18 May

The anniversary of Monte Cassino

Monte Cassino

So we are drinking a...

Monte Cassino

"The Polish flag is flying over the ruins of the ancient Italian monastery which has been a symbol of German resistance since the beginning of the year." So ran the news on this day in 1944.

When Polish soldiers raised the flag of Poland over Monte Cassino it was the culmination of a struggle that had lasted four months. Men who had started the war fighting a vast, modern army on horseback in defence of their country were now working their way home. Or so they thought.

Monte Cassino was a critical conflict in World War II - some estimate it left a quarter of a million men dead or wounded. Allied forces - Americans, Britons, New Zealanders, Canadians, Indians, Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Nepalis and Poles - made four attempts to take the mountain to open the way to Rome. Along the way they caused one of the worst cultural disasters of all World War Two - they bombed a monastery that was over 1400 years old.

And the Polish soldiers? Many of them would never go home - fearing that, like the Cossacks, they'd end up in Communist concentration camps, or worse. We're toasting them, and everyone who fought in this forgotten battle, with a Monte Casino, created by Damon Dyer.

It's also the day Jackie Cochran broke the Sound Barrier

You've probably not heard of Jackie Cochran. Unlike her contemporary, Amelia Earhart, she didn't disappear - in fact, she lived into her 70s.

But, on this day in 1953, Cochran set one of her 200 aviation records, piloting an F-86 fighter to become the first woman to break the sound barrier. 11 years later, at the age of almost 60, she would fly at faster than twice the speed of sound.

During World War II she came close to bringing women pilots into the U.S. Air Force, decades ahead of her time: after the war, she was made a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Rather fabulously, she asked to be buried with a sword the Air Force Academy had given her -- in case, she said, she needed to fight her way out of hell. Jackie Cochran! We salute you. And we're toasting you with the classic Jack Rose cocktail.

It's also International Museum Day

Today is International Museum Day, and around the world curators and librarians will be throwing spectacles and caution to the winds, and throwing their museums open to the public. Wait, what's so different about that?

Established in 1977, each year this day "helps raise awareness of how important museums are in the development of society." Around the world, some 30,000 museums across more than 120 countries will be celebrating International Museum Day with special activities and exhibitions.

So, in honour of those museum curators and librarians, we are turning our attentions to not a museum piece, but a 20th Century Cocktail.

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