04 June 2007

This day in history: 4 Jun

1629: The VOC ship Batavia, with some 340 people on board, sank after hitting a reef in the Houtman Abrolhos, off the western coast of Australia. 40 people drowned in the shipwreck; another 125 or so were murdered by, or under the orders of, mutineers led by under-merchant Jeronimus Cornelisz.*

1666: The Four Days' Battle, between an English fleet under George Monck and a Dutch fleet commanded by Michiel de Ruyter, ended in a Dutch victory.

1783: The Montgolfier brothers gave the first public demonstration of their hot-air balloon, which rose to an altitude of around 6000 feet.

1792: Captain George Vancouver claimed Puget Sound for Great Britain.

1812: The Louisiana Territory was renamed the Missouri Territory after Louisiana's admission as a US state.

1857: Serjeant-Major Matthew Rosamond, 37th Bengal Native Infantry, with Serjeant-Major Peter Gill, The Ludhiana Regiment, and Private John Kirk, 10th Regiment of Foot, went out to rescue an officer and his family trapped by rebels in a bungalow some distance from the barracks at Benares. Later that evening, Gill saved the life of a fellow NCO by beheading the sepoy who had just bayonetted him. Rosamond, Gill and Kirk were all awarded the Victoria Cross.

1917: 124th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, was providing heavy artillery support near the village of Feuchy, France, when a German shell broke the telephone line running back from the front lines. Second Lieutenant Thomas H B Maufe went forward, located the break and repaired it, despite an intense German barrage. He returned to the battery just as a German shell started a fire in a ammunition dump. Despite the danger of explosion, and in full knowledge of the danger he ran due to the gas shells stored in the dump, Maufe went in alone and extinguished the blaze. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.

That same day, the Order of the British Empire was instituted by King George V.

1940: Operation DYNAMO, the rescue of British and French troops from Dunkirk, was completed. Prime Minister Winston Churchill PC CH addressed the House of Commons, reporting on the status of the rescue and continuing on to discuss the possibility of a German invasion of Great Britain. "We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender...."

1942: The Battle of Midway began with an early-morning Japanese air attack on Midway Island. Air attacks by both Japanese and American forces continued throughout the day, resulting in the sinking of the Japanese carriers Kaga and Sōryū; carriers Akagi and USS Yorktown (CV 5) were damaged and sank later in the battle.

1944: TG 22.3, composed of USS Guadalcanal (CVE 60) and five destroyer escorts** under the command of Captain Daniel V Gallery, captured the German submarine U-505, the first time an enemy ship had been captured at sea by the US Navy since 1815. Lt(jg) Albert David, who led the boarding party, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1970: Tonga gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941), Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) and Dik Browne (1917/18-1989) died on this date.

And happy birthday to King George III (1738-1820), Patrick Ferguson (1744-1780), Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867-1951), Dennis Weaver (1924-2006) and Michelle Phillips (1944-TBD).

* The picture shows a replica built in Lelystad, the Netherlands, and launched in 1995.

** USS Pillsbury (DE 133), USS Pope (DE 134), USS Flaherty (DE 135), USS Chatelain (DE 149) and USS Jenks (DE 665).

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