On this day: Start of spring

Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 20 March:

70 years ago today Vesuvius erupted violently above Naples. Picture: Getty
70 years ago today Vesuvius erupted violently above Naples. Picture: Getty

Vernal equinox – start of spring.

1602: The Dutch East India Company was founded by Netherlands government.

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1616: Sir Walter Raleigh was released from Tower of London to seek gold in Guiana.

1815: Napoleon returned from banishment on Elba to regain power in France. It was his “Last 100 Days” and ended in his defeat at Waterloo.

1851: Marble Arch was unveiled at its present site in London after being moved from near Buckingham Palace.

1852: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was published. She said it was written at the dictation of God. It sold a million copies in the first year.

1916: Allies agreed on partition of Turkey.

1917: Hospital ship Asturias was torpedoed by German U-boat.

1933: The Nazis opened a concentration camp at Dachau, near Munich.

1935: The British Council was established.

1944: A major eruption of Vesuvius began.

1957: Britain accepted Nato offer to mediate in Cyprus but Greece rejected.

1966: World Cup football trophy was stolen from Central Hall, Westminster.

1974: An attempt was made to kidnap Princess Anne in the Mall in London.

1980: The pirate radio station Radio Caroline ceased broadcasting after 16 years, when its home, the ship Mi Amigo sank.

1981: Isabel Peron, former president of Argentina, was jailed for eight years for corruption.

1990: Namibia gained independence from South Africa.

1993: A three-year-old boy died and 56 people were injured when an IRA bomb trap blasted shoppers in Warrington.

1993: President Boris Yeltsin declared emergency rule in Russia.

1996: The government admitted for the first time there was a possible link between BSE and the deaths of ten people.

2003: In the early hours of the morning, military operations began in Iraq.

2010: British Airways cabin crew began a three-day walkout over pay and working conditions.

2010: Pope Benedict XVI apologised to victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. In a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, he acknowledged the sense of betrayal in the Church felt by victims and their families.


Holly Hunter, actress, 56; Freema Agyeman,actress, 35; Baroness Ashton of Upholland, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, 58; Liz Burnley CBE, Chief Guide of Girlguiding UK 2006-11, 55; Yvette Cooper, Labour MP, 44; William Hurt, actor, 64; John Joubert, British composer, 87; Spike Lee, actor, film director and producer, 57; Dame Vera Lynn, singer, 97; Theresa Russell, actress, 57; Ian Derek Francis Ogilvie-Grant, 13th Earl of Seafield, 75; Greg Searle MBE, Olympic oarsman, 42.


Births: 43BC Ovid, poet; 1724 Duncan MacIntyre (Donnachadh Ban), Gaelic poet; 1828 Henrik Ibsen, playwright; 1873 Sergei Rachmaninov, composer; 1890 Beniamino Gigli, tenor; 1908 Sir Michael Redgrave, actor; 1911 Ginger Rogers, dancer, actress.

Deaths: AD687 St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne; 1413 King Henry IV of England; 1727 Sir Isaac Newton, scientist and mathematician; 1751 Prince of Wales, Frederick Louis; 1937 Harry Vardon, six times Open golf champion; 2010 Harry Carpenter OBE, sports commentator.