Today in History, April 24, 1953:
British Prime Minister Winston Spencer Churchill is Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, making him a Knight of the Garter.
The Queen had wanted to make Churchill a Knight as Duke of London, a new and dynamic position, but he declined since this would require his son and other descendants to live at a certain financial level that they may not be able to sustain.
Born in 1874, Churchill had served with distinction in the Boer War as a young man, been a major player in the First World War as Lord of the Admiralty, and then been banished to the political “wilderness” for ten years leading into WWII. During those years, he constantly preached a message of military preparedness to his contemporaries…acts that made him a laughing stock…the Nazis only wanted peace and he was a militant nut. Once the realities set in with Hitler’s invasion of several European neighbors, Britons turned to Churchill for their salvation, and he proved himself up to the task.
What an amazing amount of History Sir Winston and Queen Elizabeth have been a part of!
Today in History, April 13, 1360:
“Black Monday”. During the Hundred Years War, English King Edward III had invaded France, bent on taking the French crown. The French locked themselves up within fortresses and castles while Edward and his armies sacked and pillaged the countryside. The English burned the Paris suburbs and then set their sights on Chartres. But on this date a sudden storm rose up….over 1,000 English troops, including two of their top commanders, were killed by….hail. The English saw this as a sign from God, and Edward soon agreed to a peace that included ending his desire for the French Monarchy. Within 9 years the French would declare that Edward had not lived up to the treaty they had signed, and the war would continue until 1453.
Today in History, March 7: 1936:
“If you French had intervened in the Rhineland in 1936 we should have been sunk and Hitler would have fallen” – German General Heinz Guderian, interviewed after WWII.
On this date, Germany “remilitarized” the Rhineland with a token force. It had been de-militarized after WWI to protect Germany’s neighbors.
In some skullduggery, Hitler claimed the people of the Rhineland were German peoples, and wanted the military presence. Now it was just a matter of seeing if anyone would call his hand.
In his memoirs, Hitler agreed with Guderian, saying that he had been very nervous in the 48 hours after the move.
Except for a few unheeded voices (Churchill), the governments of Europe refused to act, mostly for financial reasons. Bet they wished they could have had a “do over” on that decision.
Today in History, September 28: 1781 – The Siege of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War begins as The Continental Army and their French Allies corner British Lt. General Cornwallis’ forces from land and sea. The siege would last until October 19 when Cornwallis sent one of his officers out to surrender. This would be the last major land battle of the war, and would result in the British government negotiating for peace. Ironically, 81 years later, during the Civil War, Confederate forces would use some of Cornwallis’ trenches in another Siege of Yorktown, this time by forces under the command of Union Gen. George B. McClellan. The result would be different this time; by the time McClellan was ready to act, the Southerners and slipped the noose and escaped.
Today in History, August 26: 1346 – The Battle of Crecy. During the 100 Years War, the English and French meet in battle at Crecy.
The English were badly outnumbered, by perhaps 10,000 soldiers…the numbers are sketchy. The English Knights, normally on horseback, dismounted to protect their archers…equipped with longbows…6 foot bows capable of firing 300 yards.
The French elite positioned themselves on horseback BEHIND their archers…equipped with crossbows…powerful, but with a much shorter range. The result was that the English decimated the French ranks at long range, and won the battle.
The battle marked English advancement as a world power.
Today in History, July 12: 927 – King of the Anglo-Saxons Aethelstan, after some combat and some reaching out, receives the submission of Northern English kings at Eamont, becoming the first King of the English, the first to rule all of England at once. Although the peace made would last for only seven years, his accomplishment is considered the closest thing to a “birth” of England, as he brought together a kingdom from Wessex to Scotland to York, which had been under Viking control.