The Sunday Section: This Week in History - Jan 25-31

Had to buy a new computer ... they sure don't make them like they used to.  Anyway, a day late, but here's the next 'Sunday Section'.

January 25

1327 – Edward III accedes to the English throne.

1533 – King Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn in secret.  The hasty marriage is due to the fact that she is pregnant, with the baby due in September.

1878 – A Russian boat fires the first torpedo used in war, and sinks a Turkish steamer.

1917 – The USA buys the Virgin Islands from Holland for $25 million.

1934 – John Dillinger, the bank robber, is captured in Tucson, Arizona.

John Dillinger

1947 – Death of America’s most feared mobster, Al Capone, also known as ‘Scarface’.  Although responsible for various deaths in his battle for control of smuggling bootleg liquor, it was not murder or smuggling that sent him to prison, but income tax evasion.  In 1931, he was fined $80,000 and sentenced to 11 years in prison.  Released from Alcatraz in 1939, terminally ill with syphilis, he died of a massive brain haemorrhage, and penniless.  He was 48.

Al Capone

1971 – Charles Manson, the cult leader, is found guilty of murdering Sharon Tate and four others in a ritual slaughter in August 1969.

Charles Manson

1981 – Four members of the Labour Party – Roy Jenkins, Dr David Owen, Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers – break away from their party to form the Social Democrats.

1990 – Death of Ava Gardner in London, aged 68.


1500 – Portuguese explorer, Vincente Yanez Pinson discovers Brazil and claims it for Portugal.

1788 – The first ships transporting prisoners arrived in Sydney to establish the first penal settlement in the new Australian colony.  Captain Arthur Phillip has on board his fleet of six ships 570 men and 160 women, the survivors of a 36-week voyage from England, the pox having claimed 48 of the prisoners.  Captain Phillip went on to become the founding governor of the colony of New South Wales.

Captain Arthur Phillip

1828 – The Duke of Wellington becomes Prime Minister of Britain.

1871 – The Rugby Football Union is formed in London.

1886 – Karl Benz patents a three-wheel drive motor car and the internal combustion engine.

Karl Benz

1905 – The Cullinan diamond is discovered in South Africa, the largest rough stone ever found, and one of high quality.  Weighing nearly 1½ lb or 3106 carats, it is literally priceless.  It is to be cut into a number of stones, some of which are destined for the British Crown Jewels.

1926 – The British Surgeon-General links cigarette-smoking with cancer.

1942 – US ground troops arrived in Europe today to join the Allied powers against Hitler.  They landed in Northern Ireland despite the Dublin government protesting that the troop landings violated Eire’s neutrality.

1950 – India becomes a democratic republic within the Commonwealth.

1973 – Death of Edward G. Robinson, the American actor best known for his gangster roles.

Edward G. Robinson

1978 – Technical staff at the EMI pressing plant in Britain refuse to press copies of the second single of punk rock group, the Buzzcocks, because they find the B side offensive.


1822 – Greece declares independence following her war against Turkey.

1851 – Death of John Audubon, the French-born naturalist who painted birds and animals of America.

John Audubon / Parrots from Audubon's 'Birds of America'

1868 – Dr Livingstone, the missing explorer, is found in Africa by Sir Henry Morton Stanley.

1901 – Edward VII makes his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm, a field-marshal in the British army.

Kaiser Wilhelm and King Edward VII

1923 – Adolf Hitler holds the first congress of the National Socialist Party in Munich.

1926 – John Logie Baird, the Scottish electrical engineer and inventor, today demonstrated his new ‘television’ machine to members of the Royal Institution in London.

John Logie Baird

1942 – American aviator, Jacqueline Cochran, has brought a US bomber to Britain, the first woman to fly one of the big planes here.  Having started her working life in a cotton mill, the world’s leading aviatrix gained her pilot’s licence after only three weeks’ training.  In 1938 she won the Bendix transcontinental air race, and now holds more speed, altitude and distance records than any other pilot.

Jacqueline Cochran

1943 – The US Air Force bombs Germany for the first time.

1967 – A launch pad fire at Cape Canaveral has killed three astronauts.  Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chafee died on the ground of asphyxiation when fire broke out in their Apollo I Command Module during a flight simulation.  Caused by a short circuit in the cabin, the fire ignited the normally fire-resistant plastics in the pure oxygen used by the astronauts.

(L ro R) Grissom, White, Chafee

1973 – US military action in Vietnam has come to an end as the ceasefire is signed.

1980 – Robert Mugabe, the leader of Rhodesia’s guerrilla army, has returned after five years of exile.  He is tipped to win the forthcoming elections that will transfer the country, which will be renamed Zimbabwe, to majority rule.

"It could never be a correct justification that, because the whites oppressed us yesterday when they had power, the blacks must oppress them today when they have power." ~ Robert Mugabe

1981 – Rupert Murdoch, the Australian press baron, has bought the ‘Times’ and the ‘Sunday Times’.

1989 – Death of Sir Thomas Sopwith, the British aircraft designer best known for his World War I biplane, the ‘Sopwith Camel’.

Thomas Sopwith (1911)


814 – Death of Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor.



1547 – Death of King Henry VIII, having reigned 38 years.

1725 – Death of Peter the Great, aged 53.  He was Tsar of Russia from 1682, then Emperor of Russia from 1721.

Peter the Great ~ Paul Delaroche

1807 – London is the first city in the world to be lit by gas lights.

1855 – The Panama railway is completed, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

(c. 1884)

1871 – End of the Franco-Prussian War.  Having been under siege for 5 months, Paris has fallen after 3 weeks of intense artillery bombardment which has reduced the population to starvation.

1932 – Japanese troops occupy Shanghai after last year’s seizure of Manchuria in Japan’s drive to create a new Asian empire.

1939 – Death of William Butler Yeats, aged 74.

William Butler Yeats

1939 – Otto Hahn, the German chemist and Nobel Prizewinner, has discovered how to split the atom.

Otto Hahn

1953 – Derek Bentley is hanged, having been convicted of murdering a policeman; he was 19.

Derek Bentley

1986 – The Challenger space shuttle breaks apart soon after launch, killing all seven crew, including Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher who had won her place on the flight in a nationwide competition.  The launch had been postponed 5 times and only went ahead after unseasonal ice was chipped from the skin of the shuttle.

Challenger's first mission

'Challenger' breaks / Crew members: (seated L to R) Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair; (back L to R) Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik.


1596 – Sir Francis Drake is buried at sea off the coast of Panama after suffering weeks of dysentery.

Sir Francis Drake

1820 – Death of King George III, aged 80, after a 59-year reign.

George III - Allan Ramsay

1856 – The Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military decoration, is instituted by Queen Victoria.

1861 – Kansas becomes the 34th US state.

1886 – Karl Benz patents his design for an automobile to be powered by the gas engine of Nikolaus August Otto, which has 4 cycles – intake, compression, stroke and exhaust. 

Karl Benz at the wheel of his Patent Motor Car in 1925

1916 – Britain begins military tank trials at Hatfield.

1916 – German Zeppelins bomb Paris for the first time.

1947 – Due to lowest-ever temperatures causing nationwide power cuts, Buckingham Palace is lit by candles.

1987 – Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has told the Communist Party’s Central Committee that the time has come for greater “control from below”, which means free elections for local councils.


1606 – Four conspirators involved in the Gunpowder Plot – Everard Dibgy, Robert Winter, John Grant and Thomas Bates – are hung, drawn and quartered in London.

8 of the 13 conspirators

1649 – King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland is beheaded today in front of Banqueting House in Whitehall.

King Charles I

1933 – Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany, to the chagrin of the 85-year-old President, Paul von Hindenburg, who had rejected Hitler months ago.

1948 – Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse, who believed Gandhi’s anti-partition sentiment was pro-Muslim and pro-Pakistan.

1948 – Death of Orville Wright, one of the Wright brothers who made the first powered flight.

Orville Wright

1965 – The burial of Winston Churchill.

1973 – Watergate conspirators, Gordon Liddy and James McCord, are convicted of spying on Democratic headquarters.


1606 – Executions of the other conspirators involved in the Gunpowder Plot – Thomas Winter, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes and Guy Fawkes – they too were hung, drawn and quartered.  Weakened by torture, still Fawkes was able to leap from the scaffold; he broke his neck thus avoiding the gruesome part of the execution.

1788 – Death of Bonnie Prince Charlie, in exile in Rome.

Bonnie Prince Charlie - John Pettie

1858 – ‘The Great Eastern’, the steamship of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is finally launched at Millwall after a 3-month delay.

1835 – President Andrew Jackson was saved when both pistols of a would-be assassin misfired.  The assailant, Richard Lawrence, who claims to be the rightful heir to the English throne, was disarmed.  President Jackson, a man of strong convictions, an iron will and fiery temperament, has faced bullets before – earlier gunfights over gambling debts have left 2 bullets lodged in his body.

President Andrew Jackson

1876 – All American Indians are ordered to move on to reservations.

1910 – Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen poisons his wife, chops her into pieces and buries her in the cellar.

Dr Crippen

1917 – The US enters World War 1 after Germany torpedoes American ships.

1929 – Leon Trotsky, the former right-hand man of Lenin, and Commissar for War, has been expelled from the Soviet Union after losing a power struggle with Joseph Stalin.

Leon Trotsky

1956 – Death of AA Milne, the creator of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’.

AA Milne

1958 – ‘Explorer I’, the first satellite to orbit the earth is launched from Cape Canaveral.

Launch of Explorer I

1968 – The Viet Cong launch Tet Offensive, breaking a truce that was meant to cover the religious holiday.  Strategic buildings in Saigon, including the US embassy, came under surprise attack.