12 May 2007

This day in history: 12 May

1191: King Richard I of England married Berengaria of Navarre at Limassol, Cyprus.

1264: The Battle of Lewes began. It ended two days later, after rebels led by Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, had captured both King Henry III and Prince Edward (later King Edward I).

1588: King Henry III of France fled Paris after Henry of Guise entered the city.

1863: Brigadier General John Gregg made the mistake of attacking James B. McPherson's XVII Corps in the Battle of Raymond, Mississippi. Outnumbered four to one, Gregg was forced to retreat.

1864: Thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers died in some of the most savage fighting of the whole Civil War, in "the Bloody Angle" at Spotsylvania. The battle - between Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and Grant's II Corps (Maj Gen Hancock)and VI Corps (Maj Gen Wright, after Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick was killed by a sharpshooter on the 9th) - ended inconclusively on the 21st, and Grant continued his push toward Richmond.

1865: The Battle of Palmito Ranch (Texas), the last major land action to take place during the Civil War, began, over a month after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. It ended the following day in a Confederate victory.

1885: The Battle of Batoche (Saskatchewan), which had begun on 9 May, ended in a decisive Canadian victory over Métis rebels; this led to the surrender of Louis Riel on 15 May.

1932: The infant son of Charles Lindbergh was found dead in Hopewell, New Jersey - just a few miles from the Lindberghs' home - ten weeks after his abduction.

1937: George VI, who had become King of Great Britain on the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, on 11 Dec 1936, was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

1940: Three Fairey Battle light bombers of No 12 Squadron RAF, led by Flying Officer Donald E Garland made a low-level attack on a bridge over the Albert Canal at Veldwezelt, Belgium. They were also met with extremely heavy anti-aircraft fire. Garland's aircraft was shot down over the bridge, and he, observer Sergeant Thomas Gray, and gunner LAC Reynolds were all killed. The second Battle was set on fire and forced to crash-land; its crew were captured. The third Battle went down, with no survivors, just after releasing its bombs. The bridge had, however, suffered serious damage, which was attributed to Garland's bombs, on its western end. Garland and Gray were awarded the Victoria Cross.

1942: The Second Battle of Kharkov began when Soviet forces under Marshal S K Timoshenko launched an offensive against the German Sixth Army (Gen Friedrich Paulus).

1949: The Berlin Blockade ended at 0001 when the Soviets opened their barricades. (The famous airlift, however, continued until 30 September.)

1965: The Soviet spacecraft Luna 5, launched from Baikonur on 9 May, crashed on the Moon after its retrorockets failed during an attempted soft landing.

1975: The Cambodian navy seized the American merchant ship SS Mayaguez in international waters.

Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (1593–1641), J E B Stuart (1833–1864), Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884), John Cadbury (1801–1889), Józef Piłsudski (1867–1935), Frederick Schiller Faust (1892-1944), Erich von Stroheim (1885–1957), Robert Reed (1932–1992), Perry Como (1912–2001) and Alexei Andreyevich Tupolev (1925–2001) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Edward Lear (1812–1888), Florence Nightingale OM RRC (1820–1910), Lincoln Ellsworth (1880-1951), Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003), Leslie Charteris (1907–1993), Farley Mowat OC (1921-TBD), Burt Bacharach (1928-TBD), George Carlin (1937-TBD), Kix Brooks (1955-TBD), Emilio Estevez (1962-TBD) and Kim Fields (1969-TBD).

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