On this day in history, December 13

Bedraggled, ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is dragged from a hole in which had had been hiding. Picture: AFP

Bedraggled, ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is dragged from a hole in which had had been hiding. Picture: AFP

Published Dec 13, 2023


What happened back in the day on this date

1294 Saint Celestine V resigns after just five months after becoming pope, saying he wants to return to his humble life as a hermit. He is subsequently imprisoned to prevent his potential installation as antipope.

1577 English explorer Sir Francis Drake sets sail on his round-the-world voyage, which would involve plundering the Spanish Main, aboard the ship he would rename Golden Hind.

1642 Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovers the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand.

1880 After repeated attempts to have the annexation of the Transvaal revoked, a meeting at Paardekraal resolves to restore the Republic, starting the Transvaal War of Independence, or First Anglo-Boer War.

1916 The first 2 000 of 10 000 troops are killed by avalanches on White Friday – one of the bloodiest days of the Battle of the Dolomites. The little-known but fierce campaign, the White War, was fought in the high-altitude Alpine sector of the Italian front World War I.

1937 Nanjing (Nanking) falls and it brings one of the worst atrocities of World War II. Over the next six weeks Japanese soldiers attack, rape and kill about 200 000 people.

1939 The German raider and pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee engages the Allied cruisers HMS Exeter, Ajax and HMNZS Achilles in the Battle of the River Plate.

1957 Jerry Lee Lewis 22, one of the big stars of the early rock ’n’ roll years, ‘marries’ the daughter of his cousin– a union that was to cause a storm of outrage because he had already been married twice and his latest wife was just 13. In 2012, he took Judith Brown for his seventh wife.

1964 US and Mexican presidents Lyndon Johnson and Gustavo Diaz Ordaz set off an explosion diverting the Rio Grande, to reshape the US-Mexico border.

2003 Cornered like a rat in a hole, on-the-run former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is captured and pulled from the hole he was hiding in, near his home town, Tikrit.

2017 Prehistoric bones of a penguin as tall as a human are found in New Zealand.

2017 Scientists begin checking the interstellar asteroid Oumuamua for signs of alien technology.

2022 New Zealand passes the world’s first tobacco ban, barring those born after January 1, 2009 from ever being able to legally buy cigarettes. The penalty for those breaking the law: up to a whopping NZ$150 000 (R1.7 million). England is impressed and draws up its own plans. In November 2023, the Kiwi idea is shelved in favour of using revenue from tobacco sales to fund tax cuts | The Historian