This Month in UK History - September

15 September 1940


Battle of Britain Day

The Battle of Britain was the first major battle of WWII and officially lasted from July 10 to October 31 1940. It was different from any other battle, even to this day in that it was fought entirely in the air. After the conquest of continental Europe, Hitler eyed Britain as the final conquest. Britain at the time had a strong navy so to control the English Channel the Luftwaffe had to control the skies. To do this they had to destroy the RAF. The German pilots at first couldn’t figure out why, whenever they launched a bombing raid over Britain, the RAF was always there to intercept them. The reason was Britain had recently invented radar. For this reason together with the RAF pilot’s sheer bravery and tenacity they were able to beat back the enemy with far fewer pilots and planes, which prompted Winston Churchill’s immortal words “ Never in the field of human conflict has so much be owed by so many to so few”

21 September 1937


J R R Tolkien, publishes "Hobbit"

This was the forerunner of the world famous trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’, completed in 1948 though not published until 1954/55. Tolkien (1892-1973) was a scholar of Anglo-Saxon English at Oxford University and later professor of English at the University of Leeds. He soon resigned and returned to Oxford where he remained for 20 years. It was during this time that he started telling his children bedtime stories about a strange world called Middle Earth inhabited by creatures such as Hobbits, Dwarfs, Orcs, Goblins and dragons. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ has now been made into a major film which broke all box office records and won a record number of Oscars, four for ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, two for ‘The Two Towers’ and eleven for ‘The return of the King”.

22 September 1735


Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole moves into 10 Downing Street.

Since Walpole there have been 51 Prime Ministers at 10 Downing Street. The PM to have held the most terms in office is William Gladstone with four; 1868-74, 1880-85, 1886 & 1892-94. Walpole, although not officially called the PM but had all the powers of one, holds the record for longest serving PM; 20 years 314 days. Margaret Thatcher became the first female PM in 1979 and also the longest serving PM for 150 with 11 years, 209 days in office. The youngest ever PM was William Pitt, he became PM at the age of 24 in 1783. Spencer Percival is the only British PM ever to have been assassinated. He was shot dead in 1812.

27 September 1826


The Stockton and Darlington Railway, the first passenger rail service opened.

The railway came about through the need to transport coal on a railway in horse drawn wagons. George Stephenson an engineer at a colliery suggested a locomotive instead. George, with his son Robert formed ‘Robert Stephenson and Company’ in Newcastle which was to be the first locomotive builder in the world, the first locomotive was finished in 1825. Work on the track had already begun in 1822 from Stockton to Darlington, 15 mile away. When the track opened, large crowds saw Stephenson at the controls of the locomotive which was pulling 12 wagons of coal and flour, 6 of guests and 14 of workmen. With a speed of 9 miles an hour the journey took 2 hours.

Famous birth


9 September 1960 - Actor Hugh Grant in London

He won a scholarship to attend Oxford University and graduated from there with a degree in English Literature in 1982. His first big film break came in 1984 when he was cast in the Mel Gibson re-make of the Mutiny on the Bounty to be filmed in Tahiti. He was sacked on the day of departure for not having a union card. After several years of acting in TV dramas and minor films Grant finally got the break that would make him famous, lead role in 4 Weddings and a Funeral in 1994. From then on his acting career really took of with lead roles in hits such as Sense and Sensibility by Ang Lee, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary. 

.....and Famous death


21 September 1327 - King Edward II murdered

Edward was the son of Edward I, a very strong and respected king but the young Edward had no interest in government and fighting the Scots as his father had done. Because of his weakness his army was beaten by the Robert the Bruce and the Scots at Bannockburn which led to revolution by the English barons and the start of a short civil war. Meanwhile Edward's French wife, Isabelle, along with her lover invaded England with an army and forced Edward to abdicate in favour of their son Edward III. Edward II was now surplus to requirement but Isabelle was still not strong enough to have him openly killed. Therefore the method employed was to insert a hunting horn into his anus followed by a red hot poker. In this way there were no suspicious marks left on the body.