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24 March: On this day in history

What events happened on 24 March in history? We round up the events, births and deaths…

Published: March 24, 2022 at 7:09 am
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24 March 1458

In a public display of friendship known as the "Loveday", Yorkist and Lancastrian leaders walk together through the streets of London to St Paul's Cathedral for a service of reconciliation. Those present include Henry VI and Queen Margaret, the Duke of York and his supporters, the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury, and the Lancastrian Dukes of Somerset and Exeter. The intention is to show that the divisions caused by the battle of St Albans in 1455 have healed but within 18 months the two sides will once again be at war.

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24 March 1560

Thomas Bentham, Gilbert Berkeley and Edmund Guest were consecrated bishops of Coventry and Lichfield, Bath and Wells, and Rochester respectively.


24 March 1603

King James VI & I succeeds to the throne of England after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. His ascension unites England and Scotland under one king, after centuries of continual war and political tension.


24 March 1944: The Great Escape arouses Hitler’s fury

Audacious plan springs 76 PoWs out of Stalag Luft III

It was half past 10 when the first Allied prisoner crawled out of the tunnel into the snow, just short of the line of trees around the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III, in Lower Silesia. After months of preparation, the Great Escape was on.

Immortalised in the much-loved 1963 film – a fixture in Britain’s Christmas television schedules – this staggeringly audacious escape attempt was the brainchild of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, whose Spitfire had been shot down over Calais.

“The only reason that God allowed us this extra ration of life,” Bushell famously told his fellow prisoners in the spring of 1943, “is so we can make life hell for the Hun. In North Compound we are concentrating our efforts on completing and escaping through one master tunnel. No private-enterprise tunnels allowed. Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug – Tom, Dick and Harry. One will succeed!’

Bushell was right about that. Although the Germans were on the lookout for escape attempts, they never dreamed that the prisoners would dig three tunnels at once. For the rest of the year, work went on, the prisoners disposing of the sand by shaking it from makeshift pouches hidden in their trousers. The ‘Tom’ tunnel was discovered in September, and ‘Dick’s’ planned exit became covered by a camp expansion, but by the following March, ‘Harry’ was ready.

As night fell on the 24th, the men chosen for the escape attempt assembled in Hut 104.

By the time the Germans realised the prisoners were getting out, 76 men had crawled to freedom. The snow was so deep that they were forced to use main roads rather than forest paths, as they had planned, and all but three were soon recaptured. Hitler wanted them all shot; in the end, 50 were executed. Among them, sadly, was Roger Bushell. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook


24 March 1711

Birth of physician and chemist William Brownrigg. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1742, Brownrigg's interests included salt manufacture and the nature of gases. In 1750 he produced the first scientific report on the properties of platinum.


24 March 1759

Death in Hampshire of General Henry Hawley. His brutal treatment of the defeated Jacobite rebels after the battle of Culloden in 1746 earned him the nickname 'Hangman Hawley'.


24 March 1877 

The 34th University Boat Race ends in a dead heat.

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24 March 1882

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet and translator of Dante, died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, aged 75.

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