On this day on 21st October

On this day in 1772 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet, philosopher, and critic, was born. At university Coleridge became interested in politics and was a strong supporter of the French Revolution. In 1794 Coleridge met Robert Southey and the two men became close friends. Coleridge and Southey developed radical political and religious views and began making plans to emigrate to Pennsylvania where they intended to set up a commune based on communistic values. Coleridge and Southey eventually abandoned this plan and instead stayed in England where they concentrated on communicating their radical ideas.

In 1797 Coleridge met William Wordsworth. Together the two men developed a new poetry. The following year they published the book Lyrical Ballads which achieved a revolution in literary taste and sensibility. This included Coleridge's famous poems, the Ancient Mariner and The Nightingale. For the next few years Coleridge concentrated on writing poetry but an addiction to opium damaged the quality of his work.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

On this day in 1854 Florence Nightingale and a staff of 38 nurses were sent to the Crimean War. Nightingale found the conditions in the army hospital in Scutari appalling. The men were kept in rooms without blankets or decent food. Unwashed, they were still wearing their army uniforms that were "stiff with dirt and gore". In these conditions, it was not surprising that in army hospitals, war wounds only accounted for one death in six. Diseases such as typhus, cholera and dysentery were the main reasons why the death-rate was so high amongst wounded soldiers.

Edward T. Cook, the author of The Life of Florence Nightingale (1913), quoted one of the men in the hospital that she treated: "Florence Nightingale is a ministering angel without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow's face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds."

Military officers and doctors objected to Nightingale's views on reforming military hospitals. They interpreted her comments as an attack on their professionalism and she was made to feel unwelcome. Florence Nightingale received very little help from the military until she used her contacts at The Times to report details of the way that the British Army treated its wounded soldiers. John Delane, the editor of newspaper took up her cause, and after a great deal of publicity, Nightingale was given the task of organizing the barracks hospital after the battle of Inkerman and by improving the quality of the sanitation she was able to dramatically reduce the death-rate of her patients.

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale

On this day in 1921 President Warren G. Harding delivers the first speech by a sitting U.S. president against lynching in the deep South. After the establishment of the Ku Klux Klan in 1867 the number of lynching of African American increased dramatically. The main objective of the KKK was to maintain white supremacy in the South, which they felt was under threat after their defeat in the Civil War. It has been estimated that between 1880 and 1920, an average of two African Americans a week were lynched in the United States.

In 1884 Ida Wells, editor of Memphis Free Speech, a small newspaper in Memphis, carried out an investigation into lynching. She discovered during a short period 728 black men and women had been lynched by white mobs. Of these deaths, two-thirds were for small offences such as public drunkenness and shoplifting. On 9th March, 1892, three African American businessmen were lynched in Memphis. When Wells wrote an article condemning the lynchers, a white mob destroyed her printing press. They declared that they intended to lynch her but fortunately she was visiting Philadelphia at the time.

The sociologist, Arthur Franklin Raper was commissioned in 1930 to produce a report on lynching. He discovered that "3,724 people were lynched in the United States from 1889 through to 1930. Over four-fifths of these were Negroes, less than one-sixth of whom were accused of rape. Practically all of the lynchers were native whites. The fact that a number of the victims were tortured, mutilated, dragged, or burned suggests the presence of sadistic tendencies among the lynchers. Of the tens of thousands of lynchers and onlookers, only 49 were indicted and only 4 have been sentenced."

The NAACP hoped that the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 would bring an end to lynching. Two African American campaigners against lynching, Mary McLeod Bethune and Walter Francis White, had been involved in helping Roosevelt to obtain victory. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, had also been a long-time opponent of lynching. In 1935 attempts were made to persuadePresident Roosevelt to support a Anti-Lynching bill that had been introduced into Congress. However, Roosevelt refused to speak out in favour of the bill that would punish sheriffs who failed to protect their prisoners from lynch mobs. He argued that the white voters in the South would never forgive him if he supported the bill and he would therefore lose the next election.

Even the appearance in the newspapers of the lynching of Rubin Stacy failed to change Roosevelt's mind on the subject. Six deputies were escorting Stacy to Dade County jail in Miami on 19th July, 1935, when he was taken by a white mob and hanged by the side of the home of Marion Jones, the woman who had made the original complaint against him. The New York Times later revealed that "subsequent investigation revealed that Stacy, a homeless tenant farmer, had gone to the house to ask for food; the woman became frightened and screamed when she saw Stacy's face."

Rubin Stacy was lynched at Fort Lauderdale in Florida on 19th July, 1935.
Rubin Stacy was lynched at Fort Lauderdale in Florida on 19th July, 1935.

On this day in 1833 Alfred Nobel, invented dynamite and founded the Nobel Prize was born. In 1866 Nobel produced what he believed was a safe and manageable form of nitroglycerin called dynamite. He established his own factory to produce it but in 1864 an explosion at the plant killed Nobel's younger brother and four other workers. Deeply shocked by this event, he now worked on a safer explosive and in 1875 came up with gelignite.

Other inventions followed including ballistite, a form of smokeless power, artificial gutta-percha and a mild steel for armour-plating. As well as manufacturing goods, Nobel also successfully obtained oil from the Baku in Aberbaijan. By the time Alfred Nobel died on December 10th 1896, he had obtained a massive fortune. He left instructions that most of his money should be used to endow annual Nobel prizes. The very first awards were made in 1901 on the fifth anniversary of Nobel's death.

Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel

On this day in 1868 Ernest Swinton was born. In August 1914 the British government established the War Office Press Bureau under F. E. Smith. The idea was this organisation would censor news and telegraphic reports from the British Army and then issue it to the press. Lord Kitchener decided to appoint Swinton to become the British Army's official journalist on the Western Front. When observing early battles where machine-gunners were able to kill thousands of infantryman advancing towards enemy trenches, Swinton wrote that a "petrol tractors on the caterpillar principle and armoured with hardened steel plates" would be able to counteract the machine-gunner.

Swinton's proposal that the British Army should build what he called a tank were rejected by General Sir John French and his scientific advisers. Unwilling to accept defeat, Swinton contacted Colonel Maurice Hankey who took the idea to Winston Churchill, the navy minister. Churchill was impressed by Swinton's views and in February 1915, he set up a Landships Committee to look in more detail at the proposal to develop a new war machine.

The Landships Committee and the newly-formed Inventions Committee agreed with Swinton's proposal and drew up specifications for this new machine. This included: (1) a top speed of 4 mph on flat ground; (2) the capability of a sharp turn at top speed; (3) a reversing capability; (4) the ability to climb a 5-foot earth parapet; (6) the ability to cross a 8-foot gap; (7) a vehicle that could house ten crew, two machine guns and a 2-pound gun.

Eventually Lieutenant W. G. Wilson of the Naval Air Service and William Tritton of William Foster & Co. Ltd. of Lincoln, were given the task of producing a small landship. The first prototype landship, nicknamed Little Willie, was demonstrated to Swinton and the Landship Committee on 11th September, 1915.

Little Willie
Little Willie

On this day in 1944 the first kamikaze attack during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. After the fall of Saipan in July, 1944, Admiral Takijiro Onishi created the Special Attack Groups of suicide dive-bombing pilots known as kamikazes. Young men were inspired to volunteer as they wished to die for their country. Pilots were trained in just over a week to fly their modified Mitsubishi A6M fighters. Kamikaze pilots aimed at the central elevator on carriers and the base of the bridge on large warships. As they had to fly at low altitudes they were very vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns.

In April 1945 kamikaze pilots under Admiral Soema Toyoda launched 1,400 suicide missions as part of Operation Ten-Go. It is estimated that these suicide pilots sunk 26 ships during this campaign. More than 2,000 kamikaze missions were also flown against the US fleet at Okinawa (April-July 1945). By this time the US Navy had learnt how to deal with kamikaze attacks and few ships were hit. Kamikaze pilots continued to be active until the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Kamikaze pilots before flying to their death
Kamikaze pilots before flying to their death

On this day in 1944 my friend Mandy Rice-Davies was born. In 1960, aged 16, Rice-Davies was employed as a model at the Earls Court Motor Show. After being paid £80 for the week's work, she decided to move permanently to London. She then got a job as a dancer at Murray's Cabaret Club in Soho where she met Christine Keeler. Keeler introduced Rice-Davies to Stephen Ward and Lord Astor. The two men helped pay the rent for the two women to live in a flat at Comeragh Road. During this period Rice-Davies also met Maria Novotny, who ran sex parties in London. So many senior politicians attended that she began referring to herself as the "government's Chief Whip". As well as British politicians such as John Profumo and Ernest Marples, foreign leaders such as Willy Brandt and Ayub Khan, attended these parties.

On 21st January 1961, Colin Coote invited Stephen Ward to have lunch with Eugene Ivanov, an naval attaché at the Soviet embassy. The following month Ward and Keeler moved to 17 Wimpole Mews in Marylebone. According to Keeler's autobiography, The Truth at Last (2001), Roger Hollis and Anthony Blunt were regular visitors to the flat.

In her autobiography, Mandy (1980) Rice-Davies described what happened when she arrived at Novotny's party in Bayswater: "The door was opened by Stephen (Ward) - naked except for his socks... All the men were naked, the women naked except for wisps of clothing like suspender belts and stockings. I recognised our host and hostess, Mariella Novotny and her husband Horace Dibbins, and unfortunately I recognised too a fair number of other faces as belonging to people so famous you could not fail to recognise them: a Harley Street gynaecologist, several politicians, including a Cabinet minister of the day, now dead, who, Stephen told us with great glee, had served dinner of roast peacock wearing nothing but a mask and a bow tie instead of a fig leaf."

The trial of Stephen Ward began at the Old Bailey on July 1963. Christine Keeler and Rice-Davies, were both called as witnesses. Mandy Rice-Davies admitted receiving money and gifts from Peter Rachman and Emil Savundra. As she was living with Ward at the time she gave him some of this money for unpaid rent. As Rice-Davies pointed out: "Much was made of the fact that I was paying him a few pounds a week whilst I was living in Wimpole Mews. But I said before and say it again - Stephen never did anything for nothing and we agreed on the rent the day I arrived. He most certainly never influenced me to sleep with anyone, nor ever asked me to do so." She added: "Stephen was never a blue-and-white diamond, but a pimp? Ridiculous.... As for Christine, she was always borrowing money (from Stephen Ward)."

Mandy told me that: "The Regina v Ward was undoubtedly one of the most vindictively rigged trials of the 20th Century. The Macmillan government, plagued throughout their office by spy cases, were eager to shift the security aspects of the Profumo business out of the spotlight. Aristocratic by nature and clinging to the old values of a swiftly vanishing past, they cast about for lessor, more expendable mortals on who to pin the blame. The establishment aimed their arrows at Stephen Ward and a couple of teenage girls who were doing nothing more than chasing a good time. The police with Machiavellian cunning threw in a couple of known prostitutes to muddy the waters.

Three days after Profumo confessed and resigned, Stephen Ward was arrested and a case that barely had legs to stand on was dragged kicking and screaming into court. Ward may have been a man with lax moral standards and uncertain principles, but other than a few muddled insinuations from the priggish prosecution no evidence was produced to show that Stephen Ward was a pimp. There is no doubt that had Ward not committed suicide, the case would have been dismissed on appeal.

In regard to myself, the worst I could be accused of is bad judgment and a healthy libido. I was only eighteen years old when the storm broke and after getting on with the rest of my life 1963 still casts a shadow. However a scandal is a scandal whatever the outcome and there will always be those who for personal gain or simple spite will try to distort the truth."

Stephen Ward was very upset by the judge's summing-up that included the following: "If Stephen Ward was telling the truth in the witness box, there are in this city many witnesses of high estate and low who could have come and testified in support of his evidence." Several people present in the court claimed that Judge Archie Pellow Marshall was clearly biased against Ward. France Soir reported: "However impartial he tried to appear, Judge Marshall was betrayed by his voice."

That night Ward wrote to his friend, Noel Howard-Jones: "It is really more than I can stand - the horror, day after day at the court and in the streets. It is not only fear, it is a wish not to let them get me. I would rather get myself. I do hope I have not let people down too much. I tried to do my stuff but after Marshall's summing-up, I've given up all hope." Ward then took an overdose of sleeping tablets. He was in a coma when the jury reached their verdict of guilty of the charge of living on the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies on Wednesday 31st July. Three days later, Ward died in St Stephen's Hospital.

Mandy Rice-Davies leaving the Old Bailey
Mandy Rice-Davies leaving the Old Bailey

On this day in 1945 French women voted for the first time during the French legislative election. Although the measure was signed into law on April 21, 1944 under a provisional government led by General Charles de Gaulle, French women did not actually cast their ballot for the first time until April 29, 1945, in what were the country's first general elections since it was liberated from German occupation.

New Zealand was the first nation to grant women the right to vote in 1893. Other countries followed suit over the course of the next two decades, including Australia in 1902 (although Aborigines were not allowed to vote until 1962), Finland in 1906 and Norway in 1913. It was not until 1928 Equal Franchise Act that all women had the vote in the United Kingdom.

French women vote for the first time on 21st October 1949.
French women vote for the first time on 21st October 1949.

On this day in 1992 Jim Garrison died. In 1961, Garrison was elected as the New Orleans's district attorney. Three days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Garrison brought in David Ferrie for questioning. He had been informed by Jack Martin, a part-time private investigator, that Ferrie had known Lee Harvey Oswald and might have been involved in the assassination. Ferrie told Garrison that on the day of the assassination he had driven to Houston in order to go ice-skating. Garrison thought he was lying and handed him over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, after a brief interview he was released.

Garrison eventually became convinced that a group of right-wing activists, including Guy Banister, David Ferrie, Carlos Bringuier, Eladio del Valle and Clay Shaw were involved in a conspiracy with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill John F. Kennedy. Garrison claimed this was in retaliation for his attempts to obtain a peace settlement in both Cuba and Vietnam.

Eladio del Valle, was found dead in a Miami parking lot twelve hours after Ferrie's was discovered in New Orleans. Police reported that de Valle had been tortured, shot in the heart at point-blank range, and his skull split open with an axe. His murder has never been solved. Diego Gonzales Tendera, a close friend, later claimed de Valle was murdered because of his involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy. A senior member of the Cuban Secret Service, Fabian Escalante, agreed: "In 1962 Eladio Del Valle tried to infiltrate Cuba with a commando group of 22 men but their boat had an English key - a little island. In the middle of 1962. Of course, we knew this. I tell you about this, because one of our agents who was one of the people helping to bring this group to Cuba, was a man of very little education. They talked English on many occasions on this little island with Eladio Del Valle told this person, on many occasions, that Kennedy must be killed to solve the Cuban problem. After that we had another piece of information on Eladio Del Valle. This was offered to us by Tony Cuesta. He told us that Eladio Del Valle was one of the people involved in the assassination plot against Kennedy."

A week after the death of David Ferrie Garrison announced the arrest of Clay Shaw. He was 54 years old and a retired businessman. John J. McCloy, a former member of the Warren Commission, was asked by a journalist what he thought about the Garrison investigation. He replied that the Warren Commission had always known that new evidence in the case might turn up. "We did not say that Oswald acted alone. We said we could find no credible evidence that he acted with anyone else."

In Shaw's trial Perry Russo claimed that in September, 1963, he overheard Clay Shaw and David Ferrie discussing the proposed assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was suggested that the crime could be blamed on Fidel Castro. Russo's testimony was discredited by the revelation that he underwent hypnosis and had been administered sodium pentathol, or "truth serum," at the request of the prosecution. It claimed that Russo only came up with a link between Shaw, Ferrie and Oswald after these treatments. Shaw was eventually found not guilty of conspiring to assassinate Kennedy.

Jim Garrison
Jim Garrison