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This Day in History - 12th December


1724 The birth of Admiral Samuel Hood, first Viscount, British naval commander and a skilful tactician. He was known particularly for his service in the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars and he acted as a mentor to Horatio Nelson.

1889 Robert Browning, English poet, died. He was buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. His grave now lies immediately adjacent to that of Alfred Tennyson.


1896 Marconi gave the first public demonstration of radio at Toynbee Hall, London. On the same day, in 1901, Marconi carried out the first transatlantic radio transmission from Poldhu, Cornwall, to St John’s, Newfoundland, a distance of 1800 miles.


1908 The start of the first Australian Rugby League tour of Britain. The seven-month tour was almost a disaster due to small gate-takings.


1939 HMS Duchess sank after a collision with HMS Barham off the coast of Scotland with the loss of 124 men.


1948 Britain introduced National Service for all men aged between 18 and 26. It extended the British conscription of World War II into peacetime.


1955 Christopher Cockerell patented his prototype of the hovercraft. He had tested his theories using a hair-dryer and tin cans and found his work to have potential, but the idea took some years to develop, and he was forced to sell personal possessions in order to finance his research. 


1966 English sailor Francis Chichester arrived at Sydney in his ketch Gipsy Moth IV - half way in his bid to become the first man to sail solo around the world. On 28 May 1967, after 226 days, he arrived back in Plymouth and became the first person to achieve a true, solo, circumnavigation of the world from West to East via the great capes. The voyage was also a race against the clock as Chichester wanted to better the typical times achieved by the fastest fully crewed clipper ships during the heyday of commercial sail in the 19th century.


1975 The six-day Balcombe Street siege ended peacefully in London after four IRA gunmen freed their two hostages and gave themselves up to police.


1982 30,000 women formed a 9 mile human chain that encircled Greenham Common air base in Berkshire, in protest against the proposed siting of US Cruise missiles there.


1988 Britain’s worst rail crash for 20 years killed 35 and injured 113 people when a packed express train ran into the back of a stationary commuter train near Clapham Junction.


1988 The first satellite pictures were beamed to London's betting shops to allow them to watch the races live from many race courses.


1992 Princess Anne remarried and became Mrs. Timothy Laurence after a small family wedding in Scotland. She was previously married to Mark Phillips (1973).


2001 Roy Whiting was found guilty of the abduction and murder of eight year old Sarah Payne, and sentenced to life in prison. The high profile case led to 'Sarah's Law', by allowing controlled access to the Sex Offenders' Register, so that parents with young children could know if a child sex-offender was living in their area.


2012 Ofcom announced that Internet shopping was more popular in the UK than in any other major country, with an annual average spend of £1,083 a year, compared with the second highest (Australia) at £842.


2013 Blockbuster, the DVD and games rental chain that went into administration in January, announced that all the remaining 91 UK stores, employing 808 people, would have to close by 16th December.


2013 Daniel Severn, a 27 year old burglar who had 80 convictions for 32 court appearances was jailed for two years and four months. The court heard that Severn became trapped while trying to raid someone's house and ended up with his head resting on the toilet for an hour and a half, with one foot trapped in the window that he had used to gain entry. When he had tried to call for help he dropped his phone in the bath. Severn was told "It would be funny if it were not such a serious offence."


2013 Doctors in Derby and Nottingham analysing the Ian Fleming novels showed that James Bond drank the equivalent of one and a half bottles of wine every day. They said that he was not the man to trust to deactivate a nuclear bomb and that his love of the bottle would have left him impotent and at death’s door. Excluding the 36 days that Bond was in prison, hospital or rehab, the spy downed 1,150 units of alcohol in 88 days, four times the recommended maximum intake for men in the UK.


2014 A 20 year study of the Darwin Awards (named after the naturalist Charles Darwin) that reviewed the most foolish way people have died, found almost 90 per cent were 'won' by males.