25 August 2007

This day in history: 25 Aug

1537: The Honourable Artillery Company, the oldest surviving, and the second most senior*, regiment in the British Army, was formed.

1758: Frederick II of Prussia defeated the Russian army, commanded by Count William Fermor, at the Battle of Zorndorf.

1768: James Cook began his first voyage, aboard the barque Endeavour; after visiting Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia, he would return on 12 June 1771.

1814: The White House, along with much of the rest of Washington, DC, was burned by British forces.

1835: The New York Sun published the first of six articles about the supposed discovery of life on the Moon.

1914: Lance-Corporal George H Wyatt, 3rd Battalion The Coldstream Guards, was fighting the Germans at a farm near Landrecies, France, when the enemy set alight some straw sacks in the farmyard. Wyatt dashed out twice, under very heavy fire, and extinguished the burning straw, making it possible to hold the position. Later, although wounded in the head and ordered to the rear, he returned to the firing line and continued fighting. Wyatt was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1916: The United States National Park Service was created.

1944: General der Infanterie Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the Paris garrison and military governor of Paris, surrendered to General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, commander of the French 2nd Armoured Division.

1950: President Harry S Truman ordered the US Army to seize control of the nation's railroads in order to avert a strike.

1968: Sergeant William W Seay, 62d Transportation Company (Medium Truck), 7th Transportation Battalion, was driving in a convoy carrying ammunition and supplies from Long Binh, South Vietnam, to Tay Ninh, when it was ambushed by a reinforced battalion of the North Vietnamese Army near Ap Nhi. The convoy was forced to stop by intense fire from a well-concealed and entrenched enemy force. Seay took a defensive position behind a vehicle loaded with ammunition and, when the enemy approached to within ten meters, opened fire, killing two of them. He then spotted and killed a sniper in a tree. When an enemy grenade was thrown under an ammunition trailer near his position, he left cover, picked up the grenade, and threw it back, killing four more of the enemy. Another enemy grenade landed near him, and he again left his covered position to throw the grenade back at the enemy. Despite being wounded in the right wrist, Seay continued to fight and to direct his fellow soldiers until he was mortally wounded by a sniper's bullet. Seay was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1989: The Voyager 2 spacecraft, which had been launched from Cape Canaveral on 20 August 1977 to explore the outer planets of the Solar System, made its closest approach to Neptune, the outermost planet in the Solar System. (Pluto was still considered to be a planet at that time, but its eccentric orbit had carried it inboard Neptune's orbit, thus making Neptune the outermost planet anyway.)

1991: Belarus declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

Louis IX of France (1215–1270), Sir James Douglas (1286–1330), Sir Henry Morgan (c 1635–1688), Sir William Herschel FRS KH (1738-1822), Michael Faraday FRS (1791–1867), John Birch (1918–1945) and Carl Barks (1901–2000) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Ivan IV Vasilyevich (1530–1584), Allan Pinkerton (1819–1884), Bret Harte (1836–1902), Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845–1886), Walt Kelly (1913-1973), Maurice Halperin OC (1921-TBD), Sir Sean Connery (1930-TBD), Frederick Forsyth CBE (1938-TBD) and Tim Burton (1958-TBD).

* The senior regiment are the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia).

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