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This Day in History - 18th December


1559 Queen Elizabeth I of England sent aid to the Scottish Lords to drive the French from Scotland.

1707 The birth at Epworth, Lincolnshire, of Charles Wesley, English hymn writer of more than 6,000 hymns. He was an evangelist like his brother John, who was the founder of Methodism. 


1779 The birth, in London, of Joseph Grimaldi, English creator of the original white faced clown. He was introduced to the stage at Drury Lane at the age of three and began to appear at the Sadler's Wells theatre. As Music Hall became popular, he introduced the pantomime dame to the theatre and was responsible for the tradition of audience participation.


1792 Radical political writer Thomas Paine was tried for treason, in his absence, for publishing 'The Rights of Man' in which he supported the French Revolution and called for the abolition of the British Monarchy.



1912 The Piltdown Man was discovered in Sussex by Charles Dawson. It was claimed to be the fossilized skull and remains of the earliest known European, but in 1953 it was proved to be a hoax. The skull was that of an orang-utan.



1916 The Battle of Verdun, the longest engagement of World War I, ended after 10 months and massive loss of life. 23 million shells had been fired and 650,000 were killed.



1919 Pioneering aviator John Alcock, a Captain in the RAF, died in an aircraft accident whilst flying the new Vickers Viking amphibian to the Paris airshow. Alcock and Lt. Arthur Whitten-Brown were the first to make a non-stop transatlantic flight. A few days after the flight both Alcock and Brown were honoured with a reception at Windsor Castle during which King George V knighted them and invested them with their insignia as Knight Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, but after Alcock's death, Brown never flew again.


1946 Clement Atlee's Labour government won the vote on state ownership. It led to the nationalizing of the railways, ports and mines. Labour MPs triumphantly sang 'The Red Flag'.



1987 Ivan Boesky, the former US ‘King of Arbitrage’ was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for insider stock exchange dealings. Some of Boesky’s revelations led to the investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry in Britain into Guinness’s takeover of Distillers.


1989 The Labour Party abandoned its policy on trade union 'closed shops' in line with European legislation.



2012 The Queen attended a historic cabinet meeting at Downing Street, the first monarch to do so since 1781. Later, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the southern part of the British Antarctic Territory, an unnamed area almost twice the size of the UK would be called Queen Elizabeth Land.


2012 Comet stores closed their doors for the last time, bringing the electrical retailer's 79 year history to an end.


2013 The death, aged 84, of the criminal Ronnie Biggs who was part of the gang which escaped with £2.6m from the Glasgow to London mail train on 8th August 1963. Biggs was given a 30-year sentence but escaped from Wandsworth prison in 1965. In 2001 he returned to the UK seeking medical helpp, but was sent to prison. He was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after contracting pneumonia. Coincidentally Biggs' death occurred hours before the first broadcast of a two-part BBC television series 'The Great Train Robbery'.


2013 The Bank of England announced its plans to press ahead with switching to plastic banknotes, starting with the new Sir Winston Churchill £5 note in 2016. The decision will mark the beginning of the end of 320 years of paper notes from the Bank.


2015 The closure of Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire, the last remaining deep coal mine in Britain.