What happened in April? A daily overview

01 April

When the western world employed the Julian calendar, years began on March 25. Festivals marking the start of the New Year were celebrated on the first day of April because March 25 fell during Holy Week. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar during the 1500s moved the New Year to January 1. According to the most widely-believed origin postulated for April Fools' Day, those who could be tricked into believing April 1 was still the proper day to celebrate the New Year earned the sobriquet of April fools. To this end, French peasants would unexpectedly drop in on neighbors on that day in a effort to confuse them into thinking they were receiving a New Year's call. Out of that one jape supposedly grew the tradition of testing the patience of family and friends. Read more

02 April

On April 2nd 1982, a British territory in the South Atlantic that hardly anyone had heard of suddenly became the focus of jingoistic fury and frenzied military preparation. Argentina had seized the Falkland Islands with an invasion force. The Falkland Islands, about 300 miles off the coast of Argentina, have a long and complicated history. It is uncertain when they were first sighted: there are claims for Spaniard Esteban Gomez sailing in Magellan’s fleet in 1522; for Englishman John Davis in 1592; and Dutchman Sebald de Weerdt at the start of the 17th century. Read more

03 April

The 1976 Eurovision Song Contest took place on 3rd April in The Hague's Concertgebouw and was hosted by former Dutch representative ánd winner Corry Brokken (1957). 18 countries took part, Sweden skipped a year because they didn't want to organise the 1977 edition in case they would win. Brotherhood of Man won the UK national selection with only a few points more than runner-up Coco, who would represent the country in 1978. Nicky Stevens, Sandra Stevens, Martin Lee and Lee Sheriden formed the group, of which the formation was similar to the one of ABBA (the so-called two boys, two girls-approach). With Save your kisses for me they had a big hit in many European countries. Read more

04 April

Martin Luther King is probably the most famous person associated with the civil rights movement. King was active from the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 to 1956 until his murder in April 1968. To many Martin Luther King epitomised what the civil rights campaign was all about and he brought massive international cover to the movement. Read more

05 April

With heavy rain falling and a huge crowd, there was a surge of spectators into the ground. They pushed their way to the top of the stand for a better view, but the flimsy structure could not sustain the weight. The unsupported stand simply gave way allowing a group of spectators to plunge forty feet through the broken boards. Twenty six people were killed and over 500 injured. Read more

06 April

King Richard I (Coeur de Lyon)met an untimely death on this day. Carelessly, he rode without full armor near the walls of a besieged town and was struck in the shoulder by a bolt from a cross-bow. The wound turned septic and he died in 1199. When people conjure images of valiant crusaders, Richard the 1st is a figure who most often comes to mind. Defining Chivalry, it was King Richard, who said, 'Brave Men Conquer Nobly, or Die Gloriously'. Richard of course was just one of many who fought what was destined to become The Holy Land Crusades, covering a period of around Three (300) years. Read more

07 April

The Mars Odyssey spacecraft took off on a six-month, 286-million-mile journey to the red planet. It reached Mars on October 24, 2001. It is designed to orbit the planet Mars to hunt for evidence of past or present water and volcanic activity to help answer the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars. Read more

08 April

By her mid twenties, Vivienne Westwood’s life seemed to be passing in a distinctly unremarkable way. At 25, she was married to an air steward, she lived in Willesden, went to church and taught in a local primary school. Then something remarkable happened - she met Malcolm Mclaren future manager of the Sex Pistols, and he led her into the underground of the late 1960’s street. He lectured her on the political power of art and liberated her creative desires from their bondage in working class conformity. Westwood became a subversive seamstress of pop. Read more

09 April

The civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall was followed by a televised blessing in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle attended by about 750 guests including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The wedding brought to a conclusion a relationship between Charles and Camilla that began when they met at a Windsor polo match in 1970, a year before the prince joined the Royal Navy. Read more

10 April

In 1999 remains of a banana were found at a Tudor archaeological site on the banks of the Thames River. This would seem to date it 150 years earlier than Thomas Johnson's banana. A classic food mystery! The word banana is a derivated from the Arabic meaning finger. Some believe the banana was the forbidden fruit of Eden. Read more

11 April

On 11th April 1990 customs officers in Middlesbrough seized what they believed to be the barrel of a massivegun on a ship bound for Iraq. Exports of parts for a weapon to Iraq contravened British restrictions on arms sales to President Saddam Hussein's state. The length of the barrel was said to have measured 40 metres (130 feet) when assembled. This would have made it by far the largest gun in the world with a range of approximately 600 miles (965 kilometres). The discovery led to investigations at the Walter Somers company in Halesowen in the west Midlands where the parts were said to have been designed and Forgemasters engineering firm in Sheffield. Read more

12 April

Then 27-year-old cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth for 108 minutes on a computer-controlled flight that placed the mantle of First Man in Space firmly in the hands of the then-Soviet Union, which had already made in history in 1957 with its launch of Sputnik. Gagarin's flight ended not with him riding his spacecraft down to Earth, but with a parachute landing after he ejected from his descent capsule. Read more

13 April

Jonathan Cape released the first edition of Casino Royale in the U.K. on 13 April 1953.This was the world’s introduction to Ian Fleming’s new creation, secret agent 007 James Bond. The Bond series of novels spanned fourteen titles (although `For Your Eyes Only` and `Octopussy & The Living Daylights` contained more than one story) over thirteen years. In 1963, Fleming released `On Her Majesty's Secret Service` in the same year that the first cinematic 007 adventure, `Dr. No`, was released in the UK. Fleming attended the filming of `Dr. No`, `From Russia With Love`, and `Goldfinger`, although never appeared on screen. On 12th August 1964, at the Royal St. George's Sandwich golf course in Kent, Fleming suffered a heart attack and died Read more

14 April

On average about one million copies are sold each year. In the first edition there was no mention of mirrors and drivers were advised to sound their horn when over-taking. Over one third of the 24-page booklet described various hand signals used by motorists and the police. These days hand signals takes up only one page in a 93-page edition, which costs £1.99. Read more

15 April

From the 2,228 people aboard 1,523 died and 705 were rescued. In the early morning of April 15, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg. Modern analysis now tells us it was a glancing blow that buckled her plates (not tearing a gash in her side). Two days shy of her ultimate port-of-call, New York, the Titanic met her fate and sank off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Read more

16 April

The Jacobites were outnumbered around 9000 to 6000, and the ground was too marshy to accommodate the Highlanders’ favourite tactic - the headlong charge into the enemy’s ranks. Culloden did, however, lend itself more to Cumberland’s strength in heavy artillery and cavalry. The artillery decimated the clans as they awaited the command to charge. When the command did come, the charge itself was disorganised. The Hanoverians stood firm and blasted the Jacobite army into retreat. Read more

17 April

On the 17th April 1984, policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was shot in the back while on crowd control duties outside the Libyan Embassy in London. In the ensuing media frenzy, Libya was accused of ordering her death, and its diplomatic personnel were expelled from the Embassy and from London. The subsequent coronial inquest into her death was rushed and lacking in detail. On closer examination of the available scientific evidence, it became very clear that the shot which killed Yvonne Fletcher could not have been fired from the Libyan Embassy, but only from Enserch House a few doors away. In-depth investigation proved links between this building in 1984 directly to the CIA, and indirectly to the Israeli Mossad. Read more

18 April

The 22 million pounds of granite (10,276 pieces) was shipped from London through the Panama Canal to Long Beach, California, and then trucked to Lake Havasu, a 10,000 mile journey. Total reconstruction time was three years, from the laying of the cornerstone (September 1968) to dedication (October 1971). The lights on the Bridge were constructed from Napoleon’s cannons, which had been seized and kept in storage. The cannons were then melted down and forged into lamps for the Bridge. Read more

19 April

The English actor, Dudley Moore was born Dudley Stuart John Moore on April 19th, 1935. Despite his working-class origins in Dagenham, East London, his diminutive stature and a deformed left foot, Dudley's determination to succeed overcame all barriers. His musical career began as a chorister and organist in his church, and he went on to become a talented pianist, with degrees in music and composition from Oxford. Later in life he recorded several albums of jazz and appeared in concert with the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra. His death on March 27, 2002 at a friend's home in Plainfield, New Jersey, came from complications with the degenerative brain condition progressive supranuclear palsy, a disease similar to Parkinson's that affects one in every 100,000 people. Read more

20 April

The Rivers of Blood speech was a controversial speech about immigration. It was made on April 20, 1968 by the British politician Enoch Powell. The speech took place at the annual meeting of the West Midlands Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham, in the Midland Hotel. In a small room after a lunch, Powell warned his audience of what he believed would be the consequences of continued immigration to Britain from the Commonwealth. Read more

21 April

The demonstration started six days after the death of the popular, reform-minded leader Hu Yaobang. Students gathered on Tiananmen Square to honor Hu and express their discontent with China’s authoritarian communist government. The student’s demand to meet with Premier Li Peng was rebuffed, leading the students to join in on a general boycott of Chinese universities across the country and widespread calls for democratic reforms. Read more

22 April

The Sirius was in fact a 700-ton coastal steamer, ordinarily employed on a service between London and Cork. In mid-Atlantic, the Sirius encountered a storm that slowed her down and increased the engine’s consumption of coal. As a result, she ran out of coal before reaching her destination. Still eager to win the race though, the crew now scavenged the ship for auxiliary fuel. Furniture, doors and even the ship’s emergency mast were used to feed the furnace. With sparks and smoke belching from her single stack, the Sirius arrived in New York harbour on April 22nd. The first Atlantic crossing made entirely under steam had been made, and history with it. Read more

23 April

The legends about St George spread far and wide and it was claimed that near the town of Silene in Libya, a dragon dwelt, keeping the population in terror. To satiate him the population tethered an animal, until they had no more. The story then relates how St. George rode up on his white charger, dismounted and fought the monster on foot; until it eventually succumbed. He then dragged the dying monster into the city, using the girdle of the Princess and slew the dragon in front of the people. St. George was greeted as their saviour and the King offered him a bag of gold as a reward for saving his daughter. This he refused and asked that it be given to the poor. Read more

24 April

The Pennine Way long distance walk was eventually born on the 24th.April, 1965, and is now very firmly engraved on the face of the land! It was the first of the National Trails to be created and is still , arguably, the toughest. The Pennine Way attracts walkers from all over the world and is described as a 'Challenging trail, wild and spectacular scenery' by The Countryside Agency and 'Challenging' by The Rambler's Association. A. Wainwright said at the end of his 'Pennine Way Companion' `You won't come across me anywhere along the Pennine Way. I've had enough of it.` His own experiences of the walk included getting stuck in a bog up to his waist on Black Hill - he had to be pulled out by a passing National Park warden! Read more

25 April

The Hubble Space Telescope is a 2.4-meter reflecting telescope, which was deployed in low-Earth orbit (600 kilometers) by the crew of the space shuttle Discovery (STS-31) on 25 April 1990. HST is a cooperative program of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to operate a long-lived space-based observatory for the benefit of the international astronomical community. HST is an observatory first dreamt of in the 1940s, designed and built in the 1970 and 80s, and operational since the 1990s. Since its preliminary inception, HST was designed to be a different type of mission for NASA -- a long-term space-based observatory. Read more

26 April

The resulting steam explosion and fire released at least five percent of the radioactive reactor core into the atmosphere and downwind. 28 people died within four months from radiation or thermal burns, 19 have subsequently died, and there have been around nine deaths from thyroid cancer apparently due to the accident: total 56 fatalities as of 2004. An authoritative UN report in 2000 concluded that there is no scientific evidence of any significant radiation-related health effects to most people exposed. This was confirmed in a very thorough 2005-06 study. Read more

27 April

London Zoo, the first scientific zoological gardens in the modern world, was opened to the public on 27th of April 1828 as a way of funding its scientific work. The word 'Zoo' only emerged in a music-hall song of the 1920s. Of interest regarding these pages, the Zoo contains a modest collection of statuary and many buildings of architectural significance. In addition, generations of artists have gone there to study animals from life. London Zoo contains a variety of sculptural works featuring animals. Most noticeable is Guy the Gorilla (1982), one of the most famous of all the inhabitants of the Zoo. The statue, by William Tymym, is near the main entrance by the Michael Sobell Pavillion for Monkeys and Apes. Read more

28 April

On 28 April 1789, Mr Fletcher Christian leads some of his fellow officers to mutineer on board H.M.S Bounty. Captain Bligh, and 18 of his loyal shipmates, were set adrift in a long boat near one of the Tongan islands. Some seven weeks later, having battled starvation and inclement weather, Bligh arrived at Timor. Read more

29 April

On April 29, 1945, American forces liberate Dachau, the first concentration camp established by Germany's Nazi regime. At Dachau, Nazi scientists tested the effects of freezing and changes to atmospheric pressure on inmates, infected them with malaria and treated them with experimental drugs, and forced them to drink only seawater, among other savage experiments. Some 40,000 inmates died at Dachau and countless more passed through on their way to the death camps in Poland, where millions perished. Hitler tried to eliminate evidence of the atrocities as the Allied closed in, but not before the truth was revealed at Dachau and elsewhere. The Americans who liberated Dachau were so appalled by the scene that they executed the German commandant and 500 of his troops. Read more

30 April

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday 30 March 2002, at Royal Lodge, Windsor. Queen Elizabeth was a much-loved member of the Royal Family. Her life, spanning over a century, was devoted to the service of her country, the fulfilment of her Royal duties and the support of her family. The Queen Mother's remarkable life spanned over a century, a period of immense change. Having married Prince Albert, Duke of York in 1923, she found herself Queen Consort on the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936. As Queen she played a significant role in the life of the nation, supporting the King and helping to uphold national morale during the difficult years of the Second World War and its aftermath. Read more