08 September 2007

This day in history: 8 Sep

1514: Forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, under the command of Hetman Konstanty Ostrogski, defeated a much larger Russian army in the Battle of Orsza.

1565: The Knights of Malta lifted the Turkish siege of Malta.

1755: British forces (including 200 Mohawks led by Theyanoguin, aka King Hendrick) under Sir William Johnson defeated a larger French and Indian army commanded by the Baron de Dieskau in the Battle of Lake George, in northern New York. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the British, and King Hendrick was one of those killed in the battle.

1831: William IV, who had been King of Great Britain since the death of his brother on 26 June 1830, was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

1855: The British attack on the Redan at Sevastopol failed, but nine men were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during the attack; amongst them were Bombardier Daniel Cambridge, Royal Artillery, and Assistant Surgeon Thomas E Hale, 7th Regiment (the Royal Fusiliers). The French attack on the same night was more successful, however, and the Russians successfully evacuated at night shortly afterwards, bringing an end to the eleven-month siege.

1863: Confederate forces under Lieutenant Richard Dowling defeated an invading Union army commanded by Major General William B Franklin at the Second Battle of Sabine Pass (Jefferson County, Texas).

1900: A hurricane made landfall at Galveston, Texas; over 6000 people were killed.

1910: The brand-new* battleship USS North Dakota (BB 29) suffered an oil-tank explosion and fire at sea. Six men - Chief Watertenders August Holtz and Patrick Reid, Chief Machinist's Mates Thomas Stanton and Karl Westa, Machinist's Mate First Class Charles C Roberts and Watertender Harry Lipscomb - each received the Medal of Honor "for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession" during the fire.

1914: Private Thomas James Highgate, the first British soldier to be convicted of desertion and executed during World War I, was shot.

1917: Men of the North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's) were digging a new trench near Zwarteleen, Belgium, when a grenade was unearthed and the fuze started to burn. Serjeant John Carmichael ran to the grenade, but realised that throwing it clear would have endangered the lives of the men working up top; he therefore placed his helmet on top of the grenade, then stood on the helmet. No-one in the working party was killed when the grenade exploded, but Carmichael was severely injured. Carmichael was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1923: Seven US Navy Clemson-class destroyers - USS Delphy (DD 261), S P Lee (DD 310), Young (DD 312), Woodbury (DD 309), Nicholas (DD 311), Fuller (DD 297) and Chauncey (DD 296) - were lost when they ran aground in heavy fog off Honda Point (Point Pedernales), near Lompoc, California. Two others - USS Farragut (DD 300) and Somers (DD 301) - also struck, but were only damaged. The remaining five ships with them managed to avoid grounding. Amazingly, only 23 men were lost: 20 in Young and 3 in Delphy.

1934: 135 people died in a fire aboard the passenger liner SS Morro Castle.

1935: US Senator Huey "Kingfish" Long (D, LA) was shot in the Louisiana capitol building by Doctor Carl Weiss. Long died two days later.

1941: The Siege of Leningrad began when the last land connection to the city was blocked by German forces. The siege was not lifted until 27 January 1944, by which time at least 641,000 people had died in the city.

1943: USAAF aircraft bombed German and Italian headquarters in Frascati, near Rome. One bomber and around thirty defending fighters were lost.

That same day, the Italian armistice (which had been signed on 3 September) was publicly announced.

1944: Six people were killed in southeastern Paris by the first successful V-2 rocket, launched from a site near Houffalize, Belgium. Later that day, three people were killed in Chiswick, London, by a V-2 launched from Wassenaar, the Netherlands. A third rocket, also fired from Wassenaar, hit Epping, Essex, 27 kilometres north of London.

1951: In San Francisco, California, 48 nations signed a peace treaty with Japan, in formal recognition of the end of the Pacific War.

1962: The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway's Pines Express made its last run between Bournemouth and Manchester, pulled by British Rails 2-10-0 No 92220 (Evening Star).

1966: "The Man Trap", the first episode of the science-fiction television series Star Trek, was broadcast on NBC.

That same day, the Severn Bridge was opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

1974: US President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon for any crimes the latter may have committed whilst in office.

2004: The NASA unmanned spacecraft Genesis crash-landed after its parachute failed to open.

In addition to King Hendrick (c 1680-1755) and Highgate (1895-1914), Enoch Poor (1736–1780), Richard Strauss (1864–1949), Bud Collyer (1908–1969), Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969), Zero Mostel (1915–1977) and Leni Riefenstahl (1902–2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Richard I Cœur de Leon (1157–1199), Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé (1621–1686), Joshua Chamberlain (1828–1914), Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904), Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933), Frank Cady (1915-TBD), Sid Caesar (1922-TBD), Peter Sellers CBE (1925–1980), Harlan Howard (1927-2002) and Patsy Cline (1932–1963).

* Commissioned 11 Apr 1910.

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