On This Day – Horatio Hornblower, the African Queen and the 38-Minute War

27 Aug

Paradise Lost

1660 John Milton’s books were burned in London, because of the author’s attacks on King Charles II.

A Lot of Hot Air

Tytler, James [Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.]

1784 The first balloon ascent was made in Britain, by James Tytler at Edinburgh.

Happy birthday, Mr. Rolls

1877 Birthday of The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, English motor manufacturer. Rolls was also an aviator, being the first to fly non-stop across the English Channel and back in 1910. He was a keen motorist, and participated in several long-distance races. In 1906 he formed a partnership with Henry Royce to manufacture luxury cars.

38-Minute War


1896 The start (and end) of the Anglo-Zanzibar War. It was the shortest war in world history and lasted for just 38 minutes


The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on 27 August 1896. The conflict lasted 38 minutes[nb 1] and is the shortest war in history.[7] The immediate cause of the war was the death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896 and the subsequent succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash. The British authorities preferred Hamud bin Muhammed, who was more favourable to British interests, as sultan. In accordance with a treaty signed in 1886, a condition for accession to the sultanate was that the candidate obtain the permission of the British consul, and Khalid had not fulfilled this requirement. The British considered this a casus belli and sent an ultimatum to Khalid demanding that he order his forces to stand down and leave the palace. In response, Khalid called up his palace guard and barricaded himself inside the palace.

The ultimatum expired at 09:00 East Africa Time (EAT) on 27 August, by which time the British had gathered threecruisers, two gunships, 150 marines and sailors, and 900 Zanzibaris in the harbour area. The Royal Navy contingent were under the command of Rear Admiral Harry Rawson whilst their Zanzibaris were commanded by Brigadier-General Lloyd Mathews of the Zanzibar army. Around 2,800 Zanzibaris defended the palace; most were recruited from the civilian population, but they also included the sultan’s palace guard and several hundred of his servants and slaves. The defenders had several artillery pieces and machine guns which were set in front of the palace sighted at the British ships. A bombardment which was opened at 09:02 set the palace on fire and disabled the defending artillery. A small naval action took place with the British sinking a Zanzibari royal yacht and two smaller vessels, and some shots were fired ineffectually at the pro-British Zanzibari troops as they approached the palace. The flag at the palace was shot down and fire ceased at 09:40.

The sultan’s forces sustained roughly 500 casualties, while only one British sailor was injured. Sultan Khalid received asylum in the German consulate before escaping to German East Africa (in the mainland part of present Tanzania). The British quickly placed Sultan Hamud in power at the head of a puppet government. The war marked the end of the Zanzibar Sultanate as a sovereign state and the start of a period of heavy British influence.

Horatio Hornblower and the African Queen

1899 The birth of C.S. Forester, the English novelist who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare; his most notable works being the 12 book Horatio Hornblower series and The African Queen.

Across the Waves

1950 The BBC transmitted the first ever live television pictures across the Channel.

Gypsy Moth

1966 Francis Chichester began the first solo circumnavigation of the world, when he set out from Plymouth in Gypsy Moth IV.

Brian Epstein, OD

1967 Brian Epstein died, from an accidental overdose of brandy and barbiturates. He managed The Beatles, and worked with Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Fourmost, Billy J. Kramer and Cilla Black.

RIP, Uncle Louis

File:Louis and Edwina Mountbatten 01.jpg

1979 The death of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s and the Queen’s cousin (strictly second cousin once removed). The IRA exploded a 50lb, remote-controlled bomb on his boat Shadow V off the coast of County Sligo, Ireland. Lord Mountbatten was a former Admiral of the Fleet, the last Viceroy of India (1947) and the first Governor-General of the independent Union of India. He served as Chief of the Defence Staff until 1965, making him the longest serving professional head of the British Armed Forces to date.

RIP, Stan Ogden

Stan ogden.jpg

1984 The death of Bernard Youens, British character actor, best remembered for his portrayal of the workshy, beer-swilling Stan Ogden in Coronation Street from 1964 until his death.

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