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This Day in History - 21st October


1772 The birth, at Ottery St. Mary (Devon) of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The years 1797 and 1798, during which he lived at Coleridge Cottage, in Nether Stowey, Somerset, were among the most fruitful of Coleridge's life and where he wrote his notable poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.

1805 At the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson gave his famous signal, ‘England expects...’ which flew from the HMS Victory shortly after 11:00 a.m. The British won this important battle against Napoleon’s combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar, south-west of Spain and left Britain's navy unchallenged until the 20th century but Nelson was one of the day’s casualties. Nelson's flagship, Victory is now preserved at Portsmouth.


1824 Portland cement, the modern building material, was first patented by Joseph Aspdin of Wakefield in Yorkshire. Its name is derived from its similarity to Portland stone, a type of building stone that was quarried on the Isle of Portland in Dorset.


1854 Florence Nightingale and a staff of 38 women volunteer nurses that she trained, were deployed to the Crimea, where the main British camp was based, fighting in the Crimean War. During her first winter at Scutari, ten times more soldiers died from illnesses such as typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery than from battle wounds. She had the sewers flushed and ventilation improved. Almost six months after her arrival death rates were sharply reduced.


1868 Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton, the English inventor of the military tank, was born.


1940 Geoff Boycott, Yorkshire and England batsman was born.


1950 Korean War: Heavy fighting began between forces from the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade and the North Korean 239th Regiment at the Battle of Yongju, also known as the Battle of the Apple Orchard.


1956 Kenyan rebel leader Dedan Kimathi was captured by the British Army, signalling the ultimate defeat of the Mau Mau Uprising, and essentially ending the British military campaign in Kenya.


1958 The first women peers were introduced into the House of Lords.


1960 Britain launched its first nuclear submarine, HMS Dreadnought, at Barrow. 


1966 144 people, 116 of them children, were killed in the small Welsh mining village of Aberfan when tons of slush, from a nearby coal slag tip weakened by rain, slid downhill and engulfed the village school, a farm and a row of terraced houses. The tragedy occurred at the beginning of the school day and on the day before the school closed for the half-term holiday. The children are buried in Aberfan's cemetery, on the hillside above the valley.


1975 Britain's unemployment figure reached 1,000,000 for the first time since World War II.


1982 Gerry Adams & Martin McGuinness made history by becoming the first members of Sinn Fein to be elected to the Ulster Assembly.


1985 In one of Britain's worst motorway crashes, 13 people were killed on the M6 motorway in Lancashire.


1988 A Greek cruise ship sank after a collision with a freighter. All 390 British schoolchildren and 81 teachers were rescued.


1996 Frances Lawrence, widow of headmaster Phillip Lawrence who was stabbed to death by a group of teenagers outside his school gates, launched a 'better citizenship campaign' to promote good behaviour in schools.


1997 'Candle in the Wind' - the re-working of the hit single Elton John sang live at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, was declared the biggest selling single in music history.


2011 St Paul's Cathedral was closed to visitors for the first time since World War II because of anti-capitalist demonstrators (the 'Occupy London Stock Exchange' movement) 'camping on its doorstep'. The Right Reverend Graeme Knowles said that the decision had been taken with a heavy heart, for health and safety reasons.


2012 The death (aged 99) of William Walker, the oldest surviving pilot from the Battle of Britain, who was shot down in his Spitfire and wounded in 1940.