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Key Events of the 20th Century Quiz

Here is a discussion and quiz based activity relating to 50 key events of the 20th Century.

The idea is to discuss each event and decide which were the most significant. Some are positive, for example great achievements, and some are negative, for example disasters. But all of these events will either be remembered or known about and each of them helped develop humanity in some way, whether it be improved quality of life and experience or lessons learned to improve safety.

Important note. Biographical assessment should determine any members who have been directly or indirectly effected by these events. Take great care, especially when discussing disasters.

​17th December 1903

Wilbur & Orville ****** created the first powered airplane which flew for the first time at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina on this date.

Name the brothers?

​18th April 1906

San Francisco suffered a devastating earthquake, 8.25 on the Richter scale. More than 3,000 people died and 80% of the city was destroyed.

Name the fault?

​14th December 1911

Roald Amundsen led the first (Norwegian) expedition to reach the South Pole on this date.

They beat which British explorer's team who perished a month later?

​15th April 1912

'RMS Titanic' sank on this date after striking an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Of its 2,204 passengers and crew, only 706 survived.

Name the shipping company?

​25th December 1914

On Christmas morning on this date peace broke out along the Western Front, carols were sung, football was played and rations were shared.

Whose assassination started the war?

​6th February 1918

The 'Representation of the People Act' passed, allowing some women to vote for the first time. However, it wasn't until 1928 that women finally achieved full equality.

Who was the leader of the 'Suffragette Movement'?

​26th November 1922

Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered in the 'Valley Of Kings' in Egypt by the archeologist Howard Carter and his funder Lord Carnarvon.

How old was the 'Boy King' when he died?

​21st July 1925

Donald Campbell broke the world land speed record in his vehicle 'Blue Bird'. He surpassed a speed of 150mph for the first time.

Where, until fairly recently, was the car buried?

​7th September 1927

Known as 'The Father Of Television', John Logi Baird first succeeded in transmitting moving light on this date.

What year was colour TV introduced in the UK?

​28th September 1928

Alexander Fleming discovered the world's first broadly effective antibiotic substance on this date.

What did he call it?

​6th May 1937

The 'Hindenburg' disaster occurred in New Jersey. The German commercial passenger airship leaked gas on landing and a spark caused it to explode. 35 passengers and crew died, but 62 survived.

What was the gas that exploded?

​​30th November 1934

The 'Mallard' became the first steam locomotive to reach a speed of 126mph. It still holds that steam record.

What is a Mallard?

​4th June 1940

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his rousing "We shall fight on the beaches" speech to the House of Commons and the country.

What were the 5 code names for the Normandy landing beaches?

​9th July 1941

Alan Turing broke 'The Enigma Code' in Bletchley Park. His work shortened the war by two years and saved 14 million lives.

Which Sterling note does he feature on?

​3rd September 1944

This German born diarist was taken from her family home in Amsterdam to Auschwitz. Six million Jews and hundred of thousands of people from other minority groups died in the 'Holocaust'.

What was her name?

​8th May 1945

'VE Day' signalled the end of the Second World War for British and allied forces following Germany's unconditional surrender.

What did 'V.E.' stand for?

​6th August 1945

The United States detonated an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb killed a quarter of a million people and led to Japanese surrender.

What was the name of the plane that dropped the bomb?

​2nd June 1953

Elizabeth Windsor became Queen Elizabeth 11 in a Coronation at Westminster Abbey, aged 27. Her husband Philip Mountbatten was at her side.

Where was she when she learned of the death of her father George V1?

​29th May 1953

Edmund Hillary and sherpa Tenzing Norgay succeeded in becoming the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

In which mountain range would you find Mount Everest?

​6th May 1954

Roger Bannister succeeded in breaking the 4-minute mile. However, his record breaking run was broken just 46 days later.

Who is the fastest man in the world today (he has held the record since 2009)?

​28th June 1960

An underground explosion killed 45 of the 48 miners underground at the 'Six Bells Colliery' in Abertillery. A spark from a stone falling onto a steel girder was later found to be the cause.

What gas is 'firedamp'?

​12th April 1961

Uri Gagarin became the first man in space, completing one orbit before coming back down to earth. The flight lasted 108 minutes.

What was the name of the first satellite launched into space in 1957?

​28th August 1963

Martin Luther King gave his "I have a dream" speech during a march for freedom in Washington. He called for an end to racism and equal rights for black African-Americans.

Who later shot him on 4th April 1968?

​22nd November 1963

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas age 46. His wife Jacquie Onassis was unharmed.

Who shot him?

​30th July 1966

England won the 'FIFA World Cup' at Wembley, beating West Germany 4-2.

Who captained the team, pictured here holding the trophy?

​21st October 1966

A colliery spoil tip collapsed onto 'Pantglas Junior School' and nearby houses in Aberfan. 144 people died, including 116 children.

Which organisation was to blame for the disaster?

​1st July 1969

Prince Charles investiture saw him become the Prince Of Wales at Caernarfon Castle, aged 20.

T or F. The 'jewel' on top of the crown is in fact a ping pong ball?

​20th July 1969

The 'Apollo 11' mission successfully landed 'The Eagle' landing module on the moon. It was "One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind".

Name the three astronauts?

​15th February 1971

'Decimalisation Day' finally came about, changing our currency from pounds, shillings and pence to a simpler decimal system.

Name the pre decimal coins?

8th August 1974

President Richard Nixon resigned on this date, after being impeached following a break-in and burglary of classified documents and wiretapping, which were covered up by Nixon himself.

What was the scandal called?

​4th May 1979

Margaret Thatcher was elected as Britain's first female Prime Minister, defeating Labour's James Callaghan government. Probably her greatest achievement was helping end the 'Cold War'.

What was her nickname?

​8th December 1980

John Lennon was shot and fatally wounded in the archway of the 'Dakota' building by Mark David Chapman.

What is the name of his wife?

​2nd April 1982

Argentine forces invaded the Falklands Islands. War was declared and lasted 74 days. 255 British and 649 Argentinian lives were lost.

What do Argentinians call the Falklands?

​​20 May 1983

The HIV virus was named on this date. 40.4 million people died as a result of the AIDS epidemic. Effective medication is now available to control the condition.

Who was the first person to die in the UK (a charity is named after him)?

​23rd October 1984

On this date came the first reports of a famine in Ethiopia. Drought and conflict were largely responsible for over 1 million deaths.

What was the name of the BBC reporter who first covered the story?

​13th July 1985

'Live Aid' benefit was held on this date at Wembley Stadium. Organised in 10 weeks, 75 acts performed to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief. Over 1.9 billion (40% of the world's population) watched it.

Which two pop stars organised the event?

​28th January 1986

The space shuttle 'Challenger' broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members aboard. The programme was grounded for 3 years and finally ended in 2011.

What do the initials 'N.A.S.A.' stand for?

​26th April 1986

The Chernobyl incident occurred when a nuclear reactor exploded, killing 30 staff and firemen within 3 months and more later. There remains in place a 20 mile exclusion zone.

Which animals in Wales were contaminated by radiation?

​6th March 1987

The Zeebrugger ferry capsized on this date after its doors were left open on leaving Belgium. 193 passengers and crew lost their lives.

What was the name of the ship?

​15th October 1987

Hurricane force winds hit the UK, causing devastation to homes and lives. Winds peaked at 120mph.

Who got the weather forecast wrong?

​21st December 1988

Shortly after 7pm a 'Pan Am' Boeing 747 was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew. 11 Lockerbie residents also died.

What was the name of the plane?

​12th March 1989

Tim Berners-Lee invented the 'World Wide Web'. It was initially for information sharing between scientists, but soon evolved into a global phenomenon.

What first connected us to the internet?

​15th April 1989

A fatal crush occurred just before kick off at a football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield on this date. There were 97 victims.

Which newspaper is banned in Liverpool?

​9th November 1989

The 'Berlin Wall' fell, resulting in East and West Germany reuniting. It was built in 1961 at the start of the 'Cold War'. 260 people died trying to flee to the West.

Which US President said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

​6th May 1994

The Queen and President Francois Mitterrand formally opened the Channel Tunnel. 'Eurostar' passenger operations began in November 1994.

T or F. The 'Chunnel' is the longest undersea tunnel in the world?

​10th May 1994

Nelson Mandela became the first black President of South Africa in its first democratic election, signalling the end of apartheid.

On which island was he held prisoner?

​1st May 1997

New Labour under Tony Blair's leadership won a landslide election, achieving a 179 seat majority and ending 18 years of Conservative government.

What is his wife's name?

​31st August 1997

Shortly after midnight on 31st August 1997, Princess Diana was involved in a car crash in Paris and died from her injuries some hours later at 6am in hospital. She was 36.

Who also died in the accident?

​10th April 1998

The 'Good Friday Agreement' was signed in Belfast by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, signalling the end of hostilities between the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities.

What was the conflict often called?

​31st December 1999

The 'Millennium Dome' opened on the bank of the Thames at Greenwich. People across the UK celebrated the end of the century and the start of the noughties.

Name some other buildings funded by the 'Millennium Commission'?

Which other significant events are missing from this list?

Which do you think are the most important or memorable?

These are the best selling artists of the 20th century.

Which music legends would you add (somebody that has recorded over several decades)?

You might like to play some of their tracks?

Here are some songs associated with the above pictures ...

Spotify Playlist ...

Wright Brothers

San Andreas Fault

Captain Falcon Scott on the 'Terra Nova'

'White Star Line'

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Emmeline Pankhurst


Pendine Sands in West Wales

1st July 1967 ('Wimbledon' was broadcast in colour)




Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword


Anne Frank

'Victory In Europe'

'Enola Gay'

'Treetops' in Kenya


Usain Bolt


'Sputnik 1'

James Earl Ray

Lee Harvey Oswald

Bobby Moore

'National Coal Board'

True (the jewel was missing, so they spray painted a ping pong ball gold)

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins

Farthing, halfpenny, penny, threepence (thrupenny bit), sixpence (tanner), shilling (bob), florin, half-crown, crown (20 shillings in a pound)


'The Iron Lady'

Yoko Ono

Islas Malvinas

Terence Higgins

Michael Buerk

Bob Geldof and Midge Ure

'National Aeronautics and Space Administration'


'MS Herald Of Free Enterprise'

Michael Fish

'Clipper Maid of the Seas'


'The Sun' (who falsely reported the incident was caused by fans)

Ronald Reagan


Robben Island


Dodi Fayed & Henri Paul

"The Troubles"

Millennium Bridge, London

London Eye

Eden Project, Cornwall

Falkirk Wheel

Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth



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