100 years ago

A war contribution of eight million sterling had been imposed by Germany upon the city of Brussels.

The total population of Brussels, with its extensive suburbs, was 720,347, so that the contribution imposed by the Germans amounted to about £11 a head on every man, woman, and child. If the authorities of the city refused to pay, it was probable that the Germans would threaten to destroy the city.

This, however, was not the limit of the German blackmail. The Mayor of Liège, in the name of the military commander, had issued a proclamation stating that the military authorities were imposing upon the Province of Liège a war tribute of £2,000,000, to be borne by all the inhabitants, and collected by the municipal and civic administration. Adding this to the demand for £8,000,000 from Brussels, the total which Germany hoped to acquire was thus £10,000,000.


50 years ago

Which was the busiest airport in the world? Different people produced different statistics to give different answers. The question had been prompted once more as a result of a notice posted at London Airport.

The notice apologising to travellers for inconvenience caused by extensive development projects began: “London (Heathrow) Airport is the busiest international airport in the world.” The operative word was “international”. The busiest airport in the world was Chicago O’Hare, which the previous year had totalled a phenomenal 426,994 take-offs and landings. It was followed by a gaggle of other busy American airports. But all these catered for a heavy network and internal air routes.

Purely in terms of comings and goings, London Heathrow came way down the airport “league table,” with 168,538 movements in 1963. But Heathrow handled more international flights and passengers than anywhere else in the world.


25 years ago

Another 100,000 people were to be moved from their homes because of the Chernobyl disaster three years before, announced Soviet authorities.

The Ukraine evacuation had been ordered as the commission organising the clean-up campaign admitted the work to clear radiation had “not been effective.”

Thousands of people were evacuated from the area close to the plant within weeks of the disaster, but others were still accusing officials of a cover-up. Rates of cancer had increased in areas officially said to be safe. The multimillion-pound operation would take months to complete. The initial evacuation had involved 135,000 people from areas within a 20-mile radius of the blast site.

Soviet authorities had never revealed the full extent of casualties. Around 80 people were thought to have died in the initial blast.