The Sunday Section: This Week in History - April 26-May 02

Apologies for the different image sizes; for reasons unknown to me, they seem to have re-sized themselves and I haven't got the time or inclination to upload the images again.

April 26

1514 – Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish astronomer and mathematician, makes his first observations of Saturn.

Nicolaus Copernicus

1865 – Death of John Wilkes Booth, aged 26.  After shooting President Lincoln on April 14th, Booth fled, and was later joined by another conspirator in the assassination plot, David Herold.  They eventually made their way across the Potomac to Virginia on April 22nd.  It was while they were hiding at Richard Garrett’s farm near Bowling Green, that they were discovered, in the early hours of the morning, by the soldiers hunting them.  Herold fled, but Booth remained in the barn despite the soldiers threatening to burn it.  It was while he was trying to escape the fire that Booth was shot; he died later that same morning.

1859 – The defence of temporary insanity is used for the first time in America, and Daniel Sickles is acquitted of murder.

Daniel Sickles

1921 – The first motorcycle police patrols go on duty in London.

1923 – Wedding of the Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at Westminster Abbey.

Lady Elizabeth and the Duke of York after their wedding

1937 – The Basque town of Guernica is destroyed by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War; it is considered one of the first raids by a modern air force on a defenceless civilian population.

Guernica after bombing

1942 – Bath suffers a second consecutive air raid in the early hours, carried out by 80 Luftwaffe aircraft, barely 6 hours after the first.  Despite the blaring of the city sirens, few people took cover as they believed the attack was intended for Bristol, which had been hit almost nightly for the past 4 months.  Bath was still on fire from the first raid, making it easy for the German bombers to pick out their targets.  Flying low to drop the bombs, they then peppered the streets with machine-gun fire.  417 people were killed, with about 1,000 injured, and over 19,000 buildings damaged.

Bath after being bombed

1954 – Release of the ‘Seven Samurai’.

1962 – Launch of ‘Ariel 1’, the first British satellite, aboard an American rocket from Cape Canaveral.

Launch of Ariel 1

1984 – Death of William ‘Count’ Basie, aged 79, in Florida.

Count Basie

1986 – One of 4 nuclear reactors has exploded at the Chernobyl power station following a sudden power surge during a systems test.  31 people have died as a direct result of the disaster, and the highly radioactive fallout is spreading over extensive parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. Despite the radiation being detected in other countries, Moscow has been slow to admit what has happened.


1989 – Death of Lucille Ball, aged 77, in Beverly Hills.

Lucille Ball


1509 – Pope Julius II excommunicates Venice.

1521 – Death of Ferdinand Magellan, killed by Filipino natives, while on his voyage to circumnavigate the world.  He’d become embroiled in local politics after successfully converting Rajah Humabon of Cebu, and his wife, to Christianity.

Ferdinand Magellan

1667 – John Milton, blind and penniless, sells the copyright of ‘Paradise Lost’ for £10.

John Milton

1749 – The first performance of George Frideric Handel’s ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’ in Green Park, London.

1828 – The opening of the Zoological Gardens at Regent’s Park.

Zoological Gardens 1835

1865 – The steamboat ‘SS Sultana’ has exploded in the Mississippi River, killing about 1,800 of its 2,427 passengers, many of them paroled Union POWs returning home.

1882 – Death of Ralph Waldo Emerson, aged 78, in Massachusetts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

1937 – The first US social security payment is made.

1956 – Rocky Marciano, 31, retires from boxing to spend more time with his family.  He has ended his career as the only undefeated heavyweight champion.

Rocky Marciano

1965 – Death of Edward R Murrow, aged 57, in New York.

Edward Murrow

1972 – Apollo 16 returns to Earth.

Launch of Apollo 16

1982 – The start of the trial of John W Hinckley Jr, who attempted to assassinate President Reagan.

1989 – Students have taken over Tiananmen Square.


1770 – Captain James Cook lands at Botany Bay in Australia.

1788 – Maryland becomes the 7th state to join the Union.

1789 – Captain William Bligh faces a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian on the ‘HMS Bounty’.

Captain William Bligh

1847 – George B Vashon becomes the first black man to enter New York’s State Bar.

George Vashon

1881 – Death of Robert W Ollinger, the last victim of Billy the Kid.  Ollinger, and another guard, James Bell, were charged with watching Billy the Kid who had been captured by Pat Garrett.  While escaping, the Kid shot Bell then took up position with Ollinger’s shotgun to wait for Ollinger who had tormented the outlaw with the same shotgun.

Robert Ollinger

1910 – The first night air flight has been completed by Claude Grahame-White during the London to Manchester air race.

Claude Grahame-White

1923 – Opening of Wembley Stadium, with the first event being the FA Cup final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United, ending in a 2-0 victory for Bolton Wanderers.

1944 – Exercise ‘Tiger’, one in a series of D-Day rehearsals, which took place in Devon, has resulted in the deaths of 946 American servicemen.  The deaths were due to friendly fire, and attacks by E-boats of Germany’s Kriegsmarine.  Because of the upcoming invasion, survivors were sworn to the strictest secrecy, and the casualty list was only released in August 1944, along with the casualties of the D-Day landings.  This was not so much a cover up, but more of a ‘forgotten case’ because of the scarcity of reporting and documentation surrounding the initial, critical secrecy.

American LST (Landing Ship, Tank) after the attack

1945 – Death of Benito Mussolini, aged 61, executed by Italian partisans.

1967 – Muhammad Ali has been stripped of his boxing title following his refusal to serve in the army.

Muhammad Ali after refusing draft

1969 – Charles de Gaulle resigns as President of France.

Charles de Gaulle

1977 – Andreas Baader, and members of Baader-Meinhoff, are jailed for life in Stuttgart, after a trial lasting almost 2 years.

Andreas Baader


1429 – Joan of Arc arrives at the Siege of Orleans.

Joan of Arc enters Orleans

1587 – Sir Francis Drake sails into Cadiz, Spain, and sinks the Spanish fleet.  The attacks are given the name of ‘Singeing the King of Spain’s Beard’.

Spanish fleet destroyed off Cadiz

1852 – The first edition of Peter Roget’s ‘Thesaurus’ is published.

Peter Roget

1918 – Death of Gavrilo Princip, aged 23, while serving a sentence of 20 years in prison for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sophie.  Convicted at the age of 19, he was too young to receive the death penalty.  The harsh conditions in which he was held led to him contracting tuberculosis.

1942 – Japanese troops capture Lashio, in British Burma, and take control of the Burma Road, a gravel highway linking Burma to Kunming in China, and a vital supply route.

1942 – In the Netherlands, Jews are ordered to wear the ‘Jewish Star’.

1945 – American soldiers liberate over 31,000 prisoners in the Dachau Concentration Camp.

1975 – America begins its final phase in the evacuation of US citizens and ‘at-risk’ Vietnamese from Saigon in Operation Frequent Wind, prior to an expected takeover by the North Vietnamese army.  

Helicopter leaving aircraft carrier for Saigon

Flight deck of USS Midway

American and South Vietnamese helicopters took part in the operation. With the high number of South Vietnamese helicopters landing on the carriers, about 45 Hueys and at least 1 Chinook had to be pushed overboard to make room for the landing helicopters. Other helicopter pilots dropped off their passengers on the carriers, then ditched their rides in the sea, bailing out at the last moment to be picked up by rescue boats.

Ditching 'copters to make way for more

A pilot of a VNAF Cessna dropped a note on the deck of the USS Midway – “Can you move these helicopters to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more … Please rescue me. Major Buang, Wife and 5 child.

The captain ordered the landing area to be cleared, Major Buang approached, bounced once and touched down, taxiing to a halt with room to spare.

Major Buang's landing

1980 – Death of Alfred Hitchcock, aged 80, in Bel Air, California.

Alfred Hitchcock

1981 – The start of the trial of Peter Sutcliffe, who, by admitting to being the Yorkshire Ripper, is responsible for the murder of 13 women.

Peter Sutcliffe

1986 – 400,000 books are destroyed in a fire at the LA Central Library.


1563 – Jews are expelled from France by order of Charles VI.

1789 – George Washington is inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America; he is the only president to have received 100% of the electoral votes.

1871 – The Camp Grant Massacre, an attack on Pinal and Aravaipa Apaches who had surrendered to the US Army at Camp Grant, Arizona.  All but 8 of the 144 who were killed were women and children; the men were away hunting, and 29 captured children were sold into slavery.

1930 – A radio-telephone service is opened between England and Australia.

1945 – The Soviet Red Army launches the attack on the Reichstag in Berlin.

Battle of Berlin

1945 – Death of Adolf Hitler, aged 56; he commits suicide along with his wife of 1 day, Eva Braun, aged 33.

Hitler and Eva Braun (Hulton-Deutsch Collection)

1952 – Mr Potato Head becomes the first toy to be advertised on television.

Mr Potato Head 1952

1975 – The last US helicopter leaves the US Embassy in Saigon at 07:53, with Major James Kean, Commanding Officer of the Marine Security Guard Battalion, and 10 remaining men of the Marine Security Guards; at 11:30 tanks of the North Vietnamese Army smash through the gates of the Presidential Palace, less than 1 miles from the Embassy.

1983 – Death of George Balanchine, aged 79, in New York, from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

George Balanchine

1983 – Death of Joel H. Hildebrand, American educator and chemist, aged 101.  His research in the 1920s paved the way for the use of helium and oxygen breathing mixtures to replace air for divers, thus alleviating the condition known as ‘bends’.

1989 – Death of Sergio Leone, aged 60, in Italy.

Sergio Leone

1993 – The software for the World Wide Web is put in the public domain by CERN.

1997 – Big Ben stops at 12:11 for 54 minutes.

May 01

1707 – The Parliaments of England and Scotland pass the Acts of Union, leading to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

1840 – The ‘Penny Black’, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, is issued in Britain.

1851 – The Great Exhibition is opened by Queen Victoria in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park.

Opening of The Great Exhibition

1873 – Death of David Livingstone, aged 60, in what is now modern-day Zambia.

David Livingstone

1883 – William Frederick ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody opens his Wild West Show

1904 – Death of Antonín Dvořák, aged 62.

Antonín Dvořák

1931 – President Herbert Hoover opens the Empire State Building in New York.

1939 – The first appearance of Batman, in ‘Detective Comics’.

1941 – Premiere of ‘Citizen Kane’ in New York, directed by and starring Orson Welles.

Orson Welles

1945 – Death of Joseph Goebbels, aged 47, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, and Chancellor for one day following Hitler’s suicide.  He also commits suicide along with his wife, after the deaths of his 6 children, 5 daughters and a son, born between 1932 and 1940.  He had arranged for an SS dentist to kill his children by injecting them with morphine then, when they were unconscious, crushing an ampoule of cyanide in their mouths.

Joseph Goebbels and family

1961 – The Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded to Harper Lee for ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.

Harper Lee

1994 – Death of Ayrton Senna, aged 34, killed while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix; his car left the racing track around 191mph, and hit the concrete wall at around 145mph.

Ayrton Senna


1519 – Death of Leonardo da Vinci, aged 67, in France.

Leonardo da Vinci

1536 – Anne Boleyn is arrested and taken to the Tower of London.

Anne Boleyn

1945 – End of the Battle of Berlin; the Soviet artillery stopped firing at 15:00, and General Helmuth Weidling, the last commander of the Berlin Defence, surrendered.  The surrender had been delayed until Joseph Goebbels had committed suicide.

Helmuth Weidling

1957 – Death of Senator Joseph McCarthy, aged 48, in Maryland.

Joseph McCarthy

1972 – Death of J. Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (1935-1972), aged 77, in Washington.

J Edgar Hoover

1982 – The Argentine cruiser, ‘General Belgrano’, is sunk by the British submarine, ‘Conqueror’, during the Falklands War.  A ‘Total Exclusion Zone’ of 200 nautical miles around the Falkland Islands had been declared on April 30, with the possibility that any sea vessel or aircraft from any country entering the zone might be fired on without warning.  Even though the ‘Belgrano’ was outside the zone, the British still decided it was a threat.  2 of the 3 torpedoes fired by ‘Conqueror’ hit the cruiser; 323 Argentinian sailors were killed.  Controversy followed, with many questioning the legality of the sinking.

Sinking of the 'General Belgrano'

1997 – Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister.

Tony Blair