May 3. Following a national coal strike over the threat
of a cut in wages, the TUC voted to back the miners and Britain
was plunged into its first General Strike.
The workers' resentment was understandable. While fighting in
the trenches, they had been promised "a land fit for heroes."
But post-war Britain was a wretched place. Many millions lived
in appalling conditions, unemployment was rife and employees had
few rights. Some believed that nothing short of a Soviet-style
revolution would make things better.
General Strike bitterly divided Britain. Troops were called in
to run trains and keep the docks open, assisted by thousands of
eager volunteers, including many students.
Fleet Street came to a standstill but a few newspapers, including
Winston Churchill's British Gazette and the Express & Star,
managed to keep going in some form.
Despite dark fears of violent upheaval, violence was small-scale
and isolated. After nine days, with neither the cash nor the will
to carry on, the TUC called off the strike leaving the miners
to struggle on through a six-month dispute before they agreed
to work longer hours
January 27. The heads of two ventriloquist dolls heralded
the advent of television when inventor, John Logie Baird, showed
how moving pictures could be created with a new machine that transmitted
flickering images through radio technology.
The communications breakthrough came in a darkened room in London's
Soho where members of the Royal Institution peered at the oblong
of light which was barely bigger than a visiting card.
The dolls' heads, the first image to be "televised", were crude
and nowhere near the quality of the moving pictures being screened
by cinemas of the time - but the principle of television was proved
by the father of the small screen. Baird believed that his invention
would one day turn every home into a cinema.
October 31. The great showman and escapologist Harry
Houdini finally lost his life-long game of dicing with death when
he passed away in a Detroit Hospital from peritonitis. He had
boasted to a class of students that his stomach muscles could
withstand powerful punches and invited one to punch him. But the
student hit him twice when he was off-guard just above the appendix,
putting him in great pain. Doctors removed the appendix but it
was too late to save the flamboyant star.
Houdini achieved an international reputation with his ability
to escape, chained and handcuffed, from a milk churn filled with
water. His most famous stunt was being suspended upside-down,
high in the air, manacled and trussed up in a straight-jacket.
His daredevil escapes always thrilled the crowd. The master-escaper
was also fascinated by spiritualism and exposed many a fake medium.
October 1. Veteran long-distance pilot, Alan Cobham,
made aviation history when he landed his sea-plane on the Thames
He completed his record 28,000-mile round-trip to Australia
in 93 days.
Both banks of the river were packed by thousands of admirers
of the pilot who, earlier in the year, flew to Cape Town and back,
returning home in triumph.
It took his De Havilland 50 biplane 29 days each way on the
journey across Europe to the Middle East , India and the Dutch
August 23. News of the death of the great silent screen
lover Rudolf Valentino devastated his vast army of fans. One was
reported to have been so upset she shot herself.
The handsome star of such silent greats as "The Sheikh" and
"Blood and Sand", was only 31 when he died. He had been in a New
York hospital suffering from a ruptured appendix and then a gastric
ulcer which caused complications which killed the star. Fans queued
to pay homage to their idol who arrived in the USA in 1913 and
went on to achieve film stardom.