On this day in history….24th August 1847

On this day in history : 24th August 1847 – Charlotte Brontë sends her manuscript for ‘Jane Eyre’ to London publishers Smith, Elder and Company – under the pseudonym Currer Bell….

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image : Uploaded to en.wikipedia by Chick Bowen – Public domain

It was not unusual for female authors at this time to write under a male name…. Women authors were not taken as seriously as their male counterparts – it was assumed women’s heads were full of fluff and frivolity; they were deemed as having no perception of the real world – their place was in the home…. The Brontë sisters collectively felt that their work would not be regarded as being feminine and would be looked upon with prejudice if their real gender was revealed….

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Charlotte Bronte – George Richmond Public domain

Charlotte, who was the eldest of the three sisters, had been unable to find a publisher for her first manuscript, ‘The Professor’ – however, Smith, Elder & Co of Cornhill expressed an interest to any longer works Currer Bell may wish to send…. So towards the end of August 1847 ‘Jane Eyre’ was submitted and published six weeks later….and was an instant success, gaining good reviews…. Because little was known about the author suspicions began to form that Currer Bell may be a woman – strengthening when ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Ellis Bell (Emily Brontë) was published – and then ‘Agnes Grey’ by Acton Bell (Anne Brontë)…. In 1848 the sisters admitted to their assumed names….and became celebrated in literacy circles – and their novels became classics of English literature….

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Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, painted by brother Branwell Bronte – Public domain

On this day in history….23rd August 1944

On this day in history : 23rd August 1944 – An American Liberator bomber crashes into an English village school in Feckleton, Lancashire – killing 61 people, 38 of whom are children….

Two recently refurbished B-24 bombers had departed from Warton Aerodrome at 10.30 in the morning on a test flight, when a violent storm blew up…. Both aircraft were recalled to the USAAF airbase and as they approached visibility was greatly reduced because of the torrential rain and 60mph gusts of wind….

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B-24H Liberator bomber – similar to the one that crashed. Image : United States Army Air Forces – Public domain

Pilot John Blosmendal, in the first of the two bombers, reported to the control tower that he was going to abort his landing attempt and would circle around again – only his aircraft was to disastrously crash into the Holy Trinity Church of England village school, which lay to the east of the airfield…. The right wing of the B-24 was ripped from the fuselage as it hit a tree-top; it then impacted with the corner of a building…. The fuselage of the 25-ton bomber then continued to plough a path of destruction, partly demolishing three houses and ‘The Sad Sack Snack Bar’ – which catered for the American servicemen stationed at the base…. The aircraft then burst into flames, whilst another inferno raged, caused by the ruptured fuel tanks of the bomber, at the infants school….

The Feckleton air disaster instantly claimed the lives of the B-24’s three crew members, thirty-four children, a teacher, six American servicemen, one RAF airman and seven staff at the snack bar…. A further four children, a teacher, an American serviceman and three RAF airmen died later in hospital – and many more people were injured….

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Feckleton Air Disaster Memorial and Remembrance Garden

On this day in history….22nd August 1985

On this day in history : 22nd August 1985 – A British Airtours Boeing 737 catches fire during take-off from Manchester Airport bound for Corfu; 55 lives are lost….

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The aircraft involved – Image credit : G B_N Z CC BY-SA 2.0

British Airtours Flight 28M was full of holiday makers; 131 passengers, including 2 infants and 6 crew…. At 6.08am the engines started and all seemed normal – a request for clearance to taxi was made…. Once on the runway First Officer, 52-year-old Brian Love, requested take-off power and at 6.12am the take-off run began…. Twelve seconds later a loud thumping sound was heard; assuming it was either a burst tyre or bird-strike, 39-year-old Captain Peter Terrington immediately ordered the take-off to be aborted….

Unbeknown at the time to the crew No.1 engine, on the left hand side of the aircraft, had failed, resulting in an explosion…. In the process the underwing fuel tank, containing 4,590kg of fuel was struck; the leaking fuel ignited…. The fire warning signals were heard within seconds and the captain ordered evacuation of the aircraft, via the right-hand side exits…. However, the engine failure had caused the aircraft’s PA system to have a lower volume setting and many passengers did not hear the announcement….

The senior cabin crew member opened the door to release the inflatable escape slide – only for it to jam in the doorway…. He attempted to clear it but had to resort to opening the left-hand side exit – and was able to inflate the slide…. But by now the plane had filled with black smoke; passengers were unable to see – and panicked…. There was pushing, people fell and collapsed, blocking the aisle….while others clamoured over the seats…. There was simply not enough space inside the aircraft to allow people to reach the exits….

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Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (C) Crown Copyright 1989 OGL3

Meanwhile, on the ground another calamity was unfolding…. Fire crews battled to bring the flames under control but on attempting to refill their appliances found there was no water available…. The hydrant system at the airport was undergoing modification and the valves had been turned off, without the knowledge of the fire service….

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Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (C) Crown Copyright 1989 OGL3

This accident was one of the worst of its kind to happen in Britain…. Out of the 137 onboard there were just 82 survivors – most of the deaths were due to smoke inhalation…. In the aftermath changes were made across the air-travel industry; seating layouts near to emergency exits were changed – fire resistant seat covers, along with wall and ceiling panels were introduced…. Floor lighting was installed, more fire extinguishers made available onboard and clearer evacuation rules were devised….

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Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (C) Crown Copyright 1989 OGL3

On this day in history….21st August 1765

On this day in history : 21st August 1765 – The birth of King William IV, who came to the throne at the age of 64 and is the oldest British monarch to be crowned to date….

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William in dress uniform – Sir Martin Archer Shee C.1800 – Public domain

William, who was born at Buckingham Palace, was the third son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz…. He was not expected to become King and at the age of 13 was packed off to join the Royal Navy….something which later earned him the nickname ‘Sailor King’….

NPG D10853; King William IV by William James Ward, published by  William Sams, after  Abraham Wivell
William, as Lord High Admiral by William James Ward, published by William Sams, after Abraham Wivell, mezzotint, published 1 June 1827 – Public domain

William saw active service at the Battle of St. Vincent in 1780 against the Spanish – and in New York during the American War of Independence…. George Washington even plotted to have him kidnapped but when his intentions were leaked the plan failed…. William was then to serve under Horatio Nelson in the West Indies and by the time he left the Navy in 1790 he had risen to the rank of Rear Admiral…. He was made the Duke of Clarence and later, in 1825, Clarence House in London was designed for him by John Nash….

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Clarence House (1874) – Public domain

In 1791 William began living with Irish actress Dorothea Bland, who was also known as ‘Mrs Jordan’…. They were to live as though husband and wife for the next 20 years and had 10 children, 5 girls and 5 boys…. There were those who were less than respectful to the Duke of Clarence and referred to him as ‘Silly Billy’….

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Mrs Jordan in the character of Hypolita; mezzotint by John Jones of London 1791 – Public domain

However, William’s destiny was set to change…. Upon the death of his elder brother’s only child, Charlotte, he became heir to the throne…. It was decided he would need a suitable wife and so one was found for him…. In 1818 he married Adelaide of Saxe-Menninger; they had 4 children but none survived beyond infancy….

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Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen by Sir William Beechey C.1831 – Public domain

When he came to the throne on the 26th of June 1830 he asked “Who’s the Silly Billy now?”…. He was to reign for just 7 years; William died of heart failure on the 20th of June 1837…. Having no surviving legitimate children the throne passed to his niece, Princess Victoria….

On this day in history….20th August 1940

On this day in history : 20th August 1940 – The speech “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” was made by Prime Minister Winston Churchill….

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Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, giving a V sign in 1943 – British Government, public domain

It was in recognition of the efforts of the Royal Air Force, who were in the midst of the ongoing Battle of Britain, fighting against the German Luftwaffe – as Britain was anticipating an imminent invasion….

Churchill had apparently first said the words during a visit to the No.11 Group RAF Operations Room – during a particularly harrowing day of battle; it was an experience he found emotionally moving…. He was then to use the words as a basis for his House of Commons speech, in an attempt to inspire the Country…. He pointed out that although in the previous months the Allies had seen monumental defeats, the situation now was much better…. He was right, not long after Britain had won the Battle – the first major defeat of the Luftwaffe….

To this day, pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain are known as ‘The Few’….

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HM Stationery Office – Public domain