22 January 2008

This day in history: 22 Jan

1506: The first contingent of 150 Swiss Guards, commanded by Captain Kaspar von Silenen, arrived at the Vatican.

1879: Some 1400 soldiers from the centre column of Lord Chelmsford's army were attacked in camp at Isandlwana by 20,000 Zulu warriors under Ntshingwayo. The camp was overrun, and there were very few British survivors. Three of them (two posthumously) were awarded the Victoria Cross.*

That same day, Chelmsford's righthand column, commanded by Colonel Pearson, fought off a fierce Zulu attack at Nyezane.

And later that day, some 4500 Zulus led by Dabulamanzi attacked - unsuccessfully - a small garrison of the 24th Regiment at Rorke's Drift. 17 of the 139 defenders were killed in the battle, which lasted almost until dawn; eleven of the survivors were awarded the Victoria Cross.**

1901: Edward VII became King of the United Kingdom on the death of his mother.

1941: Australian forces captured Tobruk.

1944: Operation SHINGLE (the Allied landings at Anzio, Italy) began.

1952: The de Havilland Comet, the world's first jet airliner, entered service with BOAC.

1957: Israeli forces withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, which they had occupied since 29 October 1956. (They would return in ten years.)

1968: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was aired for the first time, on NBC.

1992: Space Shuttle Discovery (mission STS-42) was launched from Cape Canaveral with commander Ronald J Grabe, pilot Stephen S Oswald, mission specialists Norman E Thagard, David C Hilmers and William F Readdy, and payload specialists Roberta L Bondar and Ulf Merbold. Dr Bondar became the first Canadian woman in space; Merbold, Germany's first astronaut, was making his second space flight.

2004: NASA's Mars Expedition Rover A (Spirit) ceased communication with mission control. The problem, a memory-management issue, was fixed remotely from Earth on 6 February.

In addition to Queen Victoria (1819-1901), Shah Jahan (1592–1666), Lyndon Johnson (1908–1973), Telly Savalas (1922–1994) and Bill Mauldin (1921-2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Sir Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (1561–1626), Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655), Robert E Howard (1906–1936), Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan (1907–1995), Ann Sothern (1909–2001), Piper Laurie (1932-TBD), Bill Bixby (1934–1993), Graham Kerr (1934-TBD) and John Hurt CBE (1940-TBD).

* One of those killed at Isandlwana was Sergeant William Griffiths VC, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross in 1867 for his actions in the Andaman Islands.

** The movie
Zulu Dawn (Burt Lancaster and Peter O'Toole, 1979) is about the Battle of Isandlwana. The movie Zulu (Michael Caine and Stanley Baker, 1964) is about the Battle of Rorke's Drift.

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