april 1961


April 12th 1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space

On this day in 1961, the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into outer space. Gagarin, a fighter pilot, was the successful candidate for the mission, being selected by Russian space programme director Sergei Korolev. Russia already had a lead in the Space Race, having launched Sputnik 1 in 1957, which was the first satellite in space. On April 12th 1961, Gagarin left Earth aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft, famously declaring ‘Poyekhali!’ (which means ‘Let’s go!’ in Russian). He spent 108 minutes completing an orbit of the planet. Upon re-entering the atmosphere, Gagarin executed a successful ejection and landed by parachute in rural Russia, to the consternation of locals. Yuri Gagarin became famous worldwide and a Russian hero, being awarded the nation’s highest honour - Hero of the Soviet Union. Gagarin died in 1968 when the training plane he was piloting crashed; his ashes were buried in the walls of the Kremlin.

“Don’t be afraid, I am a Soviet citizen like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!”
- Gagarin to some stunned farmers when he landed

John & Paul (1961)

23 April 1960 - Today in Beatles History John and Paul perform as a duo at  a bar, the Fox and Hounds on the outskirts of Reading, Caversham, Berkshire,  billing themselves as ‘The Nerk Twins.”

“At first, nobody went into the tap room to watch them,” recalled Mike Robbins, the then landlord of the pub. “My regulars were in the other bar, saying “Who are these Nerk Twins, then?”

The unlikely performance happened because Mike’s wife Betty was Paul McCartney’s cousin. The couple had both worked as Butlins Redcoats before taking on the pub and the teenage Lennon and McCartney were keen to get their advice.

‘It was the Easter school holidays and John and I had hitchhiked down from Liverpool to help out in the pub,’ Paul McCartney recalled. ‘We generally dossed around for a week and worked behind the bar. Then Mike said that me and John should play there on the Saturday night. So we made our own posters and put them up in the pub: “Saturday Night – Live Appearance – The Nerk Twins”.

‘It was the smallest gig I’ve ever done. We were only playing to a roomful, a small, throbbing roomful.” - excerpt from the article, “Meet The Nerk Twins - what John and Paul called themselves in their only ever gig as a double act – in front of three drinkers at a sleepy Berkshire pub” by Geoff Baker, Daily Mail, 18 October 2008


Czechoslovakian serial killer Marie Fikáčková reconstructs the killings of newborn babies she murdered while working as a nurse in the hospital in Sušice between 1957-1960.  She admitted to killing at least 10 babies by beating them around the head. Fikáčková  was found guilty of only two murders since the prosecutor could not prove other killings. She was sentenced to death by hanging and executed on April 13, 1961. 

Her motive remains unknown. 


M A R A U D E R S | Mary April Macdonald (April 14th, 1961 - March 23th, 1979)

She was bold and radiant as the sun. No matter when Sirius needed someone, Mary would be there. No matter when James needed a hand with hitting on Lily, she would be the one around to tell the red haired to give it a chance. No matter when Remus was feeling low, she would go an play a prank until he would find strenght to laugh. No matter when Peter would trip, she would purposely fall along with him and laugh for hours. Because those were golden years, those were the good memories. She was more alive than anyone - and when she left, the clouds ate the sun.

Harald Riipalu (born as Harald Reibach) (13 February 1912 in St. Petersburg, Russia – 4 April 1961 in Heckmondwike, United Kingdom) was an Estonian military commander and one of four such commanders who earned the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross while serving with the German army during World War II.

She stood at the podium, her scar clearly visible and offered her breathless thanks. “I don’t really know how to express my gratitude for this, and for everything. All I can say is thank you with all of my heart.” It was generally thought it was the prize she should have won for Suddenly, Last Summer, had her personal reputation not been so bad at the time. Shirley MacLaine, who lost for The Apartment, griped, “I lost to a tracheotomy.” But, Elizabeth had not changed her mind about the film. Backstage at the Oscars she announced to anyone that would listen, “I still think it’s a piece of shit.”

Elizabeth at the 33rd Academy Awards at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium where she won the Oscar for Best Actress in ’BUtterfield 8’. (April 17, 1961)

U.S. military ‘flying jeeps’ as seen in Avro Canada’s company literature - In 1955 the U.S. Air Force took over funding of Avro engineer ‘Jack’ Frost’s VZ-9 Avrocar ‘Project Y-2′ with the hope of developing a supersonic large disk fighter aircraft, designated as Weapons System 606A. Progress with the design was slow - by April 1961 the NASA Ames prototype model was able to reach a speed of 100 knots (190 km/h or 118 m/h), and while this test had the best results so far, more modifications were still necessary to correct an unstable pitch problem. A USAF/NASA flight evaluation of a second prototype was made in June 1961 - the results were very disappointing showing a range of control problems. In March 1961, U.S. funding ran out. In December 1961 the U.S. military officially cancelled the Avrocar and related WS-606A supersonic VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) programs.  (image via wikipedia)