… in 1940, the Battle of Britain began. This was the first major battle to be fought solely in the air. Lasting from July to October, defeat would have meant the invasion of Britain and a very different conclusion to the Second World War. Instead, the allies’ victory marked a significant turning point in the war.
…in 1940, the evacuation of Dunkirk began.
Code-named ‘Operation Dynamo’ and nick-named by some as ‘The Miracle Of Dunkirk,’ hundreds of boats sailed across the Channel to rescue almost a quarter of a million Allied troops who were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk in France. The rescue vessels ranged from military ships to ordinary fishing boats and even private yachts. As they would do so many times throughout the war, the British people came together in the face of adversity and triumphed.
In total, 338,226 soldiers were saved as a result of Operation Dynamo. Had the evacuation not happened, the outcome of the Second World War could have been very different.
…in 1918, the so-called ‘Spanish influenza’ broke out in America, when 107 soldiers became sick at Fort Riley in Kansas.
Around one quarter of the US population became ill from the virus, resulting in half a million deaths. Worldwide, the death-toll had reached approximately 22 million by the end of 1920. After the pain and suffering of four long years at war, this outbreak must have been devastating.
… in 1847 the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The first sentence ever spoken on the telephone occurred on 10th March, 1876, when Bell said to his assistant: “Mr Watson, come here, I want you.”
… in 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published a pamphlet called The Communist Manifesto. It advocated the abolition of private property and emphasised that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
Arguably one of the most influential works ever, the Manifesto influenced everything from literary theory to politics – notably being adopted (and, quickly, distorted) during the Russian Revolution and under Stalin’s rule in the early twentieth century.
… in 1649 King Charles I of England was beheaded for treason by order of Parliament, under the direction of the leader of the Puritan Revolution, Oliver Cromwell.
… in 1945 the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Allies. Of the 1,300,000 Jews, homosexuals, Poles and other perceived ‘enemies’ of the Nazi state sent to Auschwitz, 1,100,000 never left.
May we never forget nor trivialise the sheer brutality of war and the darkest extremities of human nature.
… in 17BC the Roman poet Ovid died. He was responsible for works including the ‘Metamorphoses’ and a selection of love poetry, including ‘Amores’ and ‘Ars Amatoria’. These love poems contained such tongue-in-cheek advice as:
“If you want to be loved, be lovable”.
Curiously, despite enjoying much popularity, Ovid ended his life in exile – a punishment he described as the result of “a poem and a mistake”. This has puzzled ancient historians the world over…
…In 1612 Galileo observed Neptune for the first time. He recorded it as a ‘fixed star,’ not realising that it was a planet.