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This Day in History - 21st August


1689 The Battle of Dunkeld took place, between Jacobite clans supporting the deposed King James VII of Scotland and a government regiment of covenanters, led by the 27 year old Colonel William Cleland supporting William of Orange, King of Scotland. Fighting took place in the streets around Dunkeld Cathedral and the Jacobites were routed, having lost around 300 men. Losses on the government side are unclear, but they included Colonel Cleland, who is buried in the cathedral.


1754 The birth of William Murdock, Scottish engineer and long-term inventor who invented the oscillating steam engine and coal-gas lighting. He was employed by the firm of Boulton and Watt and worked for them in Cornwall as a steam engine erector for ten years, spending most of the rest of his life in Birmingham. Murdoch remained an employee and later a partner of Boulton & Watt until the 1830s, but his reputation as an inventor has been obscured by the reputations of Boulton and Watt and the firm they founded.


1770 James Cook formally claimed eastern Australia for Great Britain, naming it New South Wales.


1808 The Battle of Vimeiro in which the British and Portuguese forces under General Arthur Wellesley (later known as the Duke of Wellington) defeated the French under Major-General Jean-Andoche Junot near the village of Vimeiro in Portugal. The battle put an end to the first French invasion of Portugal.


1858 Victoria Cross winner Sir Sam Browne invented the Sam Browne belt to hold his sword and pistol after he had lost an arm in action. It soon became standard military kit.


1879 English pioneer aviator Claude Grahame-White was born. He gained the first English aviator’s certificate of proficiency, established the Hendon Aerodrome and entered many flying races. He was also the first to make a night flight; during the Daily Mail sponsored 1910 London to Manchester air race.


1914 Private John Parr became the first British man to be shot and killed during World War 1. Official registers showed that he was 20 years old but, like many young soldiers, he had lied about his age and he was just 16.


1918 World War I: The beginning of the Second Battle of the Somme. The battle formed the central part of the Allies' advance to the Armistice of 11th November, which went into effect at 11 a.m. 1918. It marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany.


1930 Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and sister of England's Queen Elizabeth II, was born in Glamis Castle, Scotland.


1936 The BBC made its first television broadcast from Alexandra Palace.


1939 Civil Defence, to mitigate the effects of enemy attack, was started in Britain.


1976 Mary Langdon became Britain's first female firefighter when she joined the East Sussex Brigade.


1988 More flexible licensing laws allowed public houses to stay open 12 hours in the day, except on Sunday.


1990 British conservationist George Adamson, whose work featured in the film Born Free, was murdered by bandits in Kenya.


1996 The new Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Southwark, London, opened with a production of Two Gentlemen of Verona.


2000 The NHS revealed that missed appointments cost the organisation £18.5 million a year.


2001 Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel began legal action to shut the Sangatte camp in France which was used by asylum seekers.


2017 Restoration work halted the chimes of Big Ben from noon, for four years of conservation work on the Elizabeth Tower. The Tower is 96 metres high and home to the bells that make up the Great Clock, the most photographed building in Britain. The Great Bell, popularly called Big Ben, weighs 13.7 tonnes and has struck every hour with almost unbroken service for 157 years. It is accompanied by four quarter bells, which weigh between 1 and 4 tonnes each and chime every 15 minutes.