History of Great Britain, from 1/2/1901 to present
From the death of Queen Victoria to now
See also Ireland
See also Economy & Prices
See also Sports and Games
Colour key: Note The following time periods may also include preliminary events and aftermath.
World War Two events (1933-47)
World War One events (& arms race)
27/8/2017, A mystery gas cloud drifted in over Beachy Head from the sea; 233 people were taken to Eastbourne Hospital with eye irritation and breathing difficulties. The cloud was possibly chlorine from a ship cleaning out its container tanks.
8/6/2017, UK General Election. Theresa May, Conservative Prime Minister, had hoped to make large gains, as two years after the 2015 election which gave the Conservatives a majority of just 6, she was well ahead of Labour in the opinion polls in April 2017. However during the election campaign she proposed financial limits on payment for dementia care which would have meant many older people having to sell their home rather than pass it to their families. By the time the election was held her opinion poll lead had shrunk to just 1% to 7%. The results were, Conservatives 318, loss 18; Labour 261, gain 31; Liberal Democrats 12, gain 3; SNP 35, loss 19; DUP 10, gain 2; Sinn Feinn 7, gain 3; UKIP 0 (no change) Green 1 (no change), Others 12. Prime Minister Theresa May was forced into a coalition with the DUP to maintain majority government; this could limit her hand on Brexit, since the DUP does not want a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
22/5/2017, An Islamist terrorist set off a bomb at a music concert in Manchester. 22 were killed and 59 injured..
18/4/2017, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called a surprise snap General Election for 8/6/2017. With opinion polls showing the Conservatives ahead at 44% against Labour’s 23%, under their unpopular leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Conservatives stood a hood chance of enhancing their current majority of 17 to perhaps over 100. However Corbyn said he would not stand at this election, so Labour might have a more electable leader by then.
28/3/2017, Late this evening, UK Prime Minister Theresa May signed Article 50, triggering the exit process of the UK from the EU. The letter was delivered to Donald Tusk (Poland), President of the European Council, on 29/3/2017. The two-year negotiation process was started; however after the inconclusive UK General Election of 8/6/2017 this timetable was looking tight.
13/3/2017, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, announced she would campaign for a second referendum on independence from the UK. This was in response to the imminent triggering of Article 50 by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, starting the exit process from the EU.
3/11/2016, Britain’s High Court ruled that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, could not trigger Article 50 to leave the EU without Parliamentary approval. This ruling was later upheld by the Supreme Court. This opened up the possibility of Parliament severely delaying or even thwarting the Brexit process.
13/7/2016, Theresa May became Conservative Prime Minister as Cameron resigned. She won with the backing of some 60% of Tory MPs. Other contenders, including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom, had backed out of the leadership contest. The UK had still not yet invoked Chapter 50.
26/6/2016 The fallout from the Brexit vote continued. David Cameron delayed invoking Chapter 50, which would kickstart a 2-year procedure to negotiate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Cameron expressed a preference for his successor as Tory leader to undertake these negotiations. Meanwhile EU leaders were pressuring the UK to invoke Chapter 50 soon. The EU leaders feared further ‘Exit’ referenda in countries like France, The Netherlands, Denmark, possibly Sweden, in Spain, Greece, and even Germany and the Czech republic. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s, position seemed precarious as ten of his Cabinet resigned, over his lacklustre support for the Remain campaign. There was debate within the UK as to whether the Referendum result was actually binding, especially if a UK General Election ensued within a few months, which itself would require legislation to amend the five year rule for such elections. Also by this afternoon, nearly 3.4 million people had signed a petition asking for a second Brexit Referendum; some signatures were suspected of coming from outside the UK.
23/6/2016 The UK voted 51.9% to leave the European Union in the so-called Brexit referendum. David Cameron resigned as Conservative Prime Minister. The actual figures were, OUT, 17,410,742, IN, 16,141,241, Turnout = 72.2%.
16/6/2016, Jo Cox, 41, MP for Batley and Spen, a Yorkshire constituency, was killed, shot and stabbed, by Mr Tommy Mair. Mr Mair supported the far-Right and was against immigration, and perceived Ms Cox as favouring immigration.
19/2/2016, Prime Minister David Cameron concluded negotiations for a deal redefining the relationship between the UK and the EU. This was a preliminary move before a UK referendum to be held on whether the UK should leave the EU. On 20/2/2016 the date for this referendum was set for 23/6/2016.
21/8/2015, Britain and Iran re-opened their embassies in each other’s capitals. This followed a nuclear agreement between Iran and the USA organised by US President Obama (but not yet ratified by US Congress).
7/5/2015, General election in the UK. David Cameron won a narrow majority for the Conservatives with 331 seats. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) swept the board in Scotland, winning 59 of the 59 seats there; Labour lost a large number of MPs there, also losing seats to the Conservatives in England; Labour finished with 232 seats. The Liberal Democrats crashed to just 8 seats, from 56. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) won 12.6% of the vote but obtained just one MP, in Clacton; their leader, Nigel Farage, lost his Thanet South seat to the Conservatives. The UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and the Labour leader Ed Miliband all resigned. The Conservatives picked up voted from Liberal Democrats and from UKIP supporters afraid of a Labour-SNP coalition; UKIP came second in over 100 constituencies. Voters may also have feared a Leftist government creating an economic crisis similar to that recently suffered by Greece.
4/12/2014, Former leader of the UK Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe, died aged 85. He became Party Leader in 1967, having been MP for North Devon since 1959.
29/11/2014, Across Britain, mystery explosions or sonic booms were heard. There were also reports of an explosion in Manchester, and near Catterick barracks, where a six-mile stretch of the A1 was closed, but no damage was to be found. Theories ranged from falling satellite debris to meteorites to secret MoD experiments.
20/11/2014, In Britain’s Rochester and Strood by-election, UKIP won its second MP.
9/10/2014, UKIP got its first MP elected in the Clacton by-election, taking the seat from the Conservatives, as voters concerns about immigration rose. UKIP also came close to winning another by-election this day in Heywood & Middleton, Manchester; Labour held the seat by just 617 votes.
18/9/2014, Referendum in Scotland on independence from the UK; the vote was 55.4% against independence (‘No’), .44.6% ‘Yes’, for independence. Had the been vote for independence, Scotland would have become independent on 24/3/2016.
.26/8/2014, A long history of child abuse in Rotherham emerged, mostly by Pakistani men against White girls. As many as 1,400 children may have been abused between 1997 and 2003, some whilst they were in childrens’ homes. Local authorities were accused of covering up the abuse, for fear of provoking racial discord.
5/8/2014, Baroness Warsi resigned from Cameron’s UK Conservative Government. She had criticised the UK Government’s refusal to condemn Israel over the assault on Gaza.
14/3/2014, Anthony Wedgewood Benn, Labour politician, died aged 88. Against UK membership of the European Union, he was on the left of the Labour Party, and fought to renounce his hereditary peerage so he could sit in the Commons as an MP.
13/2/2014, George Osborne, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, warned that an independent Scotland (see 18/9/2014) would not be able to keep the Pound as a currency.
10/2/2014, In the UK, MPs voted to ban smoking in cars carrying children. Legislation will probably follow.
18/12/2013, Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs died aged 84. The robbery was in 1963.
8/4/2013, Mrs Thatcher the former Conservative PM died, aged 87.
29/4/2011, Prince William married Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey, to become the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 2 billion people around the world watched the ceremony on TV.
16/11/2010, Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement, eight years after meeting at Edinburgh University.
8/11/2010, Queen Elizabeth II joined Facebook. By late 2015 her page had over 2.2 million ‘likes’.
23/9/2010, The world’s biggest windfarm was inaugurated off the UK coast at Thanet, Kent.
7/5/2010, UK General Election; Conservative leader David Cameron formed a coalition with the Liberals.
3/3/2010, Former British Labour Party leader and writer Michael Foot died, aged 96.
4/12/2009, The UK’s Ministry of Defence closed its special unit for monitoring UFO sightings, which had operated for over 50 years.
25/7/2009, The last British veteran of the Western Front in World War One, Harry Patch, died aged 111. A week earlier the oldest veteran, Henry Allingham, had died aged 113.
7/4/2008, The six-month-long official inquest into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed in a car crash in a Paris road tunnel ended. The inquest had cost £10 million, and concluded that Henri Paul, the driver, was drunk and crashed into a pillar whilst trying to avoid the paparazzi.
21/12/2007, Queen Elizabeth II became the oldest reigning monarch in British history.
27/6/2007, In the UK, Gordon Brown became Labour Prime Minister as Tony Blair resigned from the Commons.
25/8/2006, The Office for National Statistics announced that in June 2005 the population of the UK had reached 60 million
11/12/2005, An oil storage depot at Buncefield, near Hemel Hempstead, caught fire, at 6.am on a Sunday morning. Fortunately at this time hardly anyone was around, and there were only 42 injuries and no fatalities. However there was considerable damage; the blast was heard 100 miles away, the depot burned for 3 days, sending a plume of thick black smoke over large areas of southern England.
4/7/2005, Violent demonstrations in Gleneagles, Scotland, against the G8 Summit Meeting there.
5/5/2005, In the UK General Election, New Labour was re-elected but with a substantially reduced majority.
9/4/2005, Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, in a ceremony briefly postponed after the death of the Pope. Camilla assumed the titles of Her Royal Highness and The Duchess of Cornwall.
9/10/2004, Queen Elizabeth II opened the new Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh.
18/11/2003, US President Bush visited Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK; there were ongoing protests against the US war on Iraq.
6/11/2003, Michael Howard became the new Conservative Party Chairman.
4/9/2003, The Bullring in Birmingham, Europe’s largest shopping centre, was opened by Sir Albert Bore.
18/7/2003. David Kelly, defence expert, was found dead, reported as ‘suicide’. The issue was over whether Iraq really could have launched ‘weapons of mass destruction’, assuming it had any, within 45 minutes or whether New Labour had exaggerated the threat to swing public opinion behind Tony Blair’s decision to fully back US President George W Bush in his attack on Iraq. Kelly had been named by a government source, potentially ruining his future career. See 22/5/2003 and 1/8/2003.
26/6/2003. Denis Thatcher died, leaving his wife, Margaret, former PM, a widow.
5/1/2003, Roy Jenkins, former Labour Chancellor and leader of the SDP (Social Democratic Party) in the UK, died.
5/12/2002. Asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iraq entered Britain legally from the Sangatte refugee camp in France. Britain had agreed to accept 1,200 asylum seekers as part of a deal with France to close the camp near the Channel Tunnel entrance.
15/11/2002, Myra Hindley, murderer, died (born 1942).
3/5/2002. Barbara Castle, Labour politician, died aged 92.
30/3/2002. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died, aged 101. At 11.30am on 9/4/2002 Britain came to a halt for two minutes to commemorate her funeral, which was at 2pm in Westminster Abbey.
30/10/2001. Farmer Tony Martin, who shot dead a teenage burglar, was cleared of murder.
25/9/2001, Queen Elizabeth II was given her first mobile phone.
17/9/2001. John Hume stepped down as leader of the nationalist SDP (Social Democratic Party).
13/9/2001, Iain Duncan Smith became leader of the UK Tory Party.
19/7/2001, Lord Archer, Conservative Deputy Chairman and novelist, was sentenced to four years prison for perjury and perverting the course of justice. See 24/7/1987.
7/7/2001, During race riots in Bradford, Yorkshire, the Manningham Labour Club was burnt down.
7/6/2001. In the UK, New Labour won a second term at the elections. Tony Blair won another landslide victory, with Labour taking 413 seats against 166 for the Tories and 52 for the Liberal Democrats. Turnout was down to 59%, the lowest since 1918, down on the 71% in 1997.
16/5/2001, John Prescott, Labour Deputy Prime Minister, tussled with Craig Evans at an election rally in Rhyll, north Wales.
7/5/2001, The Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs returned to the UK. He served just 15 months of a 30-year sentence before fleeing to Brazil; escaping extradition by fathering the baby of a 19-year old stripper. Partially paralysed by two strokes, Biggs intended to have a last visit to a British pub before he died; instead he was arrested at Heathrow and sent to Belmarsh Prison to complete the remainder of his sentence.
31/1/2001, The Scottish Court in The Netherlands convicted one Libya and acquitted another on charges related to the bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
11/10/2000, Donald Dewar, Scottish politician, died.
27/8/2000. The notorious criminal, Reggie Kray, who was suffering from bladder cancer, was to be released from prison so that he could spend his last few weeks at home.
23/8/2000. Sir Richard Branson appeared to have won the bid to run the National Lottery after being given a month to satisfy the Lottery Commission’s questions. Both Sir Richard’s and Camelot’s bids were rejected.
30/5/2000, In Birmingham, England, demolition of the old Bullring Centre began.
15/5/2000. The Eden Project was launched in Cornwall, at a cost of £79 million, housing thousands of plants from around the world.
3/5/2000. The trial of the Lockerbie bomb suspects began.
31/1/2000, Dr Harold Shipman was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of at least 15 of his patients, of a total of 365 suspected victims.
1/1/2000, In the UK it became illegal for retailers to sell in anything but metric units.
11/11/1999, 752 hereditary peers lost their voting rights in the House of Lords. They had formed a majority of the 1330 House. However 92 of the hereditaries had a stay of execution, until reforms of the House of lords were completed.
11/8/1999, A total eclipse of the Sun was visible in south west England. However the weather was cloudy.
9/8/1999, Charles Kennedy, 39, was elected as new leader of the Liberal Democrats, succeeding Paddy Ashdown.
1/7/1999, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Scottish Assembly.
26/6/1999. There were problems at the UK’s Passport Office, with queues for passports reaching a record 530,000.
16/6/1999, Screaming Lord Sutch (born 1940), committed suicide.
8/6/1999, Jonathan Aitken, former British Government Minister, was jailed for perjury.
26/5/1999, The first Welsh Assembly for 600 years opened in Cardiff.
6/5/1999, Elections to the new Welsh and Scottish Assemblies were held.
16/3/1999, The 240-acre Bluewater Shopping centre opened near Dartford, Kent; it was then Europe’s largest retail and leisure centre. It stood on the site of the former Blue Circle chalk quarry.
14/10/1998, Labour announced its intention to remove the 700 year old voting rights of the hereditary peers in the House of Lords. Of the 1,165 members of the House of Lords, 476 were committed Tories against 175 for Labour, Amongst the hereditary peers, there were 304 for the Tories against 18 regular Labour supporters. In 1999 Labour announced a compromise whereby 91 hereditary peers could remain in a ‘transition’ House of Lords, whilst a Royal Commission decided its eventual form.
13/8/1998, UK authorities warned of a rat invasion, saying there were 750,000 rat-infested homes in Britain.
31/3/1998, The RAF withdrew its nuclear bombs from service, leaving submarine-based Trident missiles as the UK’s only nuclear deterrent.
18/9/1997, Wales voted in favour of devolution and a National Assembly. The ‘yes’ vote was much narrower than in Scotland, with a majority of just 6,721 votes in favour.
11/9/1997, Scotland voted in favour of a devolved Assembly. In Scotland, 73.4% of those voting favoured a National Assembly, and 63.5% favoured the Assembly having tax-raising powers.
31/8/1997. Death of Diana, Princess of Wales, born 1961, along with Dodi Al Fayed, born 1955, in a car ‘accident’ in a road tunnel in Paris. See 28/8/1996.
3/7/1987, Sir Gordon Downey’s report into the ‘cash for questions’ scandal in the found that two former Conservative ministers, Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith, received payment from Mohammed el Fayed in return for asking questions in the House of Commons.
2/7/1997. Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave Labour’s first Budget speech for 18 years.
19/6/1997, Following the resignation of John Major as Conservative leader, William Hague, 36, became its youngest leader since 1783.
11/6/1997, The UK Parliament voted for a total ban on handguns.
3/5/1997. (1) Tony Blair was officially sworn in as Prime Minister. Tony’s father was the son of music hall artists Charles Parsons and Gussie Bridson. He was illegitimate however, so was adopted by a Glasgow shipyard worker, James Blair.
(2) The former Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, was admitted to hospital with chest pains days after the General Election. It was announced that he would not be contesting the Conservative leadership.
1/5/1997. New Labour won the UK general election, defeating John Major’s Conservative Party. Tony Blair, 43, became the youngest Prime Minister since 1812, with a majority of 179. Labour won 410 seats against the Conservative’s 169. Labour won 44.4% of the vote; the Conservatives got 31.4%. The Conservative administration had, at 18 years, been the longest serving government of the 20th century.
12/12/1996, After Labour won the Barnsley East by election, the Conservatives no longer had a majority in the House of Commons.
16/10/1996. Proposals to ban most handguns in the UK, in the aftermath of the Dunblane massacre.
28/8/1996. The Prince of Wales, Charles, and Princess, Diana Spencer, divorced. See 31/8/1997.
13/3/1996. The Dunblane Massacre in Scotland; 16 children and a teacher died. The unstable misfit Thomas Hamilton, 43, entered Dunblane Primary School and shot a teacher and 16 children in the gym, injured another teacher and 5 children, then shot and killed himself. This began a debate in the UK and other countries on banning handguns.
28/2/1996. The Princess of Wales, Diana, announced that she had agreed to divorce Prince Charles.
25/11/1995, Rosemary West, aged 41, was sentenced to life for killing 10 women and girls, including her daughter and stepdaughter. Lodgers at their house at 25 Cromwell Street Gloucester had also been murdered. Rosemary’s husband Fred West, 53, had hanged himself whilst in custody at Winson Green prison, Birmingham, on 1/1/1995.
9/10/1995, Sir Alec Douglas Home, British Conservative Prime Minister 1963-4, died (born 2/7/1903).
6/8/1995, British licensing laws were relaxed to allow pubs to open from 12 noon on Sundays onwards.
4/7/1995, John Major won the battle to lead the Conservative Party, beating John Redwood by 218 votes to 89.
24/5/1995, Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister 1964-70 and 1974-76, born 11/3/1916, died.
5/5/1995, The Conservative Party did badly in local council elections, losing control in 62 councils in England and Wales, retaining control in just 8, whilst Labour gained 42 to control a total of 155, and the Liberal Democrats gained 14 to control a total of 44. The Conservatives had also done badly in the Scottish local council elections of 6/4/1995, failing to gain a single one of 29 unitary authorities there. Prime Minister John Major faced a challenge to his leadership.
29/4/1995, Tony Blair got the Labour Party to drop Clause 4, which had called for common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. In a modernising move, away from Socialism, the change to a commitment to work for a just society, dynamic economy, and healthy environment was backed by 65.23% of votes.
17/3/1995, Ronnie Kray died.
1/1/1995, Fred West, accused of mass murder, hanged himself inside Winson Green prison, Birmingham.
19/11/1994. First National Lottery draw in the UK. Seven people shared the UK£ 15.8 million jackpot prize. 25 million people bought tickets, over half the adult population, raising UK£ 45 million, half of which went on ‘good causes’.
1/11/1994, Sydney Dernley, Britain’s last surviving executioner, died aged 73.
21/7/1994, Tony Blair was elected leader of the UK Labour Party. At 41 he was the youngest leader ever. John Prescott was elected Deputy Leader.
12/6/1994, In European Parliamentary elections, the Tories won only 18 seats to Labour’s 62.
12/5/1994. In the UK, Labour Party leader John Smith died suddenly of a heart attack, aged 55. On 17/7/1994 Tony Blair was elected leader of the Party.
24/2/1994, Police in Gloucester began excavating the property of Frederick West at 25 Cromwell Street. He and his wife were arrested on 28/2/1994.
10/1/1994, UK Prime Minister John Major started his ‘Back to Basics’ campaign, calling for a return to old-fashioned family values.
3/12/1993, Diana Princess of Wales announced her retirement from public life.
24/11/1993. Two 11 year old boys, John Venables and Robert Thompson, were found guilty of the murder of 2-year-old James Bulger in Liverpool. Judge Michael Moreland suggested watching violent video films had contributed to the boy’s actions. They were sentenced to ‘indefinite detention’.
12/11/1993, Britain refused to join a worldwide ban on dumping nuclear waste at sea.
24/10/1993, Jo Grimond, UK Liberal Party leader, died.
18/10/1993, As part of UK defence cuts, the privatisation of Devonport and Rosyth naval dockyards was announced.
2/8/1993. The UK ratified the Maastricht Treaty.
19/7/1993. A poll in the UK showed only 37% of Britons believed Prince Charles was fit to be King.
5/7/1993, Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, major cuts were announced to Britain’s Royal Navy.
See Russia for breakup of Soviet Union
21/6/1993. In Britain, government Minister Michael Heseltine suffered a heart attack.
9/6/1993, In Britain, Norman Lamont made a bitter attack on John Major in the Commons.
3/6/1993. (1) Holbeck Hall, Scarborough’s only 4-star hotel, began to collapse into the sea, with its extensive gardens. The collapse took several days.
(2) Prime Minister John Major’s ratings were also falling fast. His popularity rating fell to 21%, the lowest for ant PM since polling began in the UK in the 1930s.
27/5/1993. Norman Lamont resigned as UK Chancellor; Kenneth Clarke replaced him.
6/5/1993, In Britain, the Conservatives did badly in elections. In a by-election, they lost Newbury on a 29% swing to the Liberals. They also did badly in county council elections the same day.
6/4/1993, Queen Elizabeth became liable for Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.
17/3/1993, In Britain, protests over Budget plans to impose VAT on domestic fuel, initially at 8%, and at 17.5% from 1995.
4/3/1993, In Britain, a reform of the Honours System was announced, to give greater reward for merit.
3/3/1993. Tony Bland, in a vegetative state since becoming a victim of the Hillsborough soccer disaster on 15/4/1989, was allowed to die by doctors.
21/2/1993. A poll revealed that nearly 50% of Britons would emigrate if they could, the highest since 1948.
19/2/1993, UK Prime Minister John Major rejected the idea of a posthumous pardon for First World War soldiers executed for cowardice or desertion on the grounds that it would be ‘rewriting history’.
11/2/1993. Buckingham Palace announced the Queen would pay income tax in April.
17/1/1993. Bookmakers cut the odds of the UK monarchy being abolished before the year 2000 from 100-1 to 50-1.
10/1/1993. Press reports emerged that Princess Diana, already separated from her husband Prince Charles, wanted to divorce him.
31/12/1992. The Queen described 1992 as an ‘annus horibilis’, one of the worst years for the UK monarchy since the abdication crisis of 1936. The Duke and Duchess of York had separated, Princess Anne had divorced, the Prince of Wales had reportedly attempted suicide through marital difficulties, and then separated from Diana, and Windsor Castle had suffered a major fire, on 20/11/1992. There was extensive damage to rooms, artwork, furniture, and other effects. There was public condemnation when it emerged the restoration cost would be met from the public purse. Six days after the fire the Prime Minister John Major announced that the Queen was reconsidering the scope of the Civil List and might end her exemption from income tax.
9/12/1992. The UK Prime Minister announced to the House of Commons that Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were to separate.
26/11/1992, In Britain, the Queen announced she would pay income tax on her private income.
20/11/1992, A fire broke out in the private chapel at Windsor Castle. The fire burned for 15 hours, causing major damage. The cause was a spotlight left in contact with a curtain.
10/11/1992, In the UK, an inquiry into the Matrix-Churchill affair was announced.
13/10/1992. British Coal announced 31 pit closures and the loss of 31,000 jobs.
24/9/1992. The National Heritage Minister David Mellor resigned after a sex scandal.
23/7/1992. The UK saw riots in Bristol, Carlisle, Blackburn, Burnley, and Huddersfield. 62 youths were arrested.
18/7/1992. John Smith elected leader of the British Labour Party.
15/7/1992. British MPs gave themselves a 40% rise on their expenses.
13/7/1992, Britain’s former executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, died.
13/4/1992, Neil Kinnock resigned as leader of the UK Labour Party, following the Conservative victory of 9/4/1992.
9/4/1992. The Conservatives under John Major won the UK General Election.
19/3/1992. It was announced that the Duke and Duchess of York were to separate.
3/9/1991. Riots hit the British cities of Cardiff, Oxford, and Birmingham this week. All occurred on estates with high unemployment and deprivation. The Cardiff riot was sparked by a trading dispute between two shops, see 29/8/1991. The Handsworth, Birmingham, riot occurred after a power failure and black-out. The one in Oxford was after police cracked down on ‘hotting’ – the racing of stolen cars, on the Blackbird Leys estate. Later in the month there were more riots in Tyneside, in the West End of Newcastle.
29/8/1991. A trading dispute between two shops in Cardiff led to riots. Mr Abdul Waheed, owner of a grocery shop on the poor Ely estate, won an injunction against Mr Carl Agius, the newsagent next door, preventing him selling bread and groceries. Mr Agius put a notice in his shop telling people of this, and a crowd of mainly white youths petrol-bombed Mr Waheed’s shop. The police claimed the violence was not racially motivated but had been opportunistic, a hundred of the rioters had joined in after the pubs closed.
13/8/1991. Britain’s new Dangerous Dogs Act came into force.
29/7/1991, Margaret Thatcher announced that she was to resign as MP for Finchley after the next General Election, but still intended to play a role in UK politics.
18/6/1991, Margaret Thatcher, in a speech in Chicago, warned against a European Super-State, saying it would be ‘nothing less than a disaster’.
24/4/1991, Gerald Ratner, Managing Director of Ratners, Britain’s biggest chain of jewellers, announced his goods are ‘crap’ and that his earrings are likely to last for less time than a Marks and Spencer sandwich. He later said he was joking.
26/3/1991, Norman Lamont, Chancellor, raised VAT to 17.5% to finance a £140 per head cut in the Poll Tax.
25/3/1991. Michael Heseltine, Department of the Environment, announced the creation of the East Thames Corridor.
23/3/1991. Prime Minister John Major, leader of the Conservatives, made a speech to Conservatives at Southport outlining plans for a Citizen’s Charter.
21/3/1991. The Poll Tax was ditched as Michael Heseltine, the Environment Secretary, unveiled a property tax to replace it.
8/3/1991. The Tories suffered a shock by-election defeat in Ribble Valley, their tenth safest seat. The Liberals turned a 19,500 Conservative majority into a Liberal majority of 4,601; Labour came a poor third. The defeat was blamed on the unpopularity of the Poll Tax, flagship of the third Tory administration under Mrs Thatcher.
5/3/1991. The last of the Cruise Missiles were taken from Greenham Common for dismantling in Arizona under the INF disarmament treaty.
6/1/1991. John Major said the Poll Tax will not be abolished.
20/12/1990. The last coal mine in the Rhondda closed. Once 40,000 men worked at 56 pits here, and over 100 died in the mines. This day Maerdy Colliery closed, 300 were made redundant. Only 17 miners stayed in the industry, moving to other pits.
27/11/1990. John Major, at the age of 47, became the youngest Prime Minister of the 20th century. The other contenders for Tory leader were Michael Heseltine, aged 57, and Douglas Hurd. In 1894 Lord Roseberry was Prime Minister aged 46. Mrs Thatcher had resigned on 22/11/1990, having failed to win a first leadership ballot on the Conservative Party on 20/11/1990.
22/11/1990, Mrs Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister, see 27/11/1990.
20/11/1990, Mrs Thatcher lost a leadership ballot within the Conservative Party.
14/11/1990, Michael Heseltine announced he would challenge Mrs Thatcher for office of Prime Minister.
13/11/1990, Sir Geoffrey Howe made a Commons speech explaining his resignation as Deputy Prime Minister. This speech helped to oust Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister.
1/11/1990, Geoffrey Howe resigned from Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet in a dispute over European Monetary Union.
2/10/1990. Mrs Thatcher announced Britain’s entry into the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The Labour opposition leader Mr Neil Kinnock criticised this move.
22/9/1990. The Natural History Museum solved the Piltdown Man hoax. The anthropologist behind the hoax was Sir Arthur Keith. See 21/11/1953.
14/8/1990. In the UK, the Audit Commission warned that 1 in 5 were avoiding paying the Poll Tax.
1/7/1990, Tom King, UK Defence Secretary, announced an 18% cut in British forces on the Rhine over the next five years, as East-West relations in Europe improved.
2/6/1990, Rex Carey Harrison, British actor, died aged 82.
1/6/1990, David Owen announced the dissolution of the SDP, now down to just two MPs.
1/4/1990. The longest prison riot in British history began at Strangeways Prison, Manchester. It lasted until 25 April, and one remand prisoner died.
23/3/1990, Princess Eugenie of York was born.
9/3/1990. Poll tax riots in Brixton, London. There were also riots in Lewisham, Hackney, Haringey, Maidenhead, Reading, Bristol, Plymouth, Gillingham, Norwich, Birmingham, Stockport, Leeds, Bradford, and many other places. Both Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister, and the Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, condemned the riots.
1/3/1990. Poll Tax riots degenerated into violence across Britain. Concerns continued at “mad cow” disease in the UK.
1989, The Representation of the People Act enfranchised expatriate voters who had left the Uk within the previuos 20 years, to cast a proxy vote in the UK constituency they last lived in.
26/10/1989. Mrs Thatcher’s Chancellor, Mr Nigel Lawson, resigned. Sir Alan Walters, part-time financial advisor to Mrs Thatcher, had derided the European Monetary System that Mr Lawson wanted the UK to join as ‘half baked’, in an article in 1988. This caused a public and embarrassing row between Mrs Thatcher and Mr Lawson. However on 8/10/1990 Mrs Thatcher reluctantly agreed to her Chancellor, John Major, taking the UK into the Exchange Rate Mechanism. However on ‘Black Wednesday’ in 1992 the UK was ignominiously forced out of the ERM, along with the Italian Lira, by currency speculators.
4/10/1989. Millions of fleas were released in the Norfolk Broads to eat algae clogging up the waterways.
21/6/1989, British police arrested 250 people for celebrating the Summer solstice at Stonehenge.
1/5/1989, A riot at Risley Remand Centre began, in protest at conditions there. It ended three days later with the promise of an enquiry.
18/4/1989, An explosion at Cormorant Alpha oil platform led to the shutdown of 25% of North Sea oil production
28/3/1989, The remains of the Piper Alpha oil rig were sent to the bottom of the North Sea.
1988, Britain’s first Jain Temple opened, in Leicester.
21/12/1988. Terrorists blew up a Pan-Am jumbo jet carrying more than 270 passengers over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. All the passengers and 17 in Lockerbie itself died in the crash, on the evening of the 21st. The flight was from Frankfurt to the USA via Heathrow. The bomb had been hidden in a transistor radio in the hold. After a three year investigation two Libyans, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi were blamed for the bombing. However the Libyan leader, Colonel Ghadafi, refused to extradite the two men, so the U.N. imposed sanctions on Libya, under pressure from America. Eventually the two men were extradited to Holland to face a year-long trial under Scottish law, under which Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah was acquitted.
6/9/1988, 11 year old Thomas Gregory from London became the youngest person to swim the Channel.
28/7/1988, Paddy Ashdown was elected leader of the SDP.
6/7/1988. 173 men died in an explosion on the Piper Alpha oilrig in the North Sea. Many more were injured as a series of explosions wrecked the rig whilst they slept. The 12-year-old rig was 120 miles off the Aberdeen coast. Flames shot 400 feet into the air and only 62 survived, many by jumping over 100 feet into the sea. The heat could be felt one mile away, and hampered rescue efforts. 165 oil workers and 2 rescue workers were killed.
24/5/1988, Liverpool’s Albert Dock, restored as a business and leisure centre, was opened by the Prince of Wales.
20/5/1988, British licensing laws were liberalised. The Licensing Act received Royal Assent, and 65,000 pubs in England and Wales could now open 11am to 11pm Monday to Saturday.
3/3/1988, (1) The Liberals and the SDP merged to form the Social and Liberal Democratic Party.
(2) Dick Chipperfield, British circus man, died aged 83.
6/2/1988, A survey in the UK found that out-of-order phone boxes and Post Office queues were the top irritants of modern life.
17/11/1987, The UK Government announced plans for a Community Charge (Poll Tax) to be levied in 1990.
11/10/1987, A sonar survey of Loch Ness failed to find any trace of the monster.
22/9/1987, In the UK, the Home Secretary prohibited the sale of semi-automatic rifles.
19/8/1987. Michael Ryan, 27, shot dead 16 people in Hungerford, Berkshire, and injured another 14, then shot himself dead. He had been depressed by the death of his father. A former paratrooper, he had a large gun collection.
6/8/1987, In Britain, the SDP voted to merge with the Liberal Party. Dr David Owen resigned as SDP leader.
24/7/1987, Author Jeffery Archer won a record £500,000 libel damages against The Star newspaper over allegations that he had paid a prostitute, Monica Coghlan, £70 for sex. See 19/7/2001.
12/6/1987. Mrs Thatcher elected Prime Minister with a majority of 101. She was the first PM to achieve a third term for 160 years. The Conservatives won 375 seats, Labour 229, Alliance 22 and Nationalists 6.
3/4/1987, Myra Hindley confessed to two more murders, in an attempt to prove her rehabilitation.
29/12/1986, Harold Macmillan, Lord Stockton, former Conservative Prime Minister 1957-1963, died, aged 92.
26/10/1986, Jeffery Archer resigned as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party after allegations that he had made a payment to a prostitute to leave the UK, to avoid a scandal.
21/9/1986. In the UK, Prince Charles stated on TV that he talked to his plants.
24/8/1986, Wallis Simpson died.
10/6/1986, Queen Elizabeth II made Bob Geldof a knight, for his fundraising activities.
24/4/1986, Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, for whom a British King abdicated, died in Paris aged 89.
19/3/1986, The engagement between Prince Andrew and Miss Sarah Ferguson was announced.
9/1/1986, Michael Heseltine resigned from Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet, claiming she was stifling debate.
1985, The Representation of the People Act raised the deposit required from electoral candidates from £150 (set in 1918 to seter frivolous candidates) to £500.
19/10/1985, Coal miners in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire set up the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM).
1/10/1985, Rioting in Toxteth, Liverpool.
9/9/1985. Race riots erupted in Handsworth, Birmingham.
3/3/1985. End of the 12 month miner’s strike which began on 5/3/1984. 153 of Britain’s 174 coal mines went on strike; some mines in Nottinghamshire and Kent stayed working.. One of the most powerful images of this strike was the ‘Battle of Orgreave’ – see 29/5/1984. The result was not only a defeat for the National Union of Miners but for the whole trades union movement under the Thatcher government; the miners had failed to secure any agreement on pit closures. A large number of miners deserted the NUM and set up the Democratic Union of Mineworkers, after being refused a strike ballot by the NUM leader Arthur Scargill. The strike was officially estimated, by the Coal Board, to have cost it £1.75 billion. However Mr Scargill put the real cost at over £5 billion, or enough to keep every pit open and to employ every miner in work for 32 years.
The strike was triggered by a National Coal Board plan to close 20 pits and shed 20,000 miner’s jobs, under the leadership of the American, Ian McGregor. The NCB made a 5.2% pay offer to the miners.
25/2/1985, 49% of UK miners have returned to work, 51% remained on strike.
28/1/1985, The case against the civil servant Clive Ponting, charged with leaking information about the sinking of the Belgrano, opened.
23/1/1985. A House of Lords debate was televised live for the first time.
18/1/1985. Protests continued at Greenham Common USAF base; a protester managed to enter the base.
17/1/1985, British Telecom announced it was to phase out the famous red telephone boxes.
2/12/1984, The Thatcher government was accused of ‘gross incompetence’ in Parliament as shares in the newly privatised British Telecom commanded an opening premium of nearly 90%.
22/11/1984, The Law Lords upheld the Government’s ban on Union membership at GCHQ Cheltenham.
20/11/1984, The North Wales branch of the NUM voted to end the strike.
6/11/1984. In Dublin, the High Court froze striking British coal mineworkers money after a court decision that the strike, now in its 35th week, was illegal and that the Union must pay a fine within 14 days or have its assets seized.
10/10/1984, Arthur Scargill was fined £1,000, and the NUM £200,000, for contempt of court.
21/9/1984, Violence at Maltby Colliery, near Rotherham, as the miners strike went on.
15/9/1984, Prince Harry (Henry Charles Albert David) was born to Diana, Princess of Wales.
9/9/1984, Ian MacGregor, Chairman of the National Coal Board, arrived in Edinburgh for talks with Arthur Scargill.
18/8/1984, Clive Ponting, a civil servant, was charged with an offence under the Official Secrets Act, relating to information allegedly passed on to an MP about the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the General Belgrano during the Falklands War.
16/7/1984, The High Court ruled that the Government’s ban on Trades Unions at GCHQ Cheltenham was legal. The Lords voted to abolish the Greater London Council (GLC) and other Metropolitan Authority elections.
9/7/1984. A bolt of lightning set fire to the roof of York Minster. The 700 year old building suffered serious damage to the south transept.
29/5/1984. The ‘Battle of Orgreave’ occurred during the Miner’s Strike. 84 people were arrested and 69 injured (41 police, 28 miners) when 4,000 police held back 7,000 pickets who were trying to prevent coking coal being moved out of Orgreave to the British Steel works at Scunthorpe. Two convoys of 34 lorries raced through the picket lines with supplies for the blast furnaces. Mr Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of miners, was blamed for inflaming the situation. The miner’s strike was then 12 weeks old, having begun on 5/3/1984. It lasted until 3/3/1985.
2/5/1984, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Liverpool International Garden Festival.
27/4/1984, The UK Government expelled 30 Libyan diplomats.
12/4/1984, The Bill to privatise British Telecom was passed by the UK parliament. A Bill to privatise BT was put before Parliament in 1983, but was opposed by the Trades Unions, and was lost to the General Election of 1983. It was reintroduced soon after the election and guillotined so as to speed it up.
9/4/1984, In Derbyshire, over 100 miners were arrested in violence connected with the miners strike.
6/4/1984, Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, Britain’s wartime bomber commander, died aged 91.
4/4/1984, Bailiffs evicted women from the Greenham Common protest site.
22/3/1984, British civil servant Sarah Tisdall was jailed for 6 months for leaking to The Guardian that Cruise Missiles were on their way to Britain.
15/3/1984. Only 21 of Britain’s 174 coal mines were working as strikes against the Coal Board’s 5.2% pay offer, and its pit closure programme became official. The strike was to drag on for a year.
13/3/1984, In the UK, Mr Nigel Lawson delivered his first Budget.
6/3/1984. Start of the 12 month miner’s strike. See 3/3/1985, and 29/5/1984 – Orgreave. Miners from 100 pits threatened with closure went on strike. The strike had been precipitated by the decision by the National Coal Board, announced 1/3/1984, to close Cortonwood Colliery. The NCB planned to close a total of 21 collieries and make 20,000 employees redundant.
10/2/1984, Harold MacMillan was awarded an earldom, on his 90th birthday. He chose the name of Stockton from his first constituency in 1924.
25/1/1984, The Government announced that Trades Unions would be illegal at GCHQ Cheltenham.
13/1/1984, A cooling tower at Fiddlers Ferry power station, Lancashire, collapsed in high winds. Turbulence caused by the closely grouped towers was blamed.
3/12/1983, Women peace campaigners broke into Greenham Common US airbase.
28/11/1983. The Thatcher government announced an end to the monopoly by opticians on the sale of glasses.
15/11/1983, The Greenham Common women’s group mounted their first protest against the US cruise missiles sited there. The first cruise missiles had arrived in the UK on 13/11/1983.
13/11/1983, The first Cruise Missiles arrived at Greenham Common.
2/10/1983. Neil Kinnock, 41, became leader of the British Labour Party. Roy Hattersley was his deputy.
13/6/1983. Roy Jenkins resigned as leader of the SDP, to be replaced by David Owen.
12/6/1983, Michael Foot resigned as leader of the Labour Party.
10/6/1983. Mrs Thatcher won her second term as Prime Minister. She gained a majority of 144 seats. The Conservatives won 397 seats, Labour won 209, Nationalists 4, and the Liberal/SDP Alliance won 23 seats. Mr Nigel Lawson became Chancellor of the Exchequer. The vote was split 42% Conservative, and 28% Labour. Michael Foot was Labour leader, with a divided and weakened party. The Falkland victory, as well as declining unemployment, assured her victory.
9/5/1983, Mrs Thatcher called a General Election.
1/4/1983, Thousands of CND supporters formed a human chain linking Greenham Common to Burghfield, in protest at the installation of Cruise Missiles.
28/3/1983, Ian McGregor became chairman of the British Coal Board.
23/2/1983, Sir Adrian Boult, English conductor, died in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, aged 93.
8/1/1983, During a 5-day morale-boosting trip by Mrs Thatcher to the Falkland Islands, she spoke to troops aboard the HMS Antrim.
12/12/1982. 30,000 women formed a human chain around the 14.5 km (9 mile) perimeter fence of the Greenham Common US airbase in Berkshire to protest at the installation of 96 Cruise Missiles there.
11/10/1982. King Henry VIII’s flagship Mary Rose was raised at Southsea, Hampshire, having sunk in 1545. This was the culmination of 17 years research on the wreck, involving almost 25,000 dives.
2/10/1982, Neil Kinnock was elected leader of the Labour Party in Britain.
27/9/1982, On the opening day of the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool, delegates voted to exclude the left-wing group Militant Tendency. The Labour Party began to move to the Right.
22/9/1982, The TUC staged a ‘day of action’ in support of the NHS workers pay claim. UK unemployment rose to 3,343,075 in September.
17/9/1982. The British aircraft carrier Invincible returned from the Falklands, with Prince Andrew on board, to a rapturous welcome at Portsmouth. UK inflation dropped to 8%.
5/9/1982. Douglas Bader, the famous WW2 pilot with two artificial legs, died. He was born on 21/2/1910.
2/7/1982, Roy Jenkins was elected leader of the SDP.
11/6/1982, The QE2 liner returned to Southampton, from the Falklands, carrying the survivors from three wrecked British warships.
1/6/1982. British forces continued their advance in the Falkland Islands, (see 2/4/1982), fighting with the Argentineans 12 miles from Port Stanley. The Argentinian forces surrendered on 14/6/1982, the day Port Stanley was recaptured. Total casualties were 254 British and 750 Argentine lives.
26/5/1982, Kielder Water, a large reservoir in Northumbria, opened.
See South-Central America for Falklands War
5/4/1982, The British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, resigned, as a British invasion fleet left Portsmouth for the Falklands. On 18/3/1982 an Argentine scrap-metal dealer had raised the Argentine flag on South Georgia, a sign of intention from Argentina that was not interpreted correctly by the British Foreign Office. See 1/5/1982.
2/4/1982. Argentina launched an invasion of the Falkland Islands. On 4/4/1982 Argentina seized South Georgia, a Falklands dependency. British forces set out from the UK on 5/4/1982 and landed in the Falklands on 21/5/1982. South Georgia was recaptured on 25/4/1982 with no casualties. See 1/6/1982.
14/1/1982, Mark Thatcher, son of UK prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was found alive after getting lost in the Sahara during the Paris-Dakar car rally.
8/12/1981, Arthur Scargill became leader of the National Union of Mineworkers. He succeeded Joe Gormley.
26/11/1981, Shirley Williams became the first SDP (Social Democratic Party) MP, beating the Tories and Labour inti 2nd and 3rd place at the Crosby by-election. In 4th place was the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, Tarquin Fin-tim-bin-whim-lin-bus-stop-F’Tang-F’tang-Ole-Biscuitbarrel.
15/10/1981, Norman Tebbit made his famous remark that his father ‘got on his bike’ to look for work; the unemployed were angry.
27/7/1981, British Telecom was created.
10/7/1981. Following the riots in Toxteth, riots broke out in other British cities. Riots in Moss Side (Manchester) and Wood Green (London). Brixton saw riots on 15/7/1981. Hull, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Reading, Preston and Chester also saw riots.
5/7/1981. Youth rioted in Toxteth, Liverpool for a second night running. There were also riots in Brixton and Southall in London.
16/6/1981, The Liberals formed an alliance with the SDP.
23/5/1981. The Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, 34 year old lorry driver, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder 7 others, over a period of four years. He was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years. He had been charged with murder on 5/1/1981.
26/3/1981. The ‘Gang of Four’ (Roy Jenkins, David Owen, William Rodgers and Shirley Williams) launched the UK’s Social Democratic Party (SDP).
24/2/1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announced their engagement.
20/2/1981, Peter Sutcliffe was charged with the murder of 13 women.
18/2/1981, Mrs Thatcher promised more money for the miners to avert a strike.
17/2/1981, In south Wales, miners threatened to strike over pit closures.
10/2/1981, The National Coal Board announced plans to close 50 pits employing 30,000 miners. The miners called for a national strike.
25/1/1981. The ‘Gang of Four’, Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams, and Bill Rodgers, broke away from the British Labour Party to set up the Social Democratic Party. The SDP was launched on 26/3/1981.
5/1/1981. The Yorkshire Ripper murderer, a lorry driver called Peter Sutcliffe, was arrested in Sheffield.
3/12/1980, Sir Oswald Moseley died in exile at his home in Paris.
10/11/1980 Michael Foot, a 67-year-old left winger was elected leader of the Labour Party. He defated Denis Healey, much to the surprise and delight of the Tories; Healey had a populist appeal
15/10/1980, James Callaghan announced his resignation as Labour leader.
10/10/1980, Mrs Thatcher made he famous ‘The Lady’s not for turning’ speech at the Conservative Party Conference. More liberal or ‘wet’ Tories were concerned at rising unemployment and welfare spending cuts.
17/6/1980, Anti-nuclear protestors gathered at Greenham Common as the US said it would base Cruise Missiles there, and at Molesworth in Cambridgeshire. Britain was the first NATO country to accept Cruise Missiles, part of NATO’s response to the USSR stationing SS-20 rockets in eastern Europe.
12/6/1980, The holiday camp owner Sir Billy Butlin died in Jersey
2/4/1980. Black youths rioted in the St Paul’s area of Bristol after a club was raided by the police. 19 police were injured.
1/4/1980, In Britain, the steel strike ended.
27/3/1980, The Alexander Keilland oil platform in the North Sea, 250 miles off Scotland, capsized in a storm, killing 123 out of its crew of 212 men.
26/3/1980, The UK government announced the creation of Enterprise Zones.
20/1/1980. In Britain, the Labour Party adopted unilateral disarmament, protectionism, and anti-Europeanism as its policies. Roy Jenkins began plans to start a new party.
1/1/1980, National steel strike began in the UK.
30/11/1979, In Dublin, Mrs Thatcher demanded a £1,000 million rebate from the EEC.
25/11/1979. The West Yorkshire Police Committee raised the price on the head of the Yorkshire Ripper to £20,000.
20/11/1979. Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, lost his knighthood after being exposed as a spy.
14/8/1979, John Stonehouse was released from prison.
5/8/1979, The Forestry Commission reported the spread of Dutch Elm Disease, which had already infected 3 million trees.
22/6/1979, In Britain, Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe was cleared of conspiracy to murder homosexual Norman Scott.
3/5/1979. General Election. The Conservatives defeated Labour and Mrs Margaret Hilda Thatcher, born 13/10/1925, became Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. The Conservative election majority was 43 seats. The Conservatives won 339 seats, Labour won 269 seats, the Liberals 11, Nationalists 4. Jeremy Thorpe lost his seat, conclusively ending his political career.
28/3/1979. The UK Labour government of James Callaghan collapsed over the Home Rule vote in Parliament, losing the vote by one vote, and Parliament was dissolved, see 1/3/1979.
22/3/1979. The leader of the Conservative Opposition, Mrs Thatcher, put down a Motion of No Confidence in the ruling Labour administration, hoping to force a spring election.
1/3/1979, 32.5% of Scottish voters voted in favour of devolution, short of the 40% required; however a majority of Scots who voted favoured devolution. The Welsh vote was overwhelmingly against devolution. This led to the defeat of the Labour government in a confidence motion, necessitating a General Election, see 28/3/1979. In a Welsh referendum, 11.9% of the electorate voted for independence and 46.9% voted against it.
14/2/1979, In Britain, trades unions and the Government announced a Valentine’s day agreement to end the winter of discontent that had started with a 25% pay claim by the lorry drivers. The settlement of the claim by petrol tanker drivers merely encouraged other pay claims to breach the Government 5% ‘pay norm’. Rubbish piled up in the streets, the dead went unburied, hospitals turned away the sick, food and petrol supplies were disrupted.
12/2/1979, In Britain, over 1,000 schools closed because of shortages of heating oil.
31/1/1979, Industrial disputes led to uncollected rubbish building up on Britain’s streets.
15/1/1979, A series of one-day rail strikes hit Britain.
10/1/1979, In Britain, Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan arrived back from a 4-day holiday in the West Indies to face the Winter of Discontent.
5/1/1979, A lorry driver’s strike was causing chaos in Britain.
25/11/1978. The trial of Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, accused along with three other men of conspiracy and incitement to murder a former male model, continued.
11/11/1978, The TUC refused to endorse the UK Government’s 5% wage limit.
4/8/1978. Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party, was charged with conspiracy to murder Mr Norman Scott. He was later cleared.
31/7/1978, The Devolution Acts for Scotland and Wales received Royal Assent.
27/6/1978, The UK was expected to be self-sufficient in oil in two year’s time.
24/5/1978, Princess Margaret obtained a divorce from Lord Snowdon.
7/5/1978 Mrs Thatcher, Conservative Opposition leader, announced that she had no intention of outlawing the closed shop.
1/5/1978, The first May Day bank holiday in Britain.
30/3/1978, Charles and Maurice Saatchi were recruited by Mrs Thatcher to help publicise her policies ahead of the General Election, then expected for autumn 1978.
30/1/1978, Mrs Thatcher said many in Britain feared ‘being swamped’ by people with a different culture.
12/12/1977, Lady Churchill, widow of Sir Winston Churchill, died.
27/10/1977, Jeremy Thorpe denied any homosexual link with unemployed male model Norman Scott.
13/7/1977, The UK Government abandoned the Social Contract with the TUC as wages rose.
7/6/1977, The Queen lit a bonfire in Windsor Park, starting a week of Royal Silver Jubilee celebrations.
6/6/1977, Derby was designated a city, to mark the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
1/4/1977, Hay on Wye declared ‘independence’.
14/1/1977. Sir Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon and former UK Conservative Prime Minister 1955 – 1957, died aged 79.
16/12/1976, The UK Government announced that Scotland and Wales were to have referendums on a greater measure of self-rule. From today, Scots could drink all day, pubs could stay open from 11am to 11pm.
19/11/1976, Sir Basil Spence, designer of the new Coventry Cathedral, died in Eye, Suffolk.
21/10/1976, Michael Foot became deputy leader of the Labour Party.
6/8/1976, The UK MP John Stonehouse began a seven-year sentence for fraud.
29/7/1976. Fire damaged the world’s longest pier, at Southend, Essex.
7/7/1976. David Steel was elected leader of the Liberal Party.
1/6/1976. Britain and Iceland signed an agreement in Oslo to end the Cod War. Up to 24 British trawlers would be permitted to fish within the 200-mile zone claimed by Iceland.
For events of Cod War see also Iceland 1970s
10/5/1976. Jeremy Thorpe, born 29/4/1929, resigned as leader of the Liberal Party, which he had led since 18/1/1967. David Steele was the new Party leader from 7/7/1976.
27/4/1976, Britain began exporting North Sea Oil.
25/4/1976. The Post Office in Britain stopped Sunday collections; these were partly resumed in 1990.
5/4/1976. James Callaghan, born 27/3/1912, succeeded Harold Wilson, who had resigned, as prime minister. Callaghan defeated Michael Foot in the final ballot for leadership of the labour Party by 176 votes to 137. Callaghan remained Prime Minister until the General Election of 1979. See 4/4/1974.
24/3/1976, Bernard, Viscount Montgomery, Irish-born British Army Field Marshall in World War II, died aged 88.
16/3/1976. Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced his retirement from UK politics. James Callaghan became new Labour Prime Minister on 5/4/1976. Callaghan, aged 64, had defeated Michael Foot in the leadership contest by 176 votes to 137.
24/2/1976, Britain sent a fourth gunboat to Iceland.
2/2/1976. The 310 acre National Exhibition Centre was opened by the Queen at Bickenhill, Birmingham.
24/1/1976. Mrs Thatcher was dubbed the Iron Lady in the soviet newspaper Red Star after a speech about the Communist threat.
10/12/1975, The first shots were fired in the Cod war between Britain and Iceland.
25/11/1975, The UK Government authorised the sending of three Royal Navy frigates to protect British trawlers fishing in disputed waters off Iceland.
11/8/1975, British Leyland was taken under UK Government control.
3/11/1975, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened a pipeline that was to bring 400,000 barrels of North Sea Oil ashore every day at the Grangemouth refinery. North Sea Oil had been discovered in the 1960s; the first exploited oilfield was Ekofisk, tapped from 1969. The global oil crisis of 1974 intensified the need to develop North Sea resources.
30/10/1975. The Forestry Commission said more than 16 million trees had been destroyed in Britain because of Dutch Elm Disease.
29/10/1975, The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, committed his first murder, Wilma McCann.
1/8/1975, Britain signed the Helsinki Agreement on closer co-operation with Europe.
18/7/1975. John Stonehouse, former Labour minister, returned to Britain to face 21 charges of fraud, forgery, and conspiracy. On 6/8/1976 he was convicted of theft and conspiracy and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment.
19/6/1975. Lord Lucan was found guilty of murdering his nanny, but he was still missing.
18/6/1975. The first North Sea Oil, from the Argyll field, came ashore from a Liberian tanker.
5/6/1975. A referendum in the UK showed a 67.2% majority in favour of remaining in the EEC. 17, 378,581 (67.2%) voted for Europe, and 8,470,073 (32.8%) voted no. The only areas in the UK to have a ‘no’ majority were the Shetlands and the Western Isles of Scotland.
30/3/1975. The Great Train Robbers Ronald ‘Buster’ Edwards and James White were released on bail after serving 9 years in gaol.
21/3/1975, John Stonehouse, the disappeared MP, was arrested in Australia for theft, fraud, and deception.
15/3/1975, Troops in Glasgow cleared 70,000 tons of refuse that had built up during the dustmen’s strike.
13/2/1975, The UK miners accepted a pay rise of 35%.
4/2/1975. Edward Heath resigned as leader of the Conservative Party. Mrs Thatcher became the first woman to lead a political party on 11/2/1975. Aged 49, she was the wife of a wealthy businessman and the mother of twins. She had defeated 4 other male challengers for the position of leader of the Conservatives. 146 MPs had voted for her, against just 79 for her nearest rival, William Whitelaw. Geoffrey Howe, James Prior, and John Peyton were far behind.
24/11/1974, The MP John Stonehouse disappeared from as Miami beach; it was assumed he had drowned.
7/11/1974. Lord Lucan, 7th Earl of Lucan, disappeared following the murder of his children’s nanny. The nanny had been found bludgeoned to death on the 6th November, and his estranged wife was also brutally attacked. Police arrived at Lucan’s flat but he was not there; his bloodstained car was found in Sussex, and some suspected he had drowned himself. His body however was never found. Several alleged sightings of him occurred in the following years. In 2015 his heir, George Bingham, attempted to have him legally declared dead but the family of the murdered nanny lodged an objection.
18/10/1974, A unit in Whitehall; was set up to prepare for devolution of power to Wales and Scotland.
12/10/1974, Ladbrokes gave odds of 50 to 1 against Mrs Thatcher being the successor to Edward Heath.
11/10/1974. Labour won the British elections with a tiny majority of three seats. Labour won 319 seats, Conservatives won 277, Liberals 13, Scottish Nationalists 11.
6/9/1974. Charles Kray, elder brother of the Kray twins, left Maidstone Prison for 5 days ‘acclimatisation leave’.
25/7/1974, The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled that Britain was not bound to observe Iceland’s unilateral extension of its fishing rights from 12 to 50 miles in 1972.
26/6/1974, In the UK, Labour and the TUC agreed on the ‘Social Contract’, to restrain pay claims.
21/6/1974. The destroyer HMS Coventry was launched at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead.
1/6/1974, (Saturday) A major explosion at the Nypro chemical works at Flixborough, Lincolnshire, killed 29 people. 2,000 houses were damaged and a large cloud of toxic cyclohexane gas escaped. Cyclohexane was used to manufacture nylon. A pipe at Nypro had sprung a leak, leading to 40 tons of cyclohexane gas escaping in about one minute, this gas cloud then ignited.
8/5/1974, UK nurses began a strike over low pay.
1/4/1974. Major reorganisation of British Local Authorities. Rutland disappeared, and 4 new counties were created. They were Avon, Cleveland, Humberside, and Cumbria.
9/3/1974, Britain’s 3-day-week ended. The three-day week had begun in December 1973 to conserve fuel supplies. Oil supplies from the Middle East had been disrupted due to an Arab-Israeli war.
6/3/1974. Harold Wilson formed a minority Labour government. Mr Denis Winston Healey became Chancellor of the Exchequer. The UK coal miners were offered a 35% pay increase, and returned to work. Labour had 301 seats, the Conservatives had 297, the Liberals 14, 9 were held by Scottish and Welsh Nationalists, and 12 to Northern Ireland.
4/3/1974, Edward Heath resigned as Prime Minister.
28/2/1974. General Election in the UK. 4/3/1974. Harold Wilson, born 11/3/1916, succeeded Edward Heath as Prime Minister. There was no overall majority; Labour gained 301 seats, the Conservatives 296, and the Liberals, 14 seats. Other parties gained 9 seats. See 13/12/1973, 4/2/1975 and 5/4/1976. Edward Heath had tried to make a coalition with the Liberals on 7/2/1974 but they refused. The Conservatives gained 225,789 more votes than Labour did, but fewer seats.
1/2/1974. Ronald Biggs, who had escaped from London’s Wandsworth Prison n 1965, was arrested in Rio De Janeiro, but extradition was refused. Biggs had been serving 30 years for his part in the Great Train Robbery.
1/1/1974, New Year’s Day was a public holiday for the first time in the UK.
13/12/1973. A three day working week, beginning from 1/1/1974, was ordered by Edward Heath’s government because of the Arab oil embargo and the coal miner’s industrial action. See 5/12/1973 and 8/1/1974. Use of electricity for much of industry and commerce was restricted, and TV had to close down at 10.30 pm. The miners had rejected a 13% pay offer and staged an overtime ban, and fighting in the Middle East had massively raised oil prices. Coal supplies to the power stations dropped by 40%. Disruption to the coal mines, power stations, and railways forced a General Election, on 28/2/1974, which the Conservatives lost.
Within 1 week 320,000 workers in the Midlands alone registered as temporary unemployed; nationwide the unemployment total rose to 1.5 million. However many smaller Black Country companies just carried on with a normal work week. Officially, five-day working recommenced on 9/3/1974.
5/12/1973, The UK government announced a nation-wide speed limit of 50 mph to conserve oil stocks, see 13/12/1973.
14/11/1973, Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips, in Westminster Abbey.
13/11/1973, In the UK, a state of emergency was declared as miners and power workers went on strike.
8/11/1973, The Cod war between Britain and Iceland ended.
1/11/1973. The Royal Commission on the constitution completely rejected the case for separate sovereign parliaments for Scotland and Wales.
20/10/1973, The Dalai Lama first visited Britain.
1/10/1973, Denis Healey promised that Labour will tax the rich ‘until the pips squeak’.
3/9/1973, In the UK, 20 Trade Unions were expelled from the TUC.
2/8/1973. 46 people died and 80 were injured when fire swept through the Summerland amusement centre at Douglas, Isle of Man. The acrylic sheeting covering the structure caught fire and melted onto the people below.
8/6/1973, Enoch Powell said people should vote Labour to protest against Britain joining the EEC.
26/5/1973. An Icelandic gunboat shelled and holed a British trawler.
21/5/1973, A British warship and an Icelandic frigate played cat and mouse in the first Royal Navy action of the Cod War. The British frigate Cleopatra and the Icelandic gunboat Thor were shadowing each other when the Thor suddenly turned and chased after a German trawler; the Cleopatra followed. The Thor suddenly turned and confronted the Cleopatra; Cleopatra retreated, with Thor in chase. As darkness fell the two ships were still dodging each other.
18/5/1973, Royal Navy frigates were sent to protect British trawlers fishing in disputed waters near Iceland.
1/5/1973, A TUC 1-day strike in protest at pay restraint was supported by 1.6 million workers.
24/4/1973, An Icelandic gunboat opened fire on two British trawlers.
1/1/1973. Britain, Denmark, and Ireland joined the EEC, enlarging it from 6 to 9 countries.
17/9/1972, The first Asians fleeing Idi Amin arrived in the UK.
28/5/1972. The Duke of Windsor, the abdicated King Edward VIII, died in Paris aged 77.
28/2/1972. The British miners returned to work, after 7 weeks, after agreeing to a wage increase.
25/2/1972, UK miners voted to return to work, accepting by a vote of 27 to 1 the pay offer of 18/2/1972.
18/2/1972, British miners were offered a £6 a week pay increase. See 25/2/1972.
16/2/1972, Power cuts lasting up to 9 hours hit Britain as the miners strike continued.
9/2/1972. Due to the month-long miner’s strike, Britain declared a state of emergency. A three-day week was imposed.
22/1/1972. Britain, Denmark, Norway, and Ireland signed the EEC Treaty – to join January 1973. Norway later withdrew after a referendum showed a majority of Norwegians were against membership. See 1/1/1973. As the British Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Brussels, he had ink thrown over him by protestors against the redevelopment of Covent Garden Market.
See also European Union for events relating to the UK and the development of the EU
9/1/1972, UK miners strike began; the first miner’s strike since 1926. The UK Government planned coal rationing.
11/12/1971, Geoffrey Rippon signed terms with the EEC for the protection of fishing limits after the UK was to join the EEC; these later turned out not to protect UK fishing interests.
30/10/1971, An opinion poll found most of the British electorate opposed membership of the EEC.
28/10/1971. The House of Commons voted in favour of Britain joining the Common Market with a majority of 112. Votes were 356 for against 244 anti. 69 Labour MPs voted with the Conservative Government for membership.
15/10/1971, The UK passed legislation to curb immigration.
13/10/1971, The Conservative Party Conference voted overwhelmingly for EEC membership.
4/10/1971, The Labour Party Conference voted overwhelmingly against EEC membership.
7/7/1971, The UK Government published its terms for entry into the EEC.
20/6/1971, Britain announced that Soviet space scientist Anatoli Fedoseyev had been granted political asylum.
15/6/1971, The UK Education Secretary, Mrs Thatcher, said she planned to end free school milk. The Conservative Government warned it would reduce financial support for any local council that continued to illegally supply milk, contrary to the Education (Milk) Bill. This Bill passed its Commons vote by 281 to 248 against. The Bill was intended to free up resources to replace older primary schools.
10/6/1971. Joe Gormley was elected President of the National Union of Miners.
21/5/1971. French President Pompidou said the UK could join the EEC.
8/3/1971, The British postal strike ended. See 20/1/1971.
24/2/1971, The Immigration Bill was introduced in the UK; this will end the right of Commonwealth citizens to settle in Britain.
1/2/1971. Licences for radios abolished in the UK. See 1/11/1922).
20/1/1971, (1) UK postal workers went on strike for a 19.5% pay claim. See 8/3/1971.
(2) The RAF Red Arrows aerial display team collided in mid-air, killing four.
2/12/1970, The UK Parliament voted against retaining British Summer Time over the winter.
26/11/1970. The first year of Edward Heath’s government was marked by the most days lost to strikes since 1926, the year of the General Strike. 8.8 million working days were lost.
19/10/1970. BP announced the first oil find in the UK sector of the North Sea.
16/7/1970. The first State of emergency in Britain since 1926 was called by Prime Minister Edward Heath as the dock workers went on strike. The docks strike lasted until 3/8/1970.
8/7/1970. Roy Jenkins was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.
18/6/1970. General Election in the UK. Edward Heath became Conservative Prime Minister. The Conservatives won 330 seats, against 287 for Labour, 6 for the Liberals and 1 Scottish Nationalist, an overall Conservative majority of 31.
17/6/1970. The UK issued decimal postage stamps. Stamps were in denominations of 10p, 20p, and 50p.
14/5/1970, The UK Minister of Housing and Local Government announced that potash mining would be allowed from beneath the North York Moors National Park at Boulby, under strict environmental conditions.
13/3/1970. English schoolgirl Susan Wallace became the first 18 - year old eligible to vote. See 12/5/1969.
19/2/1970. Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Charles would join the Royal Navy.
15/2/1970, Lord Dowding, British Air Chief Marshall and head of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, died aged 87.
2/2/1970. Death of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, aged 97. He was also a peace campaigner and mathematician.
15/12/1969. Swansea received City Status.
1/7/1969. Prince Charles was formally invested as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. This event was watched by a TV audience of some 200 million worldwide.
24/6/1969. The 20 year old Prince Charles tackled the ‘awfully difficult’ question of his future marriage. ‘You have to chose somebody very carefully, I think’ said the Prince.
20/6/1969, High-grade oil was discovered in the North Sea.
9/6/1969, Enoch Powell proposed voluntary repatriation of immigrants, causing a storm of protest.
12/5/1969. The voting age in Britain was lowered to 18 from 21.
1/5/1969, Queen Elizabeth II opened the new Ordnance Survey offices in Southampton.
5/3/1969. The gangland twins Ronald and Roger Kray, 35, were found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey and given life sentences. The judge said they should not be released for 30 years.
22/2/1969. President Nixon of the USA arrived in Britain for talks with Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
1968, The Ironbridge Museum Trust was founded to preserve the ‘birthplace of the Industrial Revolution’.
30/11/1968. The Trades Descriptions Act came into force.
16/10/1968, In Britain, the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices merged.
10/10/1968, Enoch Powell warned that immigration might ‘change the character of England’
27/9/1968, The French again vetoed UK membership of the EEC.
13/9/1968, British banks announced plans to cease Saturday opening.
3/8/1968, The Countryside Act allowed local authorities to designate National Parks.
6/5/1968, (1) An opinion poll suggested 74% of Britons supported Enoch Powell’s views on immigration.
(2) The Kray Twins were charged with ten offences including two of conspiracy to murder.
20/4/1968, Enoch Powell, Conservative MP for south-west Wolverhampton, made his famous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech about the dangers of immigration at a hotel in Birmingham. See 6/5/1968.
22/2/1968, The UK Government was concerned at the level of immigration of Asians from East Africa.
11/1/1968. Emigration from Britain exceeded immigration by 30,000 in the second quarter on 1967.
19/12/1967. Second French veto by De Gaulle on British membership of the E.E.C. The pound was devalued, and Harold Wilson made his ‘pound in your pocket’ television speech.
29/11/1967, Roy Jenkins succeeded James Callaghan as Chancellor.
27/11/1967, De Gaulle vetoed Britain’s entry into the EEC.
2/11/1967, The first Scottish Nationalist Party candidate took their seat at Westminster. In the by-election at Hamilton, Winifred Ewing took the seat for the SNP, a party formed in 1934.
8/10/1967. Clement Atlee, British Prime Minister 1945-51, died aged 84.
28/7/1967, The UK steel industry was nationalised.
18/7/1967, British forces were to withdraw from areas east of Suez by the mid-1970s,
1/4/1967. (1) The Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserves formed.
(2) Britain’s first Ombudsman was created, Sir Edmund Compton.
30/3/1967, The Torrey Canyon was finally destroyed by RAF bombing.
18/3/1967. The Torrey Canyon ran aground on the Seven Stones reef off Lands End. The 975 foot tanker spilled 117,000 tons of Kuwaiti crude oil that was bound for Milford Haven. Within six days 30,000 tons of oil had escaped producing a 260 square mile slick. Thousands of gallons of detergent were dumped on the slick, but two days later the tanker broke her back during a salvage attempt, releasing a further 30,000 tons of oil. On 28 and 29 March the RAF took emergency action, and tried to burn off the oil. They dumped aviation fuel, high explosive bombs, rockets, and napalm onto the slick. The six hour bombardment was a success but by then the oil had fouled 100 miles of Cornish coastline.
18/1/1967. Jeremy Thorpe, born on 29/4/1929, became leader of the Liberal Party, replacing Joe Grimond. Thorpe resigned on 10/5/1976.
12/1/1967, Plans were announced for a new city at Milton Keynes.
1/12/1966, Britain’s Post Offices issued the first Christmas Stamps.
23/10/1966, BP announced the discovery of large gas fields in the North Sea.
22/10/1966. KGB master spy George Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs, using a home-made rope ladder to scale the high perimeter wall, He had been serving a 42-year sentence for espionage meted out in 1962, one year for each of the lives his treachery was estimated to have cost. On 20/11/1966 he arrived in East Berlin.
21/10/1966. The Aberfan disaster. A coal waste tip collapsed at 9.30am, burying a school in the Welsh Valleys, shortly after the children had arrived for morning assembly. It was a half day and by midday the schools would have been empty again for the half term holiday. 2 million tons of rock and sludge engulfed both the infants and junior schools. Also engulfed were a row of cottages and a farm; 147 people, 116 of them children, were killed. Aberfan was a close-knit community, and now had just five surviving children. The National Coal Board was blamed for siting the colliery waste tip on top of a natural spring; heavy rain had further destabilised the waste heap.
23/8/1966, The Cotswolds were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
21/7/1966, The first Welsh Nationalist MP, Gwynfor Evans, took his seat in Parliament after a by-election.
14/7/1966, The Welsh Nationalists won their first by-election, at Carmarthen.
2/6/1966. Philips petroleum found a large gas field off the Humber estuary.
23/5/1966. In Britain, a State of Emergency was declared in response to the Seamen’s strike.
6/5/1966. The Moors murderers Ian Brady, 28, and Myra Hindley, 24, were found guilty of murder at Chester Crown Court and jailed for life.
14/4/1966, The South Downs was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
5/4/1966, Shell announced the discovery of oil off Great Yarmouth.
31/3/1966. General Election in the UK. Labour under Harold Wilson won a landslide victory, gaining a majority of 66. Labour won 363 seats, the Conservatives won 253 seats, and the Liberals won 12.
19/2/1966. A 26 year old man was gassed as he attempted to cook a dinner for his wife. He had failed to realise that you had to ignite the gas. The Ministry of Public Works revealed plans to build an underground cafe, ticket office, and sales room, beneath Stonehenge.
27/12/1965. The North Sea oilrig Sea Gem collapsed into the sea, killing 13 people.
28/10/1965. The Moors Murderers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, were charged with murdering a 13-year old giel, Lesley Ann Downey, whose body had been found on the moors on 15/10/1965.
8/10/1965, Edward Heath said he would take Britain into the European Community.
21/9/1965, BP (British Petroleum) became the first company to discover oil in the North Sea.
2/8/1965, A UK White Paper limited immigration from the Commonwealth.
28/7/1965. Edward Heath, born 9/7/1916, became leader of the Conservative Party. Sir Alec Douglas Home had resigned as leader on 22/5/1965. Heath was leader until 1975 when Mrs Thatcher became Party leader (11/2/1975). Heath received 155 votes against 133 for Reginald Maudling and 15 for Enoch Powell. At 49 Heath was the youngest leader of the Conservative Party for a century.
26/7/1965, The Post Office announced that in future UK telephone numbers would not include letters.
24/5/1965, Westminster announced that Britain was to switch to metric measurements.
23/4/1965. The Pennine Way, 250 miles from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in Roxburghshire, opened. This was the first long distance footpath in Britain.
24/3/1965. David Steel became Britain’s youngest MP at the age of 26.
2/2/1965, In the UK, PM Harold Wilson announced the cancellation of three expensive defence projects. Two were for aircraft capable of vertical takeoffs and landing, the Armstrong Whitworth AW.681 was a large military transport plane, and the Hawker Siddeley P.1154 was supersonic fighter aircraft. The third, the British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2 was a high-speed attack and reconnaissance jet. Wilson said that the cost of the research and development for the TSR-2 alone had already reached £750 million, more than eight times the original forecast, and that each of the 150 planned TSR-2s would cost £4 million each.
30/1/1965, State funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, see 24/1/1965.
24/1/1965. Sir Winston Churchill died, aged 90, exactly 70 years after his father died. He was buried in Bladon churchyard, within sight of Blenheim Palace, his birthplace. He was born, on 30/11/1874, a descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, in Blenheim Palace. His funeral was on 30/1/1965, when Big Ben was silenced.
15/10/1964. Labour won the UK General Election with a majority of 4. Labour had 317 seats, the Conservatives 304, and the Liberals 9. Harold Wilson was the new Prime Minister. He inherited a balance of payments deficit of nearly £700 million.
12/8/1964, Great Train Robber Charlie Wilson escaped from Winson Green prison, Birmingham. He was recaptured four years later in Canada.
27/7/1964. Sir Winston Churchill last appeared in the House of Commons. He died on 24/1/1965.
16/4/1964. Twelve members of the Great Train Robbers were sentenced to a total of 307 years in jail.
19/3/1964. Harold Wilson presented each of The Beatles with a silver heart as joint winners of the Show Business Personality of 1963 award.
10/3/1964, Prince Edward (Edward Antony Richard Louis) was born in Buckingham Palace, the third son of Elizabeth II.
20/1/1964. In the UK, the trial of the Great Train Robbers began.
19/10/1963. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Conservative, became Prime Minister. Harold Macmillan resigned as Prime Minister on 18/10/1963.
10/10/1963, Harold Macmillan announced he would resign as Prime Minister, due to ill-health and the Profumo Affair; see 5/6/1963 and 19/10/1963.
5/9/1963. Christine Keeler, one of the girls at the centre of the Profumo scandal, was arrested and charged with perjury. She was sentenced to nine months on 6/12/1963. See 5/6/1963.
8/8/1963. The Great Train Robbery took place at Sear’s Crossing, Mentmore, near Cheddington, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. A gang of 15 men stole over £2.5million. Their haul was £2.5 million in banknotes scheduled for destruction. The robbery was well planned. They used batteries and a light to simulate a red stop signal for the Glasgow to London mail train. When the train stopped they coshed the driver, Jack Mills, decoupled the engine and some of the carriages, and drove them to Bridego bridge further up the line. Here the loot was loaded onto a lorry and taken to a farm nearby, which the police quickly found. Charlie Wilson, the first of the robbers, was arrested and charged later the same month. The train driver was coshed on the head and died six years later, never fully regaining his health..
22/7/1963, In Britain, a commission into slum housing was set up.
5/6/1963. War Minister John Profumo resigned, admitting he misled the Commons about his relationship with a call girl called Christine Keeler, who had links to a Russian diplomat. See 5/9/1963.
6/4/1963, Anglo-US Polaris weapons agreement signed.
17/3/1963. The first of the Tristan da Cunha islanders returned home from Britain.
14/2/1963 Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party, see 18/1/1963. Other candidates were James Callaghan and George Brown. See 18/1/1963.
18/1/1963. Hugh Gaitskell, former UK Labour Party leader from 1955 to 1963, died unexpectedly. See 14/2/1963.
14/1/1963. De Gaulle vetoed Britain’s membership of the EEC. He said the UK was too close to the Commonwealth and the USA, and not ‘sufficiently European’.
21/12/1962, The US agreed to sell Polaris missiles to the UK.
18/12/1962, PM Harold MacMillan of the UK and President Kennedy of the USA concluded the Nassau Agreement, at Nassau, Bahamas. This allowed the US navy to provide Polaris missiles for the Royal Navy, normally operating under NATO command. This Anglo-US collaboration was resented by General De Gaulle of France, who saw it as proof that Britain was not sufficiently European. Within a month De Gaulle had vetoed UK membership of the EEC, see 14/1/1963.
2/4/1962, Prince Charles arrived as a new pupil at Gordonstoun School, near Elgin, Scotland, the school his father Prince Philip attended.
22/1/1962. The ‘A6 murder’ trial began. It was to be the longest murder trial in British legal history, lasting until 17/2/1962, and ended with the hanging of James Hanratty. He had murdered Michael Gregston in a lay-by on the A6.
8/11/1961. Negotiations with Britain began in Brussels to join the Common Market.
1/11/1961, The UK, concerned about rising immigration, planned a Commonwealth Immigration Bill to limit their numbers. 21,000 Commonwealth citizens migrated to the UK in 1960 but 100,000 were expected for 1961. Number quotas and/or skills requirements could be imposed. See 2/7/1962.
9/10/1961. Margaret Thatcher got her first government job, as Parliamentary Secretary
4/10/1961, The Labour Party Conference voted against having Polaris bases in Britain.
17/9/1961. A large ‘Ban the Bomb’ demonstration in London was ended by the police with 830 arrested, including Vanessa Redgrave. 15,000 had attended the demonstration in Trafalgar Square.
12/9/1961, The philosopher Bertrand Russell, aged 89, was arrested and imprisoned for protesting against nuclear weapons.
1/7/1961. Lady Diana Spencer was born, in Park House, Sandringham.
8/5/1961. George Blake, 38, a former British diplomat, was jailed for 42 years for spying for Russia.
8/3/1961. The death of the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. Born in 1876 in St Helens, Lancashire, he was the grandson of the founder of the Beecham’s pills business.
31/12/1960, National Service ceased in the UK. The last batch of 18-year olds were called up. Of the 2,049 who received their call-up cards, 50 would join the RAF at Cardington, Bedfordshire, the rest went to Aldershot for 2 weeks basic training and joined the Army.
3/11/1960, Hugh Gaitskell successfully fought off a challenge for Labour Party leadership by Harold Wilson.
1/11/1960, It was announced that US Polaris missile submarines were to be based in the Firth of Clyde.
30/4/1960, Britain abandoned the Blue Streak ,missile programme.
29/3/1960, UK PM Harold MacMillan reached agreement with US leaders on a nuclear test ban treaty to be put to the USSR.
19/2/1960, Prince Andrew (Andrew Albert Christian Edward), third child and second son of Queen Elizabeth II, was born in Buckingham Palace.
17/2/1960, The UK Government said it would allow the US to build a missile early warning system to be built at Fylingdales, Yorkshire.
For events of Cod War see also Iceland 1950s, 60s
26/12/1959. The first charity walk was organised, in aid of the World Refugee Fund, by Kenneth Johnson of Letchworth, Hertfordshire. The intended route covered 50 miles from Letchworth to Yatesbury in Wiltshire. 20 men and one woman paid 1 shilling to enter; ten gave up after 13 miles, 3 after 22 miles, 1 after 25 miles, 4 at Princes Risborough, and 3, including Johnson, carried on for 50 miles, giving up at Ewelme, Oxfordshire. About £20 was raised.
25/11/1959, Charles Kennedy, British politician, was born.
8/10/1959. UK general election. The Conservatives under Harold MacMillan and his slogan ‘You’ve never had it so good’ won, and Mrs Thatcher was elected an MP. The Conservatives won 365 seats, labour won 258, and the Liberals got 6. Macmillan remained Prime Minister.
7/5/1959, An agreement was reached enabling Britain to buy components of atomic weapons, as opposed to actual nuclear warheads, from the USA.
7/8/1958. The Litter Act came into force in Britain.
26/7/1958. Queen Elizabeth II created her eldest son Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.
24/7/1958. The first life peerages were awarded in Britain, under the Life Peerages Act.
3/7/1958. The last debutantes were presented to the Queen. British high society mourned the passing of this tradition; the Queen had decided this had no place in modern society. Presentation at Court had been reserved for the daughters of the aristocracy and those prominent in society. Those who made their curtsies to the Queen were sponsored and chaperoned by those who had been presented themselves earlier. But some socially ambitious parents had fallen on hard times to finance the fees and expenses of qualified chaperones. Prince Philip was reported to have suggested the move.
4/4/1958, The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) held its first protest march this Good Friday. Members marched from Hyde Park Corner to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, arriving on 7/4/1958. 600 members completed the 50-mile march and 12,000 attended the final rally.
26/3/1959, Jersey Zoological Park opened.
6/3/1958, The TUC and the Labour party called for H-Bomb tests to stop.
17/2/1958, The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, CND, was launched by Bertrand Russell and Canon John Collins.
6/8/1957. Despite the Conservative PM, Harold MacMillan, stating that ‘most of us have never had it so good’, last month, 2,000 people were emigrating from Britain every week, for the USA or Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia. Many were professionals or science and medical graduates.
23/7/1957, In Britain, violence broke out on picket lines as a national bus strike took effect.
20/7/1957, Conservative PM Harold Macmillan said that ‘most of our people have never had it so good’.
14/5/1957, Petrol rationing in the UK, caused by the Suez Crisis, ended.
4/4/1957. Britain announced that compulsory National Service, 2 years long for all reaching 18, would end in 1960.
3/4/1957, The UK Labour Party called for H-Bomb tests to stop.
9/1/1957. Anthony Eden, aged 59, resigned as Prime Minister, on grounds of ill-health, in the wake of the Suez Crisis. On 10/1/1957 Harold Macmillan became Prime Minister. Rab Butler was deputy PM but had also supported the Suez adventure and there would have been a back-bench revolt if Butler had become PM. A bitterly disappointed Butler received the consolation prize of becoming Home Secretary under Macmillan, and Peter Thorneycroft became the new Chancellor. Macmillan dismissed Labour calls for a general election by the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, and busied himself with mending relationships with the US under the recently elected President Eisenhower.
22/12/1956. Britain and France withdrew their forces from Egypt, under intense pressure from the USA. The Suez Crisis had caused a run on Sterling, and the US would not halt this without a withdrawal.
23/11/1956. As the Suez Crisis deepened, petrol rationing began in the UK, and driving tests were suspended.
15/11/1956. UN emergency forces arrived in Suez, and began to clear the Canal of wrecked ships on 27/12/1956. UN forces began taking over from the British, under strong pressure from the USA. The British PM, Anthony Eden, was suffering from psychological strain caused by the unanticipated world hostility to his Suez adventure, and flew to Jamaica on 23/11/1957 to rest.
For Suez Crisis 1956 see Egypt
1/11/1956. Ernie (Electronic Random Number Indicating Equipment) was born as Premium Bonds first went on sale in Britain.
31/10/1956. France and Britain bombed Egyptian airfields in the Suez Crisis. The speed of events – Egypt was only given 12 hours to withdraw from the Canal – suggested to US President Eisenhower that the whole operation was staged to maintain Anglo-French influence in Suez. See Israel (1956)
25/9/1956, Transatlantic telephone cable between the UK and the USA became operational.
1/4/1956, The first US U-2 spy planes arrived at RAF Lakenheath.
23/3/1956, Foundation stone of Coventry Cathedral laid by Queen Elizabeth II. The Cathedral was consecrated on 25/5/1962. The former 14th century cathedral along with the city’s mediaeval centre had been destroyed in an 11-hour Luftwaffe blitz on 14/11/1940 when over 1,000 died.
7/12/1955. Clement Attlee, aged 72, resigned as leader of the UK Labour Party; Hugh Gaitskell was elected as leader by a wide margin. Gaitskell died in 1963 and Labour did not come to power again until 1964, with Harold Wilson as leader. Attlee entered the House of Lords as First Earl Attlee, until his death in 1969.
31/10/1955, Princess Margaret decided not to marry divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend. Had she married, she would have lost her Civil List income and place in line to the throne.
3/8/1955, Duncan Sandys, UK Housing Minister, instructed local authorities to set up Green Belts similar to London’s around other major towns and cities. The idea was to stop food producing farmland being lost to urbanisation, and to stop unsightly ‘ribbon development’ along main roads. Where possible, urban development was to be by ‘infilling’. This month, denim jeans became fashionable in the UK.
4/7/1955. British dock strike ended after 1 month.
14/6/1955, Rail workers called off the strike which began on 29//5/1955.
31/5/1955, In Britain, troops went on stand-by as the effects of the rail and docks strikes worsened.
26/5/1955, The Conservatives won the General Election, with a majority of 59.
5/4/1955. Sir Winston Churchill, aged 80, resigned as Prime Minister. He suffered s stroke in 1953. Anthony Eden succeeded him. Harold Macmillan became Eden’s new Foreign Secretary.
25/2/1955, Britain’s largest aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal was completed.
31/12/1954, Harold MacMillan, British Conservative Housing Minister, announced that a record number of houses, 354,000, had been built during 1954.
4/11/1954, Two by-elections in the UK, Sutton and Cheam and Morpeth. Both seats were retained by the incumbent Party, Conservative and Labour respectively.
2/11/1954, A dock workers' strike in the UK ended.
20/10/1954, A docks strike reduced Britain’s trade by half.
3/7/1954. Plans for a new steelworks at Motherwell, Scotland, were announced.
1/7/1954. 90% of rabbits in southern Britain were infected with myxomatosis. Farmers were happy since rabbits destroyed crops worth £50 million each year; scientists worried about upsetting the balance of nature.
7/6/1954, Alan Turing, mathematician who broke the Nazi codes during World War Two, committed suicide. After his conviction for homosexuality on 31/3/1952 he had opted for chemical ‘treatment’ rather than prison; this consisted of oestrogen injections, which made him put on weight and grow breasts.
5/5/1954, Austin Reed, owner of a chain of men’s clothes shops, died in Gerrard’s Cross, Buckinghamshire.
14/4/1954, Aneurin Bevan resigned from the Labour Cabinet in protest at British Government support for the re-arming of Germany, so soon after World War Two.
3/4/1954, Oxford won the 100th boat race.
10/12/1953, Churchill received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
1/12/1953, Harold Macmillan boasted that 301,000 new homes have been built in Britain during the Conservatives second year in office.
21/11/1953. The discovery of the Piltdown Man skull on 18/12/1912 in Sussex by Charles Dawson was revealed to be a hoax, see 22/9/1990.
2/6/1953. Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (see 6/2/1952). Britain was still recovering from World War Two.. Just 4% of homes had TV sets. Few had fridges or washing machines, for commercial TV had yet to arrive and ignite the consumer boom, much of which was to be on credit, or ‘never-never’. Just one marriage in a hundred ended in divorce.
6/5/1953. Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister 1997 - 2007, was born.
24/4/1953. Queen Elizabeth II knighted Winston Churchill.
16/4/1953. Queen Elizabeth II launched the Royal Yacht Britannia.
4/3/1953, The RAF made a special Coronation Dish for Queen Elizabeth II, using lampreys – the food which allegedly killed Henry I.
23/2/1953, An amnesty was granted to WW II deserters.
1/1/1953, ‘Bomber’ Harris, head of Bomber Command responsible for the bombing of Dresden, was knighted.
23/10/1952. The Claerwen Dam, on the River Claerwen in mid-Wales, was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. Construction work had begun on 18/8/1946 when the Mayor of Birmingham set off the first charge of dynamite.
Birmingham had begun to be threatened by a water shortage from the 1890s, and the nearest supply was in mid-Wales. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1892 authorising the construction of three dams on the River Elan and three more on the River Claerwen. The Elan reservoirs were built first, and then satisfied the demand of Birmingham, which then had a population of half a million, and most had to carry their water in a bucket from an outside tap. But by 1946 Birmingham had over a million people, and more of these had a sink and a bathroom, and there had been a severe drought in 1937. By 1940 city planners determined to build the Claerwen reservoirs too, as soon as the War was over. The largest dam, designed by Sir William Halcrow, was to be 184 feet high and 1,166 feet long. Behind would be a lake four miles long and holding ten billion gallons of water. Birmingham could not have all the water; places as far as Hereford also relied on the water from here, so enough had to be let through for this. During construction, accommodation had to be built on site for over 200 men, with housing, canteen, stores, and offices. The building work was held up by terrible weather during the late 1940s; blizzards, interspersed with floods and droughts, finally completed in 1952.
21/9/1952, Sir Montague Burton, British multiple tailor, knighted in 1931, died in Leeds.
11/7/1952, Figures from the 1951 Census showed that one household in three lacked a bath, and one in twenty had no piped water.
31/3/1952, Alan Turing, the computing expert who led the effort to break the German Enigma codes in World War Two, was convicted of being party to gross indecency, meaning homosexuality.
21/2/1952. Identity cards were abolished in Britain.
6/2/1952. The accession of Queen Elizabeth II, born 21/4/1926. Her coronation was on 2/6/1953, on a dull showery day; it was the first Coronation to be televised. The funeral of King George V was at Windsor on 15/2/1952, when over 300,000 paid their respects to his coffin at Westminster Abbey.. King George V had died of lung cancer from smoking, aged 56, during the night at Sandringham, and Elizabeth I was on safari in Kenya at the time. King George V had had a lung removed in September 1951 by surgeons at Buckingham Palace.
20/11/1951, Snowdonia in Wales was designated a National Park.
25/10/1951. Margaret Roberts, later Margaret Thatcher, became the youngest person, at age 26, to stand in a general election. She lost. However the Conservatives won 321 seats against 295 for Labour, 6 for the Liberals, and 3 for other parties. The Conservatives had the majority of seats yet Labour had won more of the votes cast. Winston Churchill succeeded Clement Attlee as Prime Minister. The Conservative s promised to de-nationalise steel and road haulage, but wuold leave other nationalised industries alone.
14/9/1951, Fawley Oil Refinery, near Southampton, opened.
15/8/1951. Dartmoor was designated a National Park.
24/7/1951, The Tyne pedestrian and cycle tunnel, Newcastle, opened. It was Britain’s first purpose-built cycle tunnel, opened as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations, and cost £833,000 to construct.
18/6/1951. The US was given permission for an airbase at Greenham Common, Berkshire.
25/5/1951. British diplomats Burgess (1910 – 1963) and MacLean (1913 – 1983) were first reported missing. They had defected to Moscow. They had been recruited by the Soviets whilst working at MI5 during the 1930s.
14/4/1951. Ernest Bevin, Labour politician and Trade Unionist, died.
11/4/1951. The Stone of Scone (Stone of Destiny) was recovered at Forfar three months after its theft from Westminster. It returned to Westminster on 13/4/1951. Scottish Nationalists had stolen it from Westminster Abbey on 25/12/1950.
1/4/1951, A survey of 12.4 million dwellings in Britain revealed that 1.9 million had three rooms or less, that 4.8 million had no fixed bath, and that almost 2.8 million lacked exclusive use of a toilet. 4.7 million, 38%, had been built before 1891, and 2.5 million dated from before 1851.
1/1/1951, The UK steel industry was nationalised.
28/12/1950. In the UK, the Peak District was designated as the first National Park.
25/12/1950. Scottish Nationalists stole the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey, see 11/4/1951. The Stone is a piece of sandstone marked with a Latin cross; according to legend it was the stone Jacob used as a pillow at Bethel where he saw visions of angels. In around 700 BC the Stone was taken to Ireland where it was set on the Hill of Tara, the crowning place of Irish kings. Invading Celtic Scots took the Stone to Scotland. In 1259 the English under King Edward I removed the Stone to Westminster. In 1997, when Scotland got its own Parliament, the Stone was formally returned to Edinburgh.
19/10/1950. Hugh Gaitskell became UK Chancellor of the Exchequer. He replaced Sir Stafford Cripps who had retired in health grounds.
2/10/1950. Legal aid became available in Britain.
10/7/1950. Soap rationing ended in Britain.
24/5/1950, Field Marshall Lord Archibald Wavell, British military commander (born 1883) died.
4/4/1950, At Liverpool, the liner Franconia was found to be full of smuggled nylon stockings with a black market value of £80,000.
21/3/1950, A survey showed that only 46% of British homes had a bathroom.
28/2/1950. Clement Attlee formed a new Labour Government in the UK.
23/2/1950. The first General Election in the UK where the results were televised. Clement Attlee, Labour prime Minister, narrowly won for Labour, which had just a majority over the Conservatives and Liberals combined. The result was Labour 315 seats, Conservative 298, Liberal 9, others 3. Voter turnout was 84%. 319 out of 475 Liberal candidates lost their deposits.
19/12/1949, Britain passed the National Parks Act.
29/11/1949, The Parliament Act was passed in the UK, restricting the Lords delaying abilities. The House of Lords had rejected this Bill but it still became law as MPs had voted for it three times.
6/8/1949, John Haugh, the ‘acid bath murderer’ was executed.
1/5/1949. In the UK, the gas industry was nationalised.
24/4/1949. Sweets and chocolates came off rations in Britain. Clothes rationing, which began on 2/6/1941, ceased on 15/3/1949. All food rationing ended on 3/7/1954. Identity cards were abolished in Britain on 21/2/1952.
1/4/1949, The National Parks Bill was approved by the UK Parliament. 12 National Parks were created, covering 9% of the area of England and Wales; none were created in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
15/3/1949, Clothes rationing ended in Britain.
1/12/1948. National Service in Britain was increased from 12 to 18 months.
22/9/1948, Captain Mark Phillips, husband of Princess Anne, was born in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.
9/9/1948 Footwear rationing ended in the UK.
1/7/1948. The first Oxfam shop opened in the UK.
23/5/1948. The Empire Windrush sailed from Jamaica with the first West Indian migrants, to alleviate Britain’s severe labour shortage.
15/3/1948. The UK Civil Service was closed to Fascists and Communists regarding posts vital to State Security.
14/12/1947, Stanley Baldwin, British Conservative politician, three times Prime Minister, who became Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, died.
20/11/1947. Princess Elizabeth married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, in Westminster Abbey. Austerity and rationing were temporarily forgotten.
13/11/1947. Chancellor Hugh Dalton resigned after admitting passing tax details to a reporter minutes before the Budget speech.
4/10/1947, Ann Widdecombe, British politician, was born.
30/9/1947, The UK Government asked women to wear shorter skirts, to save cloth.
29/9/1947, Sir Stafford Cripps was appointed by PM Attlee, as Minister of Economic Affairs. He went on to replace Hugh Dalton as Chancellor of the Exchequer following Dalton’s resignation on 13/11/1947. Sir Cripps was a keen advocate of austerity, as the UK made efforts to cut back on imports from outside the Sterling Area.
17/9/1947, Tessa Jowell, UK politician, was born.
14/9/1947, Baldwin retired in May 1937 and was made Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. He died on 14 September 1947.
27/8/1947. The UK Government announced cuts to deal with an economic crisis.
7/2/1947. The Minister of Fuel and Power, Emanuel Shinwell, startled the House of Commons by announcing that Britain’s power stations were running out of coal, as very cold snowy weather paralysed the rail system. Four weeks of intermittent power cuts followed, with two million workers suspended. Greyhound racing, TV and magazine production were halted.
8/1/1947. In Britain, a shortage of coal caused closures of steel works. There were also food shortages because of the hauliers’ strike. Troops were called in to move supplies.
1/1/1947. Britain’s coal industry was nationalised under the Coal industry Nationalisation Act, 1946. The National Coal Board (NCB) was set up, to control 1,647 mines, 100,000 miners homes and over a million acres of land. The NCB was chaired by Lord Hyndley.
1946, Britain passed the Distribution of Industry Act, incetivising industrialists to relocate production to areas of high unemployment.
27/12/1946, In Britain, 12 cotton mills closed today and much industry in the Midlands went on a 4-day week as a fuel shortage deepened. Meanwhile a world food shortage, compounded by a global shipping shortage, and, for the UK, a lack of foreign exchange, caused UK rations to be cut. In February 1946 butter, margarine and cooking fat rations were reduced from 8 to 7 ounces per person per week. In May 1946 bread, previously un-rationed, came on-ration.
18/12/1946. Labour MPs triumphantly sang The Red Flag as the House of Commons voted to nationalise the railways, road haulage, and ports. This was under Clement Attlee’s Labour Government. The Bank of England had already been nationalised and, despite the UK’s economic problems, civil aviation, broadcasting, road transport and steel woild soon follow. Attlee also proposed independence for Burma and India.
11/11/1946. Stevenage, Hertfordshire, became the first ‘New Town’ to be designated in Britain.
6/11/1946. In the UK, the National Health Act came into force.
8/7/1946. Margaret Roberts, later Margaret Thatcher, was elected president of the Oxford University Conservatives.
6/7/1946, The Young Conservatives political organisation was founded in Britain.
2/4/1946. The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst was founded. The Woolwich Academy was merged with Sandhurst.
31/3/1946, General Gort, British commander of the British Expeditionary Force that entered France in 1939 and retreated again in 1940, died.
5/3/1946. Winston Churchill referred to an “Iron Curtain” descending across Europe, in a speech at Fulton, USA. The first public acknowledgement that the Cold War had begun. See 12/3/1947.
28/2/1946, Robin Cook, British politician, was born.
22/1/1946, UK pit owners protested at plans to nationalise the coal industry.
30/12/1945, The SS Tilapia docked in Bristol with the first cargo of bananas to enter the UK since the War, since 11/1940, when the UK Government banned all fruit imports except oranges.
5/11/1945, In Britain, a seven-week dock strike ended.
12/9/1945, An estimate of War casualties reckoned that Britain had lost 420,000 members of the armed forces; the US had lost 292,000, and the USSR, 13 million. German loss of military men was put at 3.9 million, Japan’s at 2.6 million. British civilian casualties from air raids were set at 60,000, with 860,000 severely injured.
26/7/1945. Clement Attlee’s Labour Government came to power with a huge majority of 173 seats. The result was Labour, 412 seats, Conservative 213 seats, and Liberals 12 seats. Clement Attlee was born in Putney, London, on 3/1/1883. The former government of Winston Churchill was defeated. Churchill’s warning that ‘no Socialist system can be established without some form of political police or gestapo’ did the Conservatives more harm than Labour, as voters thought it ridiculous to compare politicians like Attlee and Bevan to Hitler. However the new Labour Government now faced severe economic problems. £4 billion of British foreign investments had gone, exports were half the 1938 level, industry was damaged and run-down, and 700,000 houses in London alone were bomb damaged. Then there were the Labour commitments to a Welfare State, free healthcare, and the nationalisation of major industries. Politically the USA and USSR emerged as superpowers, but Britain had lost its premier standing in the world forever.
7/7/1945, Trains carried a record 102,889 holidaymakers to Blackpool. UK beaches had been off limits to civilians since the War began in 1939. In 1948 the Holidays With Pay Act increased the holiday trade even more.
5/7/1945, UK General Election. The results were delayed three weeks to allow for postal votes cast overseas by members of the armed forces.
18/6/1945, The first demobilisations began in Britain (see 22/9/1944).
9/5/1945, The German occupation of the Channel Islands ended. The German commander of the Channel Islands, Vice-Admiral Huffmeier, had threatened to fight on but his 10,000 men ignored him and surrendered without a shot being fired. The ordinary people had come close to starvation, subsisting on stewed rabbits and cabbage. As late as 7/5/1945 the German occupiers had been issuing orders to improve coastal fortifications.
8/5/1945. VE Day. The Second World War officially ended in Europe, at one minute past midnight. Field Marshall Keitel signed the final capitulation. The Channel Islands remained under Nazi occupation till the following day, 9/5/1945. Street parties were held all over Britain.
23/4/1945, Blackout restrictions removed in Britain.
20/4/1945, Britain estimated its civilian casualties from the war at 146,760. Civilian casualties in London amounted to 80,307. In Greater Manchester 684 people died in the bombing, and an additional 2,364 were injured.
12/4/1945. The Scottish Nationalists won their first by-election, gaining a seat from Labour at Motherwell. However Labour regained the seat at the General Election a few months later.
26/3/1945. David Lloyd George, British Liberal Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, died in Llanystundwy, near Criccieth, north Wales, aged 82.
3/12/1944, The Home Guard was formally disbanded in London as King George VI witnessed its final parade. Britons were jubilant that this symbolised imminent victory in the War. The Black-Out was replaced by the Dim-Out as the Luftwaffe was no longer a credible threat. However British strikes rose, particularly in the coal mines. Coal miners pay was relatively low compared to other occupations, and conditions were poor.
27/11/1944. Between 3,500 and 4,000 tons of high explosives went off in a cavern beneath Staffordshire, killing 68 people. The explosion was heard as far away as Geneva. The former gypsum mine at Hanbury was used by the RAF to defuse bombs that had failed to drop from planes raiding Germany. Against strict rules, an operative used a steel screwdriver, causing a spark.
22/9/1944, In Britain details of demobilisation were released to the public. Class B ‘demob’ covered builders and others with skills greatly needed for post-war reconstruction; these had priority of demob, but could be recalled to the military if they entered another trade. Class A covered everyone else. They would be released from military service on a scheme that equated years of age to years of military service at 6:1. This meant a 40 year old with 1 year’s military service had the same demob priority as a 22 year old with 3 year’s military service. The first demobilisations in the UK were on 18/6/1945.
6/6/1944. D – Day. Allied forces landed in Normandy. Operation Overlord was the biggest sea-borne invasion in history. It was delayed 24 hours due to bad weather.
15/5/1944. In St Pauls School, London, the D-Day landings of 6/6/1944 were planned using a huge map of the area. 8 divisions, 5 seaborne and 3 airborne, were to be landed in the first 48 hours. The Germans had 60 divisions defending the coast of the Netherlands, Belgium and France. An elaborate deception was mounted to make Germany think Calais was the landing point with fake radio traffic, misleading reports from Nazi agents who had been ‘turned’ to serve the Allies, and a phantom army with wooden tanks stationed in south-east England. In May 1944 Montgomery received a decode of a message from Field Marshall Rommel to Hitler saying that Allied bombing of railways in northern France was disrupting his efforts to defend the Calais area from an Allied invasion.
14/5/1944, The last attempted air raid on Bristol. 91 bombers took part but most failed even to find the city; a few small bombs were dropped in the suburbs.
6/5/1944, Rehearsals for the D-Day landings were held at Slapton Sands, Devon.
8/3/1944, 9,000 Welsh miners went on strike over pay differentials; the government met their demands.
18/1/1944, The first batch of UK conscripts to be sent down the mines, nicknamed ‘Bevin Boys’, began their training.
22/12/1943. The UK government announced there were only enough turkeys left for one in ten families.
2/12/1943, Britain was running out of manpower. The number of registered unemployed, 1,250,000 in 1939, was now just 60,000, and the conscription age was now from 18 to 51. Conscription of women had also been extended upwards from those in their 20s to those in their 50s, although they could choose between armed forces or factory work. 20/11/1943. Oswald Moseley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, was released from gaol on grounds of ill-health. The UK Labour Party protested.
3/5/1943. The UK government made part-time war work compulsory for women aged 18 to 45.
7/4/1943. Keynes published his plan for the post-war recovery of Britain.
29/3/1943. British Prime Minister John Major was born.
21/2/1943, Britons celebrated ‘;Red Army Day’ to congratulate the Russians on their success at Stalingrad.
31/10/1942, The Germans bombed Canterbury in retaliation for the bombing of Cologne.
22/10/1942, German planes dropped high explosives and incendiaries on Appleby-Frodingham steelworks, Scunthorpe, injuring 15 employees.
4/10/1942, A small British air raid on Sark.
2/7/1942, Churchill, having been criticised for his leadership following German victories in North Africa, easily won a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, by 476 to 25 votes with 30 abstentions.
3/6/1942, The UK Government announced plans to nationalise the coal mines.
5/5/1942, The first of the ‘Baedeker raids’; the Germans used Baedeker guidebooks to guide them to targets in British towns and cities.
3/5/1942, Heavy German air raid on Exeter. 30 acres of the city were destroyed, 156 killed and 593 injured.
29/4/1942. York was bombed by the Luftwaffe. 79 were killed.
24/4/1942, The Germans bombed Exeter, in revenge for the raid on Lubeck on 28/3/1942.
28/3/1942. Neil Kinnock, Labour leader, was born in Tredegar, south Wales.
17/3/1942, In the UK, coal, electricity and gas were to be rationed.
1/3/1942, Skirts were being made several centimetres shorter to save material. A woman’s winter tweed coat sold for £4 3s 11d. Men’s shirt tails were also 5 centimetres shorter.
18/2/1942. The British public were urged to take fewer baths and to only use five inches of water when they did.
9/2/1942. Soap rationing began in Britain.
5/12/1941, A civilian gas mask exercise was held in Plymouth. At 3pm all civilians were supposed to don their gas masks for 15 minutes; many did not comply.
4/12/1941, In Britain, unmarried women in their 20s were now being called up to perform non combat support work for the military, such as factory work, fire services and policing. For men, the call-up age was extended down to 18 and up to 49.
4/7/1941. In the UK, coal rationing began.
2/6/1941. Clothes rationing was introduced in Britain, and not lifted until 15/3/1949. 60 clothes coupons were allowed a year; for all except baby clothes; a dress cost 11 coupons, a man’s suit, 26.
10/5/1941. Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s deputy, parachuted into Scotland to try and negotiate a peace settlement but was arrested and imprisoned for the remainder of the war. He landed at Eaglesham. After the war, Hess was tried at Nuremberg and found guilty of war crimes.
1/5/1941, The first of seven consecutive nights of bombing raids on Liverpool began
16/4/1941, Belfast was bombed by the Luftwaffe.
11/4/1941. Major German air raid on Coventry.
26/3/1941, Britain passed the National Service Bill, making civil defence duties compulsory.
17/3/1941. The UK Labour Minister, Ernest Bevin, called for women to fill vital jobs.
13/3/1941, Heavy German air raid on Clydebank, 1,100 killed
27/2/1941, Jeremy (Paddy) Ashdown, Liberal leader, was born.
19/2/1941, Start of a devastating 48-hour air raid on Swansea. 230 were killed and over 400 injured as 41 acres of the city and its docks were destroyed by the |Luftwaffe. Previously it had been hoped that Swansea was too far west to be at risk of air raids.
17/2/1941, The British ship SS Gairsoppa was torpedoed and sunk 300 miles southwest of Ireland. She had been carrying 110 tons of silver, in the form of 2,792 bars, to boost Britain’s funds as War costs mounted.
1/2/1941. The Air Training Corps, the junior arm of the Royal Air Force, was formed.
21/1/1941, In Britain the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker was banned.
15/1/1941, Heavy air raid by 126 bombers on Avonmouth Docks, Bristol.
14/1/1941, King George V signed a royal warrant authorising the formation of the Reconnaissance Corps.
8/1/1941. Lord Baden Powell, British soldier and Boer War hero, also founder of the Boy Scouts in 1908, died aged 83.
31/12/1940. Fire-watching became compulsory in wartime Britain.
12/12/1940, Heavy bombing of Sheffield; a further raid followed on 15/12/1940. The weather was clear with a full moon; massive fires from the city’s steelworks further illuminated the city. 600 people were killed and a further 1,500 injured; 40,000 were made homeless.
24/11/1940, The first large scale air raid on Bristol, by 135 bombers.
14/11/1940. Coventry Cathedral was destroyed by German bombing. Over 1,000 civilians died in the raid, of a population of 250,000. 449 Luftwaffe bombers dropped 503 tons of bombs and 881 incendiaries.
10/11/1940, Screaming Lord Sutch, British politician, was born.
9/11/1940. The former British Prime Minister (1937-1940), Neville Chamberlain, died of cancer, at Heckfield, near Reading.
4/11/1940, Night air raid on London.
27/10/1940, A German bomb fell on Scunthorpe, killing 11.
25/10/1940, Air raid on Birmingham.
19/10/1940, British destroyer Venetia struck a mine and sank in the Thames Estuary.
11/10/1940, German air raids on London and Liverpool.
7/10/1940, German air raids on London, Liverpool and Wales.
23/9/1940. The Red Cross was instituted. This was the highest British civilian award for acts of courage. The George Medal was also instituted.
18/9/1940, German air raids in SE England and Merseyside.
17/9/1940. Hitler ordered the indefinite postponing of the invasion of Britain, after the Luftwaffe had failed to establish command of the air over Britain.
15/9/1940, The Battle of Britain ended with victory to the Allies. 1,733 German planes were destroyed as against 915 lost by the RAF. It began on 8/8/1940. The Nazis had given up hope of achieving air superiority and invading Britain. The RAF had also destroyed much of the shipping that was to carry German troops to England.
25/8/1940. First British air raid on Berlin.
17/8/1940, Germany began a blockade of British waters.
14/8/1940, German air raids on Dover, Southampton and Hastings.
13/8/1940, German air raids on the Thames Estuary and Southampton.
12/8/1940, (1) Dover was hit by German shells, the first bombardment of the War here.
(2) An Aliens Order banned foreigners from al of Cornwall and Devon and most of Somerset, without police permission, they also needed leave to use telescopes cameras or maps. Residents had to tell the police if an alien visited them in the protected areas.
11/8/1940, German air raids on Weymouth and Portland.
8/8/1940. Battle of Britain began. See 31/10/1940. German aircraft had already made raids on Britain; on 10/7/1940 the Cornish port of Falmouth was attacked by 63 Junkers 88s. However it was on this day that mass attacks of over 1,000 German aircraft began. Hermann Goering was confident of victory. Until 30/8/1940 German air attacks were mainly on British shipping and coastal towns, and German air losses exceeded those sustained by the RAF. But between 30/8/1940 and 6/9/1940 the Luftwaffe switched its attacks to airfields in southern Britain. The RAF lost 20% of its fighter planes and at one stage only 2 airfields in southern Britain were operational. In one week 185 RAF fighter planes were destroyed. There was a real possibility that the Luftwaffe could destroy the RAF. However on 24/8/1940 a German pilot accidentally dropped his bombs on London, and Churchill ordered revenge raids on Berlin. This angered Hitler and he ordered Goering to switch the Luftwaffe’s raids to London, which faced continual bombing until 2/11/1940. The Luftwaffe faced the problem that if their aircraft were shot down, the pilot was captured as a POW; however if a British plane was shot down, over Britain, the pilot could return to the fighting. Pilots were much harder to replace, with all their training, than an aircraft was to build. Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that ‘never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few’.
7/8/1940. First German air raid on Exeter.
31/7/1940. Hitler gave orders for a massive air offence against Britain (see 8/8/1940).
23/7/1940, Britain’s :Local Defence Volunteers were renamed as the Home Guard. The one million strong force, containing many World War One veterans, would have been the Resistance had Hitler invaded.
10/7/1940. The British Union of Fascists was banned.
1/7/1940. The practice of informal marriages at Gretna Green was abolished by Statute.
30/6/1940. German troops occupied Guernsey and Alderney, Channel Islands, after the defeat of the French.
20/6/1940. The first Australian and New Zealand troops arrived in Britain.
5/6/1940. The UK government outlawed strikes.
31/5/1940. Britain arrested Sir Oswald Moseley, leader of the British fascists. He was interned at Brixton Prison. 24/5/1940, Middlesborough became the first British industrial town to be bombed by Germany.
14/5/1940. Local Defence Volunteers, later called the Home Guard, was formed in Britain as a makeshift protection against Nazi invasion.
11/5/1940, Winston Churchill became head of the Wartime Coalition Government.
10/5/1940. Neville Chamberlain, born 18/3/1869, resigned as Prime Minister in favour of Winston Churchill, who was born on 30/11/1874. Chamberlain died on 9/11/1940.
9/5/1940, German bombs fell near Canterbury.
7/5/1940, George Lansbury, British Labour party leader, died in London aged 81.
15/4/1940, Geoffrey Archer, British politician and author, was born.
16/3/1940, The first British civilians were killed by a German bomb, in the Shetlands.
6/2/1940, In Britain the Government launched a ‘careless talk costs lives’ campaign.
1/1/1940. In Britain, 2 million 19 to 27 year olds were called up. Two thirds of Britain’s houses were wired for electricity, compared to one in seventeen in 1920.
16/10/1939, German air raid on the Firth of Forth, causing naval casualties.
14/10/1939, The Royal Navy battleship Royal Oak was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in Scapa Flow, with the loss of 810 lives.
6/10/1939. Britain and France rejected Hitler's peace bid.
30/9/1939. Identity cards were issued in Britain.
10/9/1939. The British Expeditionary force arrived in Cherbourg, France. Four divisions, comprising 158,000 men and 25,000 vehicles crossed the Channel with no interference from U-boats or the Luiftwaffe.
The Dunkirk evacuation was completed on 4/6/1940.
4/9/1939. The British liner Athenia sank the day after being torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland. 93 lives were lost. She had sailed from Liverpool on 2/9/1939 on her way to Montreal, and was informed about the outbreak of war at 11.am on the 3rd. She sank with the loss of 19 crew and 93 passengers. This was the start of the Battle of the Atlantic. The last ship sunk was the British Avondale Park on 7/5/1945. The German fleet was attacked by the RAF.
2/9/1939. Men aged 19-41 were conscripted in Britain under the National Service Bill.
1/9/1939. Germany invaded Poland. Without a declaration of war, 1.25 million German troops invaded Poland under Operation Fall Weiss (White Plan) as the Luftwaffe destroyed the Polish rail system and its airforce. Some 60,000 Poles were killed, 200,000 wounded, and 700,000 taken prisoner. Germany here eschewed the static trench warfare of World War One, and the English language acquired a new word – blitzkrieg, meaning lightning war. Warsaw is bombed at 6.am. On 11.am. 3/9/1939 Britain declared war on Germany because of this invasion. For the first time in history the King went to Downing Street rather than the Prime Minister going to the Palace, because Neville Chamberlain needed to stay near his phone. On the same day, 3/9, New Zealand, Australia, and France, at 5.pm. also declared war on Germany. See 28/3/1939.
30/8/1939. The great evacuation of children from British cities began, to avoid anticipated German bombing. In September 1939, 827,000 children and 535,000 pregnant women were sent to rural areas. ‘Billeters’ were paid 10s 6d for the first child and 8s 6d for each subsequent child, per week.
25/8/1939, Britain signed an assistance pact with Poland.
21/8/1939. Civil Defence started in Britain.
26/6/1939. The first National Serviceman, Private Rupert Alexander, number 10000001, signed up with the Middlesex Regiment. The Military Training (Conscription) Act had received Royal Assent on 26/5/1939.
7/6/1939,HM King George V1, along with Queen Elizabeth, crossed the border from Canada into the USA at Naigara Falls, on his way to visit the World Fair in New York. He was the first British monarch to visit the USA. He and Queen Elizabeth also became the first British monarch to eat hot dogs.
1/6/1939, The British naval submarine Thetis sank whilst on trials in Liverpool Bay, with the loss of 99 lives. She was later raised and put back into service as HMS Thunderbolt.
31/5/1939, Britain interned Oswald Moseley and other fascists as the Government consolidated emergency powers.
25/5/1939, An Anglo-Polish treaty was signed in London.
19/5/1939, The TUC decided not to oppose the UK Government’s conscription plans.
17/5/1939. George VI and Queen Elizabeth began a short visit to North America to strengthen Anglo-Saxon solidarity.
27/4/1939. Britain announced that men aged 20 would be conscripted. This was the first time conscription had been used since World War One. 6 months military service was required from men reaching age 20.
31/3/1939. The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, pledged to defend Poland, if attacked by Germany; so did France.
21/12/1938, The UK Government allocated £200,000 to the building of air-raid shelters.
1/12/1938, Britain started a National Register for war service.
1/11/1938, In Britain, Balloon Command was formed, under Fighter Command, to establish barrage balloon protection for 12 cities including Bristol and Cardiff. Experiments with barrage balloons had been carried out by the Germans back in 1917; the Allies also used them to protect Venice in 1918. The idea was to hoist a ‘barrage’ of cables to prevent bomber aircraft diving low, so their accuracy was impaired. With the balloons, they could still dive but could not pull out afterwards without hitting a cable and crashing. The balloon wincher faced danger from lightning bolts, and from the static electric charge built up on the wincher, especially in wet weather. An operator had to jump away from the winch when leaving to avoid electrical conductance between his body and the winch and earth.
30/9/1938, Chamberlain told a crowd “I believe it is peace in our time” and waved the agreement he had made with Hitler at Munich, bearing Hitler’s signature. Chamberlain said “How horrible, fantastic, incredible, it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing”.
28/9/1938, The British navy was mobilised.
13/9/1938, John Smith, leader of the UK Labour Party 1992-94, was born in Dalmally, Argyllshire.
9/9/1938, The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women’s branch of the Army, was formed by Royal Warrant.
1/8/1938, The 1938 Holidays With Pay Act increased the number of British workers entitled to paid holiday from 3 million to 11 million. Holiday entitlement was usually one week. Resorts such as Blackpool had boomed with charabancs bringing in crowds of vacationers, and in 1937 a Butlins holiday camp opened at Skegness.
15/7/1938, The UK Government ordered 1,000 Spitfire fighters.
9/7/1938. Gas masks were issued to the British population, in anticipation of war with Germany. 35 million of them were ordered by the British Government.
2/7/1938, David Owen, British politician and first leader of the Social Democratic Party, was born in Plympton, Devon.
9/6/1938, The British Government ordered 400 warplanes from the USA.
16/5/1938, The WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) was started in Britain by the Marchioness of Reading. It became ‘Royal’ in 1966.
3/5/1938. King George VI opened the Glasgow exhibition.
31/3/1938, David Steel, Liberal Party leader, was born.
30/3/1938, The UK Government announced it was to spend £11 million on new RAF airfields.
24/3/1938, The British Prime Minister, Chamberlain, announced that Britain would not oppose the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, in the interests of peace. However Britain would fight for France and Belgium.
14/3/1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made a speech in the House of Commons on the Austrian situation, saying the government "emphatically" disapproved of Germany's deed but that "nothing could have prevented this action by Germany unless we and others with us had been prepared to use force to prevent it."
21/2/1938. Churchill led a protest against Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement.
20/2/1938. Anthony Eden resigned as British Foreign Secretary. He was unable to support the policy of appeasement of the Prime Minister Chamberlain, who had held talks with Mussolini.
11/1/1938, Arthur Scargill, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, was born.
3/1/1938. In the UK, the government announced that all schoolchildren would be issued with gas masks.
16/11/1937, MPs in Westminster voted in favour of constructing air-raid shelters in towns and cities.
9/11/1937. Ramsay MacDonald, British Labour Prime Minister in 1924, died at sea whilst on a cruise for his health.
5/11/1937. The Air Raid Precautions Bill was introduced in the Commons. Passed on 16/11/1937, it allowed the construction of air raid shelters in UK towns and cities. Winston Churchill said they were ‘indispensable’ but Labour opposed them, saying they would mean a big increase in the rates.
10/9/1937, The TUC voted in favour of re-armament.
1/7/1937. The 999 emergency service came into operation in Britain, the first such service in the world. The idea of setting up a joint number for the emergency services came after five people died in a fire in Wimpole Street, London. The fireman came late as the witness to the fire could not get through to the switchboard; at that time a call to the emergency services received no more priority than any other call. With the new system a light lit up on a map showing where the call had been made from and a klaxon sounded at the operator centre. The number 111 was suggested but rejected at it might have led to many false calls. The first 999 call was made seven days after the system was set up and resulted in police arresting a burglar at the house of a Mr Stanley Beard in Hampstead.
3/6/1937, The Duke of Windsor, the abdicated King Edward VIII, married Mrs Wallis Warfield Simpson in Mondis, France. Mrs Simpson was an American divorcee and the marriage both upset the Royal Family and outraged the Church of England. A constitutional solution – for King Edward to marry Mrs Simpson but for her not to attain the title of Queen – might have become acceptable to the country, but was forestalled by massive media coverage of the affair, forcing Edward to choose between romance and title.
28/5/1937. Mr Stanley Baldwin resigned as Prime Minister and was succeeded by Mr Chamberlain. A government of National Unity was formed in Britain. Born on 3/8/1867, Mr Baldwin was the son of a west Midlands industrialist and was elected Conservative MP for Bewdley in 1906. He became Prime Minister in May 1923. He faced many crises, such as the 1926 General Strike. In 1935 he replaced Ramsay MacDonald as Prime Minister, and faced criticism over his foreign policy. Mr Baldwin appeared to belittle the growing threat of Nazi Germany and he failed to intervene in the Spanish Civil War. After the abdication crisis and subsequent coronation of George VI in May 1937, Baldwin retired and was granted the title 1st Earl of Bewdley. Mr Stanley Baldwin’s last act as Prime Minister was to raise the salaries of MPs from £400 a year to £600 and to give the Leader of the Opposition a salary.
12/5/1937. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the mother of Queen Elizabeth II) were crowned.
16/3/1937, British statesman Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain died.
4/2/1937, The German Ambassador gave King George VI a Nazi salute.
14/1/1937. First ever Gallup opinion poll in Britain, conducted by Sir Henry Durant.
10/1/1937, The UK Government banned volunteers from fighting for the anti-Franco forces in Spain, introducing a two-year prison sentence for the offence.
1/1/1937. Britain banned political uniforms under the Public Order Act, so sounding the death-knell for Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
11/12/1936. Abdication of King Edward VIII, after a reign of just 325 days. See 20/1/1936. Accession of his brother, Prince Albert, the Duke of York, who became King George VI to the British throne. The coronation of George VI (born 14/12/1895) was on 12/5/1937. King Edward VIII had abdicated because of his love for Mrs Simpson (who became the Duchess of Windsor), otherwise known as Bessie Walls Warfield. She had been born in Baltimore on 19/6/1896. Edward VIII, as the Duke of Windsor, married Mrs Simpson on 3/6/1937 at Monts in France.
13/11/1936. King Edward VIII told Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin he intended to abdicate because of his intention to marry twice-divorced Mrs Simpson. See 11/12/1936.
11/11/1936, Baldwin refused to meet the Jarrow Marchers.
27/10/1936. Mrs Wallace Simpson divorced her second husband Ernest, becoming free to marry King Edward VIII, see 13/11/1936.
6/10/1936. The British Labour Party refused to affiliate with the Communists.
24/7/1936. The Speaking Clock was introduced by the GPO at the suggestion of Eugene Wender of Hampstead, London. It was known as TIM from the phone dial letters.
14/7/1936, Britain started producing gas masks.
14/5/1936, Viscount Allenby, British Army Commander in Palestine in World War One, died.
30/4/1936, The UK Government announced plans to build 38 warships.
28/1/1936, The funeral of King George V. General Franco from Spain attended.
20/1/1936. Accession of King Edward VIII. He succeeded his late father, George V, who died at Sandringham this day. See 11/12/1936. George V, Grandson of Queen Victoria, had reigned for 26 years; he changed the surname of the Royal Family from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor during World War One to distance himself from his German cousins.
22/12/1935. In the UK, Anthony Eden was appointed Foreign Secretary.
8/10/1935. Clement Attlee was appointed stopgap leader of the Labour Party.
24/7/1935. Greetings telegrams were introduced by the GPO. If they were in a gold envelope they cost an extra 3d.
7/6/1935. Stanley Baldwin became British Prime Minister. Ramsay McDonald retired.
22/5/1935, The day after Hitler had made a speech claiming that German rearmament offered no threat to peace, Attlee asserted that Hitler's speech gave "a chance to call a halt in the armaments race". However Britain announced plans to treble the size of the RAF in the next two years, to make it equal to Germany’s.
19/5/1935. T.E. (Thomas Edward) Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia, died six days after a motorcycle accident in a country lane in Moreton, Dorset; he swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles, and crashed. Colonel Lawrence was sent to Saudi Arabia to gain information about an Arab revolt in the Arabian desert. Lawrence realised this revolt could be used to disrupt the Turkish war effort. He persuaded the British Army in Egypt to supply guns, armoured cars, and even aircraft. With these, Lawrence led the Arabs on strategic attacks on railways and captured the town of Aqaba. The Arabs then supported the British advance in Palestine. Lawrence was furious when after the War, the Arabs were not given independence.
8/5/1935, The UK Cabinet heard that it was estimated that the RAF was inferior to the Luftwaffe by 370 aircraft and that in order to reach parity the RAF must have 3,800 aircraft by April 1937—an extra 1,400 on the existing air programme. It was learnt that Germany was easily able to outbuild this revised programme as well. On 21 May 1935, the Cabinet agreed to expanding the home defence force of the RAF to 1,512 aircraft (840 bombers and 420 fighters).
21/1/1935, Snowdonia, Wales, was designated a national park.
29/11/1934, Marriage of George Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece.
20/11/1934, Plans for numbered postal districts in British towns were introduced.
19/7/1934. The UK government announced that the RAF would receive another 500 planes.
18/5.1934, Dudley Zoo, Birmingham, opened.
21/1/1934. The British Union of Fascists, led by Sir Oswald Moseley, held its biggest rally ever in Birmingham. Moseley called for a fascist dictatorship in Britain.
15/10/1933, Moseley’s Fascist supporters were stoned in Manchester.
7/9/1933, Sir Edward Grey (born 25/4/1862), Liberal MP for Berwick on Tweed from 1885 and UK Foreign Secretary 1905-1916, died at Fallodon. He attempted to avert war in 1914 through negotiations with Germany.
23/8/1933. The King and Queen opened the new Civic Hall at Leeds.
24/5/1933. In Britain, the TUC called for a boycott of Germany to protest against Hitler, who became Chancellor on 30/1/1933.
19/4/1933. The UK banned trade with the USSR. See 18/4/1933.
21/3/1933 Michael Heseltine, British Conservative politician, was born.
28/12/1932, Roy Hattersley, British Labour Deputy Prime Minister, was born.
14/11/1932. Book tokens were sold in Britain for the first time.
30/10/1932. Hunger marchers, protesting at unemployment, clashed on the streets of London with police.
25/10/1932. (1) George Lansbury was elected leader of the British Labour Party.
(2) UK policemen’s pay was cut by 10%.
1/10/1932, The British Union of Fascists was founded.
24/4/1932. Thousands of ramblers established public access rights in the Peak District with a mass trespass of 500 walkers on Kinder Scout, the highest hill in the Peak District. The event turned into a riot and 4 walkers and the leader Benny Rothman was arrested, and spent 4 months in jail after sentencing at Derby Assizes. There was a new fashion for outdoor pursuits, and just 1,212 acres of the 150,000 acres of moorland, close to the big cities of Manchester, Sheffield and Derby, were open top the public. Benny Rothman died aged 90 in 2002.
18/4/1932, Business reply-paid enveloped were introduced by the GPO in Britain.
11/3/1932, Nigel Lawson, British Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, was born.
25/1/1932, A riot at Dartmoor Prison; the Governor’s life was saved by a man, George Donovan, who had been reprieved from hanging an hour before execution and was serving life instead. Prisoners were complaining of poor and inadequate food, damp cells, and the difficulty faced by visitor in reaching the remote granite prison high on the moors.
11/12/1931. The Statute of Westminster, recognising the independence of the British Commonwealth, became law.
27/10/1931. General election held in the UK. A landslide victory by the National Government; Ramsay Mc Donald continued to be Prime Minister. McDonald won 554 seats (470 of them Conservative) against 46 for Labour.
15/9/1931, The British Royal Navy mutinied at Invergordon over sevicemen’s pay cuts.
24/8/1931, Ramsay McDonald formed a National Government, following the collapse of the UK’s Labour Government. Most Labour MPs opposed it, but it was generally supported by the Liberals and Conservatives.
6/7/1931, The 1931 Census showed Britain’s population almost static since the last census, at 44.8 million. However there had been a drift to the south, and London now had 8 million people, a rise of almost 10% since 1921.
10/6/1931, Chester Zoo opened.
23/5/1931. Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire opened.
30/4/1931, Moseley’s New Party candidate split the vote in a by-election in Ashton Under Lyne, letting in the Conservative candidate.
29/3/1931, Norman Tebbit, British Conservative politician and chairman of the Party, was born.
28/2/1931, Oswald Moseley formed the 'New Party' in Britain after leaving the Labour Party.
27/10/1930, The London Naval Treaty was ratified.
29/8/1930, (1) The inhabitants of St Kilda were evacuated by the British Government. The 36 islanders, from the only village of Hirta, were relocated on the Morvern Peninsula, Argyll. The population of St Kilda had halved in a generation.
(2) The Reverend William Spooner, originator of spoonerisms, died.
21/8/1930, In Britain, Princess Margaret Rose was born.
27/7/1930, Shirley Williams, British politician who co-founded the Social Democratic Party, was born, the daughter of Vera Brittain.
19/3/1930, Arthur James Balfour, British Conservative Prime Minister from 1902-06, died aged 81.
15/1/1930, Ramsay Mac Donald advocated that the world powers abolish battleships.
4/12/1929, The House of Lords voted 43 to 21 against the UK resuming diplomatic relations with the USSR.
1/11/1929, The Pony Club movement was founded in Britain.
2/10/1929, Britain set up a committee to consider the establishing of National Parks.
1/10/1929, Britain resumed diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia.
29/7/1929, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur Henderson, had talks with his Soviet counterpart about restoring Anglo-Soviet diplomatic relations.
30/5/1929. UK General Election. Labour secured its first Parliamentary majority – see 22/1/1924. The Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, running Britain’s second Labour government, appointed Margaret Bondfield as Britain’s first woman minister. She was Minister of Labour, a key post, given the lengthening dole queues Britain faced. Labour won 288 seats, the Conservatives 260.
21/5/1929, Lord Roseberry, British Liberal Prime Minister, died.
29/4/1929, The future Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, was born.
1/5/1928. Ebenezer Howard, founder of the New Towns movement, knighted in 1927, of Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City, died in the latter town.
15/2/1928. (1) Herbert Harry Asquith, Liberal Prime Minister in the UK from 1908 to 1916, died.
(2) The Oxford English Dictionary was completed after 70 years of work.
29/1/1928, General Earl Haig, WW I Commander and founder of the British Legion, died in London. He was buried at Dryburgh Abbey.
31/12/1927, In Britain the Electricity Supply Act provided for the setting up of a Central Electricity Board, which was to create a uniform national supply via a national grid. At the time, there were many small competing power companies, delaying the spread of electrification, and only about 10% of UK homes could run the new electrical gadgets such as vacuum cleaners.
22/11/1927, 200 unemployed Welsh miners marched to London, but Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin refused to meet them.
5/10/1927. The Labour Party voted to nationalise the coal mines at its party conference at Blackpool.
8/9/1927, In Edinburgh, the Trades Union Congress voted to cut ties with Soviet trades unions.
23/6/1927. Britain passed the Trades Disputes Act, making sympathetic strikes illegal. This was a consequence of the General Strike, to support the miners, which began on 3/5/1926.
21/4/1927. The National Museum of Wales opened in Cardiff.
20/11/1926. (1) The Commonwealth was born out of the British Empire. Britain decided that the self-governing dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Newfoundland should have equal status with Britain as members of a ‘commonwealth of nations’. Ireland also became independent. The status of India was unchanged.
(2) Sir Geoffrey Howe, British Conservative politician, was born.
19/11/1926. British striking miners returned to work, after a six-month strike, agreeing to work longer hours in return for no pay cut.
12/5/1926. Striking miners in Britain resolved to carry on alone, after the TUC called off a general strike in support. 10/5/1926. Striking UK miners grew angry as the army moved food from the docks by rail (see 1/5/1926). The Flying Scotsman was derailed in Northumberland, partly because the volunteer driver refused to heed warnings that the track ahead had been lifted. No serious injuries were caused, but the miners responsible got prison sentences of up to eight years.
8/5/1926, The naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough was born.
3/5/1926, The General Strike began in Britain.
1/5/1926. In Britain, a coal strike began over proposed pay cuts and longer working hours by the mine owners, faced with a slump in the coal trade (see 25/7/1925). The miners were locked out, and voted overwhelmingly for strike action. The first General Strike In British history began on 4/5/1926 when the TUC (Trades Union Congress) voted to back the striking miners. There were worries about a Communist revolution in Britain. On 11/5/1926 the engineering and shipworkers unions called their men out on strike, but at this time negotiations were going on to end the strike. The TUC agreed to government terms but the miners did not. The TUC called off the General Strike on 12/5/1926 leaving the miners on their own. Many trains were run by volunteers, especially undergraduates and rail enthusiasts, and troops took over the unloading of food at London’s docks (see 10/5/1926). Students also drove lorries, trams, and buses, the illegality of this being ignored. On 23/6/1927 the Trades Disputes Act was passed, outlawing sympathetic strikes. The Trade Union movement suffered a setback; membership had been falling from a peak of 8.3 million in 1920 to 5.3 million in 1926, and further fell to 4.3 million by 1933. See 12/5/1926.
21/4/1926. Queen Elizabeth II, crowned 1952, was born at 17 Bruton Street London. She was then called Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the eldest daughter of George VI.
6/3/1926. Fire destroyed the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford on Avon. Only a blackened shell was left.
25/11/1925, In Britain, 12 Communists arrested in October 1925 were jailed for sedition.
13/10/1925, The future Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher, was born as Margaret Roberts. She was born in Grantham, the daughter of a grocer. She was Prime Minister 1979-90.
12/8/1925. Norris and Ross McWhirter, the British twins who founded the Guinness Book of Records, were born. After the Bible, it is the best selling book in the world (2002). Ross McWhirter was murdered by the IRA.
7/8/1925. The Summer Time Act in the UK was made permanent.
5/8/1925, The first public meeting of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist Party. Founder-member Saunders Lewis planned a wholly-Welsh-speaking summer school at Machynlleth to open in August 1926.
22/5/1925, Sir John French, British general who led the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium, died.
3/4/1925, Anthony Wedgewood Benn, British Labour politician, was born.
13/3/1925, British MPs approved the Summer Time Bill, making annual daylight saving time permanent,.
2/12/1924, The UK and Germany signed a trade pact.
21/11/1924, The new Conservative Government of Britain repudiated a treaty made by the previous Labour administration with the USSR.
6/11/1924. The new Conservative prime Minister of Britain, Stanley Baldwin, appointed Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
9/10/1924. Britain’s minority Labour government fell after a vote of censure in the Commons; the vote was 364 against the Government, 198 in favour. On 29/10/1924 the Conservatives won a large victory following a scare over the ‘Zinoviev letter’. This was a forged letter allegedly from Moscow, urging a Communist revolution in Britain. A General Election was held on 30/10/1924 and the result was 413 seats to the Conservatives, against 151 for Labour and 40 for the Liberals. Stanley Baldwin became Prime Minister.
7/10/1924, The British Labour Party banned Communists from becoming members.
22/1/1924. The Labour Party won 288 seats against the Conservatives 266, but had no overall majority as the Liberals held 59. Ramsay MacDonald became Britain’s first Labour Prime Minister, succeeding the Conservative, Stanley Baldwin. See also 26/7/1945. The first Labour government in Britain was elected. King George V sent for Ramsay MacDonald (born 12/10/1866) following the Conservative defeat on a censure motion in the Commons the previous day. The state of the Commons was then, previous to the election, Conservative 259 seats, Labour 191, and Liberals 159. Labour secured its first UK Parliamentary majority on 30/5/1929.
The new Labour government was to prioritise unemployment; slum clearance and house building would also be tackled.
30/10/1923, Andrew Bonar-Law, Canadian-born UK Prime Minister, died.
22/5/1923. Stanley Baldwin became Conservative Prime Minister after the resignation Andrew Bonar Law of due to illness. Baldwin was to serve as PM for three terms. See 23/10/1922.
21/11/1922. Ramsay MacDonald was elected leader of the Labour Party.
16/11/1922. In Britain, the Tories under Bonar Law won the General Election with a majority of 77. The Conservatives got 345 seats. Labour won 142 to become the main opposition party for the first time, and the Liberals had 117 seats.
23/10/1922, A Bonar Law became UK Conservative Prime Minister, succeeding Austin Chamberlain. He was replaced by Stanley Baldwin on 22/5/1923, becoming the shortest term of office in the 20th century.
19/10/1922, At the Carlton Club Meeting, in Britain, the Tories decided to quit the coalition with the Liberals.
26/2/1922, Britain and France concluded a 20-year alliance.
13/2/1922, Francis Pym, British politician, was born.
11/11/1921, The British legion held its first Poppy Day.
23/8/1921. The 1921 Census of Britain showed the population had increased by almost 2 million to 42,767,530. 7.4 million of these lived in London. War losses affected the total, but the loss due to emigration was greater. Women exceeded men by 2 million, much the same as in 1911.
29/6/1921, Lady Randolph Churchill, American mother of Winston Churchill, died.
12/6/1921. Last Sunday deliveries by British postmen.
10/6/1921, Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was born on the Greek island of Corfu.
14/5/1921. The British Legion was founded in London by Earl Haig. It was renamed the Royal British Legion in 1971.
15/4/1921, Less than a day before it was due to begin, a rail and transport workers strike in support of the striking coalminers was called off. The miners had been locked out of the pits since 1/4/1921. The miners wanted higher wages, and wage equality across the country; the pit owners wanted to reduce wages. The owners proposed a compromise of continuing with present wages, but this was rejected by the miner’s executive this day by a majority of one vote. The miners called this day ‘Black Friday’.
1/4/1921. In Britain, a coal strike began; a state of emergency was proclaimed. Coal rationing began on 3/4/1921. However the strike became a lockout, and the coal miner's traditional allies, the railway and transport unions, failed to support them. The miners had to return on humiliating terms, including a wages cut. The strike was settled on 4/7/1921, after the UK government promised to subsidise the coal industry. Wage reductions in other industries followed and neither Lloyd George or any other politician ever again had the chance to make Britain 'a land fit for heroes'.
21/3/1921. Austen Chamberlain succeeded Andrew Bonar Law as Conservative leader (who had resigned due to ill-health).
8/1/1921, Lloyd George became the first Prime Minister to occupy Chequers, the house near Wendover given to the nation by Lord Lee of Fareham.
1/1/1921, The Navy, Army, and Air Force Institute, or NAAFI, was founded in Britain.
11/11/1920, The Labour politician Roy Jenkins was born at Abersychan.
18/10/1920. Britain's miners walked out over a claim for 2 shillings (10p) more a week, work did not resume until 3/11/1920.
1/8/1920, The Communist Party of Great Britain was founded.
30/4/1920. Britain abolished conscription.
10/10/1919, British teachers, their salaries still at pre war levels, asked for a doubling of their pay.
10/9/1919, The TUC favoured nationalising the coal industry.
3/8/1919, Riots in Liverpool during the policemen’s strike.
23/6/1919, The British Government recommended nationalising the coal mines.
21/6/1919. German sailors unexpectedly scuttled the captive German fleet, 72 warships, at Scapa Flow.
31/1/1919, In Glasgow, a sheriff was hit by a bottle as he read the Riot Act; 40 were injured in clashes with police.
31/12/1918, The British War Cabinet met for the last time.
28/12/1918. Lloyd George’s coalition was re-elected to government. Lloyd George had the support of 478 MPs; the Opposition had 229 MPs, of whom 63 were Labour.
27/12/1918, King George V and Queen Mary greeted President and Mrs Wilson of the United States.
19/11/1918, The UK government revealed that the War had cost 767,000 deaths and some 2.3 million injured.
11/11/1918. Armistice Day. World War One ended. Fighting ceased on the Western Front, and Austro-Hungary signed an armistice with the Allies. See 29/9/1918. Church bells rang out across Britain in celebration. The Allies had not expected such a sudden collapse of Germany; in September 1918 they were planning campaigns for 1919. However General Ludendorff was shaken by the sudden Allied advance (see 8/8/1918) and begged Kaiser Wilhelm to seek an armistice immediately. The Armistice was signed in Marshal Foch’s railway carriage, near Compiegne. Warsaw became the capital of a restored Polish State. The armistice required Germany to relinquish 5,000 heavy guns, 30,000 machine guns, 2,000 aircraft, all U-boats, 5,000 locomotives, 150,000 wagons and 5,000 lorries. The surface fleet was to be interned (see 21/11/1918), the Allies were to occupy the Rhineland, and the blockade of German ports would continue. World War One cost 9 million lives, with a further 27 million injured. Britain alone had lost 750,000 men, and a further 200,000 from the Empire, with another 1.5 million seriously injured. The War had cost the Allies an estimated US$ 126 billion, and the Central Powers a further US$ 60 billion. Britons now celebrated, and wages rose, although higher food prices eroded some of those gains. Women, at least those over 30, finally had the vote, and smoking, gambling and movies boomed, with Charlie Chaplin as movie star. The US was the greatest beneficiary of the War. US losses amounted to 53,000 men, a small number compared to 8,500,000 casualties of the European combatants. US industry had become more efficient, and key sectors such as chemicals had learned to do without Europe; the US aviation industry had been transformed. Economically, The US had needed European capital before 1914; by 1918 Europe owed the US some US$ 10,000 million.
15/10/1918, Britain’s first oil well was sunk, at Hardstoft in Derbyshire.
15/9/1918, Mr C Chubb gave Stonehenge to the nation.
1/7/1918, A catastrophic explosion at the Chilwell munitions plant near Nottingham killed 134 workers. The women who worked there making nitrogen-based explosives were known as ‘Canary Girls’, because the chemicals turned theor skin yellow and hair green. The blast was heard 30 miles away, but news of it was suppressed. The Chilwell factory had produced 19 million shells, half of those used by British forces during the First World War. Of the 7,000 surviving workers, all but 12 were back working at Chilwell the day after.
18/6/1918, The UK Government asked for a further War Loan of £500 million. General rationing in the UK began on 19/6/1918.
7/3/1918, Bonar Law asked the UK Commons for another War Loan of £600 million.
6/2/1918. A deposit of £150 was required from UK Parliamentary candidates.
30/1/1918, The Commons rejected the Lords’ proposal for proportional representation.
17/1/1918, Sir Keith Joseph, British politician, was born.
31/12/1917, During the year 1917 German submarines sank 6,500,000 tons of Allied shipping whilst only 2,700,000 tons was built. In April 1917 Britain had only two months’ worth of food stocks. However with US destroyer patrols searching for German submarines, escorted transatlantic convoys and the mining of the seas between Scotland and Norway, Allied losses were dramatically reduced and after April 1918 never exceeded 200,000 tons a month.
5/10/1917. Sir Arthur Lee donated Chequers to the nation as a country retreat for British Prime Ministers.
14/9/1917. German submarine shelled Scarborough.
2/9/1917, Major German night time air raid on Dover.
30/8/1917. Denis Healey, British Labour politician, was born.
28/7/1917, The formation of the Royal Tank Corps in the British Army was authorised.
17/7/1917. Churchill returned to UK government as Minister for Munitions.
5/7/1917, Joe Gormley, President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), was born.
19/6/1917, All German titles and names are renounced by the British Royal Family, who adopted the name Windsor. The old name had been Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
13/6/1917, Large German air raid on Folkestone, Shorncliffe and other Kent towns. 95 died and 260 were injured.
12/5/1917. The British army began to accept men aged 41-50.
26/4/1917. German naval raid on Ramsgate.
18/3/1917. Ramsgate and Broadstairs shelled from the sea.
7/12/1916. In Britain, David Lloyd George succeeded Herbert Asquith as Prime Minister (see 8/4/1908). A Coalition government led by the Liberals was formed.
5/12/1916, An explosion at the Barnbow munitions factory, Leeds, killed 35 women. The incident was censored and went unreported at the time. War production resumed within a week, with wages on £12 a week, equivalent to over £1,000 a week in 2015.
15/9/1916. Tanks went into battle for the first time, for the British Army at the battle of Flers on the Somme. They were invented by Sir Ernest Swinton, weighed 30 tons, and travelled at 4mph. It was hoped they would break the stalemate of trench warfare. Some German soldiers fled, thinking the Devil had come. The tank forces achieved their objective but infantry reserves could not arrive in time to consolidate the successes.
9/7/1916. British Prime Minister (1970-74) Edward Heath, was born in Broadstairs, Kent.
21/5/1916, Daylight saving time began in Britain. It was introduced by William Willett, to save coal stocks by reducing the demand for electric lighting.
17/5/1916. The Daylight Saving Act was passed. Clocks went forward in Britain for the first time on 21/5/1916, causing some confusion. See 7/8/1925.
2/4/1916, A large explosion occurred at the Uplees explosives factory, Kent, which was producing armaments for World War One. 116 men and boys were killed.
11/3/1916. British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.
10/3/1916, The UK War Office urged women to be less extravagant in their dress. From now until the end of the war there would be no imports of spirits, pianos, or motors.
23/2/1916, The British Government urged well-off families to release their servants for ‘more useful purposes’.
29/1/1916. Military tanks were trialled at Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
24/1/1916. Conscription started in Britain. It was for single men aged 19-30.
6/1/1916, The Commons voted in favour of conscription by 403 votes to 103, although the Home Secretary Sir John Simon resigned over the issue. Single men were to be conscripted first; armed service became compulsory for single men aged between 18 and 41. Many British soldiers had been killed in the War, and volunteering rates had dropped off sharply.
1915, The Women's Institute was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War.
13/11/1915. Churchill resigned from the cabinet over the Dardanelles.
9/11/1915, British war casualties now totalled 510,000.
13/10/1915, The British Government banned ‘treating’ – buying drinks for another – in an effort to curb drunkenness amongst factory workers.
12/10/1915. The British nurse, Edith Cavell, was executed by a German firing squad in Brussels for helping Allied prisoners escape over the Dutch frontier; she had given medical attention to both Allied and German casualties equally. The Brussels authorities had ordered her execution, which was opposed by the Kaiser and the German High Command as a political mistake, carried out quickly by the German occupation regime in Belgium before Berlin was informed. Her death aroused patriotic fervour in Britain against Germany.
26/9/1915. Kier Hardie, founder of the Labour Party, died.
15/7/1915. 200,000 Welsh miners went on strike for more pay.
25/5/1915. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith of Britain formed a wartime Liberal-Conservative coalition, replacing the former Liberal Government; Asquith remained Prime Minister. The Liberal Government had been shaken by the scandal of British troops in the front line facing a shortage of high explosive shells.
13/5/1915, In Britain, street violence against those suspected of being ‘aliens’ increased following the sinking of the Lusitania on 7/5/1915.
10/5/1915. Denis Thatcher, wife of Margaret, British Prime Minister, was born.
1/5/1915, Widespread resentment by British workers at alcohol sales restrictions.
30/3/1915, In Britain King George V offered to give up alcohol as an example to the munitions workers.
26/2/1915. Clydeside armament workers went on strike for more pay.
1/2/1915, British passport holders were required to carry photographs, not just written descriptions.
30/1/1915, John Profumo, British Cabinet Minister involved in the Profumo Affair with Christine Keeler and a Russian attaché, was born.
27/11/1914, The UK passed the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA), enabling the government to requisition factories and censor the press. Further restrictions were imposed as the War progressed.
26/11/1914, At Sheerness, Kent, the HMS Bulwark exploded, killing 700 people.
3/10/1914, The first national flag day was held in England, in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund.
11/8/1914. Young men in Britain formed long queues outside army recruiting offices, anxious not to miss the war, which was expected to be over by Christmas. Farm boys, city workers, peers, and dustmen left their jobs ‘to serve King and country’. Schoolboys gave false ages and friends join up together to fight together on the front. War was seen not only as a patriotic duty but as a break from a humdrum existence. However Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, was more realistic. He said ‘the lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime’.
9/8/1914. The first British troops arrived in France. The British Expeditionary Force was landed from 9th to 17th August at Boulogne.
4/8/1914. Britain declared war on Germany for violating the Treaty of London. President Wilson declared the USA neutral. That morning, Germany began the invasion of Belgium (see 2/8/1914, and 6/8/1914). The Austrian ultimatum to Serbia brought Russia in as Serbia’s ally, and Germany entered as Austria’s ally. Britain might well have stayed neutral had Germany not invaded Belgium in an attempt to outflank France. Germany began mining Danish waters and requested Denmark to mine the Great Belt. Denmark, believing Germany would mine it anyway, said it would do so. Britain believed the war would be over by Christmas.
2/8/1914. Britain mobilised the Royal Navy after Germany declared war on Russia.. The British Cabinet had finally agreed that a German presence in French Channel ports could not be tolerated, and so France must be helped against Germany (see 9/8/1914), although at the end of July most of the Cabinet had been for non-intervention in Europe.
2/7/1914, Joseph Chamberlain, British politician, died.
15/5/1914, The Commons rejected the idea of Home Rule for Scotland.
30/3/1914. 100,000 miners in Yorkshire went on strike.
1/1/1914, Lloyd George called the arms build-up in western Europe ‘organised insanity’.
7/11/1913. Box Hill, Surrey, was formally given to the nation.
26/10/1913, Hugh Scanlon, British trade unionist, was born.
14/10/1913, Britain’s worst coal mining disaster occurred at Universal Colliery, Senghenydd, Glamorgan, when 439 died in a pit explosion. The blast was heard 11 miles away in Cardiff.
31/7/1913, Lloyd George said the Lords should be abolished.
22/7/1913, Edinburgh Zoo opened.
19/7/1913, Paignton Zoo (Primley Zoological Gardens) opened.
23/6/1913, Michael Foot, UK Labour Party Leader, was born.
18/12/1912. The Piltdown Man was discovered in Sussex. It was claimed to be the fossilised skull and other remains of the earliest known European man. On 21/11/1953 it was revealed as a hoax, the skull was that of an orang-utan.
21/9/1912, Ian McGregor, chairman of British Steel and British Coal, was born.
22//7/1912. To counter the growing German naval threat, the British Admiralty recalled warships from the Mediterranean to begin patrols in the North Sea.
21/7/1912, UK, Second reading of the Franchise Bill, giving all men over 21 the vote.
26/6/1912, The first Alexandra Day.
16/6/1912. Enoch Powell was born in Stechford, Birmingham.
26/5/1912, The UK was paralysed by a transport strike.
10/4/1912, Troops were called out to quell riots in Wigan.
27/3/1912. British Labour leader and Prime Minister 1976-1979, James Callaghan, was born in Portsmouth.
13/11/1911. Bonar Law became leader of the Tory Party, succeeding Arthur James Balfour.
9/11/1911, A squadron of soldiers, the 18th Hussars, with rifles, patrolled the streets of Tonypandy, south Wales, after clashes between striking miners and the police, in which the police had been stoned.
8/11/1911, Arthur Balfour, Conservative leader, resigned.
23/10/1911. Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.
9/10/1911, The King George V, Britain’s biggest battleship to date, was launched.
6/10/1911. Barbara Castle, British Labour politician, was born.
6/9/1911. The British TUC condemned the use of troops in strikes.
18/8/1911. In the UK, the Official Secrets Bill got Royal Assent.
17-19/8/1911. Railway strike in the UK. Armed troops were called out to assist the police in safeguarding the nation’s food supplies. Food convoys left main railway goods junctions under heavy guard.
14/8/1911, South Wales miners ended their strike after 14 months.
8/8/1911. Violence flared in Liverpool’s streets as a nationwide strike continued. The strike by railwaymen,
dockers, and other transport workers threatened a nationwide famine, and warships stood by to help merchant ships off Liverpool to unload. 50,000 troops stood by in Liverpool.
21/7/1911, Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, warned Germany not to threaten British interests in the western Mediterranean, or Gibraltar. See 1/7/1911. Germany denied such ambitions, but Britain began preparing for war with Germany.
20/7/1911, 20 rioters in Wales shot dead by troops.
19/7/1911, The Liver Building in Liverpool was opened.
23/6/1911. Coronation of King George V.
22/6/1911, Liverpool’s Liver Clock, called ‘Great George’, began showing the time.
15/5/1911, King George V and his cousin the Kaiser reasserted their friendship.
7/4/1911, The House of Commons gave a second reading to a Bill giving copyright during an author’s lifetime and for 50 years after their death.
9/3/1911, The British Government announced that five more battleships were to be built.
6/2/1911. The Labour Party elected Ramsay MacDonald as its leader, replacing Kier Hardie.
20/12/1910. Liberals and Tories tied in the UK general election. Liberals and Conservatives got 272 seats each (from 397 Liberal MPs). The Liberals under Herbert Asquith remained in power with the backing of 42 Labour MPs and 84 Irish Nationalists. The Tories lost support because their blocking of the Budget landed Britain with a £10 million debt. If the House of Lords still blocked the Budget, Asquith threatened to create 300 new peers to ensure it passed, a measure reluctantly agreed to by King George V. Reform of the powers of the House of Lords has now become a major political issue. This issue sidelined Liberal policies for home rule for Wales and Scotland. In the event, World War One also delayed home rule for Ireland.
6/5/1910. Accession of King George V 44, to the British throne. His coronation was on 22/6/1911. He succeeded Edward VII, who died aged 68 from pneumonia. The funeral of Edward VII was on 20/5/1910.
4/4/1910, The first Commons reading of a Bill to abolish the Lords’ power of veto.
11/3/1910, A dam burst in The Rhondda, Wales, sweeping away 500 children; 494 were rescued.
21/2/1910, Douglas Bader, World War Two fighter pilot and squadron leader, was born in London.
2/2/1910, The British army was concerned about a possible shortage of horses if war should break out with Germany.
15/1/1910. UK General Election. German rearmament was a major issue.
5/11/1909. The first Woolworth store opened in Britain, in Lord Street, Liverpool.
30/7/1909, Northcote Parkinson, British author, historian and journalist, best known for stating Parkinson’s Law that work expands to fill the time available, was born.
21/3/1909, Reginald McKenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, caused dismay in the House of Commons when he stated that the UK Government had underestimated Admiral von Tirpitz’s programme to expand the German navy.
8/2/1909, The UK Government announced that six more Dreadnought battleships were to be built for the Navy.
10/12/1908. In Britain, the National Farmers Union was founded.
28/11/1908. The Court of Appeal in Britain ruled that Unions could not use their funds for political purposes. Many Labour MPs depended on sponsorship by the Unions.
26/11/1908, Charles (Lord) Forte, hotelier, was born. He opened Newport Pagnell services on the M1 in 1959, and died in 2007.
7/11/1908, The British Navy launched its biggest battleship to date, the HMS Collingwood.
6/11/1908, A cotton workers strike in Lancashire ended after seven weeks with the workers accepting a pay cut.
16/10/1908, A new harbour at Dover was opened as part of a national system of defence.
12/9/1908, Winston Churchill married Clementine Hosier.
15/8/1908, Winston Churchill announced his engagement to Clementine Hosier.
11/5/1908, The foundation stone of the Liver Building, Liverpool, was laid.
12/4/1908, Herbert Asquith was appointed Prime Minister, replacing Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who had resighned through ill-health.
1/4/1908, The Territorial Army was officially founded, as the Territorial Force, by Lord Haldane.
22/1/1908. The British Labour Party decided to adopt Socialism.
6/1/1908, 2,000 textile workers went on strike in Oldham, Lancashire.
26/10/1907. The UK’s Territorial Army was conceived by the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane.
14/6/1907, The UK Government announced a Bill to curb the House of Lords.
2/5/1907, King Edward VII of Britain met the French President in Paris.
24/4/1907, Winston Churchill, Colonial Under-Secretary, was made a Privy Councillor.
28/2/1907, Britain’s Royal Navy ordered three more Dreadnought warships.
23/1/1907, In the UK, Lloyd George advocated reducing the power of the House of Lords.
21/11/1906, In Glasgow, a man died when 200,000 gallons of hot whisky burst out of vats.
2/8/1906, Albert Goodwin, UK historian, was born.
8/3/1906. The British government stated that the British Empire covered 11.5 million square miles, one fifth of the world’s land area, and had a population of 400 million, a quarter of the world total. The Empire had grown by a third in the last 25 years.
10/2/1906, Britain launched the revolutionary new battleship Dreadnought. She made every other warship obsolete, outgunning and outranging them all. Her new steam turbine propulsion made her much faster than older ships. This marked the start of a keen naval arms race between Britain and Germany. Germany now realised that the latest class of battleships were too big to pass through the Kiel Canal. The Russo-Japanese War demonstrated the need for such battleship innovation, as naval battles were now fought at long range, using torpedoes, and torpedo boats therefore had to be destroyed at a distance with accurate long-range artillery.
1/1906. The Liberals won a landslide victory in the British general elections. Labour under Keir Hardie also made gains. The Liberals had 399 seats, up from 184 in the 1900 election. The Conservatives retained 156 seats, down from 402. Labour gained 29 seats; a secret Liberal-Labour pact gave the Labour candidate a free run against the Tories in key constituencies. Labour’s share of the vote was just 4.8%, but this was treble their 1900 share. In December 1905 the new Liberal Government got the Trades Disputes Bill passed by the (Conservative-dominated) House of Lords, reversing the House of Lords ruling in the Taff Vale case (1901), which had meant trades unions were liable for losses to the employer caused by strikes.
25/10/1905, Lord Roseberry called for a future Liberal Government to challenge the power of the House of Lords.
19/9/1905, Britain and Germany held simultaneous war manoeuvres.
11/9/1905, Figures were released showing rural lunacy on the rise; this was attributed to the tedium of living in the countryside.
11/7/1905, 124 miners died in a pit disaster in Glamorgan, south Wales.
1/7/1905, The Colonial Office considered a plan to relocate Britain’s ‘surplus population’ in various parts of the Empire.
9/4/1905. A judge decided the public had no right of way to Stonehenge.
1/3/1905, Britain announced that spending on the navy was to increase by 350%..
20/1/1905, Herbert Bowden, British politician, was born.
1904, Construction work on Letchworth New Town began.
15/12/1904, In London, British politician Joseph Chamberlain called for curbs on immigration; he said they were responsible for crime and disease.
For Dogger Bank Incident, October 1904, see Russia
28/8/1904. A treaty was concluded in London whereby France would allow the British freedom of action in Egypt in return for the British allowing the French a free hand in Morocco. For many years the nominally independent Sultanate of Morocco had been losing power as it became increasingly dependent on French, Spanish, and German business and subsidies for financial security. In October 1904 the French also concluded a secret treaty with the Spanish. This disturbed Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany who saw his country being squeezed out of North Africa. Wilhelm II therefore landed at Tangier on 31 March 1905. The sultan sided with the Germans and serious friction with the French resulted. On 161/1906 the Algecieras Conference was held. German claims were backed by Austria whilst French claims were backed by Britain. Germany failed to curb France’s privileged position in Morocco. See 8/4/1904.
17/8/1904, In the UK, the Postmaster General reported that postcard usage increased by 25% in 1903.
12/7/1904, Britain and Germany signed a five-year treaty, to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than by military means.
8/4/1904. Entente Cordiale set up between Britain and France. Each country recognised the other’s colonial interests. France agreed not to interfere in Egypt and England agreed not to interfere in Morocco. Germany, which also wanted control in Morocco, felt threatened by this entente. Britain had become unpopular with many countries after the Boer War, and needed friends; relations with France had been strained since the Fashoda incident in 1898. Now both Britain and France felt anxious over the rise of the German economy and military might, especially its navy. The entente meant Britain’s navy could concentrate on defending the North Sea whilst France’s monitored the Mediterranean. See 28/8/2904.
1/2/1904, Britain agreed with France to remain neutral if there was war between Russia and Japan.
22/8/1903. Lord Salisbury, four times Conservative Prime Minister, died, aged 73.
7/7/1903, Britain’s falling birth-rate would result in a halt to population growth in 18 years.
6/3/1903, In response to the growing German navy, construction began on a huge new British naval base at Rosyth.
26/2/1903. In the UK, a Commons Debate called for curbs on immigration.
8/11/1902, The Kaiser arrived in London on a 12-day State Visit to try and improve Anglo-German relations.
3/9/1902, The Trades Unions Congress voted in London to back independent Labour Parliamentary candidates rather than rely on local alliances with Liberals.
11/8/1902, King Edward VII gave Osborne House, where Queen Victoria had died, to the nation.
12/7/1902. (1) Arthur Balfour (Conservative) succeeded Lord Salisbury as Tory Prime Minister.
(2) Kitchener returned to a heroes’ welcome in London.
24/6/1902, King Edward VII contracted appendicitis, delaying his coronation (scheduled for 26 June), see 9/8/1902.
24/5/1902, Empire Day was celebrated for the first time (Queen Victoria’s birthday).
17/9/1901, Sir Francis Chichester, British yachtsman and aviator, was born in Barnstaple, Devon.
1/8/1901, The Commons voted an extra £12.5 million for naval and war budgets.
24/5/1901, 78 miners died in a pit disaster in Caerphilly, Wales.
15/5/1901, The British Admiralty decided to build three large battleships.
14/2/1901, King Edward VII, aged 59, opened his first UK Parliament.
4/2/1901, Queen Victoria was buried at Windsor, next to Albert.