Category Archives: British

February 9th – The Beatles make their first American appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show

The Beatles arrive in America, 1964.

The Beatles arrive in America, 1964.

On this day in 1964, fifty years ago today, the Beatles made their first American appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show has been cited by many historians as a momentous event in American pop culture, marking the beginning of Beatlemania and the British Invasion to North America. An estimated 73 million Americans tuned into Ed Sullivan Show for the Beatles’ American debut, a television record at the time.

The “four boys from Liverpool” were already a hit throughout Europe when Ed Sullivan ran into the band at Heathrow Airport in December 1963, who were just returning from Stockholm. Noticing the immense crowd of teenagers who had come to Heathrow to meet the band, Sullivan asked the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, if they would play for the Ed Sullivan Show. Epstein agreed, and it was decided that the Beatles would play on three consecutive Sundays in February on the Ed Sullivan Show. Their first show would be on February 9th, 1964.

On this night, fifty years ago, Ed Sullivan began his show, with the now-famous introduction: “Ladies and gentlemen… the Beatles!“. The Beatles began with their hit “All My Lovin’“, followed by “Till There Was You“, and then “She Loves You“. Later on in the show, the Beatles came back on stage to perform “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand“. The crowd, feverishly infatuated with John, Paul, George and Ringo, were unable to settle in their seats following “She Loves You”, such that the Ed Sullivan Show had to use a pre-recorded version of the act that followed the Beatles for television broadcast. It was this Beatles appearance on American television that kick-started the popularity of the Beatles themselves in North America, along with other British bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Kinks.

Here is a link of the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th, 1964. Not shown in the video is the Beatles’ performance of “I Saw Her Standing There“. http://www.jukebo.com/the-beatles/music-clip,the-ed-sullivan-show-first-appearance,qp8rul.html

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January 22nd – The British are defeated at the Battle of Isandlwana

The Battle of Isandlwana, as depicted by Charles Edwin Fripp.

The Battle of Isandlwana, as depicted by Charles Edwin Fripp.

On this day in 1879, the British Army was defeated by the Zulus at the Battle of Isandlwana. The loss at Isandlwana marked the worst military defeat sustained by the British Armed Forces against a technologically inferior indigenous force, with the Zulu forces outnumbering the British almost 10 to 1.

In an effort to consolidate its rule over southern Africa, the British committed to war against the Zulu Kingdom on January 11, 1879. Taking place during the “Scramble for Africa”, where various European powers sought control over unclaimed lands of Africa, Victorian Britain believed that the war against the Zulus would be easy work and a matter of putting down token tribal resistance. The British commander-in-chief in South Africa, Lord Chelmsford, had much experience in dealing with wars on the African continent, and it was believed he would be able to satisfactorily win victory for the British yet again. This was not to be the case, however.

On January 20th, a column of the British force made camp on Isandlwana Hill, and using other columns, Chelmsford sought to scout out the locations of the Zulu army. Chelmsford was unable to locate the Zulu force, which had snuck around Chelmsford on its way to attack the British at Isandlwana, until it was too late. Though the Zulu were only armed with spears and shields (though it should be noted they did have muskets, however were ill-equipped and trained to operate these weapons) and the British with their top-of-the-line Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles and artillery, on January 22nd, 1879, the British were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of Zulu soldiers at Isandlwana and defeated.

Upon returning to Isandlwana after the battle, Chelmsford was devastated. The defeat at Isandlwana damaged the psyche of the British military and nation, with vows to avenge the loss in Zululand. More resources and attention were consequently placed by the British into the Anglo-Zulu War, resulting in British victory later on in July.

The following are some British links that may be of interest for further reading:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1193666/Remains-British-soldier-died-battle-Zulu-war-identified-130-years–tunic-button.html – Remains of British soldier who died in first battle of Zulu war identified after 130 years.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/zulu_01.shtml – A nice write-up of the events of the Anglo-Zulu War and the controversy behind Lord Chelmsford.

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January 10th – Mind the Gap! The London Underground opens for the public

The famous London Underground roundel

The famous London Underground roundel

On this day in 1863, the London Underground, then known as the Metropolitan Railway, opened for the first time to the public. The ‘Underground’ or ‘the Tube’ is oldest operating subway system in the world, well ahead of New York City (1868 elevated, 1904 underground) and Paris (1900). An icon of London, the Underground is as evocative as the Big Ben or double decker buses of the British capital.

As the centre of the burgeoning British Empire, there was a desire amongst city planners to alleviate the chaotic traffic that existed on London’s roads. In 1854, a decision was made to construct the ‘Metropolitan Railway’, linking various railway stations together (Paddington Station/Bishop’s Road –> Edgware Road –> Baker Street –> Portland Road –> Gower Street –> King’s Cross Station –> Farringdon Street), at a total length of 6 km.

By the end of 1862, work was completed on the Metropolitan Railway, at a cost of £1.3 million. On January 10th, 1863, the Metropolitan Railway was opened to the public to great fanfare. On the opening day, 38000 passengers were carried on the system. By the end of the year, 9.5 million passengers were carried, and by two years, 12 million passengers. Over time the underground railway network would expand from the original 6 km track to become the London Underground that we know today.

Here are some interesting facts about the London Underground and its history:

  • The first subway trains moving on the Metropolitan Railway

    The first subway trains moving on the Metropolitan Railway

    The first trains running on the system in 1863 were powered by steam. Powered by coal, it made for smoky journeys underground. The first electric train began running in 1890, however steam-powered trains remained in use until the 1960s!

  • Prime Minister Gladstone’s funeral procession went through the London Underground. Following Gladstone’s death in 1898, many called for a public funeral to be arranged on his behalf. Gladstone’s coffin was moved through the London Underground on a train towards Westminster Abbey, with Edward VII and George V serving as honorary pallbearers. It is fitting that Gladstone took the Underground to his own funeral, as Gladstone was one of the first individuals to ride on the system (1862), before the Underground opened for the public.
  • The London Underground system served as a massive air-raid shelter for Londoners during the Blitz (1940-41) by the German Luftwaffe. Thousands of Londoners would descend into the Underground at night, leading officials to install bunk-beds in the Tube and handing out numbered tickets to the system to prevent overcrowding. Trains would continue to run as Londoners sought shelter, some even delivering food and tea to those seeking shelter. Underground lines not used during the Second World War were converted to factories for aircraft production, and even storage space for precious items evacuated from the British Museum!
  • Some icons of the London Underground came about through the system’s history. The famous red circle roundel first appeared in 1908, the Tube Map (based on electrical circuits, originally deemed too radical for Londoners to comprehend) in 1933, and the “Mind the Gap” warning first heard on trains in 1968.
  • For a look at the London Underground through its 151 years of existence, take a look at this collection of photographs documenting the Tube’s history. Fascinating! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/9791007/The-history-of-the-Tube-in-pictures-150-years-of-London-Underground.html

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