It happened today – this day in history – December 17

546: The Ostrogoths of King Totila conquer Rome by bribing the Byzantine garrison.

1398: Turkic conqueror Tamerlane captures and sacks Delhi, defeating Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud’s armies by setting camels loaded with hay alight and charging them at the sultan’s armored elephants.

1526: Pope Clement VII forms the Inquisition.

1538: Pope Paul II excommunicates Henry VIII.

1718: France, Britain and Austria declare war on Spain.

1819: The Congress of Angostura establishes Colombia’s independence from Spain.

1830: Death of Simon Bolivar, South American revolutionary and president of Colombia, aged 47.

1865: Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished Symphony” premieres in Vienna.

1885: France declares Madagascar a protectorate.

1900: A prize of 100,000 francs is offered for communications with extraterrestrials, but Martians are excluded because they are considered too easy. On the same day, Ellis Island Immigration station is completed off New York.

1903: The Wright brothers make the first sustained motorised aircraft flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1914: Britain declares Egypt a protectorate.

1918: A conference of workers’ and soldiers’ councils take control of the German government in Berlin, until elections in January select a new national assembly.

1922: The last British troops leave the Irish Free State.

1925: Sultan Abdulaziz Ibn Saud conquers Jeddah, the last major stand of the Hashemites against the Saudis.

1926: Antanas Smetona assumes power in Lithuania following a coup.

1933: Thubten Gyatso, 13th Dalai Lama, dies aged 57.

1938: The discovery of nuclear fission using uranium by Otto Hahn.

1939: The German pocket battleship Graf Spee is scuttled by its crew off Uruguay at the end of the Battle of River Plate.

1941: Rommel’s troops in North Africa begin to retreat.

1942: Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden condemns the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe.

1957: The US successfully test-fires an Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile. On the same day, novelist Dorothy L. Sayers dies aged 66.

1961: India seizes Goa and two other Portuguese colonies, Damao and Diu.

1963: James Carroll, a radio DJ at WWDC in Washington, DC, becomes the first disc jockey to broadcast a Beatles record on American radio. Carroll played I Want To Hold Your Hand, which he had obtained from his stewardess girlfriend, who brought the single back from the UK. Due to listener demand, the song was played daily, every hour and Capitol Records had to release the song in the US earlier than planned. On the same day, Dynamo Moscow goalkeeper Lev Yashin becomes the first Soviet player to win the Ballon d’Or.

1964: The third James Bond film “Goldfinger” starring Sean Connery, Gert Frobe and Honor Blackman premieres in London.

Singles chart:

  1. I Feel Fine – The Beatles
  2. Downtown – Petula Clark
  3. Walk Tall – Val Doonican
  4. I’m Gonna Be Strong – Gene Pitney
  5. Little Red Rooster – The Rolling Stones
  6. Pretty Paper – Roy Orbison
  7. I Understand – Freddie and the Dreamers
  8. No Arms Can Ever Hold You – The Bachelors
  9. I Could Easily Fall – Cliff Richard
  10. Baby Love – The Supremes

1967: Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia, vanishes in mysterious circumstances while swimming near Melbourne.


1967: Cream – Disraeli Gears

Album chart:

  1. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
  2. The Sound Of Music – Original Soundtrack
  3. Breakthrough – Various Artists
  4. Val Doonican Rocks But Gently – Val Doonican
  5. The Last Waltz – Engelbert Humperdinck
  6. Disraeli Gears – Cream
  7. British Motown Chartbusters – Various Artists
  8. Axis: Bold As Love – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  9. Reach Out – The Four Tops
  10. Best Of The Beach Boys Vol 2 – The Beach Boys

1968: 11-year-old Mary Bell is sentenced to life in detention at Newcastle Assizes for killing two small boys. The judge said she posed a “very grave risk to other children.” She was released on licence in 1980 and had a child of her own. They were both granted lifelong anonymity by the High Court under the Human Rights Act, in May 2003.

1969: The US Air Force closes its Project Blue Book, concluding no evidence of extraterrestrial craft behind thousands of UFO sightings since 1947.

1975:Former Manson family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme is sentenced to life in prison for the attempted assassination of US President Gerald Ford.

1976: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reject OPEC’s recommended 15% oil price increase and choose to impose a lower price rise.

1977: George Harrison plays an unannounced live set for the regulars at his local pub in Henley-On-Thames.

1978: OPEC raises oil prices by 18%.

1982: Delta blues musician and songwriter Big Joe Williams dies in Macon, Mississippi, aged 79.

1983: Three police officers and three members of the public are killed and 90 others injured after an IRA car bomb attack near Harrods store in Knightsbridge.

1986: The first heart, lung and liver transplant is performed at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.

1992: Film star Dana (Carver) Andrews dies aged 86.

1996: Six Red Cross workers are shot dead as they sleep in a hospital in Chechnya. On the same day, singer Ruby Murray dies aged 61.

1999: Saxophonist Grover Washington Jr dies of a heart attack aged 56.

2003: School caretaker Ian Huntley is convicted of the murders of 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambs.

2004: Saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith dies aged 70.

2006: Dave Clark Five saxophonist Denis Payton dies aged 63.

2009: Film star Jennifer Jones (Phyllis Isley) dies aged 90.

2010: Captain Beefheart (Don van Vliet) died aged 69 of complications from multiple sclerosis.

2011: Kim Jong-il, supreme leader of North Korea dies of a suspected heart attack aged 70.

2013: Angela Merkel is elected Chancellor of Germany for a third term.

2014: Sony Pictures cancels the release of controversial comedy “The Interview” starring Seth Rogan and James Franco after a cyber attack on the studio thought to have originated from North Korea.

2015: José Mourinho is sacked as manager of Chelsea FC.

2018: A poacher is sentenced to watch the film “Bambi” repeatedly during a year in prison, for killing hundreds of deer in Missouri. On the same day, actress and film director Penny Marshall dies aged 75.

2019: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf is sentenced to death in absentia for high treason. On the same day, Fallon Sherrock becomes first woman to win a match at the PDC World Darts Championship, beating Ted Evetts, 3-2 at Alexandra Palace.

2020: French President Emanuel Macron tests positive for COVID-19.

BIRTHDAYS: Armin Mueller-Stahl, actor, 91; Sir Tommy Steele OBE (Hicks), singer/actor, 85; Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) 85; Ron Geesin, composer, 78; Ernie Hudson, actor, 76; Eugene Levy, actor, 75; Simon Bates, broadcaster, 75; Wes Studi , actor, 74; Paul Rodgers, singer-songwriter, (Free/Bad Company) 72; Bill Pullman, actor, 68; Mike Mills, bassist (REM) 63; Sarah Dallin, singer (Bananarama) 59; Ginger Wildheart (David Leslie Walls), guitarist (The Wildhearts) 57; Micky Quinn, bassist (Supergrass) 52; Paula Radcliffe, athlete, 48; Sarah Paulson, actress, 47; Giovanni (Antonino) Ribisi, actor, 47; Milla Jovovich, actress/model, 46; Katheryn Winnick, actress, 44; Manny Pacquiao, boxer, 43; Dynamo (Steven Frayne) magician, 39; Martin Ødegaard, footballer, 23; James Windsor, Viscount Severn, 14.