9 June 721

An Ummayad army under the command of Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani was crushed at the battle of Toulouse by a Frankish force led by Duke Odo of Aquitaine. Al-Samh was mortally wounded.


9 June 1812

Birth in Radis, Wittenberg, of German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle. In September 1846 Galle became the first person to observe Neptune in the knowledge that it was a planet.

9 June 1865: Charles Dickens survives a deadly train crash

The author joins in with the relief effort

On the afternoon of 9 June 1865, Charles Dickens was sitting in a first-class train compartment racing across the Kent countryside. The author had visited Paris with his mistress, Ellen Ternan, and her mother – and now all three were heading back to London.
But the train would never reach its destination. At 3.13pm, as it sped across a viaduct at Staplehurst, it hit a missing section of the track, which had been removed by workmen. The train was thrown into the air, plunging seven carriages into the quagmire below. Dickens’s carriage was dragged partially off the bridge.

Luckily, the author was able to clamber free. He then rushed to the carcass of the crushed train to offer his help. He must have been greeted by a shocking scene: 10 passengers had died in the crash and 40 more were injured. According to one eyewitness, Dickens offered “comfort [to] every poor creature he met who had sustained serious injury”, and delivered brandy to a man dying on the banks.

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Amid the turmoil, Dickens still found time to return to his carriage to retrieve an impor- tant item. There, from his overcoat pocket, he recovered the manuscript of the latest instalment of the novel he was working on.

The Staplehurst train crash affected Dickens for the rest of his life. Following the incident, he suffered “faint” and “sick” sensations. Yet he still completed the novel. It would be known as Our Mutual Friend. | Written by Helen Carr

9 June 1870

Charles Dickens died at his home at Gad’s Hill Place near Rochester leaving his final work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. It was also the fifth anniversary of a railway crash in which the train Dickens boarded with his mistress, Ellen Ternan, and her mother left the tracks near Staplehurst. He had asked to be buried “in the small graveyard under Rochester Castle wall” but national demand was such that after a private ceremony he was laid to rest in the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

9 June 1873

London’s Alexandra Palace was destroyed by fire only 16 days after its official opening. Three members of staff were killed and an exhibition of over 4,000 items of English pottery and porcelain was destroyed in the blaze.

9 June 1909

Alice Huyler Ramsey, a 21-year-old housewife and mother from Hackensack, New Jersey, sets off from Manhattan on a 3,800 mile journey that will make her the first woman to drive across the United States of America from coast to coast. She is accompanied by two older sisters-in-law and a female friend, none of whom can drive. Driving a 30 horse-powered Maxwell she will complete the journey in 59 days despite a dozen punctures and two broken axles. Over the coming decades she will drive across the country more than 30 times.

9 June 1934

The world’s most famous duck, Donald, makes his first appearance in the short Walt Disney cartoon The Wise Little Hen, based on the fairy tale of The Little Red Hen.

9 June 1983: Thatcher wins again

The prime minister is returned for a second term

Even before the polling stations closed at 10 o’clock on Thursday 9 June 1983, few people doubted what the outcome would be. For months, opinion polls had pointed to a landslide victory for Margaret Thatcher’s governing Conservative party, and a devastating defeat for Michael Foot’s Labour opposition. “The victory was certain,” began the BBC’s news the next day. “For Margaret Thatcher there had never been any doubt. The only question: just how large would it be?”

Halfway through her first term, with Britain in recession and unemployment above 3 million, Mrs Thatcher had been the most unpopular PM since polling began. But now, having led her party to 397 seats in the biggest victory since 1945, the victor of the Falklands War was mistress of all she surveyed.

That night, as she and her husband Denis waved to supporters outside Tory headquarters in London, the congratulations were pouring in. Ronald Reagan phoned twice from Washington, while Helmut Kohl sent a telegram from Bonn. “Have a nice day,” read a card accompanying flowers from her advertising men, Maurice and Charles Saatchi, while the BBC radio presenter Jimmy Young sent “warmest congratulations on a superb victory”. There was a gushing letter, too, from another BBC presenter. “We all thank God,” wrote Jimmy Savile, “that we can rest peacefully in our beds for another five years.”

But not everybody was quite so delighted. “I think the country has something terminally wrong with it, to vote for Thatcher a second time,” wrote Julie Burchill in The Guardian.


And, in the Morning Star, the miners’ leader Arthur Scargill warned that it was now time for the unions to fight back. “People will have to take direct action,” he said. “That means we will have to consider very seriously taking political strike action.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

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