[The BBC's long-running current affairs programme Panorama risked its considerable credibility to take the piss out of a whole nation on this day in 1957 with an elaborate April Fools' Day prank; as narrated by Richard Dimbleby, 8 million British viewers were treated to images of a bumper crop of spaghetti, owing (it was said) to an unseasonably warm winter and the eradication of the spaghetti weevil. Oh... My sides... Ow...]
1293 - Following the death of John Peckham his successor Robert Winchelsey left England for Italy, where he would eventually be consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury at Aquila by Pope Celestine V in September 1294.
1854 - Charles Dickens began serializing his novel Hard Times in his magazine Household Words; the final installment was published on August 12th.
1873 - En route from Liverpool to New York City during her 19th voyage, the steamer SS Atlantic of the White Star Line sank after striking an underwater rock called Marr's Head 50 metres from Meagher's Island off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing 547.
1918 - The Royal Air Force was created by merging the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.
1946 - Uniting the Malay States and the Straits Settlements - but excluding Singapore - the Malayan Union was formed as a successor to British Malaya to unify the Malay Peninsula under a single government so as to simplify administration; the first governor was Sir Edward Gent and the capital was located at Kuala Lumpur.
1957 - A prank broadcast by the BBC had many Britons convinced that, among other things, spaghetti grew on trees in Switzerland.
1969 - The first Harrier jets entered service with the RAF.
1976 - The Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect was first reported on the BBC by astronomer Patrick Moore.
1990 - 1,000 prisoners at HM Prison Manchester, better known as Strangeways, rioted to protest overcrowding; actually a series of riots, the violence began in the prison chapel, spread to the roof, and eventually lasted 25 days, making it the longest prison riot in British history. During the hostilities one prisoner was killed and 47 others as well as 147 prison officers were injured.
2000 - The Enigma Machine was stolen from Bletchley Park; it was returned, anonymously, to BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman the following October with some of its crucial parts missing and a note demanding random. Antiques dealer Dennis Yates was later arrested, charged, and imprisoned for his part in the theft.
2006 - The Serious Organised Crime Agency, dubbed the 'British FBI', was created.
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