22 August 565: The Loch Ness monster is spotted for the first time
Scotland’s famous water monster is banished to the bottom of the river Ness by a humble monk
The story of the Loch Ness Monster was first popularised when a road was built across the loch in 1933. But when scholars investigated, they discovered that the first possible sighting had actually occurred in the days of the semi-legendary St Columba, who supposedly confronted the creature on 22 August 565.
An Irish monk who had sailed to Scotland to spread the gospel of Christ, Columba was visiting the land of the Picts when he reached the river Ness. There he came across some locals burying one of their friends, whom: “some water monster had a little before snatched at as he was swimming, and bitten with a most savage bite”.
Columba ordered one of his acolytes to swim across the river and to bring back a boat. But now the water monster made an appearance. “Not so much satiated as made eager for prey,” explained a chronicler, it was “lying hidden in the bottom of the river.” But now it “suddenly emerged, and, swimming to the man as he was crossing in the middle of the stream, rushed up with a great roar and open mouth”.
All were terrified – except Columba “With his holy hand raised on high,” the chronicler recorded, “he formed the saving sign of the cross in the empty air, invoked the Name of God, and commanded the fierce monster, saying: ‘Think not to go further, nor touch thou the man. Quick! Go back!’”
The monster fled, while Columba’s followers loudly praised God. As for the locals, they converted on the spot. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook
22 August 1485: Richard III is hacked to death at Bosworth
The divisive king’s two-year reign comes to a bloody end
It is one of William Shakespeare’s most memorable scenes. As Richard III sleeps before the battle of Bosworth, he is visited by the ghosts of the men and women he has murdered. “Despair and die!” they tell him again and again.
Richard wakes with a start: “Give me another horse. Bind up my wounds,” he gasps. “Have mercy, Jesu!”
In reality, we have no idea what passed through Richard’s mind in the early hours of 22 August 1485, one of the most decisive days in English history. The former Duke of Gloucester had been king for just over two years, having seized the throne from his young nephew Edward V in a controversial coup.
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Even now Richard continues to divide opinion: while some see him as a child- murdering usurper, his admirers point to his well-earned reputation as a soldier and administrator. Yet when Richard woke that morning, he must have known that his crown hung by a thread.
Two weeks earlier his rival Henry Tudor had landed at Milford Haven in Wales with an army of Lancastrian exiles and French mercenaries. On paper, Richard could count on some 10,000 troops, double that of Henry’s army. But which way would the powerful Stanleys, who controlled much of the North West, jump? Richard had Lord Stanley’s son, George, as a hostage. But would that be enough to secure their support?
Historians still argue about exactly what happened – and where – that day. What seems certain is that somewhere outside Market Bosworth, the two rivals clashed, while the Stanleys’ men stood by and waited. When Henry made to ride towards the Stanleys, Richard tried to intercept him, but was cut off from his main forces and hacked to death. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook
22 August 1642
King Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham calling on all loyal subjects to join him. In doing so, he effectively declared war on his opponents. It was considered a bad omen that the standard was soon blown down by a strong wind.
22 August 1914: The First World War’s bloodiest day
A poorly planned gamble results in the slaughter of 27,000 French fighters
In Britain, few days in modern history have been more exhaustively chronicled than the opening day of the battle of the Somme, but it was not the bloodiest day of the First World War. That dubious honour belongs to Saturday 22 August 1914, when the flower of the French army was cut down during the clashes known as the “Battle of the Frontiers”.
The war on the western front was just a few weeks old, and the fighting had yet to settle down into the attrition of the trenches. Both sets of combatants – the British, French and Belgians on one side, the Germans on the other – were eager to go onto the offensive. And while the Germans were scything through Belgium, following their infamous Schlieffen Plan, the French commander, Joseph Joffre, had a plan of his own.
Under Plan XVII, his men were supposed to drive across the border, through the Ardennes and into Germany’s borderlands of Alsace and Lorraine, which France had lost a generation earlier. In French planners’ minds, the cavalry would lead a dazzling charge, resplendent in their bright red-and-blue uniforms. They gave little thought to camouflage, let alone to the terrible new military technology the men would face, from machine guns to barbed wire.
The French rode east, sweat pouring be- neath their gleaming helmets. On the horizon, through the heat haze, they made out the ene- my lines, German soldiers poised behind their machine guns. “They look like something from a picture book,” one of the Germans thought. On went the French – into the arms of death. As the German guns spat out their deadly rat- tle, French blood seeped into the soil. “Rain is falling,” wrote one French sergeant, “shells are screaming and bursting ... Whenever it stops we hear the wounded crying from all over the woods. Two or three men go mad every day.”
On a single Saturday, some 27,000 Frenchmen lost their lives, as well as an unknown number of Germans. It was the most lethal day in French military history. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook
22 August 1910
Korea was formally annexed by Japan. The annexation treaty was signed for Korea by Prime Minister Lee Wang-Yong after Emperor Sunjong refused to do so.
22 August 1922: The ‘idol of Ireland’ is assassinated
Republican leader Michael Collins is killed in a shoot-out with anti-treaty forces
Early on Tuesday 22 August 1922, Michael Collins left Cork’s Imperial Hotel to visit his troops in rural West Cork. The Irish Civil War was just two months old, but Collins’s Free State army manifestly had the upper hand. Some speculated that he was hoping to strike a deal with his adversaries in the IRA, who opposed the treaty that had secured only partial independence from Britain. Given that West Cork was an IRA heartland, many thought Collins was inviting a sniper’s bullet. But he was more optimistic. “Don’t suppose,” he said, “I will be ambushed in my own county.”
Some time before 8pm, Collins’s convoy was on its way back through the hamlet of Béal na Bláth when anti-Treaty men opened fire. His friend Emmet Dalton shouted to keep driving, but Collins yelled: “No, stop and we’ll fight ’em,” and began firing back. What followed was a few confused moments of shouting and shooting. Then the firing stopped and Dalton heard a cry: “Emmet, I am hit.”
In Dalton’s words, they “rushed to the spot, fear clutching our hearts”. In the lane was their “beloved chief... a gaping wound at the base of his skull. We immediately saw that he was almost beyond human aid; he did not speak.”
A few moments later, Collins was dead. “How can I describe the feelings that were then mine, kneeling in the mud of a country road,” wrote Dalton, “with the still bleeding head of the idol of Ireland resting in my arms.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook