What a day Armin Faber had on 23 June 1942. Caught in a dogfight over England, the Luftwaffe pilot got all turned about – literally. He headed north over the Bristol Channel instead of south over the English Channel.
So what he believed to be a safe landing spot in Nazi-occupied France was, in fact, Wales.
He was arrested, driven to interrogation and almost shot – the car went over a pothole, causing the gun pointed at his head to fire. What’s more, he had handed his Focke-Wulf 190 to the Allies, who were desperate to discover the secrets of the fighter.
1495 – TAKE THE WATERS OF LIFE
The dram-guzzling father of Scotch whisky was 15th-century friar John Cor. In the earliest record, from 1 June 1495, to “aqua vitae” – which means ‘water of life’ – Cor was asked by King James IV to distil whisky from eight “bolls of malt”. That was enough for a whopping 1,500 bottles of the amber potion.
1756 – BLACK HOLE OF CALCUTTA
On 20 June 1756, 146 British prisoners of war were crammed into a tiny Calcutta dungeon. The next morning, only 23 walked out.
According to survivor John Z Holwell, the rest succumbed to suffocation, crushing and the heat in their 5.5-by-4-metre cell. Holwell’s account of the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ was a sensation, proving to many Brits the righteousness of imperialism against barbarism. The truth of how many died in Holwell’s “night of horrors”, however, is still debated.
1873 – ALLY PALLY PYRE
Alexandra Palace in London lasted just 16 days after its opening before it went up in smoke. When the dome ignited on 9 June 1873, brave staff feverishly began gathering up the valuables. The furious blaze claimed three lives, a display of priceless china and a £30,000 organ.
1967 – SHOW ME THE MONEY
When British inventor John Shepherd-Barron struck upon the idea of a device like a chocolate-bar dispenser, but for £10 notes, the cash machine was born. Installed in the Enfield branch of Barclays, London, the hole-in-the-wall was put to the test on 27 June 1967 – the first transaction made by TV star Reg Varney (of On the Buses fame).
The first cash machine didn’t use plastic cards, but cheques with radioactive traces. Shepherd-Barron insisted a person would have to eat 136,000 cheques before feeling any effect.
1763 – A DOUBLE LACROSSE
Lacrosse is dangerous, but it was never more deadly than on 2 June 1763. On that hot day during Pontiac’s War, a Native American rebellion, 500 or so Ojibwe and Sauk warriors started a game of baaga’adowe – an early form of lacrosse – outside the British Fort Michilimackinac (in modern Michigan).
The British became so engrossed in the game, they failed to notice some Native American women milling around wearing thick blankets, despite the heat. When the ball was hit near the fort gates, the women handed out hidden tomahawks and knives to the players, who stormed the stronghold before the 35-strong garrison had time to react.
AD 68 – NERO TO ZERO
After 14 years of Nero’s despotic rule – which included murders, mass executions, high taxes and brutal persecution of Christians (he used to cover them in wax and use them as human candles in his garden) – the Romans finally ran out of patience with their debauched emperor.
In AD 68, and declared him a public enemy. Nero fled Rome and took his own life on 9 June by stabbing himself in the neck. Some accounts say he was too scared, so made someone else go first.
1878 – RISE AGAIN
One Saturday in June 1878, a Mrs Marion Hillitz passed away in hospital – and woke up again. To the shock of the nuns watching over her, Hillitz declared, “I am not dead yet, but I will die soon!”, before dancing and singing.
This article was first published in the June 2016 issue of History Revealed.