On this day in history, February 26

‘It was like a scene from hell.’

‘It was like a scene from hell.’

Published Feb 26, 2024


More than just dates and boring facts

1531 An earthquake in Portugal kills tens of thousands of people, flattening much of the city of Lisbon.

1616 Galileo is banned by the Roman Catholic Church from teaching or defending the view that the earth orbits the sun, and, thus, that the earth is not the centre of the universe, as per the church’s teachings.

1815 Napoleon escapes from imprisonment on Elba and he and his supporters set out to re-conquer France.

1844 A violent earthquake hits Cape Town although there is not much to destroy. Other quakes, caused by the Milnerton Fault, occurred in 1811, 1809, 1695 and 1620.

1852 The English troop carrier, the Birkenhead runs aground off Danger Point, Gansbaai, and her sinking becomes one of the earliest maritime disaster evacuations during which the concept of ‘women and children first’ is known to have been applied. Owing to too few lifeboats, the chivalrous soldiers stand back, allowing the women and children to escape. The ‘Birkenhead drill’ of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, Soldier an’ Sailor Too, came to describe courage in face of hopeless circumstances.

1936 Adolf Hitler introduces Ferdinand Porsche’s Volkswagen (the people’s car).

1960 A New York-bound Alitalia airliner crashes into a field next to a cemetery in Shannon, Ireland, shortly after take-off. Of the 52 people on board, 34 were killed in what a local priest described as, ‘a scene from hell’.

1991 Coalition planes have a field day, bombing Iraqi forces retreating from Kuwait during the Gulf War, killing hundreds and creating the so-called ‘Highway of Death’.

1995 The world’s second-oldest merchant bank, Barings Bank, collapses after rogue securities broker Nick Leeson gambles away billions of pounds while speculating.

2001 The Taliban destroy two giant Buddha statues – the largest standing Buddhas in the world – in Bamyan, Afghanistan.

2018 A 7.5 magnitude earthquake in central Papua New Guinea kills at least 100 people.

2020 For the first time in living memory, Saudi Arabia bars overseas pilgrims from accessing religious sites of Mecca and Medina because of Covid-19 fears.