenauer as first Federal Chancellor.

1961: The US put astronaut Alan B Shepard in space for a sub-orbital flight and President J F Kennedy promised that the US would be the first to get a man on the moon.

1963: Britain’s first satellite, Ariel III was launched from Vandenburg Air base in California.

1968: Rioting students led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit erected barricades in Paris as they clashed with police in violent confrontations. Over 1,000 were injured and French workers added their support to bring the country to a virtual standstill.

1980: Millions in Britain watched live on television as the SAS stormed the Iranian embassy in London, freeing 19 hostages held by five terrorists. Four gunmen were killed, the first shot by one of the hostages, PC Lock, as the first SAS man entered, probably saving his life.

1988: The first live television broadcast from the summit of Mount Everest was transmitted by Japanese television.

2000: On this day, the next conjunction of the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will take place.


1626: A Dutch settler, Paul Minuit, bought what is now Manhattan Island from the local Aborigines for a handful of trinkets worth no more than £25.

1642: Montreal was officially established under its original name ‘Ville Marie’.

1733: The first international boxing match took place at Figg’s Amphitheatre, London, when Bob Whittaker beat Italy’s Tito di Carni.

1758: Birth of Maximilien (François Marie Isidore de) Robespierre, leader of the French Revolution. A great manipulator of the mob, he became virtual dictator of France, but his popularity waned and the overworked guillotine finally caught up with him on 28 July 1794.

1840: The first postage stamps, the ‘Penny Black’ and two-penny ‘blues’, which were the brainchild of Roland Hill, officially went on sale in Britain. (Some had been sold four days before and are now valued at not less than £65,000 each.)

1851: US inventor, Linus Yale, patented his Yale lock.

1856: Birth of Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist and father of modern psychology and psychoanalysis, who stressed the relationship between sexual repression and neuroses. In 1938, as the Nazis entered Austria, he fled to London.

1856: Birth of Robert Edwin Peary, US polar explorer who was the first to reach the North Pole (6 April 1909) on his seventh attempt.

1875: The first Kentucky Derby was run for three-year-olds at Churchhill Downs track, Louisville, Kentucky, and has been run on the first Saturday in May ever since.

1882: In Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the Fenian ‘Irish Invincibles’ murdered Lord Cavendish, Chief Secretary for Ireland, and Thomas Henry Burke, Irish Under-Secretary.

1910: Following the death this day of King Edward VII, George V acceded to the throne. He celebrated his Silver Jubilee with Queen Mary in 1935.

1937: The German airship, Hindenburg, arrived at Lakehurst, New Jersey, after its flight from Frankfurt. A radio commentator for WLS, Herb Morrison, began to describe the scene when the airship struck the landing mast and suddenly exploded. Within seconds, it was a ball of fire. Morrison’s now classic broadcast heard him sob, ‘Oh, the humanity, all the passengers, I don’t believe it.’ Amazingly, only 36 of 97 on board perished, but it was the end of airships for another 50 years. Ironically, this very day back in 1919 the British Admiralty had recommended that helium, a non-inflammable, lighter-than-air gas was a safe substitute for hydrogen-filled balloons and airships.

1954: At the Iffley Road track in Oxford, in a meeting between the University and the Amateur Athletic Association, Roger Bannister, with university pacemakers, Chris Chattaway and Chris Brasher, became the first to break the four-minute mile, winning in three minutes 59.4 seconds.

1959: The Cod War between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights intensified when Icelandic gunboats fired live ammunition at British trawlers.

1960: Princess Margaret married Anthony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon) at Westminster Abbey.

1961: The first football team to achieve the double (FA Cup and League champions), was Tottenham Hotspur led by Danny Blanchflower when they beat Leicester City 2-0 to win the Cup at Wembley.

1974: The German Chancellor Willy Brandt resigned when it was revealed that his closest aide was working for the Communists.

1987: In Belgrade, Miroslav Milhailovic began a 54-hour joke-telling marathon claiming he knew 287,000 jokes.

1988: Zimbabwe-born cricketer, Graeme Hick, playing for Worcester, scored 405 in a single innings, the first since 1895 when Archie MacLaren scored 424 on the same ground at Taunton, Somerset.

1990: London telephone codes changed to 071 and 081 (replacing 01).


1663: The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, built by Thomas Killigrew, opened under a charter granted by Charles II with a performance of Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Humorous Lieutenant.

1763: Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa Indians, rose up against the English garrison at Detroit and laid siege to it for five months.

1823: The deaf Beethoven conducted the first performance of his Ninth Symphony in Vienna.

1832: Greece was proclaimed an independent kingdom.

1888: George Eastman patented his Kodak box camera, a name he felt would be easy to remember.

1907: The first Isle of Man TT Race was held. The winner was Charles Collier on a Matchless, at an average speed of 38.22 mph.

1915: A German submarine torpedoed the Cunard liner, Lusitania, without prior warning and around 1,400 of the 1978 men, women and children on board were drowned off the Irish coast, including 128 US citizens and the multi-millionaire, Alfred Vanderbilt.

1919: Birth of Maria Eva Duarte Perón (née Ibarguren), ‘Evita’, legendary Argentinean who was born the illegitimate daughter of a cook. Singing in a Buenos Aires nightclub, she met Juan Perón, then Minister of Labour. He married her a year later when she was just 16. After he became President, her popularity increased, despite her involvement in corruption and torture. However, she did achieve many reforms and became the heroine of ‘the shirtless ones’.

1921: Crown Prince Hirohito (later the Emperor of Japan) arrived on an official visit to Britain.

1926: Women’s suffrage in Britain was lowered from the age of 30 to 21 years and over.

1945: The Germans surrendered to Generals Montgomery and Bedell-Smith. German Chief-of-Staff Jodl signed the instrument of unconditional surrender in a small schoolhouse in Rheims.

1960: Leonid Brezhnev became head of the USSR.

1988: The first gathering of people claiming to have been abducted by aliens met in Boston.


1794: Antoine Lavoisier, the French chemist who identified oxygen as a result of Priestley’s previous work, was guillotined because he had once accepted the office of farmer general of taxes.

1828: Birth of Jean Henri Dunant, Swiss founder of the Red Cross (29 October 1863). It was while he was at the Battle of Solferino (1859) that he saw the agony of war and determined to establish an international organization accepted by all nations.

1849: The first international yacht race was won by Pearl of Bermuda when she beat the US yacht, Brenda.

1884: Birth of Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the US who took over on Roosevelt’s death (1945) and gave the orders for the atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan bringing the Second World War to an end.

1896: The highest county cricket championship innings score, 887, was achieved by Yorkshire against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

1902: Volcanic activity had begun in April near St Pierre, Martinique, forcing over 100 fer-de-lance snakes to invade the town’s mulatto quarter. Over 50 people and many animals died before these six-foot long snakes were finally killed by the town’s giant street cats. On this day, however, the volcano erupted violently and within minutes St Pierre was destroyed. Of the 30,000 inhabitants only two survived.

1904: Birth of John Snagge, English broadcaster. A veteran BBC sports commentator, he was best known for his University Boat Race commentaries.

1921: Sweden abolished capital punishment.

1923: Jack Hobbs, the Surrey and England opening batsman, made his 100th century in first-class cricket.

1924: Afrikaans became the official language of South Africa.

1926: Birth of Sir David Attenborough, English broadcaster and naturalist who has presented many award-winning television series, including Life on Earth.

1945: VE Day (Victory in Europe) was celebrated.

1953: Gloucester wicketkeeper Arthur Wilson held a record ten catches in an innings against Hampshire.

1961: George Blake, a former British diplomat, was jailed for 42 years for spying for Russia. The former Vice Consul in Seoul had been captured by the Communists and held for three years, during which time he may have been brainwashed. He escaped from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966.

1962: The London trolley buses ran for the last time.

1977: The trial of Pieter Menten, the Dutch art dealer and Nazi collaborator, began in Amsterdam. Accused of murdering Polish Jews in 1941 in order to obtain their art treasures and other possessions, he was sentenced to 15 years, but he appealed to the Supreme Court and was released on a technicality, sparking off demonstrations. He was retried in 1980, but only served a third of his ten-year sentence.

1984: The Thames Barrier, designed to prevent the river flooding central London, was opened.

1988: Nancy Reagan’s reliance on an astrologer and its influence on President Reagan was revealed when Time magazine published the first extract of former ex-chief of staff, Donald Regan’s memoirs. The astrologer was an heiress, Joan Quigley, who confirmed her services had been used since 1981.


National Day of Czechoslovakia.

1671: Colonel Thomas Blood, the Irish adventurer, gained entry to the Tower of London disguised as a parson, and befriended one of the keepers of the Royal Regalia. This night, together with several accomplices armed with pistols and daggers, he stole the crown jewels. The gang managed to make their way out of the Tower, but were soon apprehended by a Captain Beckman. Tried and found guilty, Blood convinced King Charles I that his death would set off a revolution, so was granted a pardon.

1785: Joseph Bramah patented the beer pump handle.

1800: Birth of John Brown, US abolitionist who married twice and had twenty children. His anti-slavery campaign was ruthless - he attacked a US armoury at Harper’s ferry in Virginia - and he was eventually arrested and tried for insurrection.

1873: Birth of Howard Carter, English Egyptologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.

1887: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show opened at West Brompton, London, as part of the America Exhibition.

1896: The first Horseless Carriage Show opened to the motor trade, with ten models on show at London’s Imperial Institute.

1901: The first Federal parliament met in Melbourne, Australia, and on this day, 1927, the Duke of York opened the Parliament House in Canberra, replacing Melbourne as the capital.

1944: The first eye bank opened at the New York Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital.

1946: Victor Emmanuel III, Italian monarch since 1900, abdicated as Italy became a republic.

1949: Britain’s first launderette opened at 184 Queensway in London for a six-month trial.

1956: John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger opened at the Royal Court Theatre, London and launched an era of ‘angry young men’.

1978: The body of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was found in the boot of a small Renault in central Rome, a victim of the Red Brigade.

10 MAY

1655: The English captured Jamaica from the Spanish.

1760: Birth of Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, French army officer who wrote and composed the Marseillaise. Originally called ‘Chant de l’armée du Rhin’, it was sung by troops from Marseilles.

1838: Birth of John Wilkes Booth, failed US actor and assassin of Abraham Lincoln.

1857: The Sepoy Rebellion broke out in Meerat, triggering the Indian mutiny against British rule.

1865: Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy was taken prisoner by the Union forces at Irvinsville, Georgia, during the American Civil War.

1869: The Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met at Promontory, Utah, where the lines were linked to complete the transcontinental railroad.

1886: The FA Council approved football international caps.

1907: Mother’s Day was first celebrated, initiated by Miss Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, as part of her women’s suffrage and temperance movement.

1915: Birth of Denis Thatcher, English businessman and husband of the British Prime Minister.

1922: Dr Ivy Williams became the first woman to be called to the English Bar.

1933: The Nazis began burning books by ‘unGerman’ writers, including those by Heinrich Mann, Upton Sinclair and Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front.

1933: In New York, Nelson Rockefeller fired the Mexican painter Diego Rivera from completing his mural for the new RCA building because he refused to remove a portrait of Lenin. The mural was destroyed.

1940: Churchill took over as Prime Minister from the discredited Chamberlain.

1941: The worst of the London Blitz occurred when 550 German bombers dropped 100,000 incendiaries. This night, 1915, the Zeppelins had first bombed London.

1941: Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, parachuted into Scotland from a Messerschmitt, in an effort to negotiate a peace settlement, but was arrested and imprisoned for the remainder of the war. He was tried at Nuremberg Tribunal, found guilty of war crimes and imprisoned in Spandau Prison until his death in 1987.

1942: The German and Italian warplanes stopped their blanket bombing of Malta after 11,000 missions.

1981: François Mitterand became President of France, at the third attempt.

1988: In New York State, rescue workers had to cut a hole in a bedroom wall to extract a man needing hospital care for acute bronchitis. He weighed 70 stone.

1990: Robert Maxwell launched the first European weekend newspaper, The European.

11 MAY

868: The first printed book, known as the Diamond Sutra, was published in china. It was found in 1900.

1720: Birth of Baron von Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Münchhausen, German hunter and soldier who fought with the Russians against the Turks and returned to tell the most exaggerated tales.

1811: The original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng, were born of Chinese parents in Siam. Joined from breastbone to navel, they settled in the US, where they were exhibited and where they were married, and fathered several normal children.

1812: Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister, was shot and killed by a bankrupt Liverpool broker, John Bellingham, as he entered the House of Commons.

1858: Minnesota became the 32nd US state.

1904: Australian diva, Nellie Melba, signed a contract with the Gramophone Company. The records, which were to have a distinct mauve label, would be sold for one guinea, a far higher price than anything else on sale at this time, and she would receive an advance of £1000 and a five-shilling (25%) royalty. The first records reached the shops in July and were sold out within days.

1949: Siam changed its name to Thailand.

1960: The world’s longest liner, SS France was launched at St Nazaire by General de Gaulle.

1964: (Sir) Terence Conran opened the first Habitat shop in London’s Fulham Road.

1981: The first performance of Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats, based on T S Eliot’s Old Possum poems, opened in London.

1985: A fire at Bradford City football ground killed 40 and injured 150 spectators.

12 MAY

1765: Lady Hamilton (Emma Lyon) was baptized this day; her date of birth is somewhat obscure. The daughter of a blacksmith, she became a courtesan. One of her lovers, Sir William Hamilton, then married her. Nelson first met her in 1793 and their romance flourished. She gave him a daughter, Horatia. He left Emma £2,000 a year when he died, but she still managed to run up massive debts and eventually fled to Calais, where she later died in poverty.

1820: Birth of Florence Nightingale, English hospital reformer who attended to the wounded during the Crimean War. ‘The Lady of the Lamp’ had over 10,000 under her care in appalling and unsanitary conditions. Determined to remedy the suffering she had experienced, she raised £50,000 to establish nurses’ training in Britain.

1861: ‘John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave’ was played for the first time at a flag-raising ceremony at Fort Warren, near Boston. The words and music were by CS Hall about John Brown, a sergeant at the Fort, and not the anti-slavery campaigner as is popularly believed, although the song was used later to parody the famous abolitionist.

1870: The Red River Colony, now called Manitoba, was purchased from the Hudson Bay Company by Canada and became a province.

1870: The London Swimming Association drafted the rules of water polo.

1880: Lincoln Ellsworth, US explorer and civil engineer who surveyed the routes and helped build the Canadian transcontinental railway.

1906: The first edition of Horatio Bottomley’s magazine, John Bull, was published. In 1912, the first edition of Pravda was published.

1926: The General Strike ended. It lasted only nine days.

1935: Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by ‘Bill W’ (William Wilson) in Akron, Ohio.

1937: The BBC transmitted its first outside television broadcast of King George VI’s coronation procession.

1949: The Russian blockade of Berlin ended after 11 months. It had cost the Allies $200 million to fly in food and essential supplies.

1951: The first H-bomb test on Eniwetok Atoll in the mid-Pacific proved it was possible to destroy a city over 100 times the size of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

1969: The minimum voting age was reduced to 18 years in Britain.

13 MAY

1607: The first permanent English settlement in America was established with the landing of soldiers from three ships on the Virginian coast at Jamestown.

1717: Birth of Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, who reigned for 40 years, during which she made many changes both financial and cultural, and raised Austria to the status of a major power.

1828: Birth of Josephine (Elizabeth) Butler, English social reformer who campaigned for women’s rights in the 1860s and 1870s, promoting education for women and the Married Women’s Property Act.

1868: A team of Aboriginal cricketers arrived in England to play 47 matches. They preceded a white Australian team by more than ten years.

1981: Pope Paul II was shot in St Peter’s Square by a Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, witnessed by a crowd of 20,000 people. The Pope survived four bullets, and some bystanders were also injured.

1986: Legal history was made in Britain when Leo Abse, a member of parliament and a solicitor, appeared in proceedings in the High Court in his professional role, the first solicitor able to do so following changes in court rules.

14 MAY

National Day of Paraguay, marking this day, 1811, when she proclaimed her independence from Spain.

1643: Louis XIV, aged four, became King of France on the death of his father, Louis XIII. He reigned for 72 years.

1767: The British government imposed a tax on importing tea into America which would lead to the ‘Boston Tea Party’ and the start of the American War of Independence.

1796: Edward Jenner carried out his first successful vaccination against smallpox, inoculating a boy called Phipps with fluid from a pustule in the hand of a young woman, Sarah Nelmes, who had been infected by her master’s cows.

1842: The first edition of the London Illustrated News was published.

1847: HMS Driver arrived back at Spithead, the first steamship to circumnavigate the world.

1856: The trial of William Palmer, doctor and poisoner, began at the Old Bailey. Palmer’s victims were poisoned with strychnine and included creditors, at least four of his 14 illegitimate children, his mother-in-law, his wife who had brought him a large dowry, and other relations. Palmer was found guilty and executed in his native Staffordshire.

1905: Birth of Dr Hastings (Kamuzu) Banda, President of Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) from 1966, and Life President from 1971.

1940: The British Local Defence Volunteers was formed. It would later become known as the Home Guard, with civilians providing a last-ditch defence against a possible German invasion.

1948: The state of Israel was born with David Ben-Gurion as its first Prime Minister and Chaim Weizman as President of the provisional government.

1948: Atlantic Records was founded by Ahmet Ertegun, son of the Turkish ambassador to the US. He nurtured many famous artists from Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to rock stars Led Zeppelin, the Bee Gees and Mick Jagger.

1955: The Eastern bloc signed the Warsaw Pact.

1965: The field at Runnymede, the site of the signing of the Magna Carta, was dedicated by the Queen as a memorial to the late John F Kennedy, US President.

1973: The first US space station Skylab I was launched, followed on the 25th by the crew to board and man the station.

1977: At the end of his 1,000th professional football match, England international Bobby Moore retired.

1987: A state of emergency was declared in Fiji as troops led by Lt Col Sitveni Rabuka entered parliament. The conflict was a power struggle between native Fijians and the now larger Indian community who were still considered immigrants.

1989: Leading British theatre and film stars began a vigil at the site of the freshly excavated Rose Theatre on London’s south bank, the only remains of an Elizabethan theatre where Shakespeare probably performed, now threatened by developers.

15 MAY

The Feast Day of Dympna, patron saint of the insane, thought to have been an Irish princess who was slain by her father.

1718: The machine gun was patented by a London lawyer, James Puckle. He began to manufacture it in London in 1721.

1773: Birth of Prince Clemens Lothar Metternich, Prince of the Austrian Empire.

1800: James Hatfield attempted to assassinate George III at Drury Lane Theatre. The mad king had many enemies, but he survived another 20 years.

1862: The first baseball stadium was opened at Union Grounds, Brooklyn.

1918: The world’s first regular airmail service began between New York and Washington, operated for the US Post Office by the US Army.

1928: The Australian Flying Doctor service was started by Dr Vincent Welsh, at Australian Inland Mission, Cloncurry in Queensland.

1929: In the first football international, England lost to Spain 4-3 in Madrid.

1930: The 11 passengers travelling on United Airlines tri-motor Boeing 80A from Oakland, California to Cheyenne, Wyoming were greeted by the world’s first air hostess, Mrs Ellen Church, a Registered Nurse.

1936: Amy Johnson arrived in England after a record-breaking 12-day 15-hour flight from London to Cape Town and back.

1940: Nylon stockings went on sale in the US. All competing brands went on sale simultaneously under an agreement between the manufacturers.

1941: Frank Whittle’s jet-propelled Gloster E28/39 aircraft, Britain’s first, made its first top secret flight from RAF Cranwell.

1957: Britain’s first H-bomb was dropped on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. The effect of the radiation on some of the British soldiers who watched the test only came to light years later.

1963: Tottenham Hotspur beat Atletico Madrid 5-1 to become the first British winners of the European Winners Cup, and in 1977, Liverpool won the League Championship for a record tenth time.

1972: In the US, a white gunman fired five shots at George Wallace, Governor of Alabama in Laurel, Maryland. Several others were also hit. Wallace survived this assassination attempt, but a bullet damaged the spinal cord, paralysing him from the waist down.

1981: Birth of Zara Phillips, daughter of Anne, the Princess Royal and Mark Phillips.

1989: The Guardian Angels (British chapter), began patrolling selected London Underground trains after being established and trained by US leaders.

16 MAY

1763: Dr Johnson and James Boswell met for the first time, at Tom Davie’s bookshop in Russell Street.

1770: The Dauphin of France (later Louis XVI) married Marie Antoinette.

1888: Emile Berliner gave the first demonstration of flat disc recording and reproduction before members of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.

1929: The first Academy Awards ceremony was held - the name ‘Oscar’ was only coined in 1931 - and went to Wings for Best Film, to Emil Jannings for Best Actor, and to Janet Gaynor for Best Actress.

1936: The first British air hostess, Daphne Kearley, flew from Croydon to Le Bourget.

1938: The Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) was started by the Marchioness of Reading. It was granted a royal charter in 1966.

1943: The famous ‘Dam Busters’ raid by the 617 Squadron of Lancaster bombers led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson breached the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany using the ‘bouncing’ bombs developed by Dr Barnes Wallis. The Eder was Europe’s largest dam, and massive damage and loss of life were caused by flood water, as well as a serious loss of hydroelectric power for the German industrial area of the Rhine.

1952: The British parliament voted in favour of equal pay for women.

1956: Jim Laker of Surrey took all ten Australian wickets for 88 in 46 overs at the Oval, London.

1975: Junko Takei from Japan became the first woman to scale Everest.

1980: Dr George Nickopoulos was indicted on 14 counts of overprescribing drugs to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and others.

1983: Wheel clamps were first used in London on cars parked in the Chelsea, Kensington and Westminster areas.

1989: The first successful hole-in-the-heart operation was performed on an adult, Eileen Molyneaux, aged 66, from Kent at the Brook Hospital, Greenwich.

1990: Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr Gachet was sold at Christie’s, New York, for $82.5 million (£50 million) - the most expensive painting in the world.

17 MAY

National Day of Norway.

1620: The first merry-go-round is referred to in records as being set up at a fair in Philippolis, Turkey.

1861: The first package holiday arranged by Thomas Cook set off for Paris. A party from a Working Men’s club went with coupons for pre-paid hotel accommodation inclusive of meals.

1890: The first weekly comic paper, Comic Cuts, was published by Alfred Harmsworth, in London.

1900: Mafeking, a small town in the northern Cape, was relieved after a 217-day siege by the Boers. Robert Baden-Powell became a national hero for refusing to surrender and for the innovative way he kept spirits up during the siege. The man who later started the Scout movement had, in retrospect, achieved a trivial success and should never have been trapped in Mafeking in the first place.

1900: Birth of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iranian religious leader who was exiled for opposing the Shah in 1964. When the Shah was deposed in 1979, he returned to impose a strict fundamentalist Islamic republic.

1916: The Daylight-Saving Act (‘Summer Time’) was passed in Britain.

1937: Dizzy Gillespie was featured for the first time in a recording made in New York by Teddy Hill and the NBC Orchestra of ‘King Porter Stomp’.

1938: The Marquess of Bute sold half the city of Cardiff for £20 million in the biggest British property deal ever. It included theatres, farmlands, villages, 20,000 houses, 1,000 shops and 250 pubs.

1969: Tom McClean from Dublin rowed from Newfoundland to Blacksod Bay, Co. Mayo, completing the first transatlantic solo crossing in a rowing boat.

1978: Charlie Chaplin’s coffin turned up ten miles from its original Swiss cemetery, after being stolen on 2 March.

18 MAY

1804: Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed Emperor of France.

1827: William Corder murdered Maria Marten in the Red Barn, Polstead, Sussex. Corder wanted to break off his affair with the mole catcher’s daughter and pretended to arrange their marriage. They met secretly in the Red Barn where he killed her. The murder became the subject of ballads and melodramas.

1830: Edwin Budding of Gloucestershire signed an agreement for the manufacture of his invention, the lawn mower. The first customer was Regent’s Park Zoo.

1868: Birth of Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar, who was forced to abdicate at the start of the Revolution.

1872: Bertrand (Arthur William) Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, Welsh-born philosopher and mathematician who was imprisoned during the First World War for his outspoken pacifism, where he wrote his Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919). He won the Nobel Literature prize in 1950 and was one of the founders of the Committee of 100 advocating nuclear disarmament.

1883: Birth of Walter Adolph Gropius, German architect who was a founder of the Bauhaus in Berlin; a movement that tried to combine all the visual arts in a single concept. When the Nazis came to power he left for the US, where he became professor of architecture at Harvard.

1901: Alexandra Palace in London was opened to the public.

1910: Halley’s Comet passed the sun, and despite predictions of tidal waves, plagues and other disasters, nothing happened.

1920: Birth of Pope John Paul II (Karol Jozef Wojtyla), the Polish archbishop who became the first non-Italian pope in 450 years.

1936: Jasmine Bligh and Elizabeth Cowell became the BBC’s first women announcers.

1951: Britain’s first four-engined jet bomber, the Vickers Valiant, made its maiden flight.

1953: In London, the police exhumed the body of Beryl Evans and her baby following the arrest of Christie. Timothy Evans, who once shared the house with the mass-murderer, had been found guilty and hanged for the murder of his wife and child. At Christie’s trial the evidence suggested that Evans might have been innocent.

1955: The first Wimpy Bar opened in London, beginning the fast-food invasion.

1960: Real Madrid won their fifth consecutive European Cup beating Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park, Glasgow.

1969: Britain’s champion motor racing driver, Graham Hill, won his fifth and record-breaking Monaco Grand Prix.

1979: Karen Silkwood, a worker in a US nuclear plant, won $10.5 million for suffering nuclear contamination.

19 MAY

The Feast Day of Dunstan, the Anglo-Saxon saint and Archbishop of Canterbury who died in 908.

1657: Devoted entirely to advertising, Publick Advertiser first appeared in London with classified advertisements.

1802: Napoleon instituted the Légion d’honneur to be awarded for civil and military distinction of the highest order.

1879: Birth of William Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount, English politician and proprietor of the Observer newspaper, whose American wife Nancy became the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons.

1890: Birth of Ho Chi Minh, ‘the Enlightener’, North Vietnam revolutionary leader who fought against the French for independence and became President and Prime Minister in 1954.

1900: Tonga, ‘The Friendly Islands’, were annexed by Britain.

1909: The Simplon rail tunnel between Switzerland and Italy was officially opened.

1926: Birth of Malcolm X (Malcolm Little), US Black Muslim leader who split from the Black Muslims to form his own group in 1964. He was assassinated the following year.

1933: Birth of Dr Edward de Bono, in Malta, English doctor of medicine who developed thinking as a curriculum subject in schools. His concept of lateral thinking boiled down to thinking around a problem instead of confronting it, and attracted a vast public for his books and study courses.

1958: Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party opened in London. It initially flopped, but was later recognized as a major development in British drama.

1974: Timothy Davey, a London schoolboy, now 17, was released from a Turkish jail.

1980: The previously dormant Mount St Helens in the north west US, erupted killing eight people and sending ash 60,000 feet up into the air which drifted hundreds of miles.

1982: Sophia Loren, jailed for one month for tax evasion, started her sentence in a Naples women’s prison.

1989: A woman about to be cross-examined on allegations of fraud at Cardiff Crown Court had a note passed to the judge which read: ‘Your honour, I, Patricia Morgan, have superglued my mouth to draw the public’s attention to the mis-trial and injustice in this court.’

20 MAY

1347: Rome was established as a republic by Cola di Rienza, tribune of the people who had driven out the nobles and senators.

1364: Birth of Sir Henry Percy, known as Harry Hotspur, supporter of Henry IV, who was the model for Shakespeare’s Hotspur in Henry IV.

1498: Vasco da Gama arrived at Calicut, southern India, after discovering a route via the Cape of Good Hope, Southern Africa.

1777: A pleasure craft launched on Yorkshire’s River Foss was the first iron boat in the world, reported ten years before the official first iron boat Trial.

1806: Birth of John Stuart Mill, English philosopher, political economist and radical reformer. His father taught him from a tender age. He was proficient in Greek by the age of three, arithmetic at eight and logic at 12. Best remembered for his essay On Liberty (1859), which proposed a form of liberal socialism and women’s suffrage.

1818: Birth of William George Fargo, US founder, with Henry Wells and Daniel Dunning of Wells Fargo which carried freight swiftly west beyond Buffalo. Through its success, he was invited to become the President of the newly-formed American Express Company in 1868.

1867: Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Royal Albert Hall.

1881: Birth of Wladyslaw Sikorski, Polish statesman and soldier who was Commander-in-Chief of the Free Polish forces during the Second World War and Premier of the Polish government in exile in London, from 1940.

1882: The first performance of Ibsen’s Ghosts was staged, not in Norway, but in Chicago, to an audience of Scandinavian immigrants.

1895: Income tax was declared unconstitutional in the US.

1913: The first Chelsea Flower Show in the grounds of the Royal Hospital was held, attracting around 200,000 visitors. The show started in 1827, moving to larger venues until it settled in Chelsea.

1915: Birth of Moshe Dayan, Israeli military commander, statesman and archaeologist who led Israel’s civilian army to victory in the ‘Six-day War’ (1967) and recaptured Jerusalem to turn it into a free city.

1939: Pan-American Airways started regular commercial flights between the US and Europe.

1941: German airborne troops invaded Crete.

1956: The US dropped the first H-bomb over Bikini Atoll in a test.

1959: The first person to be arrested through an identikit picture was Guy Trebert in Paris.

1970: In the World Cup, Bobby Charlton scored his record 49th goal for England in the match against Columbia.

1979: Helen Smith, a 23-year-old nurse from Leeds working in Jedda, was found dead having apparently fallen from the sixth floor balcony of a flat where an illegal drinks party was being held by British surgeon Richard Arnot and his wife, Penny. Helen’s father, ex-policeman Ron, was convinced it was murder and began a personal - some say obsessional - pursuit of the truth.

1980: Quebec voted against a move to take the French-speaking province out of the federation.

21 MAY

1471: Henry VI, King of England, was murdered in the Tower of London where he had been imprisoned by Edward.

1502: The remote island of St Helena in the Atlantic, was discovered by the Portuguese explorer, Joao de Nova.

1763: Birth of Joseph Fouché, Duc d’Otranto, French revolutionary who became head of the police after proving himself a bloodthirsty member of the National Convention, voting for the execution of Louis XVI during the Revolution.

1780: Birth of Elizabeth (Gurney) Fry, English Quaker and prison reformer who visited Newgate Prison, London in 1813 where over 300 women and their children were living in filthy, overcrowded conditions. From this time, she devoted herself to improving conditions, providing hostels for the homeless and establishing various charitable organizations to help the poor.

1804: The cemetery of Père Lachaise, the burial ground of the famous, opened in Paris.

1840: New Zealand was proclaimed a British colony.

1856: The first eight-hour working day was achieved by Australian stonemasons in Victoria.

1884: Birth of Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, English field marshal who was replaced during the North African campaign against Rommel despite having paved the way to the success of El Alamein. He was sent as Commander-in-Chief to India and Pakistan in 1947.

1894: Queen Victoria opened the Manchester Ship Canal.

1904: FIFA - the Football Federation’s international body - was established.

1916: The clocks and watches in Britain went forward one hour for the first daylight-saving day.

1924: Two rich Chicago teenagers, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks and pretended to be kidnappers, demanding a ransom. They were eventually arrested and went on trial in July in a sensational ‘murder for kicks’ trial. Both were sentenced to 99 years. Loeb died in a prison brawl in 1936, Leopold served 33 years before being paroled in 1958. He died in Puerto Rico in 1971.

1927: ‘World acclamation goes to Lindbergh for epochal non-stop flight to Paris’ ran the headline of one US newspaper which summed up the excitement created by Charles Lindbergh’s flight from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York to Le Bourget airfield, Paris in 33 hours 30 minutes in his monoplane, The Spirit of St Louis. He won $25,000, and became an international hero.

1930: Birth of Malcolm Fraser, Australian Liberal politician and millionaire sheep farmer, and Prime Minister from 1975-83.

1932: Amelia Earhart landed in Londonderry, Ireland, having flown solo from Newfoundland in just under 15 hours, a record solo transatlantic flight.

1966: Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) ended Henry Cooper’s hopes of winning the world heavyweight crown for Britain, in Round 6, in London.

1967: A fire at the Brussels department store, L’Innovation, killed 322 people.

1979: Elton John became the first rock star to perform in the USSR with a concert in Leningrad, totally sold out. He ended with the Beatles’ ‘Back In The USSR’.

22 MAY

1455: The Lancastrians defeated the Yorkists in the first battle in the War of the Roses, at St Albans.

1795: The Scottish explorer, Mungo Park, set sail on his first voyage to Africa which he would relate in his book Travels in the Interior of Africa.

1874: Birth of Dr Daniel François Malan, architect of South Africa’s apartheid policy, which he introduced when he became Premier in 1948. He first instituted the Group Areas Act which divided the country into separate residential areas for different races, black and white.

1880: Birth of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, South African mining industrialist and philanthropist who formed the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa in 1917 which by the 1950s controlled 95 per cent of the world’s diamond industry.

1908: The Wright brothers patented their flying machine, and the following year, on 23 May, the British Aeronautical Society presented them with its gold medal for achievement.

1915: The worst rail disaster in Britain took place when a troop train collided with a passenger train at Gretna Green in Scotland, killing 227 people.

1927: The world’s first ‘open plan’ zoo, Whipsnade, opened in Bedfordshire.

1943: Birth of Betty Williams, Northern Irish peace campaigner and joint Nobel prize winner with Mairead Corrigan, founder of the Ulster Peace Movement.

1972: Richard Nixon became the first US President to visit Russia, where he signed a pact with Leonid Brezhnev to reduce the risk of military confrontation. This day, one year later, Nixon admitted the Watergate cover-up by the White House following the Senate Select committee’s hearings which began on the 17th. (On 30 May 1975, he was warned he could be impeached for not surrendering the Watergate tapes.)

1990: New Zealand yacht Steinlager 2, captained by Peter Blake, won the Whitbread Round the World Race. New Zealanders also came second and third.

23 MAY

1533: Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, wife number two. The result was a break with the church in Rome despite Henry’s title as ‘Protector of the Faith’.

1701: ‘Captain’ William Kidd, Scottish privateer-turned-pirate, was hanged with three others at London’s Execution Docks.

1706: Marlborough defeated the French at the Battle of Ramillies in Belgium, the British allied with the Dutch and Danish armies.

1797: A cartoon by Gillray was published which gave the Bank of England its nickname, ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’.

1848: Birth of Otto Lilienthal, German aviation pioneer who built gliders and other heavier-than-air flying machines based on bird flight. He inspired the Wright brothers by his many short unpowered flights, one of which ended in his death.

1887: The French crown jewels went on sale and raised six million francs.

1873: The men who always get their man, The North West Mounted Police, were formed in Canada. In 1920, they became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

1901: Gaetano Brecci, assassin of Italian King Humbert, committed suicide in a Rome prison.

1934: Bonnie (Parker) and Clyde (Baron), the young US outlaws, died in a hail of bullets on a lonely stretch of road in Louisiana where they were trapped by the police. During their four-year partnership, they killed at least 12 people as they robbed banks, petrol stations and diners.

1948: The Empire Windrush sailed from Jamaica with the first West Indian immigrants to help with Britain’s severe manpower shortage following the Second World War.

1960: Adolf Eichmann, Nazi wanted for war atrocities, was found living in Argentina under the name Ricardo Klement by an Israeli kidnap squad. Assisted by the Argentine secret service, they flew him out on an El Al Britannia flight to Tel Aviv this night to face trial in Israel.

1988: Possibly the first underwater marriage took place: two Danish tourists married on an underwater reef in Mauritius. Fleming Koch and Nina Tolgard used divers’ language to make their vows to a Mauritian civil servant conducting the service in a glass-bottomed boat. The couple’s diving instructor served as the underwater witness.

24 MAY

1738: John Wesley first attended evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, then went on to a meeting at Aldersgate where he experienced his conversion. This was the start of Wesley’s Methodism, and over 250 years later there are 54 million Methodists in 60 countries.

1743: Birth of Jean Paul Marat, Swiss-born French revolutionary leader, doctor and journalist who won the support of the Paris mob. He had many enemies and was once forced to hide in the sewers where he contracted a painful skin disease which he found could only be eased by sitting in a bath, which is where he did most of his writing and where he was finally murdered.

1809: Dartmoor Prison opened to house French prisoners-of-war. Only in 1850 were the first convicts imprisoned.

1819: Birth of Victoria, Queen of England on the death of William IV in 1837 and Empress of India in 1876. She married Prince Albert in 1840 and had four sons and five daughters. After Albert’s death in 1861, she went into virtual retirement which stirred up resentment with some sections of the population; at one time republicanism threatened. She returned to public life for her diamond jubilee (1897).

1844: Samuel Morse transmitted the first message of the US Telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore in Morse code: ‘What God hath wrought’.

1856: John Brown, the US anti-slavery campaigner, led the Free-Staters to massacre pro-slavers at Pottawatamie Creek.

1862: London’s Westminster Bridge opened, as did Brooklyn Bridge over the East River this day in 1883.

1870: Birth of Jan Christian Smuts, South African soldier, statesman and Prime Minister who studied at Cambridge. He was a Boer commander in the Cape during the conflict with Britain. He worked for reconciliation between English-speaking and Afrikaner communities, and was Prime Minister from 1919-24 and again during the Second World War.

1920: President Deschamel of France fell from a sleeper train and was found wandering along the line in his pyjamas.

1941: The German battleship, Bismarck, sank HMS Hood off the Greenland coast. Almost all of her 1,421 crew perished.

1956: The first Eurovision Song Contest was held at Lugano, Switzerland. The winner, Lys Assia (Switzerland) sang ‘Refrains’.

1959: The former Empire Day, first celebrated this day back in 1902, was renamed Commonwealth Day.

1988: Snow fell on the Syrian desert and Damascus had ten hours of snowfall for the first time in 50 years.

25 MAY

1660: King Charles II of England rowed ashore from the Royal Charter at Dover, ending his nine-year exile and, with it, Puritanism.

1768: Captain Cook set sail on his first voyage in the Endeavour which circumnavigated New Zealand and surveyed the east coast of Australia.

1787: The Philadelphia Convention met under George Washington to draw up the US constitution.

1833: The first flower show in Britain was held at the Royal Horticultural Society in Chiswick, west London.

1840: The first drama school in Britain opened. Miss Kelly’s Theatre and Dramatic School in Dean Street later became a theatre.

1850: The first hippopotamus arrived in Britain destined for Regent’s Park Zoo.

1871: The House of Commons passed the Bank Holiday Act creating the now-established public holidays of Easter Monday, Whit Monday and Christmas Day.

1879: Birth of William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, British newspaper magnate, in Canada. Lloyd George made him Minister of Information, an appropriate post for the owner of Daily Express and the Evening Standard. Churchill made him Minister of Supply during the Second World War, a task he fulfilled brilliantly to produce sufficient aircraft to meet the German challenge.

1882: The first mutton from New Zealand arrived in Britain.

1892: Birth of Marshal Tito (Josip Broz), Yugoslavian leader who became Prime Minister of the Federal republic, 1946 and President-for-life, 1974.

1913: Birth of Richard Dimbleby, award-winning English broadcaster and journalist who became the BBC’s first war correspondent (1939) and later became famous for memorable commentaries on historic occasions.

1925: The ‘Monkey Trial’ began in a small town in Tennessee when a school teacher, John Scopes, defended by one of the top US defence lawyers, Clarence Darrow, was charged for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. Brought by Bible fundamentalists claiming it was blasphemous, the trial attracted wide press interest.

1935: On this Saturday in Michigan in a period of 45 minutes, the US athlete Jesse Owens broke five world records and equalled a sixth.

1951: Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, British Foreign Office officials, disappeared and were later discovered to have spied for Russia.

1962: The new Coventry Cathedral was consecrated. Architect Sir Basil Spence had recreated the bombed cathedral with new stained glass by John Piper and a huge tapestry by Graham Sutherland.

1965: Cassius Clay (Muhammed Ali) knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round of their fight at Lewiston, Maine.

1967: Jock Stein’s Celtic football club, the Scottish champions captained by Billy McNeill, became the first British football club to win the European Cup by beating Internazionale 2-1 in Lisbon.

1982: The electronics firm, Philips, introduced Laservision - laserdiscs and player unit.

1986: Bob Geldof’s ‘Race Against Time’ had 30 million people on the run for Sport Aid to raise money for the starving in Africa.

1989: The satirical magazine Private Eye faced bankruptcy after a record High Court libel damages judgement of £600,000 and £100,000 costs, for alleging that the estranged wife of the Yorkshire Ripper exploited her husband’s notoriety. The award was later reduced in an appeal to £60,000.

26 MAY

1650: Birth of John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, English general and statesman who started as a page to the Duke of York. With the help of influential people and his wife Sarah, who became the lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne, he advanced his career. He proved a skilled general with a concern for the welfare of his troops.

1733: John Kay, Richard Arkwright’s assistant and a former clockmaker, patented the Flying Shuttle to operate on Arkwright’s spinning frame.

1805: Napoleon was crowned King of Italy, in Milan Cathedral.

1865: The Confederate General Kirby Smith surrendered in Texas to end the American Civil War.

1867: Birth of Queen Mary (born Princess Mary of Teck), wife of King George V.

1868: Michael Barrett, an Irish nationalist who was responsible for the Clerkenwell Outrage, which left 13 dead, was hanged outside Newgate Prison in London, the last public execution in England.

1874: Birth of Henri Farman, French aircraft designer and pioneer aviator who, with his brother Maurice, produced the first bi-plane in 1909.

1908: The first major oil strike in the Middle East was made in Persia.

1912: Birth of Janos Kadar, President of Hungary who changed his anti-Stalinist approach after the entry of Russian tanks into his country, and helped to crush any revolution.

1923: The first Le Mans 24-hour race took place and was won by two French drivers, Lagache and Leonard at an average speed of 57.2 mph covering 1,373 miles in the 24 hours.

1940: Operation Dynamo began - the evacuation of the trapped British Expeditionary Forces on the beach at Dunkirk. Besides the efforts of the Royal Navy, 700 little ships set off from Britain to rescue 385,000 soldiers over the following nine days.

1975: Evel Knievel, the US stuntman, suffered serious spinal injuries in Britain when his car crashed, attempting to leap 13 buses.

1988: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats opened in Moscow with a British and US cast.

1989: The BBC broadcast the 10,000th episode of the daily radio serial The Archers, with Terry Wogan as a guest.

27 MAY

1679: The Habeas Corpus Act, which demands that the prisoner must be brought before the courts, not unlawfully detained, was passed in Britain.

1703: Tsar Peter the Great proclaimed St Petersburg the new Russian capital.

1815: Birth of Sir Henry Parkes, Australian statesman, in England. He emigrated in 1839 and became a leading Sydney journalist and a member of the colonial parliament in 1884 before becoming Prime Minister from 1872, an office he held a number of times.

1818: Amelia (Jenks) Bloomer was born. This US woman’s rights campaigner designed, in 1849, the knee-length skirt and trousers called ‘bloomers’, as part of her attempts at dress reform.

1819: Julia Ward Howe was born, US suffragette who is best known for ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ (1861) sung to the tune of ‘John Brown’s Body’.

1837: James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickock, US frontiersman, sharpshooter and scout during the Civil War for the Union army. He became a US marshal and is credited with the deaths of a number of outlaws.

1851: The first Chess International Masters tournament was held in London and was won by Adolf Anderssen of Germany.

1878: ‘Demon bowler’ Frederick Spofforth of Australia took 11 wickets for 20 runs against the MCC.

1900: Belgium became the first country to elect a government by proportional representation.

1905: Japan’s Admiral Togo led his fleet to a victory at Tsushima Straits, destroying 32 Russian vessels. Only three escaped.

1919: The first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic from New York to Lisbon arrived after 44 hours and several stops.

1923: Birth of Dr Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State, in Germany. He emigrated to the US in 1938. He set up the visits of Nixon to both Russia and China and shared the Nobel Peace prize in 1973 with Le Duc Tho for helping to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War.

1931: Auguste Piccard and Charles Kipfer reached the stratosphere (52,462 feet) in a special aluminium gondola before landing safely on an Austrian glacier.

1936: The first open prison in Britain was opened at New Hall, Yorkshire.

1936: The Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton via Cherbourg to New York.

1937: The world’s longest suspension bridge, the 4,200 ft Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, was opened.

1941: The German battleship, Bismarck, was sunk by aircraft from the Ark Royal, and HMS Rodney, Prince of Wales and King George V.

1963: Jomo Kenyatta was elected Kenya’s first Prime Minister, and in 1974, Jacques Chirac became Premier of France.

1988: In Canada, a man was acquitted of murdering his mother after he said he had been sleepwalking when he drove 14 miles to her home, hit her with an iron bar and then stabbed her.

28 MAY

1588: The Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia to invade England. The fleet of 130 vessels was the mightiest ever assembled.

1738: Birth of Joseph Ignace Guillotin, French physician and revolutionary who suggested a decapitating machine which bears his name. Adopted in 1791, it was not a new invention. Similar instruments of execution were used in other countries including Scotland.

1742: The first indoor swimming pool in England opened in London. The entrance fee was one guinea.

1759: Birth of William Pitt the Younger, English statesman, who was Prime Minister from 1783-1801. He was England’s youngest prime minister ever. He was elected again in 1804-6.

1858: Tonic water was patented by Erasmus Bond of London.

1884: Birth of Eduard Benes, founder of modern Czechoslovakia who was President of the republic from 1935. During the Second World War, he ran the government in exile from London. He was President again from 1945, resigning shortly before his death in 1948.

1891: The first world weightlifting championships were held at the Café Monico, Piccadilly.

1932: The world’s largest sea dam was completed in Holland. It stretched 2,000m across the mouth of the Zuider Zee creating a new inland lake, the Ijsselmeer.

1934: Birth of the Dionne Quintuplets, to Mrs Oliva Dionne in Ontario: Emilie, Yvonne, Cecile, Marie and Annette.

1951: The first Goon Show was broadcast by the BBC. Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan (who also wrote the script) and Harry Secombe brought to life Henry Crunn, Major Bloodnock, Minnie Bannister, Bluebottle, Neddy Seagoon and Eccles. British comedy would never be the same - or sane - again.

1967: Francis Chichester, a 65-year-old English yachtsman, sailed into Plymouth to a huge welcome at the end of his solo circumnavigation of the world in Gypsy Moth IV.

1982: Diego Maradona of Argentinos Juniors was bought by Barcelona football club for a record £5 million.

1987: Mathias Rust, a 19-year-old West German, flew his small aircraft through Soviet air space from Helsinki to Moscow, landing right in Red Square.

1990: The Maiden arrived in Southampton, completing the Whitbread around-the-world yacht race. The first ever all-woman crew was skippered by Tracy Edwards.

29 MAY

Oak Apple (or Royal Oak) Day, commemorating King Charles II finding safety in an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House, Shropshire after the Battle of Worcester (1651), because it was too dangerous for him to remain in the house while Parliamentary troops searched for him.

1453: Constantinople fell to the Turkish army after a year’s siege.

1630: Birth of Charles II, King of England, crowned at Scone in Scotland in 1650. He attempted to invade England, but Cromwell defeated him at Worcester. Only in 1660 was he able to regain the throne.

1660: On his 30th birthday, Charles II entered London to be restored as King of England.

1795: In the Virginia Assembly, the eloquent patriot Patrick Henry challenged the proposed taxing of the American Colonies by the Stamp Act.

1848: Wisconsin became the 38th state of the Union.

1879: On this Monday, Britain enjoyed the first Bank Holiday.

1880: Birth of Oswald Spengler, German philosopher who came to the conclusion that the west was in decline, which, in 1918, was not far off the mark.

1884: The first steam cable tramway began operating in London’s Highgate.

1913: The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Nijinsky, opened in Paris. Its sensuality and the disturbing music by Stravinsky caused the audience to riot.

1914: The Empress of Ireland, a Canadian Pacific liner, was wrecked in the St Lawrence River. Over 1,000 people perished.

1917: Birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th US President. He was both the first Roman Catholic and the youngest president to be elected.

1922: Liberal MP Horatio Bottomley was sentenced to seven years for fraud. His so-called Victory Bonds had attracted money from thousands of people with small savings, who were swindled of a total of £150,000.

1953: Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing became the first two climbers to reach the summit of Everest. The news broke on Coronation day (2 June).

1977: Nigel Short of England, aged 11, qualified as the youngest ever competitor in a national chess championship. He had already beaten Viktor Korchnoi during an exhibition game. The Cuban player, Capablanca, was 12 when he first played in a national contest.

1979: Bishop Abel Muzorewa became Rhodesia’s first black Prime Minister. On 1 June, the country changed its name to Zimbabwe.

1982: Pope Paul II became the first Pope in 450 years to step on to British soil, and the first to pray side by side with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral.

1985: Heysel Stadium, Belgium, was the scene of the worst football riot in Europe when Liverpool fans clashed with Juventus fans as a wall collapsed during the European Cup Final, killing 41 and injuring 350, mostly Italians.

30 MAY

The Feast Day of Joan of Arc, patron saint of soldiers, who was burnt at the stake in Rouen in 1431. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1921 on the anniversary of her death.

1498: Christopher Columbus set sail on his third voyage of discovery which would take him to discover the South American mainland.

1536: Jane Seymour became Henry VIII’s third wife 11 days after he had separated Anne Boleyn’s head from her body.

1656: The Grenadier Guards were formed in the British Army.

1814: Birth of Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin, Russian anarchist who took part in the German revolutionary movement. He was condemned to death, but was handed back to Russia and sent to Siberia. He escaped and eventually made his way to England, later returning to play a part in the Communist International Congress before he was expelled.

1842: Jon Francis attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria as she rode in her carriage with Prince Albert.

1859: Birth of Pierre Marie Felix Janet, French psychologist who made a significant contribution to the understanding of hysteria.

1911: The first Indianapolis 500 motor race was won by Ray Harroun at an average speed of 74.59 mph.

1959: The first experimental hovercraft, designed by Sir Christopher Cockerell and built by Saunders-Roe, was launched at Cowes, Isle of Wight.

1959: The Auckland Harbour bridge was officially opened on New Zealand’s North Island.

1978: Liverpool won the European Cup for the second year running, beating FC Bruges of Belgium 1-0, the lone goal scored by Kenny Dalglish.

31 MAY

The National Day of South Africa.

1669: Samuel Pepys stopped writing his diary because of failing eyesight. He spent two months abroad, saving his eyesight, but lost his wife who died later that year.

1838: The last battle on English soil took place at the Battle of Bosendon Wood, when 40 peasants and a Cornish wine merchant, known as Sir William Percy Honeywood Courtenay, King of Jerusalem, led an armed uprising of Kentish peasants. His real name was John Nichols Tom and he settled in Kent and became a champion of the workers. He was killed by one of the 100 soldiers sent to put down the insurrection.

1859: Big Ben began telling the time from this day.

1889: A painting of a small dog listening to a phonograph was shown to William Barry Owen, the general manager of the Gramophone Company in Maiden Lane, London by the painter, Francis Barraud. It was of his dog, Nipper. Owen asked for the phonograph to be painted out and a gramophone substituted. He paid £50 for the picture and £50 for the copyright of ‘His Master’s Voice’, which soon became the Company’s famous trademark. Nipper died in 1895 and was buried under a mulberry tree in Kingston-upon-Thames, now covered by a car park.

1891: Construction began of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

1902: The Boer War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging. On this same day in 1910, the Act of Union created the Union of South Africa, and on its anniversary in 1961, South Africa declared itself a republic independent of the Commonwealth.

1910: Lord Baden-Powell’s sister, Agnes, announced the formation of the Girl guides.

1916: In the Battle of Jutland during the First World War, the Royal Navy under Jellicoe and Beatty lost one battleship, one cruiser and five destroyers. The Germans under Scheer and von Hipper lost one battleship, one cruiser and one destroyer. At the end of the day, 2,545 men were dead.

1923: Birth of Prince Rainier of Monaco (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand de Grimaldi), who married US film star Grace Kelly.

1938: US boxer Henry Armstrong, known as ‘Homicide Hank’ or ‘Perpetual Motion’, won the world welterweight title. He went on to take the lightweight crown on 17 August.

1938: The BBC’s first television panel game, Spelling Bee was broadcast.

1939: Birth of Terry Waite, Anglican emissary, held prisoner in Lebanon after he was kidnapped on a visit to negotiate the release of hostages.

1940: Sir Oswald Moseley, the British fascist, was interned with other aliens and fascist sympathizers.

1956: Len Hutton, the England cricketer, was knighted.

1957: US playwright Arthur Miller was convicted for contempt of Congress for refusing to name other celebrities as likely communist supporters to the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee. His conviction was dismissed the following year.

1965: Jim Clark, the Scottish world motor racing champion, became the first non-US driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

1970: The great British steeplechaser Arkle was put down.

1984: Viv Richards made the highest one day score of 189 not out for the West Indies against the host country.

1988: A Norwegian soldier won the right to wear ear-rings on parade. Two women judges declared it would be sexual discrimination to order him to take them off.

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