On this day on 25th September

On this day in 1237 the Treaty of York was signed by kings Henry III of England and Alexander II of Scotland which establishes a boundary between the two countries. This affirmed that Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland were subject to English sovereignty.

Henry III
Henry III

On this day in 1852 John French was born in Ripple, Kent. A cavalry commander in South Africa during the Boer War (1899-1901) he was appointed Chief of Staff of the British Army in 1911, French took command of the British Expeditionary Force sent to Europe in August 1914. Ironically, his sister, Charlotte Despard, was one of Britain's leading anti-war campaigners. After Mons French became very pessimistic about the outcome of the war and Lord Kitchener, Secretary for War, had to apply pressure in order to persuade him to take part in the Marne offensive. French resigned in December, 1915 and Sir Douglas Haig replaced as leader of the BEF. French, as commander of the British home forces, was responsible for dealing with the Easter Rising in 1916. Rewarded with the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1918-1921), French was granted £50,000 by the British government when he retired. Sir John French died in 1925.

General John French
General John French

On this day in 1867 Congress created 1st all-black university, Howard University in Washington, D.C. . Instigated by the Radical Republicans it was named after General Oliver Howard, a Civil War hero and commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees and a leading figure in the Freeman's Bureau. The stated purpose of Howard University when it was founded was to create "a college for the instruction of youth in the liberal arts and sciences". The Freeman's Bureau provided most of the early financial support and the majority of its students were African American. Within two years the university consisted of colleges of Liberal Arts and Medicine. In the 1960s the faculty and student body played an important role in the civil rights movement. Howard University now operates its own hospital, radio and television stations, hotel and publishing house. In 2000 the university had 10,248 students (86 per cent African American).

General Oliver Howard
General Oliver Howard

On this day in 1914 General Noel De Castlenau ordered a frontal attack on German positions. The French attacks were initially successful but eventually they were driven back beyond the town of Albert.

General Noel De Castlenau
General Noel De Castlenau

On this day in 1915 the British Army launched a chloride gas attack at Loos on the Western Front. However, the wind blew it back into the faces of the advancing troops. Chlorine gas destroyed the respiratory organs of its victims and this led to a slow death by asphyxiation. One nurse described the death of one soldier who had been in the trenches during a chlorine gas attack. “He was sitting on the bed, fighting for breath, his lips plum coloured. He was a magnificent young Canadian past all hope in the asphyxia of chlorine. I shall never forget the look in his eyes as he turned to me and gasped: I can’t die! Is it possible that nothing can be done for me?” It was a horrible death, but as hard as they tried, doctors were unable to find a way of successfully treating chlorine gas poisoning.

British soldiers after a chloride gas attack
British soldiers after a chloride gas attack

On this day in 1916 Innes Meo records in his diary details of shellshock. Between 1914 and 1918 the British Army identified 80,000 men (2% of those who saw active service) as suffering from shell-shock. A much larger number of soldiers with these symptoms were classified as 'malingerers' and sent back to the front-line. A much larger number of soldiers with these symptoms were classified as 'malingerers' and sent back to the front-line. In some cases men committed suicide. Others broke down under the pressure and refused to obey the orders of their officers. Some responded to the pressures of shell-shock by deserting. Sometimes soldiers who disobeyed orders got shot on the spot. In some cases, soldiers were court-martialled. Official figures said that 304 British soldiers were court-martialled and executed. A common punishment for disobeying orders was Field Punishment Number One. This involved the offender being attached to a fixed object for up to two hours a day and for a period up to three months. These men were often put in a place within range of enemy shell-fire.

Soldiers being treated in an Advanced Dressing Station near Ypres in 1917
Soldiers being treated in an Advanced Dressing Station near Ypres in 1917

On this day in 1917 Alexander Kerensky, the new Supreme Commander of the Russian Army, formed a new Provisional Government in Russia that includes more Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. However, with the Bolsheviks controlling the Soviets, and now able to call on 25,000 armed militia, Kerensky was unable to reassert his authority. Morgan Philips Price explained in the Manchester Guardian on 19th November, 1917, why the government of Alexander Kerensky fell: "The Government of Kerensky fell before the Bolshevik insurgents because it had no supporters in the country. The bourgeois parties and the generals and the staff disliked it because it would not establish a military dictatorship. The Revolutionary Democracy lost faith in it because after eight months it had neither given land to the peasants nor established State control of industries, nor advanced the cause of the Russian peace programme. Instead it brought off the July advance without any guarantee that the Allies had agreed to reconsider war aims. The Bolsheviks thus acquired great support all over the country. In my journey in the provinces in September and October I noticed that every local Soviet had been captured by them."

Alexander Kerensky
Alexander Kerensky

On this day in 1919 President Woodrow Wilson suffers a breakdown during a nation-wide campaign to win support for the Paris Peace Agreement and was an invalid for the last three and a half years of his life. Woodrow Wilson died on 3rd February 1924.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I
President Woodrow Wilson

On this day in 1926 Henry Ford announced an 8 hour, 5-day work week for workers at the Ford Motor Company.  At that time the company was producing 10,000 cars every 24 hours. This was 60 per cent of America's total output of cars. Ford rejected the criticism that it was a publicity stunt. "To our way of thinking, this was an act of social justice, and in the last analysis, we did it for our own satisfaction of mind. There is a pleasure in feeling that you have made others happy - that you have lessened in some degree the burdens of your fellow-men - that you have provided a margin out of which may be had pleasure and saving. Good-will is one of the few really important assets of life. A determined man can win almost anything that he goes after, but unless, in his getting, he gains good-will, he has not profited much."

1926 Model T Ford
1926 Model T Ford

On this day in 1939 German Luftwaffe drops firebombs on Warsaw. This was soon after Reinhard Heydrich had told Schutz Staffeinel (SS) commanders in Poland that all Jews were to be confined to special areas in cities and towns. These ghettos were to be surrounded by barbed wire, brick walls and armed guards.

Jewish women and children being rounded-up in Warsaw
Jewish women and children being rounded-up in Warsaw

On this day in 1940, Joachim von Ribbentrop sent a telegram to Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, informing him that Germany, Italy and Japan were about to sign a military alliance. Ribbentrop pointed out that the alliance was to be directed towards the United States and not the Soviet Union.

Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop

On this day in 1940 the German High Commissioner in Norway sets up the Vidkun Quisling government.

Vidkun Quisling
Vidkun Quisling

On this day in 1944 Adolf Hitler called up all remaining males between 16 and 60 in Germany for army service. In the last few weeks of the war General Helmuth Weidling commanded underage Hitler Youth soldiers in the defence of Berlin. The lives of these young boys were sacrificed in order to prolong Hitler's life for a few days. (62) The last photograph ever taken of the Führer shows him decorating twenty Hitler Youth soldiers in the garden just outside his bunker. All the boys were war orphans.

Hitler Youth
Adolf Hitler inspecting Hitler Youth troops defending Berlin in April 1945.

On this day in 1963. Lord Denning released the UK government's official report on the John Profumo Affair. It was a best-seller; 105,000 copies were sold, 4,000 in the first hour. It was dismissed as a "whitewash" and covered up the role of the intelligence services in the scandal.

Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop

On this day in 1971 Air Marshal Robert Saundby, Deputy Chief of Staff at Bomber Command in the Second World War, died.

Air Marshal Robert Saundby
Air Marshal Robert Saundby