What happened in December? A daily overview

01 December

On the 1st of December 1990 British and French teams achieved the first historic breakthrough under the Channel, in the service tunnel, 22.3 km from the UK and 15.6 km from France. The Channel Tunnel is regarded by many people as one of the most remarkable construction achievements ever; indeed some might say as one of the wonders of the world. However, as much of it is underground, with only the two terminals at either end being obviously connected to the project, it is now difficult to visualise the scale of the project. Read more

02 December

On 2nd December 1755 the second of the Eddystone lighthouse was completely destroyed by fire.94 year old Henry Hall, the keeper of the watch that night, did his best to put out the fire by throwing water upwards from a bucket. The fire was observed from the shore by a Mr. Edwards, 'a man of some fortune and more humanity'. The old account says he sent off a boat which arrived at the lighthouse at 10 a.m. after the fire had been burning for 8 hours. The sea was too rough for the boat to approach the rock so they threw ropes and dragged the keepers through the waves to the boat. The lighthouse continued to burn for 5 days and was completely destroyed. Read more

03 December

Agatha Christie disappeared on December 3 1926, having left her Surrey home just before ten that evening. Her car was found see-sawing at the edge of a chalk pit, with no clues as to where the authoress had gone. Subsequently it emerged that she had made her way to London and then took the train to the genteel spa town of Harrogate in Yorkshire. In Harrogate she took a room at the luxurious Swan Hydro Hotel, registering under the name Mrs Neele. The police alerted Archie Christie, and the authoress returned home. To her dying day she insisted she had suffered from amnesia brought on by the double blow of bereavement and the impending end of her marriage, which did indeed end two years later. Read more

04 December

The Dandy Comic, was released on the 4th December 1937 and it broke the mould on the way comics were to appear forever more. Prior to The Dandy Comic, childrens comics were broadsheet in size and not very colourful. The most notible difference between the Dandy and other comics of the day was it's use of speech balloons instead of captions under the frame. Although The Dandy Comic is renowned for adopting this new way of telling a story, it was still very tentative in the early days. In fact, just 6 of the 28 pages of the first issues were exclusively using this radical new approach. But it was a start and as the years passed, more and more stories were using the speech balloons. Read more

05 December

On 5th December 1872 a crewman on watch on board the British ship Dei Gratia sighted vessel that seemed to be in distress. Three seamen lowered the Dei Gratia's small boat and rowed across to the troubled craft to offer assistance. They hauled themselves over the ship's rails and dropped onto the deck; save for the sound of the wind in the sails and the eerie creaking of the ship's timbers, there was not a sound. The seamen searched the ship from stem to stern and found her to be in excellent condition, but there was not a soul on board. Her crew had disappeared. The name of the ship was Mary Celeste. Read more

06 December

Anthony Trollope, one of Britains most successful authors died on this day in 1882. A remarkable man whose unhappy childhood did not deter him from writing 47 novels and rising to the top of his profession as a senior civil servant in the Post Office. Trollope is rightly known as one of the great Victorian novelists, creator of Barsetshire and of The Pallisers. But he was also a fascinating man, full of idiosyncracies such as his introduction of the pillar box to Britain. The first one was in St Helier, Jersey, and was hexagonal and green and the fact that he wrote for three hours every morning from 5am - 8am, and then went to work. He paid a servant £5 extra a year to wake him up with a cup of coffee. Read more

07 December

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, American neutrality in World War II ends when Japanese forces conduct a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Over 400 planes from six Japanese carriers bombed the harbor and airfield, and within two hours much of the American Pacific fleet was rendered useless. Losses were devastating: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than half the island's aircraft were destroyed. Fortunately for the Americans, all three U.S. Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded in the attack. Japan's losses were 29 planes and four midget submarines. Read more

08 December

In the pages of The Scotsman newspaper, dated December 8th in the year 1733 an account held that a Dorset man was making his way home one afternoon when he reported seeing 'a polished silver disc in the sky'. Like the Loch Ness Monster or ghosts, whether there is any truth to the many hundreds of sightings will most likely never be resolved, but one thing is true: It is more difficult to prove that aliens don't exist than they do! Read more

09 December

Coronation Street is a soap opera shown four times a week in the United Kingdom. It is also the most popular soap opera in Britain and the world's longest-running television drama serial - the first episode was shown on 9th December 1960, and has been shown continuously since then, going from two, to three (October 1989), and in December 1996, four episodes a week. The 4,000th episode was transmitted in April 1996. It is also transmitted in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe. Read more

10 December

The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in Sweden on 10th December 1901 and included Germany scientist Wilhelm Conrad R?ntgen won the Nobel Prize in Physics in recognition of his discovery of X-rays. The Netherlands scientist Jacobus Henricus van't Hoff won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in recognition of his discovery of the laws of chemical dynamics and osmotic pressure in solutions. Germany scientist Emil Adolf von Behring won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or medicine in recognition of his work on serum therapy, especially its application against diphtheria. Read more

11 December

On December 10, 1936, King Edward VIII submitted his abdication and it was endorsed by Parliament the next day. He thus became the only British monarch ever to resign voluntarily. His younger brother, George VI, took the throne and immediately gave Edward the title, Duke of Windsor. The Duke and Simpson were married in France on June 3, 1937 and lived in Paris. During World War II, Edward served as governor of the Bahamas. He died in Paris on May 28, 1972. His wife died there, April 24, 1986. Read more

12 December

On December 12th, 1988 a moving train collided with a stationary train at Clapham Junction, and after a third train had crashed into the wreckage, 35 people had been killed and 70 injured. The blame was placed upon a faulty traffic control signal that showed a clear track to the moving train in the first collision. The faulty signal was caused by a live wire being able to make contact with other equipment, bypassing safety equipment. During maintenance of the wiring, instead of the old wires being tied off or cut back they were pushed out of the way and left uninsulated, and old insulation tape was reused. Read more

13 December

On December 13,1577. Sir Francis Drake and more than 160 men sailed from Plymouth on three ships called the Pelican, the Elizabeth, and the Marigold. He was the first Englishman to sail around the world and took a leading part in defeating the Great Armada sent by Spain to invade England. He made three profitable voyages to the New World, plundering Spanish settlements and destroying Spanish ships. The Spanish feared him so much that they called him El Draque, or `The Dragon`. He was a successful privateer, a talented navigator, and one of the most renowned seamen in all history. In his lifetime he led several expeditions against the Spanish Main, as well as a daring attack against the Spanish city of Cadiz. Read more

14 December

At approximately 3pm on December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen raised the flag of Norway at the South Pole, and naming the spot Polheim -- `Pole Home.` He and his crew returned to their base camp on January 25, 1912, 99 days and 1,860 miles after their departure. Robert Scott's journey, on the other hand, was marred by tragedy. Scott wrote, `Our luck in weather is preposterous.` From December 4 to December 8, 1911, Scott and his party were confined to their tents, forced to wait out a series of howling blizzards. As they ate away their precious rations, time slipped through their hands. By the time Scott's party reached the Pole on January 17, 1912, the Norwegians had come and gone. Read more

15 December

On 15th December 1995 the European Court of Justice passed a ruling that presaged a revolution in European football which became known as the `Bosman ruling` after the player Jean-Marc Bosman who raised the action. This meant that players should be free to move when their contracts had expired It also ruled that EU clubs could hire any number of European Union players. Clubs became powerless to stop their best players leaving at the end of their existing deals. Players under contract could ask for bigger and better deals for staying put - because they could threaten to leave for free if the club failed to accede to their demands. Read more

16 December

The Battle of the Bulge which lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 28, 1945 was the largest land battle of World War II in which the United States participated. More than a million men fought in this battle including some 600,000 Germans, 500,000 Americans, and 55,000 British. The German military force consisted of two Armies with ten corps(equal to 29 divisions). While the American military force consisted of a total of three armies with six corps(equal to 31 divisions). At the conclusion of the battle the casualties were as follows: 81,000 U.S. with 19,000 killed, 1400 British with 200 killed, and 100,000 Germans killed, wounded or captured. Read more

17 December

On 17th December 1986 Mrs Davina Thompson made medical history when she became the first person in the world to be given new heart, lungs and liver, at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. Papworth Hospital is one of the UK’s leading specialist centres for the diagnosis and treatment of heart and lung disease. It treats over 20,000 inpatient and day cases and over 30,000 outpatients each year from across the UK. Read more

18 December

From Thursday 18th December 1952. 26 black-and-white episodes of Bill and Ben (The Flower Pot Men) were shown repeatedly. This was a puppet series with a regular format which proved so popular with children even though the language of Bill and Ben left a little to be desired... `Flobba-dobba-flobba-lob`. The man who worked in the garden went home for his lunch and in the potting shed at the bottom of the garden lived a little weed who sat between two big flowerpots. In the flowerpots lived the flowerpot men Bill & Ben and when it was safe to come out to play they would pop-up from their flowerpots, say hello to the little weed and proceed to have fun and get up to mischief with their friends, including Slowcoach the tortoise. Read more

19 December

On the 19th of December 1981 the Penlee Lifeboat, Solomon Browne, set out, with eight of Mousehole’s men, to aid a stricken vessel, never to return. Although a quarter of a century has now passed, the tragedy still haunts the village, especially around the anniversary of that ill-fated day. This loss of life hit Mousehole very hard as, in one fell swoop, a large chunk of its men was wiped out. Local fundraising accrued a staggering £3 million for the families of those lost at sea, but this could not fill the gap left by the disaster. Every year, on the anniversary of this tragic day, the famous Mousehole Christmas Lights are switched off for an hour as the village remembers their men. Read more

20 December

Harry Ramsden opened his first cafe in Bradford shortly after the 1914-18 war. On 20th December 1928 he opened a lock-up wooden shed not far away at Guiseley. His cooking methods were scientific: so many minutes in the fat, the use of stainless steel vats and buckets, and other quality controls that were rare. His shed grew to a restaurant, still with a take-away section and was famous for decades before becoming a world-wide franchise Read more

21 December

On the evening of Dec. 21, 1988 a Boeing 747 passenger aircraft belonging to the US airline Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) crashed in flames on the town of Lockerbie, near Dumfries in Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew were killed, as well as 11 people in the town, where the wings and most of the fuselage landed. Flight PA103 was en route from Heathrow Airport, London, to John F. Kennedy Airport, New York, and was flying at its normal cruising height of 31,000 feet when the explosion occurred. A memorial service for the dead was held in Lockerbie on Jan. 4, 1989. Read more

22 December

X-ray photograph taken by Wilhem Conrad Roentgen (1845- 1923), of his wife's hand on 22nd December 1895. Roentgen was Professor of Physics at the University of Wurzburg, and it was in 1895 that he experimented with cathode rays and made the discovery which he named X-rays: the 'X' signifying their unknown origin. The property which made X-rays so interesting was their ability to pass through matter. As a result it became possible for the first time to make visible images of the bones inside the body. This is the oldest surviving X-ray image of a part of the human body. Read more

23 December

On 23rd December 1986, Piloted by Americans Richard Rutan and Jeana Yeager, the experimental plane Voyager circles the globe in 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds. The Voyager, made mostly of plastic, was essentially a flying gas tank with a capacity of 1,500 gallons; its weight decreased by 80 percent as the fuel was consumed. On December 23, 1986, Voyager became the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe without refueling when it returned to its starting point at Edwards Air Force Base in California after traveling over 25,000 miles. Read more

24 December

On 24th December 1965 the largest meteorite ever to fall on England landed in Barwell on Christmas Eve 1965. The first heralding of the meteorite, although very few at this early appearance knew what it was, was the sight of a brilliant fireball sweeping across England. It was sighted in an area extending across 10 counties. Mr Arthur Crow of 18 The Common, Barwell had the unique experience of hearing the fragments of the meteorite falling to earth, although at the time he did not know what it was. He was leaving work when he heard a loud explosion. When Mr Crow approached home just a short time later, he thought someone was letting off fireworks. He heard a whizzing sound as if rockets were being set off and lumps of hot rock were scattered on the street Read more

25 December

Stotfield was a small village/settlement to the West of Lossiemouth. On 25th December 1806 the village lost its entire fleet of three fishing boats in a violent storm. Each Skaffie boat had a crew of seven. The morning has been fair when the boats set sail for the fishing ground just a mile or two off-shore. However, the weather took a dramatic turn for the worse and violent winds from the South West blew the boats away from land and down the Firth. The boats were overcome by the violence of the storm and the village lost all of its able bodied men and youths in one afternoon. The boats and men which had the shoreline in their view were never seen again. The village was left with 17 widows, 47 orphaned children and 2 old men. Read more

26 December

On December 26th 2004 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, triggering a tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people in Indian Ocean coastal communities. Here are some images of the human and environmental devastation left in its wake in Indonesia. It has been estimated that the power of the tsunami itself was the equivalent of approximately 5 megatons of TNT; to put that into perspective, the entire explosive arsenal used during 6 years of World War II was around 2 megatons. The earthquake itself generated around 1.5 exajoules, which is around the same amount of energy consumed in the United States per annum qand more than 1000 times the power of the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated. Read more

27 December

Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie’s play, was first produced at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London on 27th December 1904, for a limited Christmas engagement of 150 performances. It is doubtful whether the author intended his piece to be considered a pantomime, or even particularly an entertainment aimed exclusively at children. However, the play as originally produced (and now rarely seen) might be considered to have grown out of the Victorian pantomime tradition, despite this being already fifty years or more out of date by 1904. Read more

28 December

On 28th December 1879, during a Force 11 gale on the River Tay, the two-year-old, two-mile railway bridge collapsed and 75 train passengers plunged to their deaths. It was the biggest structural engineering disaster in Britain. The subsequent enquiry apportioned most of the blame to the bridge's builder, Sir Thomas Bouch, for failing to take sufficient account of the effects of wind force. The bridge was rebuilt and opened to rail traffic in July 1887. Read more

29 December

On 29th December 1940 incendiaries dropped on the City of London caused over 1400 fires including six that were classed as conflagrations, one of which covered half a square mile The Guildhall was damaged, only its walls stood, eight churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren were destroyed as was Paternoster Row, a major telephone exchange, the Central Telegraph Office and guild company halls. Also damaged that night were five mainline stations, nine hospitals, sixteen Underground stations and St Paul's was hit by incendiaries. Read more

30 December

In the early hours of December 30, 1916, a group of nobles lured Grigory Rasputin, a self-fashioned Russian holy man to Yusupovsky Palace, where they attempted to poison him. Seemingly unaffected by the large doses of poison placed in his wine and food, he was finally shot at close range and collapsed. A minute later he rose, beat one of his assailants, and attempted to escape from the palace grounds, where he was shot again. Rasputin, still alive, was then bound and tossed into a freezing river. A few months later, the imperial regime was overthrown by the Russian Revolution. Read more

31 December

The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on 31 December 1923. Big Ben's timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum. Big Ben has rarely stopped and even after an incendiary bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during the Second World War. The clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike the hours. . Also known as 'Big Ben' this nickname was commonly bestowed in society to anything that was the heaviest in its class. Read more