This Month in UK History - August

8th August 1914


Ernest Shackleton "Endurance" Expeditio" Starts

One of the most incredible adventure stories of all time. Shackleton set out to cross the Antarctic from coast to coast. The expedition never landed on the continent as the ship Endurance was crushed in pack ice and the crew had to walk across the ice living only on seal meat in raging blizzards in temperatures often 20 below freezing. It took them five months to drag the life boats to Elephant Island.

Leaving most of the men behind, a smaller group now had to row one of the life boats over 800 miles to South Georgia through freezing conditions and 50 foot waves.

On arriving at South Georgia they had to travel another 22 miles over mountains to the whaling station. It was Aug 17 1917 when the rescue boat returned for the men left on Elephant Island. Amazingly no-one died on the journey. 

17 August 1896


Bridget Driscoll of Croydon, Surrey became the world's first pedestrian to die after being hit by a car.

Mrs Bridget Driscoll stepped off the kerb in Crystal Palace and into the history books when she was hit by a demonstration car travelling at four miles an hour.

She apparently froze in panic at the site of the oncoming vehicle and died within minutes of receiving a head injury.

At her inquest, Coroner William Percy Morrison said he hoped that "such a thing would never happen again" and was the first to apply the term 'accident' to violence caused by speed. Coroners have followed his example ever since.

24th August 1814


British forces captured Washington, DC and set the White House on fire.

The White House was burned down by forces under the control of Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn during the American War of 1811-1814. The war began as a dispute with American privateers challenging the right of British navy ships to inspect and seize their cargoes and ended with the spectacular reprisal of torching the White House.

When the building was set on fire it was known as the President's House and only saved from complete destruction by a storm. The burned out shell took three years to remodel and was painted white to hide the scorch marks from the fire, hence the familiar name.

26 August 55BC


Julius Caesar landed in Britain.

Caesar was only in Britain for three weeks before deciding to leave. When the Roman ships landed at Dover they initially met resistance from the Britons but when they realized what a formidable force the Romans were, they apologized for their hostile behaviour and swore allegiance to Caesar.

However when Caesar's reinforcements of cavalry were destroyed in a storm the Britons had a change of heart and attacked the Romans again thinking them to be weak without their cavalry.

They underestimated the Romans who were able to drive off the attacks but Caesar had had enough, for now, and he packed his troops into the remaining galleys and sailed back to France. He returned the next summer, 54BC and this time the invasion was successful.

Famous Birth


18 August 1587 - Virginia Dare - 1st English child born in New World.

Her parents had been among the 120 settlers who left England on 8 May, 1587, on an expedition to settle the Chesapeake Bay area, but they landed instead on Roanoke Island, the site of an unsuccessful earlier colonization venture.

Virginia Dare's life remains a mystery. Nine days after her birth, her grandfather, Governor John White, left for England, as Roanoke's agent to obtain further aid for the colony.

It was not until August 1590 that White returned to Roanoke but there was no trace of the settlers—only the word "croatoan" carved on a post. It is believed that what survivors of the "Lost Colony" there may have been were absorbed into the Croatan tribe.

...and Famous Death


12th August 1964 - Ian Flemming - Writer (James Bond 007)

Born into a wealthy English family, Ian Fleming attended top British schools such as Eton and Sandhurst military academy. He joined the news agency Reuters as a journalist but just prior to the Second World War was recruited into British Naval Intelligence.

When the war ended, Fleming retired to Jamaica where he built a house called "Goldeneye", took up writing full-time and created the character that would make him famous - British Secret Service agent James Bond, in a novel called "Casino Royale".