On this day in history… 13th December

It is always interesting to think about our calendar and the fact that the same days come around each year. With that in mind, looking back across the centuries, 13th December has been a pretty interesting day in world history, both in terms of world events, as well as births and deaths.

In 1577, for example, legendary adventurer Sir Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth at the start of his round the world voyage that would last for three years and take him to locations as diverse as South America and Africa. On the same day in 1642 Dutch explorer Abel Tasman reached New Zealand – the first European to reach the area now known as Tasmania. In 1643 in the UK the Battle of Alton took place in Hampshire, when Parliamentary forces serving under Sir William Waller launched a surprise attack on the troops of the Earl of Crawford. On 13th December in 1862, the Battle of Fredericksburg took place in the US with the Confederate General Robert E. Lee defeating the Union Major General Ambrose Burnside.

Between 1938 and 1945 there were numerous World War II related events that took place on 13th December, including the opening of Neuengamme concentration camp in 1938 and the declaration of war on the United States made by the Kingdom of Hungary and Kingdom of Romania in 1941. In more recent times, the third and final moonwalk of Apollo 17 took place on 13th December in 1972 and in 2003 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was captured near Tikrit in Operation Red Dawn.

Austrian-Hungarian field marshal Svetozar Boroević was born on 13th December 1856, with Philo McGiffin – who was the first American naval officer to be in command of a modern warship in battle time – born on the same day in 1860. The Spanish guitarist and composer Carlos Montoya was born on this date in 1903 and the US Secretary of State George P. Shultz in 1920. Dick Van Dyke’s birthday is also this day (he was born in 1925) and actor Robert Lindsay followed in 1949. Singer Taylor Swift was born in 1989 on 13th December, the same year as Katherine Schwarzenegger, daughter of Arnold. Those who shuffled off this mortal coil include the painter and sculptor Donatello who died in 1466 on this date, Nobel prize laureate Victor Grignard who passed in 1935 and American writer Henry James who died in 1947. Finally, New Zealand rugby player John Drake died on 13th December 2008 and the French mountaineer Maurice Herzog in 2012.

It is fascinating to think about just how much has happened on this one day over the years. Of course it’s even more exciting to think about how evidence of these events might still be waiting out there to be discovered by a someone with a keen eye and a metal detector…

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