Horatio Nelson: from frail guy to National Hero

Often maggot-infested, the food was often uneatable, living quarters were tiny and discipline was extremely strict, with the threat of lashing punishment by the cat-o’-nine-tails ever present. Winston Churchill would write of such life as “nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.” No. This isn’t a novel, but the 18th century world of the British Navy. No wonder, thus, if there were few volunteers. Most crewmen who, of course, might not see their families again for years, had been press-ganged into service. The Government at the time, at war with…

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The true story of Lord Lucan, the British aristocrat who killed his maid and disappeared forever

In 1974, Britain, and later much of the rest of the world, was captivated by the brutal murder of a 29-year-old nanny named Sandra Rivett, and the disappearance of the main suspect: an aristocrat named Richard John Bingham, or simply Lord Lucan. Lucan was a dashing British aristocrat and army officer, known for his prowess at backgammon and bridge and his fondness for vodka martinis, powerboats, and Aston Martin cars. But, in order. Dressed only in a nightgown, the Countess of Lucan burst into the Plumbers Arms pub in Belgravia,…

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#June 1, 1935: first test for drivers!

In 1934 in Britain there were about one and a half million cars on the roads, but despite the relatively low number, more than 7,000 people were killed in road accidents. Something had to be done…and so it was.Parliament decided that anyone driving a car had to prove they could do it safely and the first compulsory driving test was introduced on this day, June 1, 1935. Those who had not passed the test were required to display L (for learner) plates on their vehicle.The test lasted about half an…

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#May 6, 1994: English Channel tunnel opens

The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel,” linking England and France,was officially opened on this day, in a ceremony presided over by England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President Francois Mitterrand, nearly 200 years after the idea was first suggested. The channel connected Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age, linking Folkestone, England, with Coquelles, France. There were many misgivings, and the sea having protected for centuries what Shakespeare described as “this precious stone set in the silver sea…this fortress built by Nature for herself against…

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#March 15, 1889: the power of nature blows gunboat diplomacy out of the water in Apia Harbour, Western Samoa

Gunboat diplomacy was at its height in 1889 and on this day, March 15, tension was high with an act of war seemingly imminent. Three American warships (the sloop-of-war USS Vandalia, the screw steamer USS Trenton, and the gunboat USS Nipsic) and three from Germany (the gunboats SMS Adler and SMS Eber and the corvette SMS Olga) were jostling for position in a small harbour in the South Pacific, Apia Harbour, Western Samoa, observed by yet another warship from Britain, HMS Calliope. They had been intimidating each other from 1887–1889,…

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The Medieval Castle of Chillingham: the most haunted castle in Britain!

Chillingham Castle is a medieval castle in the village of the same name in Northumberland, England. From the fifteenth century until the eighties it was the home of the Gray and Bennet families, until Sir Humphry Wakefield bought the property, also marrying a member of the Gray family. Around the castle there is the “Chillingham Cattle”, a very rare herd of cattle with about 90 animals. The history of the castle is very long and has its roots in the low medieval period. In 1298 King Edward I passed by…

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