14 December 2007

This day in history: 14 Dec

1542: Six-day-old Princess Mary Stuart became Queen of Scots on the death of her father, King James V. She was crowned 9 September 1543 in Stirling Castle.

1782: The Montgolfier brothers' first balloon lifted on its first test flight, floating about 1.5 miles before crash landing in the village of Gonesse, where it was destroyed by the alarmed inhabitants,

1819: Alabama became the 22nd US state. (On 11 Jan 1861, it would become the fourth state to secede from the Union.)

1903: The Wright brothers made their first attempt to fly with the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. With Wilbur at the controls, it stalled on take-off and crashed, but three days later, after completing repairs, it made a successful 120-foot flight.

1911: Roald Amundsen, Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting became the first men to reach the South Pole.

1939: The Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations for attacking Finland.

1943: In Italy, Captain Paul Triquet, Le Royal 22e Régiment, Canadian Army, took command of a company which had suffered very heavy losses in an attack, and managed to break through the enemy positions. Less than twenty men of the company remained under his command by this time, but under his leadership they held the newly-won ground against German counter-attacks until reinforced the following day. Triquet received the Victoria Cross.

1944: Sergeant Ralph G Neppel, 329th Infantry, 83d Infantry Division, was leader of a machinegun squad defending an approach to the village of Birgel, Germany, when an enemy tank, supported by infantry, counterattacked. He held his fire until the Germans were within 100 yards, then raked the foot soldiers beside the tank, killing several of them. The enemy armor continued to press forward, and fired a shell into the American emplacement, wounding the entire squad. Neppel, blown 10 yards from his gun, suffered severe wounds, but dragged himself back to his position on his elbows, remounted his gun and killed the remaining enemy riflemen. Without infantry protection, the tank was forced to withdraw. Neppel was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1962: Mariner 2, launched from Cape Canaveral on 27 Aug 1962, became the first spacecraft to fly by Venus.

1972: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt completed the third and final Apollo 17 extra-vehicular activity (EVA), making Cernan the last man to walk on the moon in the 20th century.

In addition to James V (1512-1542), C P E Bach (1714–1788), George Washington (1732–1799), HRH The Prince Consort (1819–1861) and Louis Agassiz (1807—1873) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, GCB (1775–1860), HM King George VI (1895–1952), Jimmy Doolittle (1896–1993), Morey Amsterdam (1908–1996), Spike Jones (1911–1965) and Hanni Wenzel (1956-TBD).

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