What do Lady Godiva, The Battle of Britain, Rainbow Warrior, and Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys have in common?
July 10th, not at all surprisingly.
In the year 1040, Lady Godiva, the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, rides naked through Coventry on horseback, according to legend.
The couple were wealthy landowners, and significant benefactors to religious monasteries far and wide. They donated money, property and precious jewels to many churches including Chester, Spalding in Lincolnshire, Evesham and St Pauls in London. Her husband died in 1056. She was one of only a few landowners, and the only woman, to retain their land after the Norman Conquest of 1066, according to the Doomsday Survey of 1086.
Legend has it that she tried to ease her husband's strong stance on taxation within Coventry, and he is purported to have said that he'd ease his stance when she rode naked through the streets on a horse. Clearly he meant he never would, but she took him at his word, and rode though the streets on horseback, naked, with only her long hair to preserve her dignity.
Locals were instructed to stay indoors, and cover their windows to avoid seeing her. All complied, except a local tailor, the original 'Peeping Tom', and today, 978 years later, he's still famous as the name given to male voyeurs.
Fast forward exactly 900 years, and the Battle of Britain began today in 1940.
"The Battle of France over, the Battle of Britain is about to begin" said Winston Churchill in June 1940, so in effect, the battle was named a month before it started. The Luftwaffe bombed a shipping convoy in the English Channel, and dockyards in South Wales on the first day of a battle that would last until October that year. Coventry was also attacked, the most devastating bombings happening in November 1940.
On the 11th July, Lord Beaverbrook told the nation that the country needed aluminium, which was most prevalent in household utensils. "We will turn your pots and pans into Spitfires and Hurricanes!" he said, and the centres opened to receive donations were overwhelmed. From the palaces of London's West End to the East End tenements, the response was superb and avoided the need for formal requisition of the metal.
Although the British and Canadian forces were outnumbered by the German and the Italian forces, the quality of the Allied planes were better, and the Allied forces had radar. Radar meant that surprise attacks were almost impossible, and while daylight raids became harder, the Luftwaffe moved to nigh time raids, and so we had the Blitz. If you'd like to learn more on the history of the Battle of Britain, can I suggest you visit The Imperial War Museum at Duxford, where a permanent exhibition is on display. You can see details here.
In 1985, the Greenpeace's ship, Rainbow Warrior was destroyed, when limpet mines, placed by the French intelligence service, the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE), exploded, killing a photographer. The vessel was moored in Aukland, New Zealand before travelling to the Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific in French Polynesia where France was planning a series of nuclear tests.
The first mine exploded at 11.38pm when many of the crew were asleep, and blew a large hole in the ship’s hull. Fernando Pereira, had returned to his cabin to retrieve his cameras, and was trapped below deck when a second bomb exploded. The 35 year old Portuguese-born photographer drowned.
After initially denying any knowledge, and trying to point the finger at UK Intelligence services, France eventually paid an undisclosed sum to Pereira's family, and $8.2million to Greenpeace in 1987, which helped fund a new ship.
Finally, a Happy Birthday to Neil Tennant of The Pet Shop Boys, who turns 64 today. Part of the most successful duo in UK music history, with record sales of 100 million, 4 number ones, 42 top thirty singles, a host of awards, including the NME 'Godlike Genius Award' from 2017 and 3 Brit Awards, our birthday wishes might seem a little on the light side, but they're there & they're genuine, so have a good one!
Thanks for reading.