Bleriot flies into history

July 25. Forty-three minutes changed history. That is how long it took the brave French aviator Louis Bleriot to fly from Sangatte, near Calais, to Dover Castle. The first aerial crossing of the Channel not only won Bleriot a 1,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail but made a profound impression on some military men.

Louis BleriotIt was only six years after the Wright Brothers had made their first faltering hop into history. Bleriot's 24 horse-power monoplane was a quantum leap forward from the Wright Brothers' flimsy machine. Averaging 40 miles per hour, it made a perfect crossing, despite a warning that treacherous Channel crosswinds would bring it down.

November 30. The Lords rejected a so-called People's Budget. As a result, the British Government resigned in December following a constitutional crisis when Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd-George's budget was to have introduced a super tax on anyone earning more than 5,000 a year and increased taxes on alcohol, tobacco and other domestic products. The aim was partly to pay for the new old-age pensions introduced by Prime Minister Asquith's Government.

April 13. The Sultan of Turkey was toppled by the Young Turks. War threatened in the Balkans in 1909 with Serbia demanding the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Austria. Turkey finally accepted Bulgarian independence, which had been declared the previous year. But in Turkey itself there was conflict with thousands of Armenians murdered by Muslim fanatics.

April 6. American navy commander Robert Peary reached the North Pole at his sixth attempt. Commander Peary accompanied by his assistant Matthew Hensen, and four Eskimos had trekked from Greenland across the polar ice cap.

Meanwhile, the arms race in Europe continued with Lord Northcliffe, the owner of The Times, claiming that Germany was preparing for war with Britain. Although some wanted to believe otherwise, the Kaiser's new programme of shipbuilding could not be ignored.


In brief

January 9.
Local boy makes good. Wolverhampton
-born Joseph E Ray was appointed Trade Commissioner to Newfoundland by the Canadian government.

February 6.
Following a row about fares, Stourbridge Board of Guardians was assured that workhouse inmates were only allowed to travel to Kingswinford by tram "in an emergency." Otherwise, they were expected to walk.

April 14.
A local farmer told Brownhills Council that some milk-producing farms in the area were "an abomination of filth and a disgrace to the council."

July 20.
At a bankruptcy hearing in Wolverhampton, Emma Oakley a dance-academy proprietor of Chapel Ash, blamed her loss of trade on people deserting dancing for the roller-skating rink.

October 26.
Harry Smith of Walsall was ordered to pay 40 shillings by the magistrates after his employers, Alfred Russell and Co, lampmakers, accused him of neglect of work by being "incurably lazy."