Wednesday, March 29, 2006


May 1941: Britain had no allies in mainland Europe. It would be another six months before the USA joined the forces fighting Hitler's Germany. America was however sending vital supplies, without which, the war would be lost. All those supplies came by ship across the Atlantic.
Hitler's plan was to cut that lifeline by scattering and destoying the convoys. Submarine warfare was already planning successful for the Nazis, but the destructive power of a battlecruiser against a convoy was even greater. Unlike subs, battleships could wipe out a convoy in one attack. The Nazi navy, the Kriegsmarine, sent the battleship Bismarck and the cruiser Prinz Eugen to cut Britain's transatlantic supply line.But before the Bismarck could achieve her mission she had to break through the Naval blockades obstructing her path into the Atlantic. Leading the blockade was the pride of the British fleet - HMS Hood.

Perkin Warbeck

The great pretender
In 1491, a young man appeared in the courts of Europe with an explosive claim – that he was none other than Richard, duke of York, the younger of the two ‘princes in the Tower’. He had survived, escaped to Europe and gone into hiding. Now he emerged to claim his rightful place on the English throne. That young man later became known as Perkin Warbeck.
The princes in the Tower
The story begins much earlier, with one of the great mysteries of British history – the disappearance in sinister circumstances of two young boys. The 12-year-old prince of Wales was staying at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire when, on 9 April 1483, news came of his father's sudden death and the boy became king as Edward V. His father's brother – Richard, duke of Gloucester – immediately assumed the regency as ‘protector of the realm’ until Edward came of age, and also took on the care of the latter’s younger brother, the 10-year-old Richard, duke of York.
However, the new regime began quite sinisterly. Gloucester intercepted Edward’s entourage as it travelled to London, killed the young king’s supporters, and escorted him to London and then to the Tower. There, on 16 June, he was joined by his brother Prince Richard.
On 25 June, Parliament declared the two boys illegitimate. A priest, Robert Stillington, had presented evidence that Edward IV contracted to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot before marrying Elizabeth Woodville, which made his marriage to Elizabeth, the boys’ mother, invalid. At Parliament’s invitation, Gloucester took the throne as Richard III. His other brothers, Edmund and George, duke of Clarence, had both died before Edward IV, leaving Gloucester next in line for the throne.
The two boys were last seen playing in the grounds of the Tower at around the time their uncle had them declared illegitimate. It has been presumed that they were murdered on his orders, but to this day, five centuries later, nobody knows for sure.
Enter Richard Plantagenet
Eight years later, in 1491, the apprentice of Pregent Meno, a Breton merchant, arrived in the city of Cork in Ireland, modelling the silks that his master was selling. The locals first insisted that the good-looking 17-year-old with the princely manner must be Edward, the earl of Warwick, son of the duke of Clarence.
The young man denied that he was Warwick, claiming instead to be Richard Plantagenet, duke of York, the younger of the two princes that Richard III was believed to have slain. He then told how he had been spirited out of the Tower after his brother had been murdered and hidden on the Continent – a story plausible enough to be accepted by those who wanted to believe it. (The new pretender also reportedly resembled Edward IV, which led to speculation that he could have been Edward's illegitimate son.) The Cork townsfolk managed to persuade him to embark on a conspiracy against Henry VII, who had defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485.
Lambert Simnel
This was not the first time that a Richard of York had seemingly risen from the dead. In 1487, the 10-year-old Lambert Simnel had (under the direction of the priest Roger Simon) impersonated, first, Richard of York and then Edward, earl of Warwick, son of the duke of Clarence. However, the latter was actually still alive and living in the Tower. Henry VII ordered that the real Edward be paraded through London, thus showing Simnel to be the impostor he was.
However, despite the fact that there had been a rising against the king on Simnel’s behalf and the boy had actually been crowned in Ireland as ‘Edward VI’, Henry pardoned him, recognising that he had been simply a puppet. Simnel was employed by the king – first, as a servant in the royal kitchen, then as a royal falconer – for the rest of his life.
Support in Europe
It is hardly surprising that, when the new ‘Richard’ was ‘recognised’ in Cork, his welcome in Ireland was less than that given to Simnel. He began a long migration around the courts of Europe in search of support.
Although ignored by Isabella of Spain, he was received as Richard of York by Charles VIII of France – then at war with Henry VII – who gave him a guard of honour. However, when the conflict ended, Charles had to ask the pretender to leave.
‘Richard’ then travelled to Malines (now Mechlin, Belgium) where he was taken in by the woman who would become his most important supporter: the formidable Margaret, Edward IV’s exiled sister, widow of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy. Anxious to rid the throne of the hated Henry VII and return the House of York to power, she acknowledged him as her nephew, declaring that his detailed recollections of life at the English court and birthmarks on his body were proof of his true origins. In return, ‘Richard’ promised that all the lands she had lost in England would be restored to her once he gained the throne.
Her support for the potential usurper did not go unremarked by Henry. He sent protests to Philip of Austria, under whose protection Margaret operated, but the 15-year-old archduke said that she could do as she liked on her own lands. In 1493, ‘Richard’ also attended the funeral of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III at the invitation of the former’s son Maximilian I.
The enemies within
It wasn't just foreign support that Henry Tudor had to fear; the pretender attracted followers in England, too. Henry VII's chamberlain Sir William Stanley said that, if the young man was really the prince, he would not fight against him (thus demonstrating that some Yorkists had not given up hope of the princes being still alive). Sir Robert Clifford had witnessed the compact made between ‘Richard’ and Margaret in 1494 and almost immediately informed Henry of it, as well as of Stanley’s supposed duplicity. Stanley was arrested and executed even though there was no proof that he was involved in any conspiracy with the pretender.
This reaction is perhaps understandable, if not forgivable. England had barely recovered from the deep wounds inflicted by the Wars of the Roses – the vicious feud between the Houses of York and Lancaster as to who should rule England. Henry Tudor may have defeated Richard III on Bosworth Field, but his vow to bring peace to the country with a rule of iron was neither easily achieved nor popular. Deep divisions remained in the country, and the House of York was down but not defeated. Disaffected Yorkists now rallied round ‘Richard’ and threatened the Tudor dynasty before it had even started.
Moreover, the young man’s appeal went beyond those who stood to gain politically from his success. All those who had lamented the shedding of the innocent blood of the princes now dared to hope that one of them had been spared, risen like a King Arthur to save them from harsh Tudor rule. There had been pretenders before, of course, but none so plausible and charismatic. To his detractors, this was all that ‘Richard’ amounted to – a pretender, albeit a superlative one.
Henry pressed his extensive spy network into action to find evidence of a conspiracy among his enemies to restore the House of York – with this ‘puppet prince’, whom he dismissively called ‘the garçon’, at the centre.
First ‘invasion’
‘Richard’ made his first attempt to invade England with the help of both Margaret of Burgundy and Maximilian I, who fitted out the expedition. The latter bragged to the Venetian ambassador that the ‘duke of York’, as he called him, would very soon conquer England and then would turn against the king of France.
The pretender’s small force landed near Deal in Kent on 3 July 1495, hoping for a show of popular support. However, despite the fact that Henry had still not succeeded in securely establishing his authority over England, the ‘invasion’ was routed and 150 of the pretender’s troops were killed.
‘Richard’ abandoned the venture without even disembarking and made for Ireland. There, with the support of the earl of Desmond, he besieged Waterford, but when the town resisted, just as it had against Lambert Simnel, he was again forced to withdraw, this time to Scotland.
At the Scottish court
High and mighty king, your grace, and these your nobles here present may be pleased benignly to bow your ears to hear the tragedy of a young man that by right ought to hold in his hand the ball of a kingdom, but by fortune is made himself a ball, tossed from misery to misery and from place to place.
Perkin Warbeck to James IV of Scotland, according to Francis Bacon in his biography Henry VII (1638)
‘Richard’ was well received in Scotland, and proceeded to exploit the natural antipathy between the Scottish and the English to mount a strategy for Henry’s overthrow. He also married (in what appears to have been a love match) Lady Katharine Gordon – grand-daughter of the earl of Caithness and a cousin of the king James IV – and was granted a monthly pension of £112, an indication that James accepted his claim to the English throne.
The Scottish invasion in support of the pretender in September 1496 was a fiasco. Some 1,400 men of various nationalities crossed into England, but it simply resembled a typical border raid, with ravaging, burning and killing. No public backing for ‘Richard’ materialised in Northumberland, and after three days, the Scots withdrew without even meeting the English in battle. The episode simply gave Henry an excuse to raise taxes for defence. As for ‘Richard’, he begged James to be more merciful to ‘his’ subjects, sick of the cruelty and the devastation carried out by his ally.
Now an embarrassment to the Scottish king, in July 1497 ‘Richard’ embarked with his wife from Ayr, to Ireland once more. Landing at Cork, he discovered that he had lost his supporters there, and soon realised that he had to leave or risk being taken prisoner. A rebellion in Cornwall two months earlier against Henry’s tax increases had encouraged the young man to expect support there, so that’s where he and Katharine now sailed.
‘Richard IV’
On 12 September, ‘Richard’ arrived near Land's End with just 120 men in two ships. This final invasion was by far his most successful – enticed by a proclamation that he would put a stop to the extortionate taxes, his force had grown to 3,000 by the time it reached Exeter. Led by a council that included a debt-ridden textile merchant, a tailor and a scrivener (scribe), his supporters declared him ‘Richard IV’ on Bodmin Moor. They, however, were unarmed, and when Exeter resisted, the rebels were forced to move on. When Henry's army reached them, the pretender realised that there was no hope and fled for the coast. He took refuge in Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire, where he surrendered.
The leaders of the pretender’s forces were hanged and the rest of his followers were fined heavily: in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire – counties not seriously involved in the rebellion – the fines totalled an enormous £13,000. ‘Richard’ himself was imprisoned – first, at Taunton in Somerset, then in London, where he was ‘paraded through the streets on horseback amid much hooting and derision of the citizens’.
Henry sent for Lady Katharine, whom the pretender had left at St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. Received with all the deference due to her rank, she refused to abandon her husband. Henry told her: ‘Most noble lady, I grieve too, and it pains me very much, second only to the slaughter of so many of my subjects, that you have been deceived by such a sorry fellow.’ Katharine became the companion of the queen, and was given an allowance, which she continued to receive even after Henry’s death.
Escape, the Tower and execution
Surprisingly, Henry treated ‘Richard’ more like a royal guest than a prisoner at Westminster. In June 1498, exploiting Henry's hospitality, the pretender escaped, but was recaptured within hours after he had taken sanctuary at the priory of Sheen (in what is now south London). The prior begged the king to spare the escapee’s life, a wish that was granted. However, ‘Richard’ was put into stocks and exhibited – first, at Westminster, then at Cheapside – and was finally (and ironically) consigned to the Tower, from which he had supposedly been rescued as a child.
Early in 1499, yet another false Warwick appeared as a pretender to the throne. Although the plot was quickly suppressed, it may have convinced the king that it would be wise to dispose of the real Edward, earl of Warwick, as well as the other, longer-lived impostor.
‘Richard’ and Warwick were placed in neighbouring cells, and one of the former’s erstwhile supporters was appointed gaoler. The two young men (Edward was just 24 and ‘Richard’ only about a year older) began to talk and, it was said, to plan. An informer gave away their plot: to burn down the Tower, escape to Flanders and place Warwick on the throne.
The false pretender and the true pretender along with several others, including the gaoler, were found guilty of treason. On 23 November, the supposed commoner ‘Richard’ was drawn on a hurdle from the Tower to Tyburn, where he read out a ‘confession’ and was hanged. His co-conspirator Edward, the last Plantagenet, was beheaded on Tower Hill six days later.
The tale of Perkin Warbeck
Henry's problem was that he could not prove that ‘Richard’ was not the prince – he had no dead body that he could produce to expose the lie. So he had to try to prove that the young man was actually somebody else. He sent his spies to the Continent to try to find the truth, and in the end, he came up with the story of Perkin Warbeck.
Henry had learned about this quite early on – as early as July 1493, according to the historian James Gairdner – but did nothing with it until he captured Perkin in 1497. At Taunton on 5 October, Henry himself managed to get the pretender to ‘confess’ that he was actually the Flemish boatman's son Perkin Warbeck (or Pierquin Wesbecque or Piers Osbeck) of Tournai, born in about 1474. According to the confession, he had made his way to Portugal where, perhaps with the help of powerful individuals, he was transformed into Richard of York.
How this could have happened is still in dispute. In his 1638 biography of Henry VII, Francis Bacon wrote:
[Margaret of Burgundy] informed him of all the circumstances and particulars that concerned the person of Richard, duke of York, which he was to act; describing unto him the personages, lineaments, and features of the king and queen, his pretended parents, and of his brother and sisters and divers others that were nearest him in childhood, together with all passages, some secret, some common that were fit for a child's memory, until the death of King Edward. Then she added the particulars of the time from the king's death until he and his brother were committed to the Tower, as well during the time he was abroad as while he was in sanctuary.
However, according to historian James Gairdner in 1899, ‘he had not, as commonly supposed, received an elaborate training from Margaret … for he had (im)personated the second son of Edward IV long before he visited her court.’
‘Victim of his own deceit’?
Although the original document has disappeared, copies of Perkin Warbeck’s confession were distributed all around Europe. Their real purpose? To establish Henry's own right of succession, which remained quite shaky. If Perkin's story was not true, it had to seem so, and Perkin's confession on the scaffold was all that Henry needed.
Both Polydore Vergil (writing in the 1530s) and Francis Bacon (published a century later) suggest that, by this stage, the pretender had played the role for so long that he scarcely knew what was true. Vergil, Henry's historian, wrote that ‘having twisted falsehood into truth and truth into falsehood, [Warbeck] fell at last from the scaffold, a victim of his own deceit.’ Francis Bacon summed up Warbeck's life: ‘What he feigned, he believed.’
Later writers looked back on the story of Perkin Warbeck with surprising sympathy. In 1634, the playwright John Ford, writing under a Stuart monarch, resurrected the pretender as a tragic hero in The Chronicle Historie of Perkin Warbeck. And in The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck: A romance, published in 1830, Mary Shelley treated him generously.
When the man we know as Perkin Warbeck was proclaiming himself the rightful heir to the throne, England was exhausted by war and weary of dynastic struggles. Henry VII offered peace and prosperity. However, many in England and, especially, abroad were prepared to keep up the pretence of a living Richard, duke of York, even if they knew the truth. Abroad the pretender was certainly taken seriously and quite a few people believed that there was a chance that he was who he said he was. On balance, it is likely that he was an impostor, but there is no final proof one way or the other.


Terror Machine: Hitler's SS, tells the chilling story of how Adolf Hitler's tiny bodyguard grew into the most feared organisation that ever marched across Europe.The SS – those two letters, in the form of lightning flashes along with the death's head insignia – are still, 60 years after the end of the Second World War, synonymous with cruelty, genocide and war crimes. With biographies of its leaders, eyewitness accounts, a timeline and further reading, this is a sobering account of one of the most terrifying chapters in European history.

Modern Marvels

Celebrating ingenuity, invention and imagination brought to life on a grand scale, MODERN MARVELS tells the fascinating stories of the doers, dreamers and sometime-schemers who created everyday items, technological breakthroughs and man-made wonders. MODERN MARVELS INVENT NOW CHALLENGEThank you for submitting your big ideas for the Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge! Stay tuned for information on upcoming events and the announcement of our 100 Honorable Mentions and 25 Semi-Finalists in March 2006.

Black History Month

February marks the beginning of Black History Month - an annual celebration that has existed since 1926. But what are the origins of Black History Month? Much of the credit can go to Harvard Scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who was determined to bring Black History into the mainstream public arena. Woodson devoted his life to making "the world see the Negro as a participant rather than as a lay figure in history." In 1926 Woodson organized the first annual Negro History Week, which took place during the second week of February. Woodson chose this date to co-incide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln - two men who had greatly impacted the black population. Over time, Negro History Week evolved into the Black History Month that we know today - a four-week-long celebration of African American History.

History of the Civil Rights StruggleEARLY IMMIGRATION AND SLAVERYMost of the earliest black immigrants to the Americas were natives of Spain and Portugal—men such as Pedro Alonso Niño (1468–1505), a navigator who accompanied Columbus on his first voyage, and the black colonists who helped Nicolás de Ovando (1460?–1518) form the first Spanish settlement on Hispaniola in 1502.The name of Nuflo de Olano (b. 1490?) appears in the records as that of a black slave present when Vasco Núñez de Balboa sighted the Pacific Ocean in 1513. Other blacks served with Hernán Cortés when he conquered Mexico and with Francisco Pizarro when he marched into Peru.Iberian BlacksEstebanico (c. 1500–38), one of the survivors of Pánfilo de Narváez’s unfortunate expedition to Florida in 1527, was a black. With three companions, he spent eight years traveling overland to Mexico City, learning several Indian languages in the process. Later, while exploring what is now New Mexico, he lost his life in a dispute with the Zuñi Indians. Juan Valiente (d. 1553), another black, led Spaniards in a series of battles against the Araucanian Indians of Chile between 1540 and 1546. Although Valiente was a slave, he was rewarded with an estate near Santiago and control of several Indian villages. Between 1502 and 1518, Spain shipped out hundreds of Spanish-born Africans, called Ladinos, to work as laborers, especially in the mines. Opponents of their enslavement cited their weak Christian faith and their penchant for escaping to the mountains or joining the Indians in revolt. Proponents declared that the rapid diminution of the Indian population required a consistent supply of reliable workhands.

Free Spaniards were reluctant to do manual labor or to remain settled (especially after the discovery of gold on the mainland), and only slave labor could assure the economic viability of the colonies. Beginning of the African Slave Trade By 1518, the demand for slaves in the Spanish New World was so great that King Charles I of Spain (who, as Holy Roman Emperor, was known as Charles V), sanctioned the direct transport of slaves from Africa to the American colonies. The slave trade was controlled by the Crown, which sold the right to import slaves (asiento) to entrepreneurs. By the 1530s, the Portuguese were also using African slaves in Brazil. From then until the abolition of the slave trade in 1870, at least 10 million Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas: about 47 percent of them to the Caribbean islands and the Guianas; 38 percent to Brazil; and 6 percent to mainland Spanish America. About 4.5 percent went to North America, roughly the same proportion that went to Europe. The greatest proportion of these slaves worked on plantations producing sugar, coffee, cotton, tobacco, and rice in the tropical lowlands of northeastern Brazil and in the Caribbean islands. Most of them came from the sub-Saharan states of West and Central Africa, but by the late 18th century the supply zone extended to southern and East Africa as well. Impact of SlaverySlavery in the Americas was generally harsh, but it varied from time to time and place to place. The Caribbean and Brazilian sugar plantations required a consistently high supply of labor for centuries. In other areas—the frontiers of southern Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia—slavery was relatively unimportant to the economy. To tame the wilderness, build cities, establish plantations, and exploit mineral wealth, the Europeans needed more laborers than they could recruit from among their own metropolitan masses.

In the early 16th century, the Spanish tried unsuccessfully to subjugate and enslave the native populations of the West Indies. Slavery was considered the most desirable system of labor organization because it allowed the master almost absolute control over the life and productivity of the laborer. The rapid disintegration of local indigenous societies and the subsequent decimation of the native Indians by warfare and European diseases severely exacerbated the labor situation, increasing the demand for imported workers. African slaves constituted the highest proportion of laborers on the islands and circum-Caribbean lowlands where the native population had died.

The same was true in the northeastern coastlands of Brazil—especially the rich agricultural area called the Reconcavo, where the seminomadic Tupinamba and Tupiniquim Indians resisted effective control by the Portuguese—and in some of the Leeward Islands such as Guadeloupe and Dominica, where the Caribs waged a determined resistance to their expulsion and enslavement. In areas of previously dense populations, such as parts of central Mexico or the highlands of Peru, a sufficient number of the Indian inhabitants survived to satisfy a major part of the labor demands of the new colonists. In such cases African slaves supplemented coerced Indian labor.

United States withdraws from Vietnam

The United States completes the withdrawal of all its combat troops from Vietnam on this day. A decade of American military involvement in Vietnam deeply divided public opinion in the United States and claimed the lives of over 57,000 U.S. soldiers. Over 200,000 South Vietnamese soldiers perished in the conflict, and the communist death toll exceeded 1 million. In addition, some 500,000 Vietnamese civilians were killed, many as a result of the massive U.S. bombing campaign, which exceeded all the bombs dropped by both sides in World War II. After spending over $150 billion in its effort to save South Vietnam from communism, the United States finally and completely withdrew on March 29, 1973. Two years later, the war ended with the fall of South Vietnam and the unification of Vietnam under communist authority.

March 29, 1973Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops leave South Vietnam as Hanoi frees the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. America's direct eight-year intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam.

In 1961, after two decades of indirect military aid, U.S. President John F. Kennedy sent the first large force of U.S. military personnel to Vietnam to bolster the ineffectual autocratic regime of South Vietnam against the communist North. Three years later, with the South Vietnamese government crumbling, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered limited bombing raids on North Vietnam, and Congress authorized the use of U.S. troops. By 1965, North Vietnamese offensives left President Johnson with two choices: escalate U.S. involvement or withdraw. Johnson ordered the former, and troop levels soon jumped to more than 300,000 as U.S. air forces commenced the largest bombing campaign in history.

During the next few years, the extended length of the war, the high number of U.S. casualties, and the exposure of U.S. involvement in war crimes, such as the massacre at My Lai, helped turn many in the United States against the Vietnam War. The communists' Tet Offensive of 1968 crushed U.S. hopes of an imminent end to the conflict and galvanized U.S. opposition to the war. In response, Johnson announced in March 1968 that he would not seek reelection, citing what he perceived to be his responsibility in creating a perilous national division over Vietnam. He also authorized the beginning of peace talks.
In the spring of 1969, as protests against the war escalated in the United States, U.S. troop strength in the war-torn country reached its peak at nearly 550,000 men. Richard Nixon, the new U.S. president, began U.S. troop withdrawal and "Vietnamization" of the war effort that year, but he intensified bombing. Large U.S. troop withdrawals continued in the early 1970s as President Nixon expanded air and ground operations into Cambodia and Laos in attempts to block enemy supply routes along Vietnam's borders. This expansion of the war, which accomplished few positive results, led to new waves of protests in the United States and elsewhere.

Finally, in January 1973, representatives of the United States, North and South Vietnam, and the Vietcong signed a peace agreement in Paris, ending the direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War. Its key provisions included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the release of prisoners of war, and the reunification of North and South Vietnam through peaceful means. The South Vietnamese government was to remain in place until new elections were held, and North Vietnamese forces in the South were not to advance further nor be reinforced.

In reality, however, the agreement was little more than a face-saving gesture by the U.S. government. Even before the last American troops departed on March 29, the communists violated the cease-fire, and by early 1974 full-scale war had resumed. At the end of 1974, South Vietnamese authorities reported that 80,000 of their soldiers and civilians had been killed in fighting during the year, making it the most costly of the Vietnam War.

On April 30, 1975, the last few Americans still in South Vietnam were airlifted out of the country as Saigon fell to communist forces. North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin, accepting the surrender of South Vietnam later in the day, remarked, "You have nothing to fear; between Vietnamese there are no victors and no vanquished. Only the Americans have been defeated." The Vietnam War was the longest and most unpopular foreign war in U.S. history and cost 58,000 American lives. As many as two million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed.

Monday, March 27, 2006

1958: Khrushchev is Soviet premier

On March 27, 1958, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev replaces Nicolay Bulganin as Soviet premier, becoming undisputed leader of the USSR's party and state. In 1953, Joseph Stalin died and Khrushchev grappled with Stalin's chosen successor, Georgy Malenkov, for the position of first secretary. Khrushchev won the power struggle and Malenkov was made premier, a more ceremonial post. In 1955, Malenkov was replaced by Bulganin, an ally of Khrushchev. Later, Bulganin joined a group that tried to oust Khrushchev from his leadership position, so he removed Bulganin from the premiership and took it on himself. As Soviet leader, Khrushchev denounced Stalin and his totalitarian policies, but the new atmosphere of freedom led to anti-Soviet uprisings in Poland and Hungary. In launching the first cosmonauts, he gave the Soviet Union an early lead in the space race, and by reasonably negotiating with the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he may have averted World War III. He resigned abruptly in 1964 under pressure from a Communist party critical of his foreign policy and economic record in the USSR.
199740 members of an American cult kill themselves, apparently in the belief that they were going to link up with a UFO near the comet Hale-Bopp.
1991Briton David Icke, former footballer, BBC sports presenter and member of the Green Party, announces that he had been "chosen" to save the world.
1980Oilrig platform Alexander Keiland overturns in North Sea killing 123.
1977Two jumbo jets collide on the ground at a foggy Tenerife Airport killing 574 people.
1963Publication of the Beeching Report on Britain's railways
1958In Russia, Nikita Kruschev ousts Prime Minister Bulganin to take control of running the USSR.
1914The first successful blood transfusion is performed in a hospital in Brussels.
1871Scotland beats England in the first international rugby union match in Edinburgh.
1794Official formation of the United States Navy.
1942British actor Michael York
1912British politician James Callaghan
1901Japanese politician Eisaku Sato.Prime Minister (1964-72). Awarded 1974 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.
1898Actress Gloria Swanson
1863Auto pioneer Frederick Henry Royce
1931British novelist and writer Arnold Bennett dies of typhoid after a visit to Paris.

VANISHINGS: Foo Fighters

In the years following World War II, American plots started to return to base with stories of strange happenings in the sky, and Unidentified Flying Objects.
Sometimes there were sinister metallic looking objects, sometimes fiercely glowing balls of fire, and sometimes twinkling clusters of brightly colored lights. Normally they rode alongside the pilot's wing, and disappeared as quickly as they arrived. But then things started to change.
As dusk fell on June 24th 1953, an F-94C Starfire took off from the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to investigate a mysterious unidentified flying object.
But when the plane reached a height of just 1500 feet, all the control systems suddenly failed. After a desperate struggle to control the stricken aircraft the pilot and his radar operator baled out.
The pilot landed safely but didn't hear the sound of his plane crashing. In fact the plane had not crashed - it had vanished. So too had the radar operator.
This is just one of the stories of the mysterious foo-fighters. Were they really visitors from outer space, or was there a rational explanation?

The Khamer history of Twentieth Century Cambodia

French colonialism The name Khmer Rouge (red Khmer – Khmer denoting somebody from Cambodia) was a label attached by Norodom Sihanouk to communist tendencies within Cambodia. In 1941, at the age of eighteen, Sihanouk became king of Cambodia, after the French colonial authorities overlooked a rival branch of the Cambodian royal family. France had gained effective control of Cambodia towards the end of the Ninetieth Century as it had done in Vietnam. Discontentment with French colonial rule in Cambodia, as in Vietnam, sparked indigenous political action. Colonialism, Nationalism, and Communism In 1930 Ho Chi Minh founded the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP). At the time Ho was working as a Comintern agent and the formation of the ICP was an attempt by the USSR, largely at the behest of Ho himself, to instigate the organised dissemination of revolutionary ideas throughout Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). Many of the early revolutionaries were as much, if not more attracted to the cause, through a belief in nationalism and anti-colonialism rather than overtly communist rhetoric. The fact that the ICP was largely a Vietnamese initiative, under the tutelage of Moscow, was to eventually become a significant issue, as other fledging communist movements in both Cambodia and Laos, sought to establish their own identity, rather than take orders from their more experienced Vietnamese comrades. During World War Two it was nationalist Cambodian rebels that made more of an impact against French colonialism rather than the communist movement. In 1941 Japan took control of Cambodia via an agreement with the Vichy regime in France. The colonial system remained in place, administered by the French, with the Japanese using Cambodia as a strategic military base. A successful attack by Thai forces in the Northwest of Cambodia forced the Japanese to reach a peace agreement that allowed Thailand to remain in charge of the conquered Cambodian territory. The loss of Cambodian soil to a neighbouring country helped to galvanize Cambodian nationalist resistance under the leadership of Son Ngoc Thanh. In 1942 demonstrations against French rule began to spread. Thanh sought an alliance with the Japanese to overthrow the French but failed to win support. The French authorities reacted vigorously to quell the growing nationalist sentiment. It was at this stage that the ICP and Cambodian nationalists found common ground in trying to free Cambodia from French colonialism. In 1945 the Japanese changed tactics and staged their own coup against the French. Thanh returned from Japan, where he had been in hiding since the failed demonstrations of 1942, and assumed the position of Prime Minister. However, by October British, French, and Indian units had defeated the Japanese and arrested Thanh. France resumed its rule of Cambodia. The First Indochina war In 1945 Ho Chi Minh declared an independent Vietnam, starting the long road towards an independent communist state. The revolution was not as advanced in Cambodia. This era was nevertheless a crucial period in the formation of Cambodian communism. Anti-French groups started to organise their small membership and rebel against colonial rule. Two groups, the Khmer communists, under Vietnamese guidance, and the Khmer Issarak, nationalist Cambodians who were not communists, took up arms against the French. In Cambodia’s Capital, Phnom Penh, the Democratic Party was formed, espousing a non-violent rejection of French rule. During this period many young Cambodians became politicised. A significant minority of these Khmers won scholarships to study in France and it was ironically in Paris that they cemented their anti-colonial and Marxist ideology. Many of the future leaders of the Khmer Rouge were part of the Paris group, such as Khieu Samphan, Son Sen, Ho Youn, Ieng Sary, and Saloth Sar, later to be known as . In 1951 the first Cambodian communist party, the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP), secretly formed. Pol Pot retrospectively altered this date to 1960 in an attempt to distort the truth about the leading role that the Vietnamese played in the development of communism in Cambodia. Ever eager to maintain control of communism in Indochina the Vietnamese did not regard the KPRP as a fully-fledged communist party in comparison with their own Vietnam Workers Party (VWP). The development of communism in Cambodia was soon undermined by the 1954 Geneva conference on Indochina. The conference ended the first Indochina War and under pressure from Sihanouk cemented Cambodia’s independence. Cambodia’s communist and nationalist movements were not represented at the conference at which the Vietnamese agreed to end the anti-colonial struggle in Cambodia. The dominance of Sihanouk In 1955 Sihanouk, buoyed by his successful crusade for independence, staged a coup d’etat. Abdicating from the throne Sihanouk formed his own political movement, the Sangkum, in order to contest the general elections, winning a resounding majority, which was largely the result of coercion. The KPRP responded by initiating a period of political construction as the terms of the Geneva agreement had left the movement decimated by sending approximately two thousand Khmer communist to Vietnam. In Phnom Penh party cells were created, infiltration was initiated into Sihanouk’s government, and a left-wing legal party, the Pracheachon Group, was established. Little real progress was made during 1954-1960 as Sihanouk repressed communist activity. Matters were not helped by high-level communist defections to the Cambodian government. By 1960 Cambodian communism needed a new strategy. In September, the First Party Congress was held in Phnom Penh. Tou Samouth was elected leader, Pol Pot was elected to the third most powerful position. The party’s name was changed to the Workers Party of Kampuchea (WPK). Despite the new orientation the party still followed Hanoi’s political line. In 1962 Tou Samouth mysteriously disappeared and was replaced by Pol Pot. By 1963 large parts of the communist movement had left Phnom Penh and other Cambodian cities for the jungle. It was here, under Vietnamese guidance that the party slowly started to expand. It was also during this period that Pol Pot started to resent the manner in which the Vietnamese treated their “inferior” comrades. Some left-wing elements remained in Phnom Penh and were in fact incorporated into Sihanouk’s government. Characteristically Sihanouk turned upon them, forcing them to flee Phnom Penh as well. In 1967 in Northwest Cambodia, following a peasant disturbance and riots against an increased tax on rice, the so called Samlaut rebellion, the Khmer Rouge instigated a series of armed operations against the government, initiating an early phase of what was soon to escalate into a civil war. Civil War In March 1970, Cambodia’s Prime Minster and head of the army along with Sirik Matak, Sihanouk’s cousin, staged a coup d’etat. Dissatisfied with Sihanouk’s increasing accommodation of Vietnamese troops along the Cambodia-Vietnam border, Nol and Matak seized power and quickly formed an economically dependent relationship with the U.S., who were keen to back the anti-communist stance of the new Cambodian government. Sihanouk fled to Beijing, where under Chinese patronage, he formed a united front with the Vietnamese and Cambodian communist parties. Although Sihanouk was not a communist he was a patriot and saw an alliance with the communists as the only way to restore Cambodia’s independence. For the next five years Cambodia experienced a bloody and confusing civil war. Sihanouk quickly became a marginalized figure in Beijing, useful for establishing the communist credentials on the international stage, but with little real power. The Vietnamese Communists where the main force fighting against the Cambodian government up until the end of 1972, from which point Pol Pot, now firmly in control of the Khmer communist movement, started to drive the Vietnamese influence out of the party – even undertaking purges of Khmer cadre trained in Hanoi. The Khmer Rouge army expanded throughout the war, as did their control of territory as well. The corrupt and ineffective Cambodian army was no match for the well-drilled communist guerrillas, especially after the end of American air support in 1973. The Khmer Rouge, now formally known as the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), eventually emerged victorious on 17 April 1975. Democratic Kampuchea Pol Pot’s rule of Cambodia (Democratic Kampuchea as it was renamed) was both brutal and radical; Cambodia was turned into the totalitarian nightmare as envisioned by Orwell in his book 1984. The country was completely sealed off from the outside world and split into zones. All major towns were evacuated with the population forcibly moved to the countryside, to learn the peasant’s way of life. Institutions such as the family and religion were effectively banned. Money became worthless overnight. All citizens were required to obey the orders of Angkar (the organization). Individuality was forbidden, all that mattered was the collective revolutionary will. It was an extreme form of Maoist, nationalist, and xenophobic ideology. The later two were central elements to the regime, which espoused the glory of Cambodia’s history whilst playing upon the traditional antipathy the majority of Cambodians felt towards Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge believed that they would create communism in one great leap. By 1976 the obvious failure of this policy was not blamed upon themselves but rather on imaginary Vietnamese and American agents. In the next three years thousands were purged in an attempt to purify the revolution as thousands continuously died from malnutrition and famine. The first significant purges took place in the Northern zone, Northwestern zone, and finally the Eastern zone. Undoubtedly there were elements of the party that did not support Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge was after all a combination of communist tendencies. Nevertheless the death toll far outweighed the actual number of Khmer’s who were actively plotting against the regime. The majority of party members who died were in fact loyal to the revolution but had fallen victim to Pol Pot’s paranoia. Some 20,000 victims were sent to an old school in a suburb of Phnom Penh, called Tuol Sleng (also referred to as S-21). This was the Khmer Rouge’s central prison camp. To be held in detention there meant almost certain death. To be accused was in reality to be found guilty. Prisoners were subjected to ritual torture and forced to sign false confessions, admitting to their betrayal of the revolution, before being taken away to be killed by a blow to the head with a spade, whilst bound and blindfolded on the edge of a pit. Anti-revolutionary elements within society were also exterminated. Soldiers and officials of Lon Nol’s regime were executed, as were ‘intellectuals’ – such as teachers, students, and doctors. These people were seen as part of the old society, all that mattered now was the formation of a new society based upon the ideal of the peasant. In 1978, the ever-increasing border clashes between the Khmer Rouge and their Vietnamese comrades escalated into a full-scale war. In December, the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia; by January 1979 they had conquered Cambodia, forcing what remained of the Khmer Rouge to flee to the Thai-Cambodian border. Approximately 1.7 million people died under the Khmer Rouge’s rule. After the Khmer Rouge During the 1980’s Cambodia was effectively ruled from Hanoi. Vietnamese troops remained stationed in Cambodia. Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge leader from the Eastern Zone, now led the new government having defected to the Vietnamese before the invasion of Cambodia. By way of demonstrating their disapproval of Vietnam’s occupation of Cambodia the U.N. allowed the Khmer Rouge to maintain Cambodia’s seat at the U.N, in spite of the increasing horror stories emerging from refugees and survivors of the Khmer Rouge’s genocide. In 1982 a tentative alliance was formed between the Khmer Rouge and other non-communist forces in order to fight the Vietnamese occupation. Towards the end of the decade progress was made towards ending the Vietnamese occupation as both Hun Sen and Sihanouk, who had been under house arrest in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge’s rule, started to discuss a peaceful end to the conflict. In 1989 Vietnam finally withdrew its remaining troops from Cambodia paving the way, in 1990, for the formation of The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). By this time the U.N. had dropped its recognition of the Khmer Rouge as Cambodia’s representative at the U.N. and in 1993 sponsored a general election. Despite losing the vote Hun Sen managed, via dubious means, to remain in power as he still does today. For their part the Khmer Rouge continued to fight a guerrilla war, refusing to participate in the elections. But by 1996 the movement was in decline, high-level defections to the Cambodian government and the ordering of purges weakened the party. In 1997 the remnants of the party turned on Pol Pot putting him on trial and imprisoning him. His “sentence” did not last long as on 15 April 1998 he died from a heart attack in his sleep. Pol Pot’s death signalled the end of the Khmer Rouge, though not to the suffering he and his fellow revolutionaries had caused. To this day few members of the Khmer Rouge have faced justice to answer for the heinous crimes they committed.

The Real Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Real Texas Chainsaw Massacre tells the haunting story of the gruesome murder of two young men in 1974.

The prime suspect, a charlatan with a string of criminal convictions, escaped death row and managed to emigrate to a small rural town in Britain, where he married an unsuspecting widow and integrated himself in to the local hunting and shooting community.

The film takes a dramatic twist as amateur local sleuths start to investigate the mysterious stranger in their midst, and culminates in a dramatic escape plot and confrontation with the police.

GREAT CRIMES AND TRIALS: The Massacre Of The Tsar And The Imperial Family

In the summer of 1918 as civil war raged across Russia following Lenin's seizure of power, the deposed Tsar and his family were imprisoned at Ekaterinburg in the Urals. On 16th July they were massacred and buried secretly in the forests.

Almost immediately, rumours sprang up that not all the imperial family were dead and in 1920, a woman claiming to be the Grand-Duchess Anastasia appeared in Germany demanding to inherit the Romanov fortune. Only recently has evidence been found which finally settles the matter.


This is a story about death. It’s about decadence and it’s about betrayal. During the Third Century AD, Rome endured the greatest crisis in its history.

A combination of plague, warfare and imperial debauchery meant that the Roman Empire almost collapsed. It was saved by an Emperor you have never heard of called Gallienus, and the reason you have never heard of this is because he was given a very bad press by the tabloid historians of his day.

In this film, we show how tabloid history is created by the historical hacks of the Roman age who bent history to fit their own agendas. In the process, we learn about the great Plague of Galen, which killed a third of the population of the Roman Empire – at its height 2,000 people a day were dying in Rome.

We delve behind the image of Commodus, the gladiator-emperor, who was strangled to death by his homosexual lover in a palace plot organised by his wife. We tell the remarkable story of the so-called transsexual Emperor Elagabalus, who lived for sex and whose murdered body was dumped down a sewer.

Fianlly, we tell the tragic tale of Gallienus, who desperately held the Roman Empire together after his father was captured and used as a footstool by the Persian king, but who was ultimately murdered by the men he most trusted.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Deadliest Weapons

They’re the most lethal devices ever invented. Built for a single purpose; to end life. This programme will profile five of man’s deadliest weapons, focusing on the inventors, the battles, and the dark technology behind their lethality.

During World War I, technological advances in weaponry led to the deaths of over 8 million. One of the deadliest killers of the war was the machine gun. Steadfast commanders relied on old tactics developed for cavalry to attack this new killing machine. After the first 24 hours of the Battle of Somme, 20,000 British soldiers were mowed down behind a barrage of bullets from this new killing machine.

In World War II, the use of incendiary bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people. The RAF, under the command of "Bomber" Harris attacked the city of Dresden, Germany with incendiaries, creating a deadly firestorm that killed 50,000 in a single day.

The invention of napalm led to more effective incendiaries that literally destroyed countless Japanese cities. During two days of incendiary bombing over Japan, B-29’s dropped more than 1500 tons of incendiary bombs creating a firestorm that killed over 100,000. By the end of the war incendiary bombs had killed more people than the two atomic bombs combined.

Another deadly invention of the Second World War was the proximity fuse, or VT fuse. The proximity fuse made it possible for artillery to detonate within a predetermined range of an enemy target, a marked improvement over the contact and timed fuses used earlier in the war.

The result was increased lethality for anti-aircraft weapons and mortar shells. Developed under the utmost secrecy at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, the VT fuse destroyed numerous Japanese aircraft in the war for the Pacific Ocean. Later it was an effective anti-personnel weapon that killed countless Germans during the Battle of the Bulge leading General Patton to claim that it was the most important invention of the war.

There is little doubt that the deadliest weapons ever used on people were the atomic bombs, known as "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" that exploded over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9th. Over 150,000 were killed instantly, with countless others dying in the days, weeks, and months that followed.

Yet science had only scratched the surface of lethality. The atomic bomb was followed by the thermonuclear bomb. By releasing immense energy and irradiating debris, this weapon of mass destruction has the potential to kill millions.

Finally, we will profile what many believe to be the deadliest chemical agent ever created: VX nerve gas. It takes only fifty micrograms of VX to kill a person within minutes.

This deadly agent has only been used twice on people, both by Saddam Hussein, with devastating results.

The Constant Gardner

The History Channel in association with Universal Pictures is offering you the chance to win a copy of ‘The Constant Gardener’ starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz.

In a remote area of Northern Kenya, activist Tessa Quayle (Weisz) is found brutally murdered. Tessa's travelling companion, an African doctor, appears to have fled the scene, and the evidence points to a crime of passion.

Members of the British High Commission in Nairobi assume that Tessa's widower, their mild-mannered and un-ambitious colleague Justin Quayle (Fiennes) will leave the matter to them, but they could not be more wrong.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Falklands War

The Falklands, a group of tiny and sparsely populated islands in the South Atlantic Ocean have been the cause of a conflict, which reached across the width of the world for more than a century.

First discovered by the West in 1690 by an English ship, the Falkland islands passed between British, French and Spanish hands for over a century. However, the islands lie only about 400 miles from the vast South American country of Argentina, and in 1820 they laid their claim and took the Falklands over. Argentinean sovereignty was not to last long. In 1833, British troops landed on the islands, and expelled Argentina without a shot being fired. This began a dispute between the two countries which still continues 169 years later.

In 1892, the Falklands officially became a colony of Britain. The Argentineans regularly protested against Britain’s presence in the islands, which they called the Islas Malvinas, but it would not be until 1982 that the conflict would finally come to crisis.

In Argentina, the military junta in power was facing economic and political problems. With hyper-inflation hitting the country badly, and significant public unrest over the people disappearing in government-organised abductions, the dictator hoped to ignite a nationalistic fervour by reclaiming the tiny Falkland territories.

Originally planned for the summer of 1982, the date was moved forward as domestic tensions mounted in late March. On April 2, the population of the Falkland Islands woke up to discover that their home had been invaded. The small number of British marines stationed on the island had been overwhelmed by a force of 2,500 Argentinean soldiers and forced to surrender. Over the next ten weeks, the Falkland Islands became the stage for a desperate fight, which would kill almost 1,000 men.

The Course of War

Three days after the Argentinean invasion, Britain’s armed forces set sail in the largest fleet since WW2. There was a huge wave of public support for the war, which also brought popular opinion behind the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The first great clash of the war came at sea. When a strategic plan went wrong, the British fleet found itself trapped between two prongs of an Argentinean attack. If they were to escape, then the weaker target to the South, the Belgrano cruiser, would have to be destroyed.

In one of the most daring actions of the war, nuclear submarines attacked the Belgrano outside the 200 mile exclusion zone which the British had declared around the Falklands. This was a major change in the rules of engagement, and the sinking of the Belgrano resulted in 368 Argentinean deaths. However, the British victory effectively ended the threat of the demoralised Argentinean fleet.

Despite aerial attacks including, most dangerously, the threat of Exocet missiles, the British made their way to San Carlos Bay and established a beach head there. Their landing site was the opposite end of the island from the capital Port Stanley, where the Argentineans expected an attack, and their landing on the bay was unopposed. However, the choice of San Carlos Bay meant that British troops would have to work their way across the whole length of the island, 65 miles, before they would be able to take the centre of government.

When the Argentinean air force successfully destroyed a ship carrying the British transport helicopters, it became obvious that the British would have to walk 65 miles, fighting for ground all the way.

It was a difficult fight, with the paratroopers winning one notable, but extremely costly battle at Goose Green and taking 1,300 Argentinean soldiers prisoner.

Although air attacks on two landing ships, Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram at Fitzroy decimated the Welsh Guards, the Argentineans did not win a single land battle throughout the course of the British advance.

Perhaps the closest battle to be fought was the last. Mount Tumbledown was the last of the mountain defences guarding Port Stanley, and was held by experienced Argentinean troops. Although the British eventually succeed in taking the position, the determined resistance of the Argentineans brought the operation dangerously close to defeat.

Soon afterwards, the Argentinean forces in the Falklands surrendered. Although they still outnumbered the British by 2 to 1, fighting in the streets of a largely wooden town, could have caused horrendous casualties for both sides. Nonetheless, when he returned home, the Argentinean military governor General Mario Menendez was held responsible for the defeat and put on trial by the military authorities.

Why Did the British Win?

On paper, the Argentineans should have won the Falklands War. They outnumbered the British forces by 3 to 1; they controlled the airstrip on the island, and they were only 400 miles from their own coast, whilst Britain lay on the opposite side of the Atlantic.

Although Britain was able to send a huge fleet across the ocean, cutbacks had severely depleted the proud British navy. The British only had two aircraft carriers available to them – if one had been lost, then they would have lost the war – and had been so short of transport ships that they had commandeered a luxury cruise-liner, the Canberra to carry thousands of Britain’s most elite troops to the Falklands. The British could send only their 40 Sea Harriers against the Argentinean airforce of more than 100 planes.

Nonetheless, against the odds, and despite the undisputed bravery of their soldiers, the Argentineans were defeated. More than any other single reason, this seems to be because the numerically superior Argentinean army was made up of conscripts lacking even basic military instruction, who were facing the most highly trained and disciplined forces of the British army, navy and airforce.

The Scots and Welsh guards, the marines and the SBS (to name but a few) were all fighting in the Falklands and their determination and skill undoubtedly played a vital part in British victories at Mount Tumbledown and Goose Green. It was also significant that the Argentinean command failed to organise effective counter-strikes as the British landed on and advanced across the mountainous islands.

After the War

The war had major consequences for Britain, Argentina, and the Falklands themselves. Although figures vary, almost 1,000 men were killed on both sides (about three times as many Argentineans as British), and many more were seriously wounded. One soldier had been killed for every three members of the tiny rural population in the Falklands.

The majority of the Argentineans who died had been conscripts, forced into the fighting by the military government. Although it had only lasted for 10 weeks the war had cost billions of dollars. In Argentina, the dictator-President was deposed soon after the defeat, and the path was laid for a return to democracy, whilst in Britain, Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would call an election for the following year and more than treble her parliamentary majority.

The antagonism between the two countries has only been worsened by the conflict. Although, perhaps, most British people associate the name of Argentina more with the World Cup than with hatred, terrorism and war, feelings still run extremely high among many Argentinians. Many also claim that the history of the Falklands War is biased – told only from the British point of view.

The Falkland islands have remained under British sovereignty to the present day. The population, who are mostly British speaking and of British origin, have refused any offer to become part of Argentina. Although there was a great deal of damage caused by the war, within five months of the original Argentinian invasion the victorious British troops had left, and the Falklands were once again secure in their position as a British dependency.

Greatest Movie Gadgets

Cars that fly and drive themselves. Spiffy spy tools that see under doors and through walls. Water "Harleys" that fly above and below the surface. Only in the movies, right?

Hollywood may have dreamt these things up, but regular guys are making them for real as we see in a 2-hour special combining clips of recent blockbusters and hilarious old movie serials, along with a look at real-life creations, including intelligence-gathering "insects" and undersea robots.

Gadgets lovers beware your bank accounts!


Join us for a workout of the world's largest machines. See a giant machine press that stamps out an entire car body, a 125-ton chainsaw that cuts through the world's hardest rock and take a long look through the lens of the world's biggest optical telescope.


It’s May 1916. The British Grand Fleet is moored in the peaceful harbour of Scapa Flow off the North Coast of Scotland.

Unchallenged since the Battle of Trafalgar, the global dominance of the British Royal Navy is seemingly assured. But this is all about to change.

The Battle of Jutland between Britain and Germany was the largest naval action of all time. It was a confrontation that the British wanted. An opportunity to unleash their lethal super weapons of the day – the great ships they called Dreadnoughts – and to prove that Britain still ruled the waves.

Yet, in the cold grey waters of northern Europe, the showdown ended in carnage on a scale few could have imagined. Today the ships with their vast gun turrets and thousands of shells still litter the sea bed.

Nine thousand lives were lost, the majority British. Thousands were blown apart in three catastrophic explosions.

Now, using the latest modern science, Battlefield Detectives investigates and asks: what went wrong? Why was Jutland so disastrous for the Royal Navy? And could it be that, in losing the battle, they won the naval war?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Global Warming

What's The Story?
Even the right wing press, normally so quick to diminish the credibility of any ‘green’ issue, gave their front pages over to global warming in the wake of the recent storms and floods in England. The History Channel charts the progress of this problem over the last 100 years. The storms engulfing large swathes of England have dramatically revived the increasingly ominous global warming debate. Today there is no escaping the facts: the vast majority of the country’s, indeed the world’s scientists (so rarely in accord over any issue) agree that the temperature of the earth has been rising for at least a century. “Global warming” is the basic term used to describe this effect. Confusingly, though, the cause of this warming is something that scientists do not agree on. Believers of the greenhouse effect offer the following explanation: heat from the sun enters the Earth’s atmosphere, and is trapped by gases including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapour. The sun’s heat is absorbed by these gases, preventing them from escaping our atmosphere, as they normally would. Simultaneously, there is an increase in the global average temperature. The most threatening of the greenhouses gases is carbon dioxide, because it is the most abundant, and also takes an extremely long time to break down. But omissions of all of them have been accumulating since the industrial revolution, owing to human practices: the coal, gas and oil industries, the razing of forests, numerous agricultural practices and a myriad of other disturbances. At the moment, the rate of carbon emissions is so high that the world’s plants and marine matter are unable to absorb all of it. Concurrently, there is an increase in world temperature. And more and more of the groups and organisations that were initially sceptical, are being swayed towards to the notion that these two occurrences are related. But still as vociferous are the arguments of the greenhouse effect detractors, who point out that from about 800 AD to 1200 AD, the earth's average climate was warmer than it is today - exactly one degree C warmer. Adding to this argument, the point out that there is no evidence of great flooding during this period, or of continents being submerged in water. More persuasive still is the suggestion by some scientists that this period of time is considered a “climactic optimum” – in other words, a fruitful, wonderful moment in the world’s ecology, and not a disaster at all. Global warming is an extremely broad term, however – and the idea that all we’re facing is hotter weather is considered self-deluding. Amongst the possible effects of global warming are an increase in the severity of droughts, extremes of weather, an increase in crop damage by insects, and too high a temperature for many crops to grow in the first place. Furthermore – and this we were given a foretaste of during the floods – vast tracts of land could disappear under water, and mountainous areas effectively lose entire ecosystems. Voices on either side of the argument have been getting steadily louder for over a hundred years, but those of the greenhouse effect theory have arguably been becoming more and more plausible, and harder to shrug off. Droughts and famine in India, starting in 1835 and lasting for four years, led to the very first connections established between environmental damage (in this case deforestation), and change in climate. In 1896, a chemist from Sweden proposed the theory that carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the burning of coal might enhance the greenhouse effect, and cause long-term global warming. However, 20th century thinking on the matter has been far more confusing and disparate. In 1925 an American physicist, Lotka, estimated that industry would cause carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to double in the space of 500 years. A few years after this, however, the public was told to relax – the solution had been found. This ‘solution’ was the invention of chlorofluorocarbons, which were promoted as a panacea to the problem – cheap, non-flammable, and not in any way harmful to the environment. All the worry could be forgotten. The world was completely invincible once again, thanks to these marvellous creations. By the 1940s, however, reports emerged that between 1850 and 1940 amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen by around ten per cent. There was a single voice of warming - one British scientist linked this increase to the warming in parts of northern Europe and North America that had been observed since the 1880s.

Seven Ancient Wonders Of The World Part Two

Seven Historic Wonders visits some of the most majestic monuments of the past, ancient sites that are rich in stories of intrigue and mystery. From the Mayan Temples in the depths of the Mexican Rainforest, to the stone statues of Easter Island, 2000 miles from the nearest human population. We are taken to some of the most amazing places on earth.

VANISHINGS: The Amazing Story Of Shackleton

While attempting to lead the first expedition across the whole of the Antarctic continent, Shackleton and his team disappeared. What happened?


On 19th June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg walked to the electric chair in Sing Sing prison to become the first married couple in the United States to be executed together.

They had been found guilty, at the height of the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts, of spying for the Soviet Union during the Second World War and passing vital secrets of the Manhattan Project, America's atomic bomb programme, to the Russians.

To the end they protested their innocence and controversy continues as to whether they were condemned simply to calm the American public's fear of growing communist power.

Spitfire: Battle For The Skies

Action footage, pilots' accounts and expert commentary - the life story of a charming killer which is far from retired, even 60 years after its finest hour.

The Supermarine Spitfire, designed by R J Mitchell, had its origins in the contest to win the Schneider Trophy - an annual air-speed competition in the 1920s and '30s that attracted enormous international interest. Mitchell's seaplane designs won the trophy on numerous occasions, and when the Air Ministry announced its desire for a new fighter aircraft in 1934, Mitchell decided to adapt his trophy-winning designs for military service.

The resulting aircraft's sleek, streamlined features were a testament to its air-racing lineage. To meet the Air Ministry's demand for eight machine-guns, Mitchell had had to increase the size of the wing, resulting in an elliptical design that also improved manoeuvrability. He'd also modified the design to take advantage of the new Rolls Royce Merlin engine.

The prototype of the Supermarine Type F37/34, as it was then known, first flew in March 1936. The design met all of the RAF and Air Ministry's requirements (the aircraft's top speed of 348mph greatly exceeded their requirement), and an order was placed for 310 aircraft. It was given the name Spitfire, after alternatives including Shrew and Shrike had been rejected. Mitchell himself didn't like the name, but the Air Ministry were pleased with its aggressiveness. Mitchell died from cancer in 1937.

The first Spitfire Mk.Is joined 19 Squadron of the Royal Air Force in August 1938. By the outbreak of the Second World War, nine squadrons were equipped with the Spitfire. The aircraft saw its first combat in October 1939, shooting down a German bomber attacking shipping off Scotland.

Spitfire squadrons were not sent to France in 1939, but were kept at home to provide air defence. They became involved in heavy fighting over the Dunkirk area, during the dramatic evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in June 1940, and were to prove vital in the contest for air superiority over England that followed.

During the intense air combat of July, August and September 1940, the Spitfire would prove itself a match for any German aircraft. It was adored by the pilots that flew it. Their only caveat was that it was a tricky aircraft to taxi, because of a narrow undercarriage and poor visibility - a high proportion of Spitfires were lost to accidents on the ground. But in the air, its natural domain, the Spitfire's speed, handling and eight .303 machine-guns (firing 160 rounds per second) made a lethal combination.

At the height of the Battle of Britain, RAF Fighter Command had 33 squadrons of Hawker Hurricanes, and 18 squadrons of Spitfires. The Hurricane accounted for more 'kills' than the Spitfire, and proportionately was shot down less than the Spitfire. The main reason for this was that Hurricane squadrons were often tasked with attacking enemy bombers, whilst Spitfires, because of their superior performance, engaged the German fighter escort. But it was the Spitfire that became the symbol of the Battle of Britain - not because it was more important than the Hurricane, but simply because it was better looking.

THE ROYAL NAVY: The Sun Never Sets

The beginnings of WWII find England standing alone. Nothing more devastatingly reveals the loss of England's unchallenged naval superiority than the quick and deadly sinking of HMS Hood and other powerful ships of the Royal Navy by Germany's mighty monster, the Bismarck, and deadly raider, the Graf Spee. However, Britain began the long fight back. With the rallying cry, ‘Sink The Bismark!’, and the successful pursuit of the Graf Spee the Royal Navy begins to turn the tide as the U.S. and the Allies join the war. After VE day, in a little known story, British carriers became decisive elements in the war in the Pacific.
After WWII, the downsizing of armed forces and decline of the British Empire, signalled the end of the Royal Navy as a world force. But in the Falklands war in 1982, thousands of miles from home, protecting their rights to one of the last remnants of the Empire, the sinking of the Argentine cruiser Belgrano by a British nuclear submarine, and the successful strikes of the carrier borne Harrier jets, again demonstrated the continuing resolve and effectiveness of the Royal navy. Today, with her nuclear missile subs and jump-jet carriers, the Royal Navy remains a decisive force in NATO, and a powerful reminder of the history and traditions of the extraordinary centuries when Britannia ruled the waves.

The World In A Box

The World in a Box charts the phenomenon of the cult of collecting that swept England in the 17th and 18th century. In the days before television, cabinets satisfied a hunger for spectacle, knowledge and entertainment.

People could admire a dodo, be fascinated by the sight of the human anatomy neatly pickled in jars, and amused by the chance of seeing 'Pontius Pilate's wife's chambermaid's sister's hat'.

Presenter Lisa Jardine, an expert on the Enlightenment, acts as our guide on this journey of rediscovery. She revisits some of the most important collections of the day and explore their owners' different motives; self-advancement, commerce, showmanship and learning.

Of the hundreds of cabinets that once existed, only a handful survived to become our first museums, such as the British Museum and the Ashmolean. Before long, specialisation in art and science pulled apart the unique character of the cabinet.

However, it appears that in modern times the cabinet may be enjoying a new lease of life. New scientific advances of our own mean that old curiosities can bring us new information about the past.

GREAT CRIMES AND TRIALS: The Great Train Robbery

On 8 August 1963, a mail train was ambushed in Buckinghamshire. In one of the largest train robberies ever, the gang got away with several million pounds in used bank notes which were on their way to be pulped.

After a massive search most of the robbers were caught and given long prison sentences. But several escaped and fled abroad, and the story of police attempts to recapture them still hits the headlines today.

DECLASSIFIED: Godfathers of Havana

Forty miles south of Miami, Havana was a tropical paradise fueled by rum, rumba and gangsters.

Havana was visited by the most celebrated Hollywood stars, top Mafia bosses, presidents and politicians, it was a city of glitzy casinos, luxurious clubs, exotic dancing girls and endless nights.

Havana was at the crossroads of the Mafia controlled narcotic super-highway before the Cuban Revolution took down the corrupt, Batiste government.

Until 1959 the close political and economic relations between Cuba and the United States were strongly reflected in the commercial and cultural life of the city.

After the Castro government took control, the U.S. presence in Havana was replaced by that of the Soviet Union, with which the Cuban government maintained close ties.

If Castro and his Cuban communist compadres had not thrown the corrupt Batiste government and Mafia out of Havana in 1958, the Mob would have had no need to develop Las Vegas as the ultimate City of Sin.

Godfathers of Havana exposes a network of extraordinary corruption and the formation of a brutal criminal state on America's doorstep.


Mao was the 20th century's answer to Napoleon: a brilliant tactician, a political and economic theorist, and a statesman who ruled a billion people for three decades.

Mao founded the People's Republic of China and was one of the most prominent Communist theoreticians. Mao's ideas on revolutionary struggle and guerrilla warfare were extremely influential, especially among Third World revolutionaries.

Mao was one of the original members of the Chinese Communist party, he organised peasant and industrial unions (the Kuomintang's Peasant Movement). After the Kuomintang-Communist split in 1927, Mao led the disastrous Autumn Harvest Uprising in Hunan, leading to his ouster from the central committee of the party.

From 1928 until 1931 Mao established rural soviets in the hinterlands, and built the Red Army. In 1931 he was elected chairman of the newly established Soviet Republic of China. After withstanding five encirclement campaigns launched by , Mao led (1934-35) the Red Army on the to Yan'an in Shaanxi province, emerging as the most important Communist leader.

The civil war between the Communists and the Kuomintang continued during and after the war with Japan. In 1949, after the Communists had taken almost all of mainland China, Mao became chairman of the central government council of the newly established People's Republic of China.

In an attempt to break with the Russian model of Communism Mao launched (1958) the . The failure of this program resulted in 20 million people starving to death and a break with the Soviet Union, which cut off aid. Mao accused Soviet leaders of betraying Marxism. In 1959 replaced Mao as chairman of the central government council, but Mao retained his chairmanship of the Communist party politburo.

The (1966-76) was led by Mao and his wife and directed against the party leadership who were removed from power in 1968. In 1969 Mao re-asserted his party leadership by serving as chairman of the Ninth Communist Party Congress, and in 1970 he was named supreme commander of the nation and army.

The Cultural Revolution group continued its campaigns until Mao's death in September 1976. A month later its leaders were purged and Mao's surviving opponents slowly regained power. In death Mao has become divine, worshiped as a god in a godless country. Considering who and what he ruled, Mao, with his Little Red Book, might just be the single most powerful human being who ever lived.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

1926: First liquid-fueled rocket

The first man to give reality to dreams of reaching the stars is American Robert H. Goddard, who successfully launches the world's first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts, on March 16, 1926. At a speed of about 60 mph, the rocket traveled a 184-foot trajectory in 2.5 seconds. The rocket was about 10 feet tall, and made up of a series of thin pipes. Although Goddard's rockets failed to garner the type of attention enjoyed by the famous aviators of his day, the historic significance of his work is staggering in retrospect.
1521Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan reaches Philippine Islands.
1534England severs all relations with Roman Catholic papacy.
1690France's King Louis XIV sends troops to Ireland to fight for King James II.
1812Austria, in alliance with France, agrees to provide an army for Napoleon Bonaparte.
1872The first English FA Cup takes place at The Oval in London.
1888The first recorded sale of a manufactured motor car. Emile Roger of Paris buys a petrol driven Benz .
1917Russia's Tsar Nicholas II abdicates and Prince George Lvov, Paul Milivkov and
1922Britain recognises the Kingdom of Egypt under Faud I, with joint Anglo-Egyptian sovereignty over Sudan.
1926The first liquid-fuelled rocket is demonstrated in the USA by Dr Robert H Goddard.
1935Germany repudiates disarmament clauses of Versailles Treaty signed at the end of World War I.
1945World War II: US Marines bring an end to Japanese resistance on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima.
1971British heavyweight champion Henry Cooper announces his retirement after his controversial defeat by title challenger Joe Bugner.
1973Queen Elizabeth II opens the new London Bridge - the old one having been sold to an American oil tycoon for £1m and transported to the United States.
1992South African President F.W De Klerk makes final plea to whites to end apartheid.
1994Russia agrees to phase out production of weapons-grade plutonium.
1998Sir George Martin, producer of The Beatles in the 1960s/1970s announces his retirement, aged 73.
1787German physicist Georg Simon Ohm.
1751James Madison US President.
1925Jerry Lewis, U.S comedian.
1951Canadian-born actress Kate Nelligan.
1998Baby doctor Benjamin Spock, aged 94.

SECRETS OF THE BLACK BOX: Aloha Air Flight 243

On the 28th April 1988, an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737, based at Honolulu International Airport, with 89 passengers onboard, was scheduled for a series of inter-island flights.

As the airplane leveled at 24,000 feet, both the pilots heard a loud "clap" or "whooshing" sound followed by a wind noise behind them. The captain observed that the cockpit entry door was missing and that there was blue sky where the first-class ceiling had been.

The aircraft had suffered an explosive decompression and lost approximately 1/3 of its roof! One flight attendant was ejected from the aircraft. But, through the heroic efforts of the crew, which were captured by the plane's Black Box, the plane was skillfully guided to a safe landing back at Honolulu.

Incredibly, the pilots had managed to fly the aircraft for nearly a half-hour with a full third of the aircraft's roof missing.

The American Civil War :The Road To War

The American Civil War marked a turning point in the history of conflict. Between 1861 and 1865 the world would witness devastating new weapons and tactics that finally brought an end to Napoleonic warfare and ushered in a brutal and bloody new era which would culminate in the horrendous casualties of the Western Front. The war that divided a nation would have implications that affected the entire world – introducing new concepts from mass production and ironclads to machineguns – it would usher in the age of modern warfare and would leave a nation mourning hundreds of thousands of its Background The war was essentially a battle between two sides that were, on the face of it, almost totally alike. Comrades who had fought side-by-side defending a young nation now found themselves at loggerheads, families were divided and bitterness and destruction littered the land of the free. However, the roots of the conflict are not as simple as is often believed. Far from being the great crusade to free the slaves the conflict had its roots in the very independence won from Britain a century before. The revolutionary state that had established its autonomy in 1783 was not as unified as is often believed; indeed the seeds that would eventually lead to civil war were sown almost 100 years before the first shot was fired. childrenIt was in the days of the adoption of the Constitution that fundamental differences between north and south were created. At the time these divides were dwarfed by their common interest in establishing a new nation but, once established, the political divide that split the country gradually asserted itself. . North-South divide During the 19th century the south remained almost completely agricultural, with an economy and social order largely founded on slavery and the plantation system. These mutually dependent institutions produced the staples, especially cotton, from which the south derived its wealth. The North had its own great agricultural resources, was more advanced commercially, and was also gaining status as the leading power of the nation. As it began to expand, northern industrialists hoped that emancipated slaves would leave the south and provide the labour that they so desperately needed. However, the key chasm which existed between the two sides was their attitude to slavery. While the north contained so called ‘free-states’ where slavery had been abolished, the south remained as ‘slave states’ and bitterly resisted any moves to enforce emancipation.

SHOOTOUT: Iraq's Ambush Alley

On March 23, 2003, a 1200-man battalion of U.S. Marines close in on the Iraqi city of An Nasiriyah. Its mission to seize two bridges, one on each end of town.

They had to hold the bridges open so that another convoy of Marines could go through, on its way to Baghdad. The feedback from intelligence analysts was that Nasiriyah might actually welcome the Marines.

Saddam had oppressed the city’s inhabitants for years, so they were not fans of the Hussein regime. However shortly before the U.S. Marines arrival, roughly 3,000 of Saddam loyalists had quietly infiltrated Nasiriyah. They intimidated citizens, stockpiled weapons and prepared fighting positions.

Saddam's men were not able to hold off the Marine onslaught, however the Americans paid a high price to capture the town.


How did the Ancient harness Power? Did the inventors of the classical era and beyond have an understanding of the amazing power and properties of modern inventions?

Did Archimedes use solar power to defeat the Romans? Was he the first to concentrate the power of the sun? Early historical accounts of the battle of Syracuse in 212BC claim that Archimedes used polished shields to focus light onto the sails of the invading Roman ships and set them ablaze. But there are other intriguing and incredible objects.

Sitting in the National Museum of Iraq is an earthenware jar about the size of a man's fist. Its existence could require history books throughout the world to be rewritten. The jar appears to be an electric battery pre-dating Christ. Did the ancient world master electricity nearly two millennia before the modern world?

A recent discovery of a floor mill in Barbegal, southern France contained 16 waterwheels which operated the mill. Is this one of the first examples of a Roman Industrial revolution technology - 1800 years before our own?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

EMPEROR KARL I 1887-1922

Karl succeeded to the thrones of the Austro-Hungarian 'dual monarchy' following the death of in November 1916. A relatively liberal figure, he believed that continuing the war would lead to the destruction of Austria-Hungary, and he made several attempts to negotiate a separate peace with the Allies. When news of this was made public, it placed a great strain on Austria-Hungary's relationship with Germany. Karl's French wife Zita disliked Germany and this, in part, may have influenced his political decisions.A reformer, Karl banned flogging in his armies, prohibited duels and limited the use of poison gas. He replaced the long-standing chief of staff Conrad von Hötzendorff with his own nominee Arz von Straussenberg to gain more control over military policy. However, this only succeeded in alienating his military élite. As the Austro-Hungarian empire began to crumble, he began to allow his soldiers to join their national armies, a development that accelerated the empire's disintegration.Karl renounced his constitutional powers on 11 November 1918, and went into exile in Switzerland in spring 1919. Following two unsuccessful attempts to regain the crown, the successor regime in Hungary prohibited his return, and he died in relative poverty in Madeira in 1922.


As Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1908-15 Liberal government, Lloyd George helped to pass the 1911 National Insurance Act, legislation that helped create the basis of the welfare state. He then served in Asquith's War Cabinet as minister for munitions and secretary of war. However, disgruntled with the leader's management of the war, he helped to engineer Asquith's removal in December 1916 and became Prime Minister himself.Lloyd George clashed repeatedly with General over the latter's conduct of the war. He also later claimed that he had helped to defeat the U-boat threat by forcing the Admiralty to adopt the convoy system.Lloyd George represented Britain at the Paris Peace Conference and helped to mediate disputes between US President and French Premier . Britain's dominions were anxious to press their own demands for empire, and so much of Lloyd George's attention was devoted to the expansion of British imperial interests. Britain emerged from the war with territories in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), South West Africa (Namibia) and Togoland (Togo), and mandates in Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq).Lloyd George's reputation suffered after the war when it was alleged that he had offered honours in return for financial gain. By this stage, Britain was racked by high unemployment, economic problems and troubles in Ireland, and Lloyd George was forced to resign in 1922. He never held high office again and declined an offer to join Winston War Cabinet in 1940.


A leading general of the war, Ludendorff worked closely with to fashion some of Germany's greatest military successes.Ludendorff, quartermaster general in von Bulow's Second Army in 1914, helped to capture Belgian forts in the Liège area before being sent east to assist in Hindenburg's defence of Prussia. There he helped to plan the victories of and the Masurian Lakes. When Hindenburg became chief of staff in August 1916, Ludendorff followed him as first quartermaster general, forming the .Hindenburg and Ludendorff, plus leading industrialists and senior army officers, ran Germany as a military dictatorship during the last two years of the war. When Bulgaria sought an armistice on 28 September 1918 and the Allies broke through the on the following day, the generals realised that Germany would lose the war. As a result, they returned power to the civilian politicians.Moving to Sweden after the war, Ludendorff wrote a number of books praising the resilience of the German army. He returned to Germany to take part in the Kapp Putsch and Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch, and represented the Nazis in the Reichstag between 1924 and 1928. Hitler attended his funeral in 1937.A gifted general, questions persist over Ludendorff's temperament and lack of strategic vision. While he had an undoubted eye for battlefield tactics, some critics suggest that he was blind to the bigger strategic picture and this contributed to the ultimate failure of the 1918 Michael offensive. By July 1918, he had only had three days off in four years and when his beloved step-son was killed, he became morbidly attached to the boy's body, refusing to send it home. When Ludendorff learned that Bulgaria had initiated peace talks with the Allies on 28 September, he suffered a seizure.Hindenburg and Ludendorff can also be jointly blamed for failing to exploit the Russian Revolution more speedily by withdrawing all but a skeleton force from the Eastern front. The 1.5m troops stationed there continued to soak up vital resources, food and transport at a time when they could have been used more effectively in the west.


Although he was only German foreign secretary for 10 months during 1916-17, Zimmermann exercised a profound influence over world politics and the First World War. From August 1914, Zimmermann, then director of the eastern division of the German foreign office, was in contact with Sir Roger Casement - an Irish-born British consular official and member of the outlawed Irish Volunteers - and agreed to provide help for a planned uprising against British authority. In the event, the ship transporting the German weapons arrived at the wrong time and was intercepted by the British. However, the still went ahead in 1916 and proved to be a major watershed in British and Irish political life. Casement was hanged for treason.In early 1917, Zimmermann was involved in the scheme which allowed Lenin and other Bolshevik to return to Russia from exile following the first revolution against the Tsar. The foreign secretary and others hoped that Lenin's return would undermine Russia's war effort and destabilise the provisional government. These hopes were realised when the Bolsheviks seized power in October. The new government and the Central Powers quickly concluded a ceasefire and treaty that eventually released half a million German soldiers for service on the Western Front.However, Zimmermann will be best remembered for his unsuccessful attempt to foment war between Mexico and the US in 1917. The to his ambassador in Mexico was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence, and its contents relayed to the American authorities. Five weeks after details of the telegram were published in the US press (and Zimmermann confirmed their authenticity), the United States declared war on Germany. This greatly influenced the outcome of the entire conflict.