1387 The tenth Earl of Arundel captured nearly the whole of a Franco-Burgundian merchant fleet.
Arms of Richard Fitzalan (1306-1376)
The 14th-century memorial effigy in Chichester Cathedral which inspired Larkin’s poem “An Arundel Tomb” (Note: The effigies in Chichester Cathedral are attributed to Richard FitzAlan and Eleanor of Lancaster. FitzAlan and Eleanor were actually buried in Lewes Priory. Although Larkin called the effigies a “tomb”, they are actually a “memorial”. See Talk, Distinction needs to be made: Not a “tomb” but a “memorial”.) The plaque in the cathedral reads as follows: An Arundel Tomb The figures represent Richard Fitzalan III, 13th Earl of Arundel (ca 1307-1376) and his second wife Eleanor, who by his will of 1375 were to be buried together “without pomp” in the chapter house of Lewes Priory. The armour and dress suggest a date near 1375; the knight’s attitude is typical of that time, but the lady’s crossed legs, giving the effect of a turn towards her husband, are rare. The joined hands have been thought due to “restoration” by Edward Richardson (1812-69), but recent research has shown the feature to be original. If so, the monument must be one of the earliest showing the concession to affection where the husband was a knight rather than a civilian.
1693 & 1776 John Harrison, a self-educated English carpenter and later a clockmaker was born and died on the same day of the month, albeit 83 years apart.
P.L. Tassaert’s half-tone print of Thomas King’s original 1767 portrait of John Harrison, located at the Science and Society Picture Library, London. – ‘John Harrison, a genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time’
He was born in Foulby, near Wakefield in West Yorkshire, the first of five children in his family. His father worked as a carpenter at the nearby Nostell Priory estate. John Harrison following his father’s trade as a carpenter, building and repairing clocks in his spare time. He built his first longcase clock in 1713, at the age of 20. The mechanism was made entirely of wood, which was a natural choice of material for a joiner.
His longcase clocks performed exceptionally well, and elements from them would appear in his a description and drawings for a proposed marine clock to compete for the Longitude Prize.
Modern Replica Model of “John Harrisons” First Marine Timekeeper. (Image from Tennants Auctioneers).
He eventually invented the marine chronometer, a long-sought device in solving the problem of establishing the East-West position or longitude of a ship at sea, thus revolutionising and extending the possibility of safe long distance sea travel in the Age of Sail. The problem was considered so intractable that the British Parliament offered a prize of £20,000 (reasonably comparable to £2.87 million in modern currency) for the solution.
John Harrison, not only solved the problem of longitude, he showed everyone that it could be done by using a watch to calculate longitude. This was to be Harrison’s masterpiece, an instrument of beauty, resembling an oversized pocket watch from the period. Unfortunately, the Board of Longitude seemed somewhat reluctant to accept the instrument’s capabilities or relinquish the prize.
Harrison’s “Sea Watch” No.1 (H4), with winding crank. Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harrison#H4
Despite the opposition and gross unfairness, Harrison was finally awarded the prestigious and valuable ‘longitude prize’ when King George III intervened in an effort to rectify the injustice suffered at the hands of the Board of Longitude.
John Harrison died on his eighty-third birthday in Red Lion Square, and is buried in the graveyard of St John’s Church, Hampstead along with his second wife Elizabeth and their son William. His tomb was restored in 1879 by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers even though Harrison had never been a member of the Company.
See 24 March 2006 (below).
1740 Bombardment and capture of Chagres by Vice-Adm Edward Vernon (Strafford). Ships: Alderney, Falmouth, Norwich, Princess Louisa, Strafford, Goodley and Pompey tenders (Greenwich and Windsor). Bombs: Cumberland, Terrible. Fireships: Eleanor, Success.
Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757)
Having joined the Navy in 1701 Vernon received a special award of 200 guineas from the Queen in 1704 for conspicuous gallantry at Gibraltar. He became a Member of Parliament and an opponent of Walpole. He had a fiery temper and was tempted by Walpole to make a statement that he could take Portobello in Panama with six ships of the line. This unfortunate challenge was taken up by the Government and he was given his six ships, although hopelessly ill-equipped and ill-manned. By brilliant planning he captured Portobello losing only seven men doing it. The Government reinforced him and sent him to attack Spanish strongholds in the West Indies. These expeditions were not a success. Vernon’s nickname was ‘Old Grogram’ because of the material of which his boat cloak was made. He insisted on the rum ration being diluted and henceforth watered-down rum was known as ‘grog’. (See 21 August.)
Admiral Edward “Old Grogram” Vernon. Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough. Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Vernon
1804 Wolverine taken by the French privateer Blonde 600 miles N. by E. of the Azores. Of the Wolverine‘s convoy, two were taken and six escaped.
1811 Berwick chased Amazone into bay near Barfleur light, where she was burned by her captor.
1878 Returning to England after a 3-month tour of the West Indies and Bermuda, HMS Eurydice, a 26-gun Royal Navy (training) corvette, was caught in a heavy snowstorm off Ventnor, Isle of Wight, capsized and sank. Only two of the ship’s 319 crew and trainees survived, most of those who were not carried down with the ship died of exposure in the freezing waters. One of the witnesses to the disaster was a young Winston Churchill, who was living at Ventnor with his family at the time.
The phantom Eurydice has been sighted frequently by sailors over the years since her sinking. Most notably, on October 17th, 1998, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, reportedly saw the three-masted ship off the Isle of Wight while filming for the television series “Crown and Country”, and the film crew claimed to have captured its image on film. There is also a story from Commander F. Lipscomb of a royal naval submarine which took evasive action to avoid the ship only for it to disappear.
HMS Eurydice off the coast, with her crew making sail.
1896 Russian physicist Alexander Popov makes the first radio signal transmission in history at a meeting of the Society at St Petersburg University. Popov demonstrated how his work could be used in general for sending and receiving information by radio by transmitting the words “Heinrich Hertz” in Morse code between buildings on the university campus.
Alexander Stepanovich Popov – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Stepanovich_Popov
1905 Jules Gabriel Verne, aged 77, the French author who pioneered the science fiction genre, died at his home, 44 Boulevard Longueville (now Boulevard Jules-Verne), Amiens, France, while ill with diabetes.
He was born on 8th February 1828 on Île Feydeau, a small island within the town of Nantes, in No. 4 Rue Olivier-de-Clisson, the house of his maternal grandmother Sophie Marie Adelaïde-Julienne Allotte de la Fuÿe. His parents were Pierre Verne, an attorney originally from Provins, and Sophie Allote de la Fuÿe, a Nantes woman from a local family of navigators and shipowners, of distant Scottish descent.
He became known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), which (as with many of his other works) included elements of technology that were fantastic for the day but later became commonplace.
It is interesting to note that many of Verne’s predictions were realised by a list of men and women who cited him as the inspiration for their own achievements.
Amongst the many are: Wernher von Braun, Guglielmo Marconi, Pioneering submarine designer Simon Lake; Arctic Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton; Marine biologist Jacques Cousteau; Polar explorer Richard E. Byrd; Édouard-Alfred Martel; Norbert CasteretYuri Gagarin; aviation pioneers Alberto Santos-Dumont; and Igor Sikorsky often quoted Verne and cited his Robur the Conqueror as the inspiration for his invention of the first successful helicopter.
The rocketry innovators Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, and Hermann Oberth are all known to have taken their inspiration from Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, and Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, the astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission, were similarly inspired, with Borman commenting “In a very real sense, Jules Verne is one of the pioneers of the space age.” The list goes on…and on…
Jules Verne was buried at Amiens. The house where he lived is now a museum. His work continues to inspire.
Restored photograph of Jules Verne by Félix Nadar circa 1878. Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jules_Verne
1916 Submarine E 24 mined in Heligoland Bight.
HMS E20 E-class similar to E24.
On the morning of 21st March 1916 E24 sailed from Harwich for mine-laying operations at Heligoland Bight. The submarine failed to return from this operation and was believed to have struck a mine.
In 1973 her hull was mistakenly salvaged, inspection of the hull indicated that the submarine had indeed hit a mine.
Barrow Submariners Assoc. – http://www.rnsubs.co.uk/Boats/BoatDB2/index.php?BoatID=99
Wikipedia – HMS E24 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_E24
1942 Destroyer Southwold was attempting to pass a line to Breconshire off Zanter Point, Malta when she activated a British land mine and there was an explosion in which an officer and four ratings were killed . She sustained major structural damage and the engine room flooded while electrical supplies failed. She was towed by the tug Ancient but the hull split and she began to sink. The survivors were rescued by HMS Dulverton.
The wreck of Southwold lies in two sections about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of Marsaskala Bay, Malta. The bow is the largest piece, about 40 metres (130 ft) in length, and it lies on its starboard side at a depth of 70 metres (230 ft). The stern, which is located about 300 metres (980 ft) away from the bow, is about 28 metres (92 ft) long and it lies upright in 72 metres (236 ft) of water.
HMS Southwold (L10) – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Southwold_(L10)
The tug Ancient which towed the damaged Southwold just before her hull split.
1942 Minesweeper Sharpshooter rammed and sank U-655 off N. Cape in the Barents Sea, (73.00N, 21.00E – approximate position). Convoy QP 9.
HMS Southwold (J68) – Wikipedia – Halcyon-class minesweeper – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halcyon-class_minesweeper
WW2 Type VIIC U-boat (similar to U655) – Wikipedia – German Type VIIC U-boat – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Type_VII_submarine#Type_VIIC
1948 Royal Marine Act aurthorised formation of Royal Marine Forces Volunteer Reserve.
See 1 November 1958, 1 October 1966.
1961 Closure of The Nore Command on 31 March marked by parade of 2,000 serving and retired personnel through Chatham. Queen’s Colour of The Nore Command laid up in St George’s Church, RN Barracks, Chatham. Royal Netherlands Navy sent destroyer Limburg in Commemoration of the Dutch attack on the dockyard in 1667.
The flagship HMS Royal Sovereign saluting at the Nore. Wikipedia – Commander-in-Chief, The Nore – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commander-in-Chief,_The_Nore
The Nore Command.
The title originates from the name of a large sandbank in the Thames Estuary at the mouth of the River Medway and has been associated with the navy for centuries. At the beginning of the war the command covered from Rye in Sussex to Yarmouth in Norfolk. When the ACHQ’s were formed the northern boundary was moved north to Flamborough Head in Yorkshire taking over the Humber Sub Command from FO Rosyth on 13th December 1939 in order to conform with the area of No 16 Group RAF. Meanwhile in the south further changes were underway.
The C-in-C, Nore was normally a full Admiral’s appointment, except in 1943 when Sir John Tovey, on being relieved as C-in-C, Home Fleet, was posted to the Nore on promotion to Admiral of the Fleet.
Rear Admiral Bertram Ramsay had resigned his appointment in 1934 and had been placed on half pay. He was promoted to Vice Admiral on seniority and was placed on the retired list in 1938. He was recalled as a retired officer and appointed to the staff of C in C, Nore and tasked with turning the commercial port of Dover into a naval base and headquarters. He established the HQ in the casemates of Dover castle alongside that of the army GOC Fixed Defences, Dover. Now Vice Admiral, Dover, Ramsay was responsible for the transportation, support and protection of the lines of communication of the BEF in France as well as the defence of the Straits of Dover. The events leading up to the fall of France and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) evacuation at Dunkirk had caused the Dover Sub Command to be removed from the control of C in C, Nore and placed directly under Admiralty control. The Sub Command was not restored to Nore until 1946. The southern boundary of Nore Command was now a line due east of the North Foreland in Kent.
The Nore Command at Chatham had five major sub-commands each under the command of a Flag Officer (normally a Rear or Vice Admiral). These sub-commands were Chatham, London (less the Admiralty) Sheerness, Harwich and Humber. They were further subdivided into Bases under Naval Officers in Charge (NOIC) and Residential Naval Officers (RNO) Such bases included Gravesend, Southend, Queenborough, Brightlingsea, Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Burnham-on-Crouch, Boston, Grimsby and Immingham.
Their prime responsibilities were the protection of East Coast convoys from air and sea attack, and the maintenance of the east coast barrier minefield. This involved the sweeping of enemy mines, standing anti U-Boat and E-Boat patrols, naval attacks on enemy shipping and Air/Sea Rescue. The assets for these tasks were in the main small ships, apart from the light cruisers of the 20th Cruiser Squadron during 1940, the force consisted of small Destroyers, Sloops, Trawlers and Motor Boats with MTB’s and MGB’s for offence. At its peak Nore Command had over 50,000 personnel with some 900 vessels operating from 35 different bases and all controlled through the sub commands from the ACHQ.
1989 The tanker Exxon Valdez, en route from Valdez, Alaska to Los Angeles, California, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The vessel was traveling outside normal shipping lanes in an attempt to avoid ice. Within six hours of the grounding, the Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 10.9 million gallons of its 53 million gallon cargo of Prudhoe Bay crude oil. Eight of the eleven tanks on board were damaged. The oil would eventually impact over 1,100 miles of non-continuous coastline in Alaska.
Tugboats pull the crippled tanker Exxon Valdez towards Naked Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska, 1989.
1999 UK maritime forces deployed to Adriatic to join NATO operations to deter Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Mainly an air bombing campaign which started 24 March and ended 10 June. Operation Allied Force (UK Operation Kingower). Splendid fired Britain’s first operational Tomahawk missile against Serb targets in Kosovo 24 March. Aircraft from Invincible joined Allied air operations. Frigate Somerset, relieved by frigate Grafton 23 April, operated with French Foch CAG under French operational control (French Operation Trident). Invincible Group arrived from the Gulf ex-Operation Bolton 12 April and left 21 May. Ships: Invincible, Newcastle, Iron Duke, Somerset, Norfolk, Grafton, Coventry, Splendid, Turbulent, RFA: Fort Austin, Bayleaf, Argus. FAA Sqns: 800, 814, 849 A Flight.
See 18 November 1998, 18 March 2002.
2006 A memorial tablet to John Harrison was unveiled in Westminster Abbey on 24th March 2006, finally recognising him as a worthy companion to his friend George Graham and Thomas Tompion, “The Father of English Watchmaking”, who are both buried in the Abbey. The memorial shows a meridian line (line of constant longitude) in two metals to highlight Harrison’s most widespread invention, the bimetallic strip thermometer. The strip is engraved with its own longitude of 0 degrees, 7 minutes and 35 seconds West.
John Harrison’s Memorial in Westminster Abbey. Wikipedia – Memorials – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harrison#Memorials
Royal Museum Greenwich – John Harrison – http://www.rmg.co.uk/harrison
The Royal Society – John Harrison - http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/61/1/53.full
wrecksite.eu – On This Day – http://wrecksite.eu/wrecked-on-this-day.aspx