On This Day

Recap of important historical events

On This Day

On this day 1982: Michael Fagan successfully broke into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace

On this day 1982: A 23-year-old man named Michael Fagan successfully broke into Buckingham Palace and made his way into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom in one of the worst royal security breaches of the 20th century. Born in Clerkenwell, London on August 8, 1948, Michael Fagan left his dad (whom he claimed was violent) at 18 to become a construction worker. He started off as a decorator and painter but later acquired skill in steelworks to become a champion safe breaker. As the story goes, Fagan was watching tv in his local Irish pub with friends when it was announced that the Queen will be staying at Buckingham Palace over the weekend. Fagan took a wager of five pounds each that he could get into the Queen’s bedroom that night. Fagan then proceeded to the palace, scaled the 20-foot wall and climbed through a drainpipe to a balcony. An alarm sensor detected his movements inside the palace but it was silenced by security officials who thought it was faulty. He then entered the Queen’s bedroom. The Queen was woken by his movements and accounts had it that Fagan both conversed for minutes before security arrived. Parts of the media even suggested that the Queen had used her conversational skills as a defensive tactic to engage him till help arrived. However, Fagan who said that it was actually the second time he broke into the Palace dismissed the accounts in a 2012 interview saying that “She (The Queen) went past me and ran out of the room; her little bare feet running across the floor”. A chambermaid and a footman took him to the pantry and poured him a glass of the Famous Grouse before he was arrested. He was initially charged with theft but later committed to a psychiatric home and was released after 6 months. However, Fagan who said that it was actually the second time he broke into the Palace dismissed the accounts in a 2012 interview saying that “She (The Queen) went past me and ran out of the room; her little bare feet running across the floor”.

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Nigerian government forces attacked the breakaway Republic of Biafra

On this day 1967: Nigerian government forces launched an attack on the breakaway Republic of Biafra 5 weeks after its secession to trigger a 30-month armed conflict during which an estimated 3 million people perished in what is now known as the Nigerian civil war. Post-independence Nigeria remained divided by political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions. It came to a head with the 1964 election being marred with fraud. Violence erupted in the western and northern parts of the country forcing many to flee. On 15 January 1966, Majors Ifeajuna and Nzeogwu led others in a coup and killed leading public figures including Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and the Premier of the northern region, Ahmadu Bello. However, President, Nnamdi Azikiwe survived as he was on vacation in the West Indies. But the coup was crushed by the leader of the military General Aguiyi Ironsi. And by 16 January 1966 most of the plotters except Ifeajuna who fled the country surrendered. Ironsi, however, failed to try them expeditiously according to military tradition. Ironsi’s delay further deepened the widespread belief in the north that the coup was carried out by Igbos to supplant the Northern-dominated power structure with him. On July 29 1966, northern soldiers struck in a counter-coup and killed Ironsi. Yakubu Gowon emerged the head of state but then came the pogrom in which thousands of Igbos were massacred in the north which still held resentment over the killing of their leaders. Gowon promised to secure Igbo lives but failed repeatedly as Igbos were continually killed in numbers. Consequently, on May 30, 1967, Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu and other non-Igbo representatives of the Eastern region established the Republic of Biafra. Many diplomatic efforts failed to reunite the country, and on & July 1967 Nigeria launched an offensive against Biafra.

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On this day 1975: Arthur Ashe became the first black wimbledon winner.

On this day 1975: Arthur Ashe defeated the tournament favourite Jimmy Connors in the Wimbledon finals to become the first black man ever to win the most coveted championship in tennis. Born on July 23, 1943, Ashe lost his mother at six and grew up getting used to discrimination and adversity in an era when coloured people were denied opportunities in a game often perceived as elitist. Determined to succeed he started playing as a boy. After winning a tennis scholarship to UCLA, tennis star Pancho Gonzales recognized his potential and took him in as his understudy. In 1968, Ashe became the first black man to win the U.S. Open and won the Australian Open 2 years later. He famously criticised South Africa’s apartheid regime and was denied entry for the country’s open tournament. Consequently, South Africa was excluded from Davis Cup competition. He won many other tournaments but the Wimbledon title remained elusive. By 1975, Ashe was 31 and seemingly well past his prime. His best finishes at Wimbledon were semi-final losses in 1968 and 1969 but surprisingly he got to the finals. His opponent and the defending champion was the much younger 22-year-old Jimmy Connors. Ashe found Connors who had defeated him in previous meetings arrogant, annoying and unpatriotic for refusing to play for the Davis Cup team. “I swear, every time I passed Jimmy Connors in the locker room, it took all my willpower not to punch him in the mouth,” said Ashe later. Ashe’s handlers devised a gameplan. He wore his Davis Cup tracksuit to annoy Connors. He also reduced Connors’ power play. This ploy saw him racing to a 2-set lead. Connors clinched the 3rd and led 4-0 in the 4th only for Ashe to bounce back and win 6-4 to take the title. Ashe retired in 1980 after suffering a heart attack. And in 1983, after double-bypass surgery, he was infected with HIV during a blood transfusion. He revealed this in 1992 and set about educating the public about the deadly disease until his death on February 6, 1993. He won 51 career tournaments and wrote a three-volume book “A Hard Road to Glory” published in 1988, which detailed the struggle of Black athletes in America. In 1997, the U.S. Open’s new home court was named Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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On this day 1979: Sony introduced the walkman to the market

On this day 1979: Sony introduced the walkman to the market. It was the first personal stereo cassette player and the pioneer innovation that would revolutionise portable audio. Sony’s legendary co-founder Masaru Ibuka was a music lover who often carried a stereo tape recorder along on his travels. But the device was heavy and somewhat inconvenient for his frequent trips. So Ibuka asked his deputy Norio Ohga to come up with something smaller. By then Sony already had the pressman, a portable tape recorder for journalists. So Ohga made a prototype which was a playback-only device for his boss to take on his next foreign trip. Though its battery ran out half way, Ibuka was greatly impressed with the sound quality and portability. So he floated the idea of going commercial with the product to the board. When objections were raised about the salability of a cassette device only for playback, Ibuka asked ”Don’t you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea?”. His query will prove to be one of the great litotes in business history. Within 4 months Sony engineers developed the walkman which was introduced to the market at $150 before the summer vacation on July 1, 1979. The initial sale of 3,000 units for the first month seemed disappointing since 30,000 units had been produced. But an aggressive marketing campaign was launched and representatives approached pedestrians on the streets of Tokyo to gave them a chance to listen to the Walkman. The remaining stock sold out before the end of August signaling the beginning of one of Sony’s greatest success stories. Over 400 million Walkman portable music players have been sold, 200 million of them cassette players until Sony retired the classic cassette tape Walkman in 2010.

On This Day

On The Day: Franz Ferdinand Archduke of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo.

On this day 1914: Franz Ferdinand Archduke of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip in what would turn out to be the casus belli of WWI. The 1908 annexation of Bosna and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary, precipitated the formation of several underground pressure groups by angry Serb nationalists who believed the territories should be part of Serbia. They infiltrated other Bosnia movements and on 3 June 1910, 22-year old Žerajić, a Bosnian-Serb student and member of The Young Bosnia Movement, unsuccessfully attempted to kill the Austrian governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, General Varešanin before killing himself. His action inspired many including Princip who made him a role model. Princip later said “when I was seventeen I passed whole nights at his grave, reflecting on our wretched condition and thinking of him. It is there that I made up my mind sooner or later to perpetrate an outrage.” In June 1914, The Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I instructed his younger brother the archduke to go and inspect the imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One group notoriously named ‘The Black Hand’ which was formed for the creation of a “Greater Serbia through “terrorist action” hatched a plot to kill the archduke during his visit to Sarajevo. As his motorcade rode into the city from the train station the 1st assassin chickened out and failed to throw his bomb. The 2nd threw his bomb and it bounced off the back of the archduke’s car to detonate under the following vehicle. Seeing his failed attempt the 2nd assassin swallowed his cyanide pill and jumped into a shallow river. Unfortunately, he vomited the pill and was dragged out of the river by a crowd who beat him black and blue before handing him over to the police. Princip who was 3rd in line didn’t get a chance as the motorcade sped off to ‘the town hall where the angry archduke lamented that he was greeted by bombs on a friendly visit. He was calmed by his wife and they later decided to visit the injured in Sarajevo hospital. However, a fatal error was made as the drivers were not informed about the change in route by security officials. As they drove to the hospital the first driver took a wrong turn and the governor-general who was riding with the archduke called him out to reverse. In that brief moment as they braked Princip who had patiently waited by the roadside for the return trip shot the royal couple at point-blank range, killing both almost instantly. The archduke reportedly cried out “Sophie, Sophie! Don’t die! Live for our children!”. The assassination triggered a rapid chain of events, as Austria-Hungary immediately blamed the Serbian government for the attack. Tensions escalated with Russia backing Serbia, while Austria was backed by Germany and Bulgaria. Precisely one month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia beginning a 4-year conflict now known as the First World War.

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On this day 1815: Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in Belgium

On this day 1815: Napoleon Bonaparte who conquered much of Europe was defeated in Belgium by British forces under Wellington and Prussian troops under Blucher in what became known as the Battle Of Waterloo. Born in 1769 in Corsica, Napoleon rose through the ranks to overthrow the French Government in 1799. Crowned the “French Emperor” in 1804, his revolutionary tactics and relentless operations defeated every major power in Europe. However, Napoleon’s army was defeated by a coalition of Russian, Austrian, Prussian and Swedish troops in the 1813 Battle of Leipzig. After the capture of Paris in 1814, Napoleon was forced to abdicate the throne and exiled to the Island of Elba. The following year he escaped and sailed to France with over 1,000 supporters. He was welcomed by cheering crowds as he marched into Paris forcing King Louis XVIII to flee. Napoleon then started his famous 100 days campaign. Having raised a new army, Napoleon marched into Belgium where armies of British and Prussian troops were camped. He planned to drive them apart and defeat them separately. At the Battle of Ligny, on June 16, he forced the Prussians under Blucher’s command to retreat. On June 18, Napoleon led 72,000 troops to the farmlands of Waterloo village against the 68,000-man British army which included Belgian, Dutch and German troops led by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. Because of the previous night’s rain, Napoleon waited until midday for the waterlogged ground to dry before attacking. The delay proved to be a critical error as it gave Blucher’s retreating troops time to march back to Waterloo and join the battle. The combined forces of about 118,000 men outnumbered Napoleon’s troops and consequently delivered him a crushing defeat. On June 22, 1815, he once again abdicated and was later exiled to the remote Island of Saint Helena where he died there on May 5, 1821, at age 51.

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On this day: Pope Pius IX was elected.

On this day 1846: The Papal conclave elected Pope Pius IX who reigned for almost 32 years till his death on February 7, 1878 making him the longest serving Pope in history. Born on 13 May 1792, in Senigallia, Italy, Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti was a frail child with a lively intelligence. He moved to Rome in 1809 for higher education but was forced to abandon his studies twice because of illness. He later became a catechist in 1816 and was ordained a priest in 1819. He served in many capacities in Italy and Chile until 1827 when he was consecrated Archbishop of Spoleto at the age of 35. In the aftermath of the failed revolution in 1931, he obtained a pardon for all, including many who did not merit it. And in 1840 he received the Cardinal’s hat at the age of 48. He remained of modest conduct shunning many honours but fate brought the greatest of them on the 16th of June 1846 when he was elected Pope.  

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On this day 323 B.C: Alexander the Great died in Babylon (modern day Iraq).

On this day 323 B.C: Alexander the Great, the 33 year old Macedonian military genius who forged one of the largest contiguous empires in history stretching from the Mediterranean to India, died in Babylon (modern day Iraq). He was born in Pella, Macedonia to the royal family of King Phillip II and Queen Olympias where he was tutored in military education by his father while renowned philosopher Aristotle taught him philosophy, medicine, art and religion. As a teenager, Prince Alexander led his father’s troops into combat and won the Battle of Chaeronea that brought Greece under Macedonian rule. He would take up the throne in 336 B.C at the age of 20 after his father was assassinated. He then began his life of conquests and ambitious quest to reach the end of the world leading a fleet of over 120 ships to conquer Persia. He also conquered Egypt, The Levant and Syria. Often outnumbered in his battles he displayed tactical military prowess and never lost a battle. By this time he already had the largest empire in the history of the world. He then launched a new eastern campaign and by 327 B.C., he had conquered Afghanistan, Central Asia, and large parts of India. The following year, his exhausted army refused to go farther and Alexander led them on a difficult journey home through the treacherous Makran Desert. Finally reaching Babylon, he began constructing a large fleet to take his army back to Egypt. However, in June 323 B.C., just as his ships were nearing completion he suddenly took ill and died leaving no heir as his son was born after his death. His body was returned to Alexandria, where it was buried in a golden coffin. Till date he remains one history’s most successful commanders.

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On this day 1184 BC: Troy was sacked and burnt to the ground (Trojan war).

On this day 1184 BC: According to the estimation of the famous Greek scholar Eratosthenes, the beautiful city of Troy was sacked and burnt to the ground in one of the most popular events in history known as the Trojan War. There are many historical accounts of the war with some skeptics questioning its authenticity. However, the most popular narrative is that the 10-year conflict was ignited by the abduction of Queen Helen by Trojan Prince Paris from her husband, the King of Sparta, Menelaus. Led by King Agamemnon the commander of the Greek army, Melanus and a coalition of forces declared war on Troy to recover his wife. However, after several attempts they were unable to breach the walls of the great city. Tiring of the endless battles Menelaus offered to end the war by challenging Paris in single-combat. Paris agreed but ran away in fear to the safety of his brother Prince Hektor’s arms after he was thoroughly beaten by Melanus. As the war raged on Hektor led the Trojans to attack the Greek camp killing many fighters. King Agamemnon and his men were enraged. He called on Achilles his greatest warrior who refused to join the battle to protest Agamemnon’s seizure of his female war loot.   It wasn’t until Achilles’ best friend Patrokolos was killed by Hektor that he joined the fight seeking revenge. In a fierce battle, Achilles pursued Hektor around the city walls three times and finally killed him as his father King Priam watched from above. Yet the Greeks were unable to breach the walls of Troy, until a cunning plan was devised to send a large wooden horse filled with soldiers to the gates of Troy. The Trojans believing it was a parting gift of surrender took the horse into the city in celebration. At night the warriors crept out of the sculpture and opened Troy’s gates to allow the waiting Greek warriors to invade. That night the soldiers sacked and burned the city of Troy, killing its inhabitants, desecrating its temples, and finally ending the war.

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On this day 1968: Robert F. Kennedy was fatally shot by Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan

On this day 1968: U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was fatally shot by Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. After winning the Democratic Party nomination, Kennedy spoke to his supporters at the Ambassador Hotel. As he left through the rear exit he paused to shake a dishwasher. That was when Sirhan who had a gun in a rolled-up campaign poster appeared and fired several shots at him. Two brave athletes Grier and Johnson who accompanied Kennedy joined his staff and wrestled the assailant to the ground as more shots rang out injuring five others. Grier would later blame himself for allowing Kennedy to be shot. Kennedy who had been hit with three shots bled on the pantry floor for 23 minutes before the medics arrived. Doctors performed emergency surgery but having lost too much blood he suffered irreversible brain damage. He was pronounced dead the next day. On April 17, 1969 Sirhan was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. However, his sentence was commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment. He is now 76 and is serving at the Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.

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On this day 1989: Chinese troops stormed Tiananmen Square.

On this day 1989: Chinese troops stormed Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing and arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters in what will become known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. On April 27, an estimated 50,000 to 200,000 people mostly coordinated from Peking University Campus started a march to protest for greater freedom calling for the resignation of Chinese Communist Party leaders deemed too autocratic. For several weeks they kept vigils, sang, and marched through around Tiananmen Square while a large number also went on hunger strikes. Anxiety grew within the government when nurses, doctors, and families joined the protests, and numbers grew. After several warnings from the government, the military was deployed to the streets. Yet their presence failed to quell the protests. And about l 1 a.m. on June 4th, soldiers and police stormed Tiananmen Square, firing live rounds into the crowd killing over 200 people while unofficial figures are above 1000. The massacre is remembered around the globe by what is considered the most iconic image of all time showing an unidentified man (nicknamed the Tankman) standing alone in front of a column of armoured tanks.

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On this day 1968: Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol

On this day 1968: Valerie Solanas, a radical feminist and author of SCUM Manifesto shot and injured eccentric pop culture artist Andy Warhol in his Manhattan studio. Though Warhol was initially being pronounced dead he later survived. Valerie Solanas claims she was angry because Warhol had lost the script of her SCUM Manifesto. Accompanied by her boyfriend Jed Johnson she then went to Warhol’s Manhattan studio with a pistol hidden in a bag. Once inside, she pulled out the gun and fired three shots, and Warhol fell to the floor. She also shot Warhol’s friend before her gun jammed and she fled. She later turned herself in saying she shot Warhol because he had too much control of her life. Her frustration arose from repeated failed attempts to curry favour and ride on Warhol’s personality to fame. Solanas had a turbulent life after being abandoned by her dad. She gave birth at the age of 15 and worked as a prostitute in New York City. She served 3 years in prison for the shootings and spent much of her life on the streets and in for schizophrenia before her death in 1988. A year after Warhol died.

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On this day 1886: 48 year old U.S President Grover Cleveland married 21 year old Frances Folsom

On this day 1886: 48 year old U.S President Grover Cleveland got married 21 year old Frances Folsom in the White House to become the first sitting president to marry in the presidential mansion. Frances whom the president fondly called Frank was the daughter of Cleveland’s former law partner. Her father died when she was just 11 and Cleveland became her legal guardian and remained close friends with her mother. This led to the belief in certain quarters that Cleveland would marry his friend’s widow. But he completely surprised them when he married Frances as soon as she turned 21. Cleveland entered the White House as a bachelor and left a married man with two kids.

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On this day 1647 Alse Young was hanged

On this day 1647 Alse Young was hanged in Hartford Connecticut and thus became the first person to be executed for witchcraft in the British American colonies. Her background remains unknown but she was said to have been the wife of John Young, a carpenter by trade who bought a small parcel of land in Windsor in 1641. She bore no son and only had a daughter, Alice Young Beamon, who would be accused of witchcraft in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts 30 years later. Her case was similar to other cases of witchcraft where the women had no male child when the allegations were lodged, implying that they would be eligible to inherit their husbands’ estate if he passed on before them. Witchcraft became a capital offence punishable by death in the Connecticut Colony around 1642 with the punishment backed by Bible references such as: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”.~ Exodus 22:18 and “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood (shall be) upon them”.~Leviticus 20:27.

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