Chronography of Great Britain from 1 January 1900

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“As for Britain, it is set in the Sea of Darkness. It is a considerable island, whose shape is that of the head of an ostrich, and where there are flourishing towns, high mountains, great rivers and plains. This country is most fertile; its inhabitants are brave, active and enterprising, but all is in the grip of perpetual winter." Muhammad Al Idrisi, 12th century Arab



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Box index:-

23.0. UK 2016 Brexit Vote

22.0. Scotland Independence Referendum 2014

21.0. Great Train Robbers, 1963-2013

20.5. Iraq weapons report aftermath, 2003-04

20.0. Scottish and Welsh Devolution, 1997-99

19.0. New Labour gain power under Tony Blair 1993-97

18.0. Dunblane Massacre, ban on handguns 1996-97

17.8, James Bulger murder 1993

17.6, Mrs Thatcher ousted as Tory Leader; replaced by John Major, 1990

17.4, The Poll Tax 1987-91

17.2 Formation and end of the Social Democratic Party, 1987-90

17.0  Miner’s Strike, 1984-85

16.0 Greenham Common anti-nuclear protests 1951-91

15.0 Falklands War 1982

14.0 Urban Riots 1980-81

13.0 Yorkshire Ripper 1979-81

12.0 SDP Party (Gang of Four) 1981

11.0 Jeremy Thorpe trial, 1977-79

10.0 Mrs Thatcher elected 1979

9.0 Devolution for Scotland and Wales, 1976-79

8.0 Winter of Discontent 1978-79

7.5, Iceland-UK Cod War, 1974-76

7.3, John Stonehouse disappearance, 1974-76

7.2, Heath loses General Election, 11/1974; replaced as Party ;leader by Mrs Thatcher

7.1, Edward Heath Conservative Government, toppled by industrial unrest and energy crisis, 1973-74

7.0 Iceland-UK Cod War, 1973

6.0 UK Miner’s Strike, 1972

5.0 UK accession to the European Economic Community 1971-73

4.0 Profumo Scandal 1963

3.0 De Gaulle refuses to admit UK to the EEC due to links with USA, 1961-63

2.0 End of rationing in Britain 1948 – 1954

1.0 National Parks, 1950-52

0.0 Intensification of UK rationing post - War, 1946 - 51

-1.0, Britain and the end of World War Two in Europe, 1944-45

-2.0, Britain and World War Two, 1941-44

-3.0, UK rationing 1940-44

-4.0, UK civil measures 1940-43

-5.0, Britain and World War Two, 1940-41

-6.0, Battle of Britain 1940; German bid to defeat the RAF failed

-7.0, Britain declares war on Germany. Early stages of World War Two in the UK, 1939-40

-8.0, Preparations for War, 1937-39

-9.0, Britain re-armament and Fascist conflicts, 1933-37

-10.0, Jarrow March 1936

-11.0, Postal and telephone developments 1934-37

-12.0, Leisure and Tourism developments 1927-38


19 October 2023, In the UK, Labour decisively won two by elections, the formerly Tory seats of Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire.

5 October 2023, In the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by election, there was a 24.1% swing to Labour, at the expense of the Conservatives and SNP, giving Labour a projected ca. 440 seats at a general election.

27 March 2023, Humza Yousaf was elected new leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

15 February 2023, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, unexpectedly resigned over controversy with her gender-recognition reforms.

23 November 2022, The UK Supreme Court ruled that Nicola Sturgeon, leader of Scotland’s SNP Party, did not have the authority to call another independence referendum without the consent of Westminster.

24 October 2022, Rishi Sunak became Tory Prime Minister, uncontested after Boris Johnson pulled out and Penny Mordaunt failed to reached the 100 MP backers threshold as set by the Tory Party to ensure a swift succession.

20 October 2022, UK Tory Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after just 44 days in office, saying her manifesto was now ‘undeliverable’, as global economic and political uncertainty continued, with deep splits in her own Party.

17 September 2022, Ethnic tension between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester, UK, began to mount after an India vs Pakistan cricket match which India won. Underlying causes included a rise in Indian nationalism.

8 September 2022, Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral. Charles became King.

6 September 2022, Liz Truss became the new UK Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, having defeated Rishi Sunak in a poll of Tory Party members.

7 July 2022, UK PM Boris Johnson announced his resignation, after a large number of resignations from his Cabinet. He faced further sleaze allegations over his Chief Whip, Christopher Pincher, as well as economic issues. Boris said he would remain in post until October, when a new leader would be elected.

23 June 2022, In the UK the Conservatives were badly beaten in two by elections. They lost Wakefield, a ‘red wall’ seat, back to Labour, and Honiton, Devon, went to the Liberal Democrats, having been a safe Tory seat.

6 June 2022, UK PM Boris Johnson won, but unimpressively, a No Confidence vote by 211 votes to 148; 41% of his MPs voted against him. He faced issues of Partygate, and the UK economy was also facing issues such as high inflation, soaring energy food and fuel process, and supply chain issues.

16 December 2021, The Conservatives were heavily defeated in the North Shropshire by-election by the Liberals, in what had been a safe Tory seat since 1832. The election had been triggered by the dismissal of its incumbent Tory MP for financial impropriety, but the election was also a protest vote against the Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself.

24 November 2021, As informal migrant crossings across the English Channel from northern France to Kent  increased markedly over 2020, this day an underinflated dinghy capsized, drowning 27.

11 November 2021, The number of migrants crossing the English Channel informally today was 1,185, a new daily record.

24 September 2021, The UK began to experience petrol shortages due to a lack of HGV drivers to deliver the fuel to petrol stations.

6 May 2021, Elections were held across the UK. In the Hartlepool by-election, the Conservatives won the historically-Labour seat. Scotland elected its Parliament and Wales elected a new Senedd. London elected a new Assembly, and there were English local council elections., also 12 new Mayors were elected. The Tories did well in English local council elections, and made a good showing in mayoral city elections, although they failed to unseat Siddiq Khan in London. Conservatives and Labour made inroads in Wales at the expense of the Nationalists, In Scotland the SNP made small gains against Labour, but fell just short of an absolute majority there..

31 December 2020, The UK formally left the European Union, at 11.00pm UK time.

13 November 2020, Peter Sutcliffe, lorry driver convicted of 13 murders, the Yorkshire Ripper, died in prison. He had been convicted in 1981, and his sentence converted to whole life in 2010.

6 April 2020, The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was admitted to intensive care with Covid-19.

4 April 2020, Kier Starmer was elected leader of the British Labour Party, succeeding Jeremy Corbyn (who had lost hugely to the Tories in December 2019, and was accused of anti-Semitic sympathies).

31 January 2020, The UK began to leave the European Union. A period of transition, scheduled to end 31 December 2020, began during which trade relations would be sorted out. Many people suspected this was too little time to complete these negotiations.

20 December 2019, Boris Johnson, British PM, won a huge majority of 358 to 234 against for his Bill to complete Brexit on 31 January 2020; larger than his overall Commons majority of 78. From end  January, a transition period is due to begin, for 11 months until 31 December 2020; however many believed this was too short and might have to be extended.

12 December 2020, General Election in the UK. Boris Johnson, incumbent Conservative Prime Minister, won a major victory, gaining 365 seats, a majority of 78. Boris Johnson now promised to deliver Brexit by 31  January 2020, with the transition period extending no longer than 31 December 2020. There was speculation of a possible trade deal with the USA. Meanwhile Labour did badly, losing many previously safe seats in the Midlands and North of England, which was attributed to disaffection amongst blue collar workers in old-industrial areas; Labour secured 203 seats. However Labour’s vote held up better in London. The Liberal Democrats did badly, holding just 11 seats, losing seats despite a rise in their % vote share; their leader, Joe Swinson, lost her seat to the SNP in Scotland. The SNP did well as the Nationalist vote rose, taking 48 seats. In Northern Ireland the DUP took 8 seats as Sinn Fein gained ground.

24 September 2019, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that PM Boris Johnson had acted unlawfully when he prorogued (suspended) Parliament, ostensibly because of upcoming Party Conferences, but in reality to avert further debate on Brexit. Parliament returned to sitting the next day.

3 September 2019, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost significant Parliamentary votes. MPs voted to force him to ask Brussels for an extension on the Brexit process from 31 October 2019, and not to hold a General election before this date. 21 Tory MPs rebelled and were expelled from the Conservative Party by Mr Johnson, who now led a Government with a minority of 47. Mr Johnson said if he were compelled by law to ask for an extension (something he earlier said he would never do), he would also threaten to be so disruptive to the EU that in fact they would not grant one. Calling an early General Election in October would, under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, have required two thirds of MPs to vote for, which Boris Johnson did not get; it would also have ensured that Parliament was not operating in full at the end of October so even if Labour won they could not have voted to extend the Brexit deadline or avert No Deal. However it was possible that the EU, despairing of the never-ending Brexit process, would decline to offer an extension anyway, with President Macron of France taking this position.

28 August 2019, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the highly controversial move of announcing that the UK Parliament would be prorogued from 10 September for a crucial 5-week period until 14 October just before the planned Brexit of 31 October 2019. Opponents of Brexit claimed that this was a move to suppress any debate in parliament of the Brexit process, and prevent the passing of a Bill to block a Brexit without a deal being made with the European Union.

23 July 2019, Boris Johnson was elected new leader of the UK Conservative Party and Prime Minister, with 66.3% of votes cast. He stood against Jeremy Hunt.

24 May 2019, Mrs Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, announced her resignation, having failed to secure a Brexit deal that could get through the UK Parliament.

21 March 2019, After lengthy talks between Mrs May, UK Prime Minister, and the EU, the EU set new dates for Brexit. If Mrs May managed to get her deal with the EU accepted at a third vote in Parliament, Brexit would take place on 22 May 2019. This would give the UK Parliament time to pass the necessary legislation. However it was possible that the Speaker, Mr Bercow, would debar a 3rd vote unless the proposal was ‘significantly different from the proposal that was heavily defeated two times already; possibly the new schedule would constitute a ‘difference’. If, however, Mrs May could not get her Deal passed, the UK was to have until 12 April to ‘say what it wanted’ – which could be anything from No Deal to postponing or even cancelling Brexit, revoking Article 50.

16 January 2019, The Motion of No Confidence in the UK Government was defeated by 325 votes to 306.

15 January 2019, The UK House of Commons voted decisively to reject Conservative PM Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Deal, by 423 votes to 202. The Deal was disliked by those MPs who wanted a harder Brexit and feared that it tied the UK in too closely to Europe; it was also rejected by those who wanted to delay or eve cancel Brexit. Immediately after this vote the Labour Opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, put down a Motion of No Confidence in the Government.

12 December 2018, Following Theresa May’s failed last minute attempt at renegotiation with the European Union on 11 December 2018, a leadership challenge emerged today, with over 48 Conservative MPs voting for a leadership election within the Party. She won the vote by 200 votes to 117, meaning no further leadership challenge was possible for at least 12 months.

11 December 2018, UK Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a Parliamentary vote on her Brexit Deal, which many had derided as giving up too much to Europe, and quickly met European leaders to try and renegotiate terms. She failed.

4 March 2018, Soviet double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the UK city of Salisbury by a nerve gas agent, likely Novichok, which is Russian in origin.

27 August 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 June 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 May 2017, An Islamist terrorist set off a bomb at a music concert in Manchester. 22 were killed and 59 injured..

18 April 2017, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called a surprise snap General Election for 8 June 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.


23.0 UK 2016 Brexit Vote

28 March 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 March 2017. The two-year negotiation process was started; however after the inconclusive UK General Election of 8 June 2017 this timetable was looking tight.

13 March 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 November 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 July 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 June 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 June 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%.

19 February 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 February 2016 the date for this referendum was set for 23 June 2016.


16 June 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.

21 August 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 May 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 December 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 November 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 November 2014, In Britain’s Rochester and Strood by-election, UKIP won its second MP.

9 October 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.


22.0 Scotland Independence Referendum 2014

18 September 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 March 2016.

13 February 2014, George Osborne, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, warned that an independent Scotland (see 18 September 2014) would not be able to keep the Pound as a currency.


.26 August 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 August 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 March 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.


21.0 Great Train Robbers, 1963-2013

18 December 2013, Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs died aged 84. The robbery was in 1963.

7 May 2001, 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.

30 March 1975. The Great Train Robbers Ronald ‘Buster’ Edwards and James White were released on bail after serving 9 years in gaol.

1 February 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.

8 July 1965, Ronald Biggs, who played a part in the Great Train Robbery in 1963, escaped from Wandsworth Prison. Whilst 2 prisoners distracted the guards in the exercise yard, accomplices parked a removals van outside the wall and threw a rope ladder over. Biggs climbed over and they excaped in a getaway car that had been hoidden inside the van; the van was abandoned.

12 August 1964, Great Train Robber Charlie Wilson escaped from Winson Green prison, Birmingham. He was recaptured four years later in Canada.

16 April 1964. Twelve members of the Great Train Robbers were sentenced to a total of 307 years in jail.

20 January 1964. In the UK, the trial of the Great Train Robbers began.

8 August 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.


8 April 2013, Mrs Thatcher the former Conservative PM died, aged 87.

23 January 2013, In the UK, David Cameron, Conservative Party Leader, promised to hold a Referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union if he won the next General Election.

23 September 2010, The world’s biggest windfarm was inaugurated off the UK coast at Thanet, Kent.

7 May 2010, UK General Election; Conservative leader David Cameron formed a coalition with the Liberals.

3 March 2010, Former British Labour Party leader and writer Michael Foot died, aged 96.

4 December 2009, The UK’s Ministry of Defence closed its special unit for monitoring UFO sightings, which had operated for over 50 years.

25 July 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.

1 October 2008, The French power company EdF acquired British Energy plc, which operated 8 of Britain’s 10 nuclear power stations.

27 June 2007, In the UK, Gordon Brown became Labour Prime Minister as Tony Blair resigned from the Commons.

11 May 2007, Gordon Brown announced his bid to be Labour Leader. On 25 June 2007 his succession was agreed unchallenged at a Labour Party Conference in Manchester. In a contest for the post of Depiuty Leader, Harriet Harman won the final round.

10 May 2007, In the UK, former Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his retirement a week after Labour did badly in the elections.

25 August 2006, The Office for National Statistics announced that in June 2005 the population of the UK had reached 60 million.

25 May 2006, The UK Government announced that the pension age would rise, from 65 to 66 in 2024, and to 68 in 2044.

7 February 2006, In Britain, Abu Hamza, radical Muslim cleric, 47, was jailed for 7 years after being found guilty of inciting murder and terrorism.

7 January 2006, In the UK, Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, resigned after admitting he was being treated for alcoholism. Sir Menzies Campbell, deputy leader, now became acting leader.

11 December 2005, An oil storage depot at Buncefield, near Hemel Hempstead, caught fire, at 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.

6 December 2005, David Cameron won the leadership election for the United Kingdom Conservative Party.

4 July 2005, Violent demonstrations in Gleneagles, Scotland, against the G8 Summit Meeting there.

5 May 2005, In the UK General Election, New Labour was re-elected but with a substantially reduced majority.

5 March 2005, The Right Reverend Lord David Sheppard of Liverpool died (born 6 March 1929).

6 January 2005, Sir Nicholas Scott, Conservative MP for Paddington (1966-74) and for Chelsea (1974-94), born 5 August 1933, died.

12 October 2004, A UK report by Adair Turner warned of a looming pensions crisis, saying over 12 million people were not saving enough.

9 October 2004, Queen Elizabeth II opened the new Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh.

1 October 2004, UK Labour Party leader and PM Tony Blair recovered from a minor heart operation and said he would stand down during his next term.


20.5 Iraq weapons report aftermath, 2003-04

28 January 2004, The report by former Appeal Court Judge Lord Hutton into the circumstances of the apparent suicide of MoD weapons expert David Kelly, on 17 June 2003, was published. Hutton cleared the UK Government of any wrongdoing and criticised the BBC’s handling of the claim  that the Government falsified intelligence on Iraqi weapons.

12 August 2003, BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan went before the Hutton Enquiry to defend his claim that the UK Government had ‘sexed up’ an intelligence dossier on Iraq.

18 July 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 May 2003 and 1 August 2003.


18 November 2003, US President Bush visited Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK; there were ongoing protests against the US war on Iraq.

6 November 2003, Michael Howard became the new Conservative Party Chairman.

29 October 2003, Iain Duncan Smith, leader of the UK Tory Party, was defeated in a no-confidence vote. He resigned and Michael Howard was elected leader unopposed.

4 September 2003, The Bullring in Birmingham, Europe’s largest shopping centre, was opened by Sir Albert Bore.

27 July 2003, The results of a comprehensive sonar survey of Loch Ness were announced. No large animal was found.

26 June 2003. Denis Thatcher died, leaving his wife, Margaret, former PM, a widow.

5 January 2003, Roy Jenkins, former Labour Chancellor and leader of the SDP (Social Democratic Party) in the UK, died.

5 December 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 November 2002, Myra Hindley, murderer, died (born 1942).

9 August 2002, Peter Neville, British peace activist, died.

3 May 2002. Barbara Castle, Labour politician, died aged 92.

30 October 2001. Farmer Tony Martin, who shot dead a teenage burglar, was cleared of murder.

17 September 2001. John Hume stepped down as leader of the nationalist SDP (Social Democratic Party).

13 September 2001, Iain Duncan Smith leader of the UK Tory Party. He was a little-known Eurosceptic from the Right Wing of his Party. He defeated Kenneth Clarke.

19 July 2001, Lord Archer, Conservative Deputy Chairman and novelist, was sentenced to four years prison for perjury and perverting the course of justice. See 24 July 1987.

7 July 2001, During race riots in Bradford, Yorkshire, the Manningham Labour Club was burnt down.

7 June 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 May 2001, John Prescott, Labour Deputy Prime Minister, tussled with Craig Evans at an election rally in Rhyll, north Wales.

26 March 2001, In Britain, the Post Office changed its name to Consignia PLC, but remained wholly government-owned.

31 January 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.

27 August 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 August 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.

11 July 2000, Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, died.

18 June 2000, At Diver, 58 Chinese migrants were found suffocated in the back of a lorry, having tried to enter Britain illegally.

30 May 2000, In Birmingham, England, demolition of the old Bullring Centre began.

15 May 2000. The Eden Project was launched in Cornwall, at a cost of £79 million, housing thousands of plants from around the world.

3 May 2000. The trial of the Lockerbie bomb suspects began.

31 January 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 January 2000,  In the UK it became illegal for retailers to sell in anything but metric units.

11 November 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 August 1999, A total eclipse of the Sun was visible in south west England. However the weather was cloudy.

9 August 1999, Charles Kennedy, 39, was elected as new leader of the Liberal Democrats, succeeding Paddy Ashdown.

26 June 1999. There were problems at the UK’s Passport Office, with queues for passports reaching a record 530,000.

16 June 1999, Screaming Lord Sutch (born 1940), committed suicide.

8 June 1999, Jonathan Aitken, former British Government Minister, was jailed for perjury.


20.0 Scottish and Welsh Devolution, 1997-99

1 July 1999, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Scottish Assembly.

26 May 1999, The first Welsh Assembly for 600 years opened in Cardiff.

6 May 1999, Elections to the new Welsh and Scottish Assemblies were held. A large vote for the Nationalists in both countries prevented Labour from gaining a majority, and coalition Governments were formed.

18 December 1997, Donald Dewar, Secretary of State for Scotland, unveiled a Bill to give Scotland its own Parliament.

18 September 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 September 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.


16 March 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 October 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 August 1998, UK authorities warned of a rat invasion, saying there were 750,000 rat-infested homes in Britain.

31 March 1998, The RAF withdrew its nuclear bombs from service, leaving submarine-based Trident missiles as the UK’s only nuclear deterrent.

18 May 1998, In Britain, the New Labour Government announced that the new Minimum Wage would be £3.60 per hour, coming into force in April 1999.

4 March 1998, The Countryside March was held, as 250,000 people marched through central London to protest at issues facing the UK countryside. Points of protest included the ban on hunting with dogs and Government policies on farming.

3 July 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.

20 May 1997, The British intelligence agency MI5 first advertised to recruit trainee spies, in The Times and The Guardian.


19.0 New Labour gain power under Tony Blair 1993-97

2 July 1997. Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave Labour’s first Budget speech for 18 years.

19 June 1997, Following the resignation of John Major as Conservative leader, William Hague, 36, became its youngest leader since 1783.

3 May 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 May 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.

27 February 1997, In Britain a discredited and divided Tory party lost its Parliamentary majority with a by-election defeat in Wirral. This was a prelude to their defeat by New Labour in general elections on 1 May 1997.

12 December 1996, After Labour won the Barnsley East by election, the Conservatives no longer had a majority in the House of Commons.

3 July 1996, UK PM John Major promised that the Stone of Scone would be returned from Westminster to Scotland.

2 May 1996, In the UK, the Conservative’s loss of popularity continued as they won just 28% of the vote at local government elections.

Conservative leadership vote

4 July 1995, John Major won the battle to lead the Conservative Party, beating John Redwood by 218 votes to 89.

22 June 1995, John Major, UK Conservative Prime Minister, resigned I order to trigger a leadership contest, in a  bid to bolster his authority over his divided Party. He went on to defeat right-wing Eurosceptic John Redwood, but his Party remained divided.

5 May 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 April 1995, failing to gain a single one of 29 unitary authorities there. Prime Minister John Major faced a challenge to his leadership.

12 June 1994, In European Parliamentary elections, the Tories won only 18 seats to Labour’s 62.

3 June 1993. 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.

6 May 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.

17 March 1993, In Britain, protests over Budget plans to impose VAT on domestic fuel, initially at 8%, and at 17.5% from 1995.


18.0 Dunblane Massacre, ban on handguns 1996-97

11 June 1997, The UK Parliament voted for a total ban on handguns.

16 October 1996. Proposals to ban most handguns in the UK, in the aftermath of the Dunblane massacre.

13 March 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.


1995, The Departrment for Education became part of the Department for Education and Employment.

25 November 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 January 1995.

9 October 1995, Sir Alec Douglas Home, British Conservative Prime Minister 1963-4, died (born 2 July 1903).

6 August 1995, British licensing laws were relaxed to allow pubs to open from 12 noon on Sundays onwards.

24 May 1995, Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister 1964-70 and 1974-76, born 11 March 1916, died.

29 April 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 March 1995, Ronnie Kray died.

1 January 1995, Fred West, accused of mass murder, hanged himself inside Winson Green prison, Birmingham.

19 November 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 November 1994, Sydney Dernley, Britain’s last surviving executioner, died aged 73.

21 July 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 May 1994. In the UK, Labour Party leader John Smith died suddenly of a heart attack, aged 55. On 17 July 1994 Tony Blair was elected leader of the Party.

24 February 1994, Police in Gloucester began excavating the property of Frederick West at 25 Cromwell Street.  He and his wife were arrested on 28 February 1994.

13 January 1994, In London, Westminster Council faced criticism for gerrymandering election boundaries 1987-89. The Conservative Government was tarnished by association.

10 January 1994, UK Prime Minister John Major started his ‘Back to Basics’ campaign, calling for a return to old-fashioned family values.

15 December 1993. The Downing Street Declaration; the UK committed itself to finding a solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. Prime Ministers John Major of the UK and John Reynolds of Ireland discussed the possibility of a future united Ireland.


17.8, James Bulger murder 1993

24 November 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’.

1 March 1993, Funeral of two-year-old James Bulger, abducted from Bootle shopping centre on 12 February 1993 and later murdered by two youths on a Liverpool railway line; his body was found by the tracks on 16 February 1993. Two boys aged ten from Walton, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, were charged with the murder on 20 February 1993. The case provoked a moral panic about social breakdown in society and ‘loss of values’.

12 February 1993, James Bulger, two year old toddler, was abducted and murdered by two youths in Liverpool, see 1 March 1993.


12 November 1993, Britain refused to join a worldwide ban on dumping nuclear waste at sea.

24 October 1993, Jo Grimond, UK Liberal Party leader, died.

18 October 1993, As part of UK defence cuts, the privatisation of Devonport and Rosyth naval dockyards was announced.

2 August 1993. The UK ratified the Maastricht Treaty.

5 July 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 June 1993. In Britain, government Minister Michael Heseltine suffered a heart attack.

9 June 1993, In Britain, Norman Lamont made a bitter attack on John Major in the Commons.

3 June 1993. Holbeck Hall, Scarborough’s only 4-star hotel, began to collapse into the sea, with its extensive gardens. The collapse took several days.

27 May 1993. Norman Lamont resigned as UK Chancellor; Kenneth Clarke replaced him.

5 May 1993, Asil Nadir, Chairman of Polly Peck, jumped bail and fled to Cyprus.

4 March 1993, In Britain, a reform of the Honours System was announced, to give greater reward for merit.

3 March 1993. Tony Bland, in a vegetative state since becoming a victim of the Hillsborough soccer disaster on 15 April 1989, was allowed to die by doctors.

21 February 1993. A poll revealed that nearly 50% of Britons would emigrate if they could, the highest since 1948.

19 February 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’.

9 December 1992. The UK Prime Minister announced  to the House of Commons that Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were to separate.

26 November 1992, In Britain, the Queen announced she would pay income tax on her private income.

20 November 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 November 1992, In the UK, an inquiry into the Matrix-Churchill affair was announced.

24 September 1992. The National Heritage Minister David Mellor resigned after a sex scandal.

23 July 1992. The UK saw riots in Bristol, Carlisle, Blackburn, Burnley, and Huddersfield. 62 youths were arrested.

18 July 1992. John Smith elected leader of the British Labour Party.

15 July 1992. British MPs gave themselves a 40% rise on their expenses.

13 July 1992, Britain’s former executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, died.

13 April 1992, Neil Kinnock resigned as leader of the UK Labour Party, following the Conservative victory of 9 April 1992.

9 April 1992. The Conservatives under John Major won the UK General Election.

3 September 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 August 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 August 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 August 1991. Britain’s new Dangerous Dogs Act came into force.

29 July 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 June 1991, Margaret Thatcher, in a speech in Chicago, warned against a European Super-State, saying it would be ‘nothing less than a disaster’.

24 April 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.

25 March 1991. Michael Heseltine, Department of the Environment, announced the creation of the East Thames Corridor.


17.6, Mrs Thatcher ousted as Tory Leader; replaced by John Major, 1990

27 November 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 November 1990, having failed to win a first leadership ballot on the Conservative Party on 20 November 1990.

22 November 1990, Mrs Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister, see 27 November 1990.

20 November 1990, Mrs Thatcher lost a leadership ballot within the Conservative Party.

14 November 1990, Michael Heseltine announced he would challenge Mrs Thatcher for office of Prime Minister.

13 November 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 November 1990, Geoffrey Howe resigned from Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet in a dispute over European Monetary Union.


2 October 1990. Mrs Thatcher announced Britain’s entry into the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The Labour opposition leader Mr Neil Kinnock criticised this move.

22 September 1990. The Natural History Museum solved the Piltdown Man hoax. The anthropologist behind the hoax was Sir Arthur Keith. See 21 November 1953.

1 July 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.


17.4, The Poll Tax 1987-91

26 March 1991, Norman Lamont, Chancellor, raised VAT to 17.5% to finance a £140 per head cut in the Poll Tax.

21 March 1991. The Poll Tax was ditched as Michael Heseltine, the Environment Secretary, unveiled a property tax to replace it.

8 March 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.

6 January 1991. John Major said the Poll Tax will not be abolished.

14 August 1990. In the UK, the Audit Commission warned that 1 in 5 were avoiding paying the Poll Tax.

9 March 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 March 1990. Poll Tax riots degenerated into violence across Britain. Concerns continued at “mad cow” disease in the UK.

17 November 1987, The UK Government announced plans for a Community Charge (Poll Tax) to be levied in 1990.


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 October 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 October 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 October 1989. Millions of fleas were released in the Norfolk Broads to eat algae clogging up the waterways.

21 June 1989, British police arrested 250 people for celebrating the Summer solstice at Stonehenge.

1 May 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 April 1989, An explosion at Cormorant Alpha oil platform led to the shutdown of 25% of North Sea oil production

28 March 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.

1988, The Department for Health and Social Security (DHSS) was divided.

21 December 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 September 1988, 11 year old Thomas Gregory from London became the youngest person to swim the Channel.


17.2 Formation and end of the Social Democratic Party, 1987-90

1 June 1990, David Owen announced the dissolution of the SDP, now down to just two MPs.

28 July 1988, Paddy Ashdown was elected leader of the SDP.

3 March 1988, The Liberals and the SDP merged to form the Social and Liberal Democratic Party.

31 January 1988, The British Social Democratic Party agreed to merge with the Liberal party, see 3 March 1988.

23 January 1988, The British Liberal Party voted to accept a merger with the Social Democratic Party (see 3 March 1988)

17 September 1987, In Britain, the Liberal Party Assembly voted for merger talks with the SDP.

30 August 1987, In Britain, Dr David Owen announced the formation of the breakaway ‘continuing SDP’ Party.

6 August 1987, In Britain, the SDP voted to merge with the Liberal Party. Dr David Owen resigned as SDP leader.


24 May 1988, Liverpool’s Albert Dock, restored as a business and leisure centre, was opened by the Prince of Wales.

20 May 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.

9 February 1988, In Britain, the House of Commons voted to allow proceedings to be televised.

6 February 1988, A survey in the UK found that out-of-order phone boxes and Post Office queues were the top irritants of modern life.

2 February 1988, In London, 2,000 nurses and other health workers held a one-day strike over pay.

11 October 1987, A sonar survey of Loch Ness failed to find any trace of the monster.

22 September 1987, In the UK, the Home Secretary prohibited the sale of semi-automatic rifles.

19 August 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.

24 July 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 July 2001.

12 June 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 April 1987, Myra Hindley confessed to two more murders, in an attempt to prove her rehabilitation.

24 January 1987, 162 police and 33 demonstrators were injured in clashes outside Rupert Murdoch’s News International plant in Wapping, east London.

29 December 1986, Harold Macmillan, Lord Stockton, former Conservative Prime Minister 1957-1963, died, aged 92.

26 October 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.

24 August 1986, Wallis Simpson died.

10 June 1986, Queen Elizabeth II made Bob Geldof a knight, for his fundraising activities.

9 January 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 deter frivolous candidates) to £500.

1985, The Crown Prosecution Service was established.

1 October 1985, Rioting in Toxteth, Liverpool.

9 September 1985. Race riots erupted in Handsworth, Birmingham.

28 January 1985, The case against the civil servant Clive Ponting, charged with leaking information about the sinking of the Belgrano, opened.

23 January 1985. A House of Lords debate was televised live for the first time.

17 January 1985, British Telecom announced it was to phase out the famous red telephone boxes.

2 December 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%.


Ban on Trades Unions at GCHQ Cheltenham

22 November 1984, The Law Lords upheld the Government’s ban on Union membership at GCHQ Cheltenham.

16 July 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.

25 January 1984, The Government announced that Trades Unions would be illegal at GCHQ Cheltenham.


18 August 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.

10 July 1984, National dock strike in Britain over use of unauthorised labour.

9 July 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.


17.0  Miner’s Strike, 1984-85

19 October 1985, Coal miners in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire set up the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM).

3 March 1985. End of the 12 month miner’s strike which began on 5 March 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 May 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 February 1985, 49% of UK miners have returned to work, 51% remained on strike.

20 November 1984, The North Wales branch of the NUM voted to end the strike.

6 November 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.

31 October 1984 ACAS talks between the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board broke down again.

10 October 1984, Arthur Scargill was fined £1,000, and the NUM £200,000, for contempt of court.

21 September 1984, Violence at Maltby Colliery, near Rotherham, as the miners strike went on.

9 September 1984, Ian MacGregor, Chairman of the National Coal Board, arrived in Edinburgh for talks with Arthur Scargill.

29 May 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 March 1984. It lasted until 3 March 1985.

9 April 1984, In Derbyshire, over 100 miners were arrested in violence connected with the miners strike.

15 March 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.

12 March 1984, 100 UK coal mines were now on strike. NUM ;leader Arthur Scargill called for a national strike, but did not fulfil the legal obligation of calling a strike ballot. Some mining districts such as Nottinghamshire did not fully support the strike.

6 March 1984. Start of the 12 month miner’s strike. See 3 March 1985, and 29 May 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 March 1984, to close Cortonwood Colliery. The NCB planned to close a total of 21 collieries and make 20,000 employees redundant.

28 March 1983, Ian McGregor became chairman of the British Coal Board. He disliked Trade Unions and public ownership. He now began to close uneconomic pits, angering the National Union of Miners (NUM).


2 May 1984, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Liverpool International Garden Festival.

27 April 1984, The UK Government expelled 30 Libyan diplomats.

12 April 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.

22 March 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.

13 March 1984, In the UK, Mr Nigel Lawson delivered his first Budget.

10 February 1984, Harold MacMillan was awarded an earldom, on his 90th birthday. He chose the name of Stockton from his first constituency in 1924.

13 January 1984, A cooling tower at Fiddlers Ferry power station, Lancashire, collapsed in high winds. Turbulence caused by the closely grouped towers was blamed.


16.0 Greenham Common anti-nuclear protests 1951-91

5 March 1991. The last of the Cruise Missiles were taken from Greenham Common for dismantling in Arizona under the INF disarmament treaty.

18 January 1985. Protests continued at Greenham Common USAF base; a protester managed to enter the base.

12 September 1984, The British High Court granted an injunction against the Greenham Common peace camp.

4 April 1984, Bailiffs evicted women from the Greenham Common protest site.

3 December 1983, Women peace campaigners broke into Greenham Common US airbase.

15 November 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 November 1983.

13 November 1983, The first Cruise Missiles arrived at Greenham Common.

1 April 1983, Thousands of CND supporters formed a human chain linking Greenham Common to Burghfield, in protest at the installation of Cruise Missiles.

12 December 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.

14 November 1982, In Britain, 20,000 women surrounded the Greenham Common airbase in a peaceful protest.

24 October 1981, 150,000 marched from London to Greenham Common in a protest against nuclear weapons.

21 September 1980, Anti-nuclear protests at Greenham Common.

17 June 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.

18 June 1951. The US was given permission for an airbase at Greenham Common, Berkshire.


28 November 1983. The Thatcher government announced an end to the monopoly by opticians on the sale of glasses.

16 October 1983. Cecil Parkinson (see 14 October 1983) was succeeded by Norman Tebbit

14 October 1983, British Trade and Industry Secretary Cecil Parkinson resigned after revelations of adultery with his secretary Sarah Keays emerged.

2 October 1983. Neil Kinnock, 41, became leader of the British Labour Party. Roy Hattersley was his deputy.

8 September 1983, The UK Government made it obligatory for NHS hospitals to allow private contractors to tender for catering, cleaning and laundry services.

21 June 1093, In Britain, David Owen became leader of the SDP.

13 June 1983. Roy Jenkins resigned as leader of the SDP, to be replaced by David Owen.

12 June 1983, Michael Foot resigned as leader of the Labour Party.

11 June 1983, British Cabinet reshuffle. Nigel Lawson became Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Geoffrey Howe became Foreign Secretary, Leon Brittan became Home Secretary, and Cecil Parkinson became Trade and Industry Secretary.

10 June 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 May 1983, Mrs Thatcher called a General Election.

8 January 1983, During a 5-day morale-boosting trip by Mrs Thatcher to the Falkland Islands, she spoke to troops aboard the HMS Antrim.

6 January 1983, In a reshuffle of the British Cabinet, Michael Heseltine became Defence Secretary.

11 October 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.

27 September 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 September 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.


15.0 Falklands War 1982

18 January 1983, Britain, the Franks Report exonerated the Thatcher Government of any blame for Argentina invading the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982.

17 September 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%.

6 July 1982, In Britain, Lord Franks was appointed to Chair of the Committee of privy Councillors to inbvestigate the background to the Falklands Invasion.

11 June 1982, The QE2 liner returned to Southampton, from the Falklands, carrying the survivors from three wrecked British warships.

1 June 1982. British forces continued their advance in the Falkland Islands, (see 2 April 1982), fighting with the Argentineans 12 miles from Port Stanley. The Argentinian forces surrendered on 14 June 1982, the day Port Stanley was recaptured. Total casualties were 254 British and 750 Argentine lives.

See Falkland Islands for Falklands War

5 April 1982, The British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, resigned, as a British invasion fleet left Portsmouth for the Falklands. On 18 March 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 May 1982.

2 April 1982. Argentina launched an invasion of the Falkland Islands. On 4 April 1982 Argentina seized South Georgia, a Falklands dependency. British forces set out from the UK on 5 April 1982 and landed in the Falklands on 21 May 1982. South Georgia was recaptured on 25 April 1982 with no casualties. See 1 June 1982.


5 September 1982. Douglas Bader, the famous WW2 pilot with two artificial legs, died. He was born on 21 February 1910.

2 July 1982, Roy Jenkins was elected leader of the SDP.

26 May 1982, Kielder Water, a large reservoir in Northumbria, opened.

25 March 1982, In Scotland, Roy Jenkins of the SDP won Glasgow Hillhead in a by-election from the Conservatives.

11 March 1982, Britain announced it was to purchase Trident II submarine based missiles to replace Polaris.

8 March 1982, R A Butler, UK Conservative politician, died aged 79.

14 January 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.

1981, British Telecom informed rural parish councils that telephone boxes taking less than £140 per annum would be taken out.

8 December 1981, Arthur Scargill became leader of the National Union of Mineworkers.  He succeeded Joe Gormley.

26 November 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 October 1981, Norman Tebbit made his famous remark that his father ‘got on his bike’ to look for work; the unemployed were angry.

16 September 1981, The British Labour Party, at its Llandudno Conference, voted for an electoral alliance with the SDP.

27 July 1981, British Telecom was created.


14.0 Urban Riots 1980-81

10 July 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 July 1981. Hull, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Reading, Preston and Chester also saw riots.

5 July 1981. Youth rioted in Toxteth, Liverpool for a second night running. There were also riots in Brixton and Southall in London.

2 April 1980. Black youths rioted in the St Paul’s area of Bristol after a club was raided by the police. 19 police were injured.


13.0 Yorkshire Ripper 1979-81

23 May 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 January 1981.

20 February 1981, Peter Sutcliffe was charged with the murder of 13 women.

5 January 1981. The Yorkshire Ripper murderer, a lorry driver called Peter Sutcliffe, was arrested in Sheffield. He was to be convicted of 13 murders, and in 2010 his sentence was made whole life. He died on 13 November 2020.

25 November 1979. The West Yorkshire Police Committee raised the price on the head of the Yorkshire Ripper to £20,000.


12.0 SDP Party (Gang of Four) 1981

16 June 1981, The Liberals formed an alliance with the SDP.

26 March 1981. The ‘Gang of Four’ (Roy Jenkins, David Owen, William Rodgers and Shirley Williams) launched the UK’s Social Democratic Party (SDP).

25 January 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 March 1981.


18 February 1981, Mrs Thatcher promised more money for the miners to avert a strike.

17 February 1981, In south Wales, miners threatened to strike over pit closures.

10 February 1981, The National Coal Board announced plans to close 50 pits employing 30,000 miners. The miners called for a national strike.


3 December 1980, Sir Oswald Moseley died in exile at his home in Paris.

27 November 1980, Four Welsh Nationalist extremists were jailed for arson attacks on holiday homes.

24 November 1980, British Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe announced £1.06 billion reduction in public spending and a £3 billion increase in taxation.

10 November 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 October 1980, James Callaghan announced his resignation as Labour leader.

10 October 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.

1 October 1980, The British Labour Party, at its Blackpool Conference, voted for unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the EC, and mandatory reselection of MPs.

12 June 1980, The holiday camp owner Sir Billy Butlin died in Jersey

1 April 1980, In Britain, the steel strike ended.

26 March 1980, The UK government announced the creation of Enterprise Zones.

20 January 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 January 1980, National steel strike began in the UK.

20 December 1979, In the UK, the Housing Bill was introduced to Parliament. This would, from 3 October 1980, give more than 5 million council house tenants the right to buy their home at a discount.

30 November 1979, In Dublin, Mrs Thatcher demanded a £1,000 million rebate from the EEC.

20 November 1979. Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, lost his knighthood after being exposed as a spy.

5 September 1979, Earl of Mountbatten's Ceremonial Funeral held in Westminster Abbey

14 August 1979, John Stonehouse was released from prison.

5 August 1979, The Forestry Commission reported the spread of Dutch Elm Disease, which had already infected 3 million trees.


11.0 Jeremy Thorpe trial, 1977-79

22 June 1979, In Britain, Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe was cleared of conspiracy to murder homosexual Norman Scott.

25 November 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.

4 August 1978. Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party, was charged with conspiracy to murder Mr Norman Scott. He was later cleared.

27 October 1977, Jeremy Thorpe denied any homosexual link with unemployed male model Norman Scott.

7 July 1976. David Steele was elected leader of the Liberal Party.

10 May 1976. Jeremy Thorpe, born 29 April 1929, resigned as leader of the Liberal Party, which he had led since 18 January 1967. David Steele was the new Party leader from 7 July 1976.


10.0 Mrs Thatcher elected 1979

3 May 1979. General Election. The Conservatives defeated Labour and Mrs Margaret Hilda Thatcher, born 13 October 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 March 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 March 1979.

22 March 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.


9.0 Devolution for Scotland and Wales, 1976-79

1 March 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 March 1979.  In a Welsh referendum, 11.9% of the electorate voted for independence and 46.9% voted against it.

31 July 1978, The Devolution Acts for Scotland and Wales received Royal Assent.

16 December 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.


8.0 Winter of Discontent 1978-79

14 February 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 February 1979, In Britain, over 1,000 schools closed because of shortages of heating oil.

31 January 1979, Industrial disputes led to uncollected rubbish building up on Britain’s streets.

15 January 1979, A series of one-day rail strikes hit Britain.

10 January 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 January 1979, A lorry driver’s strike was causing chaos in Britain.

11 November 1978, The TUC refused to endorse the UK Government’s 5% wage limit.


7 May 1978  Mrs Thatcher, Conservative Opposition leader, announced that she had no intention of outlawing the closed shop.

1 May 1978, The first May Day bank holiday in Britain.

30 March 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.

12 December 1977, Lady Churchill, widow of Sir Winston Churchill, died.

13 July 1977, The UK Government abandoned the Social Contract with the TUC as wages rose.

1 April 1977, Hay on Wye declared ‘independence’.

23 March 1977, British Prime Minister James Callaghan and Liberal leader David Steel agreed the so-called ‘Lib-Lab pact, to avoid a defeat in a confidence motion.

19 February 1977, Anthony Crosland, British Foreign Secretary, died in office. On 21 February 1977 he was succeeded by Dr David Owen.

14 January 1977. Sir Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon and former UK Conservative Prime Minister 1955 – 1957, died aged 79.


3 January 1977, Britain received an IMF loan of US$ 3.9 billion, the largets in IMF history, good for 2 years. The UK agreed to reduce the budget deficit  by raising taxes and cutting Government spending.

September 1976, The UK was, humiatingly., forced to ask the IMF for a loan of US$ 3.9 billion.


19 November 1976, Sir Basil Spence, designer of the new Coventry Cathedral, died in Eye, Suffolk.

21 October 1976, Michael Foot became deputy leader of the Labour Party.

24 August 1976, In the UK, Denis Howell was appointed Minister for Drought. Rain fell three days ;later.

29 July 1976. Fire damaged the world’s longest pier, at Southend, Essex.

25 April 1976. The Post Office in Britain stopped Sunday collections; these were partly resumed in 1990.

5 April 1976. James Callaghan, born 27 March 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 April 1974.

24 March 1976, Bernard, Viscount Montgomery, Irish-born British Army Field Marshall in World War II, died aged 88.

16 March 1976. Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced his retirement from UK politics. James Callaghan became new Labour Prime Minister on 5 April 1976.  Callaghan, aged 64, had defeated Michael Foot in the leadership contest by 176 votes to 137.

2 February 1976. The 310 acre National Exhibition Centre was opened by the Queen at Bickenhill, Birmingham.

29 January 1976, In Britain, male model Norman Scott alleged in court that he was the homosexual lover of Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe in the 1960s.

24 January 1976. Mrs Thatcher was dubbed the Iron Lady in the Soviet newspaper Red Star after a speech about the Communist threat.

18 January 1976, British Labour MPs Jim Sillars and John Robertson launched the Scottish Labour Party (SLP) to campaign for greater devolution for Scotland.


7.5 Iceland-UK Cod War, 1974-76

1 June 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

24 February 1976, Britain sent a fourth gunboat to Iceland.

10 December 1975, The first shots were fired in the Cod war between Britain and Iceland.

25 November 1975, The UK Government authorised the sending of three Royal Navy frigates to protect British trawlers fishing in disputed waters off Iceland.

25 July 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.


11 August 1975, British Leyland was taken under UK Government control.

3 November 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 October 1975. The Forestry Commission said more than 16 million trees had been destroyed in Britain because of Dutch Elm Disease.

29 October 1975, The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, committed his first murder, Wilma McCann.

1 August 1975, Britain signed the Helsinki Agreement on closer co-operation with Europe.

19 June 1975. Lord Lucan was found guilty of murdering his nanny, but he was still missing.

5 June 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.

24 April 1975, The British Government decided to take a majority shareholding in British Leyland motor company.


7.3, John Stonehouse disappearance, 1974-76

6 August 1976, The UK MP John Stonehouse began a seven-year sentence for fraud.

18 July 1975. John Stonehouse, former Labour minister, returned to Britain to face 21 charges of fraud, forgery, and conspiracy. On 6 August 1976 he was convicted of theft and conspiracy and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment.

21 March 1975, John Stonehouse, the disappeared MP, was arrested in Australia for theft, fraud, and deception.

24 November 1974, The MP John Stonehouse disappeared from as Miami beach; it was assumed he had drowned.

7 November 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.


15 March 1975, Troops in Glasgow cleared 70,000 tons of refuse that had built up during the dustmen’s strike.

20 February 1975, Britain issued new £10 notes, depicting Florence Nightingale carrying a lamp.

13 February 1975, The UK miners accepted a pay rise of 35%.


7.2, Heath loses General Election, 11/1974; replaced as Party ;leader by Mrs Thatcher

11 February 1975, Mrs Thatcher was confirmed as leader of the UK Conservative Party

4 February 1975. Edward Heath resigned as leader of the Conservative Party. Mrs Thatcher became the first woman to lead a political party on 11 February 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.

12 October 1974, Ladbrokes gave odds of 50 to 1 against Mrs Thatcher being the successor to Edward Heath.

11 October 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.


15 January 1975, Britain proposed to nationalise its aircraft construction industry.

2 January 1975, British hospital consultants started a work-to-rule over new contracts.

22 November 1974, As anger mounted at the Birmingham pub bombings, there were calls in the UK for a return of capital punishment and some attacks on Irish workers in Birmingham.

18 October 1974, A unit in Whitehall; was set up to prepare for devolution of power to Wales and Scotland.

6 September 1974. Charles Kray, elder brother of the Kray twins, left Maidstone Prison for 5 days ‘acclimatisation leave’.

26 June 1974, In the UK, Labour and the TUC agreed on the ‘Social Contract’, to restrain pay claims.

21 June 1974. The destroyer HMS Coventry was launched at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead.

1 June 1974, 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.

20 May 1974, The Cornish Parliament, or Stannary, sat for the first time in 221 years.

8 May 1974, UK nurses began a strike over low pay.

5 April 1974, Richard Crossman, British Labour MP, died aged 66.

1 April 1974. Major reorganisation of British Local Authorities. Rutland disappeared, and 4 new counties were created. They were Avon, Cleveland, Humberside, and Cumbria.

6 March 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.


7.1, Edward Heath Conservative Government, toppled by industrial unrest and energy crisis, 1973-74

9 March 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.

4 March 1974, Edward Heath resigned as Prime Minister.

28 February 1974. General Election in the UK. 4 March 1974. Harold Wilson, born 11 March 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 December 1973, 4 February 1975 and 5 April 1976. Edward Heath had tried to make a coalition with the Liberals on 7 February 1974 but they refused.  The Conservatives gained 225,789 more votes than Labour did, but fewer seats.

17 February 1974, British Opposition leader Harold Wilson proposed the ‘Social Contract’ between the Labour Party and the TUC. In return for wage restraint, Labour would promote social legislation.

10 February 1974, In Britain the National Union of Miners began an all out strike, calling for a wage rise of 30-40%.

14 January 1974, Talks between British Prime Minister Edward Heath and the National Union of Miners leader, Mick McGahey, broke down., On 28 January 1974 Heath accused the NUM of trying to bring down the government.

1 January 1974, New Year’s Day was a public holiday for the first time in the UK.

13 December 1973. A three day working week, beginning from 1 January 1974, was ordered by Edward Heath’s government because of the Arab oil embargo and the coal miner’s industrial action. See 5 December 1973 and 8 January 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 February 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 March 1974.

4 February 1974, UK coal miners, in an 86% turnout vote, voted 81% in favour of a national strike.

12 December 1973, On British Railways, an overtime ban began to disrupt services.

5 December 1973, The UK government announced a nation-wide speed limit of 50 mph to conserve oil stocks, see 13 December 1973.

13 November 1973, In the UK, a state of emergency was declared as miners and power workers went on strike.

12 November 1973, British miners began an overtime ban in protest at their pay offer.


1 November 1973. The Royal Commission on the constitution completely rejected the case for separate sovereign parliaments for Scotland and Wales.

20 October 1973, The Dalai Lama first visited Britain.

1 October 1973, Denis Healey promised that Labour will tax the rich ‘until the pips squeak’.

3 September 1973, In the UK, 20 Trade Unions were expelled from the TUC.

2 August 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.

1 May 1973, A TUC 1-day strike in protest at pay restraint was supported by 1.6 million workers.


7.0 Iceland-UK Cod War, 1973

8 November 1973, The Cod War between Britain and Iceland ended. For more details see Iceland.

26 May 1973. An Icelandic gunboat shelled and holed a British trawler.

21 May 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 May 1973, Royal Navy frigates were sent to protect British trawlers fishing in disputed waters near Iceland.

24 April 1973, An Icelandic gunboat opened fire on two British trawlers.


6 December 1972, In Britain, four ‘Angry Brigade’ anarchists were jailed for conspiracy to cause explosions after a record 111-day trial.

17 September 1972, The first Asians fleeing Idi Amin arrived in the UK.

18 July 1972, In the UK, Reginald Maudling resigned as Home Secretary because of connections to John Poulson, an architect facing bankruptcy and a police corruption enquiry. He was succeeded by Robert Carr.


6.0 UK Miner’s Strike, 1971-72

28 February 1972. The British miners returned to work, after 7 weeks, after agreeing to a wage increase.

25 February 1972, UK miners voted to return to work, accepting by a vote of 27 to 1 the pay offer of 18 February 1972.

18 February 1972, British miners were offered a £6 a week pay increase. See 25 February 1972.

16 February 1972, Power cuts lasting up to 9 hours hit Britain as the miners strike continued.

9 February 1972. Due to the month-long miner’s strike, Britain declared a state of emergency. A three-day week was imposed.

9 January 1972, UK miners strike began; the first miner’s strike since 1926. The UK Government planned coal rationing.

10 June 1971. Joe Gormley was elected President of the National Union of Miners.


5.0 UK accession to the European Economic Community 1971-73

8 June 1973, Enoch Powell said people should vote Labour to protest against Britain joining the EEC.

1 January 1973. Britain, Denmark, and Ireland joined the EEC, enlarging it from 6 to 9 countries.

5 March 1972, Prime Minister Edward Heath informed the House of Commons that the United Kingdom had renounced the use of the five techniques for deep interrogation (hooding, wall-standing, subjection to noise, ‘relative’ deprivation of food and drink, and sleep deprivation).

22 January 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 January 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 more events relating to the UK and the development of the EU

11 December 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 October 1971, An opinion poll found most of the British electorate opposed membership of the EEC.

28 October 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.

13 October 1971, The Conservative Party Conference voted overwhelmingly for EEC membership.

4 October 1971, The Labour Party Conference voted overwhelmingly against EEC membership.

7 July 1971, The UK Government published its terms for entry into the EEC.

21 May 1971. French President Pompidou said the UK could join the EEC.


15 October 1971, The UK passed legislation to curb immigration.

10 July 1971, Offa's Dyke Path was officially opened by Lord Hunt.

20 June 1971, Britain announced that Soviet space scientist Anatoli Fedoseyev had been granted political asylum.

15 June 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.

8 March 1971, The British postal strike ended. See 20 January 1971.

24 February 1971, The Immigration Bill was introduced in the UK; this will end the right of Commonwealth citizens to settle in Britain.

1 February 1971. Licences for radios abolished in the UK. See 1 November 1922).

20 January 1971, (1) UK postal workers went on strike for a 19.5% pay claim. See 8 March 1971.

(2) The RAF Red Arrows aerial display team collided in mid-air, killing four.

2 December 1970, The UK Parliament voted against retaining British Summer Time over the winter.

26 November 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.

31 July 1970,  The British Royal Navy ended its long tradition of a daily rum ration for the sailors. After the British capture of Jamaica in 1655, rum had replaced beer because it remained sweeter for longer in hot climates. From the late 1700s it was mixed with lemon juice, to ward off scurvy. Later, lime juice (which contained less vitamin C) was substituted for the lemon, earning the British sailors the nickname ‘limeys’.

20 July 1970, British Chancellor Iain Macleod died. On 25 July 1970 Anthony Barber became Chancellor.

16 July 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 August 1970.

8 July 1970. Roy Jenkins was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

18 June 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 June 1970. The UK issued decimal postage stamps.  Stamps were in denominations of 10p, 20p, and 50p.

14 May 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 March 1970. English schoolgirl Susan Wallace became the first 18 - year old eligible to vote. See 12 May 1969.

15 February 1970, Lord Dowding, British Air Chief Marshall and head of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, died aged 87.

15 December 1969. Swansea received City Status.

16 June 1969, Earl Alexander of Tunis, British military commander who led the invasion of Italy in WW2, died.

9 June 1969, Enoch Powell proposed voluntary repatriation of immigrants, causing a storm of protest.

12 May 1969. The voting age in Britain was lowered to 18 from 21.

10 May 1969, In the UK, local elections left Labour in control of only 28 of 342 borough councils in England and Wales.

1 May 1969, Queen Elizabeth II opened the new Ordnance Survey offices in Southampton.

5 March 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 February 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 November 1968. The Trades Descriptions Act came into force.

16 October 1968, In Britain, the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices merged.

10 October 1968, Enoch Powell warned that immigration might ‘change the character of England’

27 September 1968, The French again vetoed UK membership of the EEC.

13 September 1968, British banks announced plans to cease Saturday opening.

3 August 1968, The Countryside Act allowed local authorities to designate National Parks.

6 May 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 April 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 May 1968.

9 April 1968, In Britain, the Race Relations Bill was published.

17 March 1968, Violent anti-Vietnam War demonstrations outside the US Embassy in London. 25,000 Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) marchers fought with police. The VSC, which wanted a victory for North Vietnam, had been organised by the Trotskyist International Marxist Group, whose members included Pat Jordan, Tariq Ali and David Horowitz.

22 February 1968, The UK Government was concerned at the level of immigration of Asians from East Africa.

16 January 1968, The UK government announced public expenditure cuts of £700 million. This included postponing a rise in the school-leaving age, and re-imposing prescription charges. There would also be a withdrawal of the military from all bases east of Suez, except for Hong Kong.

11 January 1968. Emigration from Britain exceeded immigration by 30,000 in the second quarter on 1967.

19 December 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 November 1967, Roy Jenkins succeeded James Callaghan as Chancellor.

27 November 1967, De Gaulle vetoed Britain’s entry into the EEC.

2 November 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 October 1967. Clement Atlee, British Prime Minister 1945-51, died aged 84.

28 July 1967, The UK steel industry was nationalised.

18 July 1967, British forces were to withdraw from areas east of Suez by the mid-1970s,

1 April 1967. (1) The Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserves formed.

(2) Britain’s first Ombudsman was created, Sir Edmund Compton.

30 March 1967, The Torrey Canyon was finally destroyed by RAF bombing.

18 March 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 January 1967. Jeremy Thorpe, born on 29 April 1929, became leader of the Liberal Party, replacing Joe Grimond. Thorpe resigned on 10 May 1976.

1 December 1966, Britain’s Post Offices issued the first Christmas Stamps.

23 October 1966, BP announced the discovery of large gas fields in the North Sea.

22 October 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 November 1966 he arrived in East Berlin.

21 October 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.

9 October 1966, David Cameron, UK Conservative Prime Minister 2010 - 2016, was born in Marylebone, London.

23 August 1966, The Cotswolds were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

21 July 1966, The first Welsh Nationalist MP, Gwynfor Evans, took his seat in Parliament after a by-election.

14 July 1966, The Welsh Nationalists won their first by-election, at Carmarthen.

23 May 1966. In Britain, a State of Emergency was declared in response to the Seamen’s strike.

6 May 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 April 1966, The South Downs was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

31 March 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 February 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.

28 October 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 October 1965.

8 October 1965, Edward Heath said he would take Britain into the European Community.

21 September 1965, BP (British Petroleum) became the first company to discover oil in the North Sea.

2 August 1965, A UK White Paper limited immigration from the Commonwealth.

28 July 1965. Edward Heath, born 9 July 1916, became leader of the Conservative Party. Sir Alec Douglas Home had resigned as leader on 22 May 1965.  Heath was leader until 1975 when Mrs Thatcher became Party leader (11 February 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 July 1965, The Post Office announced that in future UK telephone numbers would not include letters.

24 May 1965, Westminster announced that Britain was to switch to metric measurements.

23 April 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 March 1965. David Steel became Britain’s youngest MP at the age of 26.

6 March 1965, Herbert Morrison, UK Labour politician, died aged 77.

2 February 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 January 1965, State funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, see 24 January 1965.

24 January 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 November 1874, a descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, in Blenheim Palace. His funeral was on 30 January 1965, when Big Ben was silenced.

1964, The Ministry of Defence was created, from a temporary such organisation established after World War Two, along with the Admiralty, Air Ministry and War Office. This copied a process of centralisation as had occurred in the USA.

1964, Britain began the creation of a national gas distribution grid. The stimulus for this was partly technical; a large Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal had been huilt at Canvey island for imports of gas from Algeria; the high calorific value of Algerian gas meant it had to be ‘reformed’, mixed with leaner manufactured gas, before it could be distributed to households.

15 October 1964, Labour won the UK General Election with a majority of 4. Labour had 317 seats (12,205,814 votes, 44.1%), the Conservatives 304 (12,001,396 votes, 43.4%), and the Liberals 9 (3,092,878 votes, 11.2%). Harold Wilson was the new Prime Minister, succeeding Alec Douglas Home. He inherited a balance of payments deficit of nearly £700 million. James Callaghan became Chancellor of the Exchequer.

27 July 1964. Sir Winston Churchill last appeared in the House of Commons. He died on 24 January 1965.

19 March 1964. Harold Wilson presented each of The Beatles with a silver heart as joint winners of the Show Business Personality of 1963 award.

19 October 1963. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Conservative, became Prime Minister.  Harold Macmillan resigned as Prime Minister on 18 October 1963. 


4.0 Profumo Scandal 1963

10 March 2006, John Profumo, British politician, died.

10 October 1963, Harold Macmillan announced he would resign as Prime Minister, due to ill-health and the Profumo Affair; see 5 June 1963 and 19 October 1963.

26 September 1963, Lord Denning’s report on the Profumo affair was published. He said there was no breach of security and government ministers were not involved in promiscuous behaviour.

5 September 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 December 1963. See 5 June 1963.

21 July 1963, In Britain, Prime Minister Harold MacMillan appointed Lord Denning to investigate the security aspects of the Profumo affair.

5 June 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 September 1963.

22 March 1963, In the British House of Commons, John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, denied that he had sexual relations with Miss Christine Keeler, an attache of the Soviet Embassy in London.


31 July 1963, In Britain, Mr A N Wedgwood Benn, who had become 2nd Viscount Stansgate, renounced his peerage as he was now allowed to do under the Peerage Act 1963. This made them eligible to become MPs in the House of Commons. He changed his name to Tony Benn in 1972.

15 April 1963, In Britain, disorder broke out during the last stages of the Aldermaston March, organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

6 April 1963, Anglo-US Polaris weapons agreement signed.

17 March 1963. The first of the Tristan da Cunha islanders returned home from Britain.

14 February 1963 Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party, see 18 January 1963. Other candidates were James Callaghan and George Brown. See 18 January 1963.

18 January 1963. Hugh Gaitskell, former UK Labour Party leader from 1955 to 1963, died unexpectedly. See 14 February 1963.


3.0 De Gaulle refuses to admit UK to the EEC due to links with USA, 1961-63

14 January 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 December 1962, The US agreed to sell Polaris missiles to the UK.

18 December 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 January 1963.

8 November 1961. Negotiations with Britain began in Brussels to join the Common Market.


17 December 1962, In the UK, a committee on the reform of the House of Lords recommended that an heir should be allowed to disclaim his peerage.

22 January 1962. The ‘A6 murder’ trial began. It was to be the longest murder trial in British legal history, lasting until 17 February 1962, and ended with the hanging of James Hanratty. He had murdered Michael Gregston in a lay-by on the A6.

1 November 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 July 1962.

9 October 1961. Margaret Thatcher got her first government job, as Parliamentary Secretary

4 October 1961, The Labour Party Conference voted against having Polaris bases in Britain.

17 September 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 September 1961, The philosopher Bertrand Russell, aged 89, was arrested and imprisoned for protesting against nuclear weapons.

28 August 1961, The earliest known Roman mosaics were discovered at Fishbourne.

8 May 1961. George Blake, 38, a former British diplomat, was jailed for 42 years for spying for Russia.

8 March 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 December 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 November 1960, Hugh Gaitskell successfully fought off a challenge for Labour Party leadership by Harold Wilson.

1 November 1960, It was announced that US Polaris missile submarines were to be based in the Firth of Clyde.

5 October 1960, The British Labour Party, at its Scarborough Conference, voted overwhelmingly for unilateral nuclear disarmament.

27 July 1960, In Britain, Derick Heathcoat Amory retired as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was replaced by Selwyn Lloyd, former Foreign Secretary. The Earl of Home became the new Foreign Secretary.

30 April 1960, Britain abandoned the Blue Streak ,missile programme.

29 March 1960, UK PM Harold MacMillan reached agreement with US leaders on a nuclear test ban treaty to be put to the USSR.

20 February 1960, Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, English archaeologist, died in London.

17 February 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 December 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 November 1959, Charles Kennedy, British politician, was born.

UK General Election. Harold Macmillan (Conservative) remained in office.

8 October 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 May 1959, An agreement was reached enabling Britain to buy components of atomic weapons, as opposed to actual nuclear warheads, from the USA.

7 January 1959, Peter Thorneycroft, British Chancellor, and Enoch Powell and Nigel Birch, resigned from the UK Government because they did not think it was doing enough to fight inflation. Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister, left London for a goodwill tour of the British Commonwealth.

7 August 1958. The Litter Act came into force in Britain.

24 July 1958. The first life peerages were awarded in Britain, under the Life Peerages Act.

4 April 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 April 1958. 600 members completed the 50-mile march and 12,000 attended the final rally.

29 March 1958, Sir William Burrell, Scottish shipping merchant and philanthropist, died aged 96.

6 March 1958, The TUC and the Labour party called for H-Bomb tests to stop.

17 February 1958, The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, CND, was launched by Bertrand Russell and Canon John Collins.

6 August 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 July 1957, In Britain, violence broke out on picket lines as a national bus strike took effect.

20 July 1957, Conservative PM Harold Macmillan said that ‘most of our people have never had it so good’.

6 June 1957, In Britain the Rent Act received Royal Assent, This removed many controls on rents. Labour MPs protested.

14 May 1957, Petrol rationing in the UK, caused by the Suez Crisis, ended.

4 April 1957. Britain announced that compulsory National Service, 2 years long for all reaching 18, would end in 1960.

3 April 1957, The UK Labour Party called for H-Bomb tests to stop.

9 January 1957. Anthony Eden, aged 59, resigned as Prime Minister, on grounds of ill-health, in the wake of the Suez Crisis. On 10 January 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 December 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 November 1956. As the Suez Crisis deepened, petrol rationing began in the UK, and driving tests were suspended.

15 November 1956. UN emergency forces arrived in Suez, and began to clear the Canal of wrecked ships on 27 December 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 November 1957 to rest.

1 November 1956. Ernie (Electronic Random Number Indicating Equipment) was born as Premium Bonds first went on sale in Britain.

31 October 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)

For Suez Crisis 1956 see Egypt

16 October 1956, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd visited Paris and met with French Minister Guy Mollet and Foreign Minister Christian Pineau to discuss joint action against Egypt.

25 September 1956, Transatlantic telephone cable between the UK and the USA became operational.

1 April 1956, The first US U-2 spy planes arrived at RAF Lakenheath.

23 March 1956, Foundation stone of Coventry Cathedral laid by Queen Elizabeth II. The Cathedral was consecrated on 25 May 1962. The former 14th century cathedral along with the city’s mediaeval centre had been destroyed in an 11-hour Luftwaffe blitz on 14 November 1940 when over 1,000 died.

7 December 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.

12 October 1955, The Soviet Navy made a goodwill visit to Portsmouth, UK, and the British Royal Navy made a goodwill visit to Leningrad (St Petersburg), Russia.

21 September 1955, The UK annexed Rockall, to prevent the USSR using it as a base to spy on British missile tests.

3 August 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 July 1955. British dock strike ended after 1 month.

14 June 1955, Rail workers called off the strike which began on 29/ May 1955.

31 May 1955, In Britain, troops went on stand-by as the effects of the rail and docks strikes worsened.

29 May 1955, Rail strike began in Britain.

26 May 1955, The Conservatives won the General Election, with a majority of 59. They won 345 seats to Labour’s 277. The Liberals won just 6 seats.

24 May 1955, Docks strike began in Britain.

5 April 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 February 1955, Britain’s largest aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal was completed.


2.0 End of rationing in Britain 1948 – 1954 (See also other country timelines for rationing there)

3 July 1954. Food rationing ended in Britain; all goods were now off rations. Smithfield Market, London, opened at midnight instead of 6am to cope with the demand for beef.

5 February 1953, The UK Food Minister, Gwilym Lloyd-George, declared an end to the rationing of sweets and chocolate. Domestic purchases of sugar, however, stayed on-rations until September 1953. Toffee apples were in greatest demand, followed by nougat and liquorice strips. Sweets had been briefly de-rationed in 1949 but demand had outstripped supply, prompting re-rationing after 2 months.

5 October 1952, In the UK, tea came off-ration. However meat, bacon, sugar, butter, margarine, cooking fats, eggs, cheese, were still rationed. All British food rationing ended on 3 July 1954.

21 February 1952. Identity cards were abolished in Britain.

10 July 1950. Soap rationing ended in Britain.

24 April 1949. Sweets and chocolates came off rations in Britain. Clothes rationing, which began on 2 June 1941, ceased on 15 March 1949. All food rationing ended on 3 July 1954. Identity cards were abolished in Britain on 21 February 1952.

15 March 1949, Clothes rationing ended in Britain.

9 September 1948 Footwear rationing ended in the UK.


31 December 1954, Harold MacMillan, British Conservative Housing Minister, announced that a record number of houses, 354,000, had been built during 1954.

4 November 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 November 1954, A dock workers' strike in the UK ended.

20 October 1954, A docks strike reduced Britain’s trade by half.

18 October 1954, In Britain, Winston Churchill reshuffled his Cabinet, with Harold Macmillan becoming Minister of Defence.

7 October 1954, Seebohn Rowntree, English social reformer, died aged 83.

3 July 1954. Plans for a new steelworks at Motherwell, Scotland, were announced.

1 July 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 June 1954, Alan Turing, mathematician who broke the Nazi codes during World War Two, committed suicide. After his conviction for homosexuality on 31 March 1952 he had opted for chemical ‘treatment’ rather than prison; this consisted of oestrogen injections, which made him put on weight and grow breasts.

14 April 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 April 1954, Oxford won the 100th boat race.

1 December 1953, Harold Macmillan boasted that 301,000 new homes have been built in Britain during the Conservatives second year in office.

21 November 1953. The discovery of the Piltdown Man skull on 18 December 1912 in Sussex by Charles Dawson was revealed to be a hoax, see 22 September 1990.

6 May 1953. Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister 1997 - 2007, was born.

24 April 1953. Queen Elizabeth II knighted Winston Churchill.

23 February 1953, An amnesty was granted to WW II deserters.

1 January 1953, Bomber’ Harris, head of Bomber Command responsible for the bombing of Dresden, was knighted.

23 October 1952. The Claerwen Dam, on the River Claerwen in mid-Wales, was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. Construction work had begun on 18 August 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 September 1952, Sir Montague Burton, British multiple tailor, knighted in 1931, died in Leeds.

11 July 1952, Figures from the 1951 Census showed that one household in three lacked a bath, and one in twenty had no piped water.

21 April 1952, Stafford Cripps, British Labour politician, died aged 62.

31 March 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.

3 February 1952, In England, 283 people died in gale force winds and high tides causing major floods on the east coast. Thousands were made homeless.

10 January 1952, The USA reached agreement with the UK over air bases in Britain.


1.0 National Parks, 1950-52

28 November 1952, The UK Government confirmed the order setting up the North York Moors National Park.

20 November 1951, Snowdonia in Wales was designated a National Park.

15 August 1951. Dartmoor was designated a National Park.

28 December 1950. In the UK, the Peak District was designated as the first National Park.

1935, 300 acres of land around Snowdon were gifted to the Nation. This was to be the start of Snowdonia National Park.


27 October 1951, In Britain, Winston Churchill formed a Conservative Government, with Anthony Eden as Foreign Secretary and R A (Rab) Butler as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

25 October 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.

29 August 1951, Sydney Chapman, British economist and civil servant, died (born 1871)

24 July 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.

25 May 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 April 1951. Ernest Bevin, Labour politician and Trade Unionist, died.

11 April 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 April 1951. Scottish Nationalists had stolen it from Westminster Abbey on 25 December 1950.

3 April 1951, Brendan Barber, English Trades Union leader, was born

1 April 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 January 1951, The UK steel industry was nationalised.

25 December 1950. Scottish Nationalists stole the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey, see 11 April 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.

11/1950, Over five years after World War Two ended, the Women’s Land Army in Britain was finally disbanded.

19 October 1950. Hugh Gaitskell became UK Chancellor of the Exchequer. He replaced Sir Stafford Cripps who had retired in health grounds.

2 October 1950. Legal aid became available in Britain.

24 May 1950, Field Marshall Lord Archibald Wavell, British military commander (born 1883) died.

4 April 1950, At Liverpool, the liner Franconia was found to be full of smuggled nylon stockings with a black market value of £80,000.

28 February 1950. Clement Attlee formed a new Labour Government in the UK.

23 February 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 December 1949, Britain passed the National Parks Act.

29 November 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 August 1949, John Haugh, the ‘acid bath murderer’ was executed.

1 May 1949. In the UK, the gas industry was nationalised.

1 April 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.

1 December 1948. National Service in Britain was increased from 12 to 18 months.

1 July 1948. The first Oxfam shop opened in the UK.

29 June 1948, London dock workers voted to end their 16-day strike and go back to work rather than face the government's threat to invoke its broad emergency powers.

23 June 1948, The UK Government called in soldiers to begin unloading food supplies tied up in the 10-day dockworker's strike.

23 May 1948. The Empire Windrush sailed from Jamaica with the first West Indian migrants, to alleviate Britain’s severe labour shortage.

15 March 1948. The UK Civil Service was closed to Fascists and Communists regarding posts vital to State Security.

6 February 1948, UK MPs voted to make the SATS and WAAF permanent. They were to be known as the Women’s Royal Army Corps and the Women’s Royal Air Force.

14 December 1947, Stanley Baldwin, British Conservative politician, three times Prime Minister, who became Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, died.

13 November 1947. Chancellor Hugh Dalton resigned after admitting passing tax details to a reporter minutes before the Budget speech.

31 October 1947, Sidney Webb, British economist, socialist and reformer, died aged 88.

4 October 1947, Ann Widdecombe, British politician, was born.

30 September 1947, The UK Government asked women to wear shorter skirts, to save cloth.

29 September 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 November 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 September 1947, Tessa Jowell, UK politician, was born.

14 September 1947, Baldwin retired in May 1937 and was made Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. He died on 14 September 1947.

27 August 1947. The UK Government announced cuts to deal with an economic crisis.

7 February 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 January 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 January 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 December 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 December 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 November 1946. Stevenage, Hertfordshire, became the first ‘New Town’ to be designated in Britain.

6 November 1946. In the UK, the National Health Act came into force.

8 July 1946. Margaret Roberts, later Margaret Thatcher, was elected president of the Oxford University Conservatives.

6 July 1946, The Young Conservatives political organisation was founded in Britain.

2 April 1946. The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst was founded.  The Woolwich Academy was merged with Sandhurst.

31 March 1946, General Gort, British commander of the British Expeditionary Force  that entered France in 1939 and retreated again in 1940, died.

5 March 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 March 1947.

28 February 1946, Robin Cook, British politician, was born.


0.0 Intensification of UK rationing post - War, 1946 - 51

27 January 1951 In Britain, meat rations were reduced to their lowest level yet, the equivalent of 4 ounces of rump steak a week.

10 November 1947, Strachey admitted to the House of Commons that because of food shortages and rationing, the average daily Calorie intake per head was down to 2,700, as opposed to a British Medical Association recommendation of 3,386 made in July 1933.

30 June 1947. In the UK, food rations were cut further in the midst of an economic crisis.

9 April 1947, The first food packages from the USA for Britain arrived at Liverpool. They were sent by the charity organisation CARE (Co-operative for Remittance to Europe) and intended for unemployed widows who had children to look after.

22 January 1947. The meat ration in Britain was reduced, again, to 1 shilling (5p) worth weekly.

31 December 1946, In Britain, people were eating horsemeat as the food, fuel and transport crisis continued.

7 February 1946. In response to world food shortages, UK food rations were reduced.


14 February 1946, The British Labour Government stated it would nationalise the Bank of England.

22 January 1946, UK pit owners protested at plans to nationalise the coal industry.

30 December 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 November 1945, In Britain, the dock strike ended.

4 October 1945, Dock workers went on strike in Britain.

12 April 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 March 1945. David Lloyd George, British Liberal Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, died in Llanystundwy, near Criccieth, north Wales, aged 82.


-1.0, Britain and the end of World War Two in Europe, 1944-45

7 October 1945, The first British PoWs from the Far East returned.

12 September 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 August 1945, Sir Arthur Harris, Commander in Chief of RAF Bomber Command, announced his resignation.

25 August 1945, UK PM Clement Attlee warned that Britain faced a long period of peacetime austerity because the US had abruptly terminated Lend-Lease 4 days earlier without warning or consulting the UK. President Truman said he was bound by law to do this now hostilities had ceased. Many UK commodities would be reserved for export only and food rationing might get worse. The US said Britain could get a new loan from the US but this did not impress Whitehall.

26 July 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 January 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 July 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 July 1945, UK General Election. The results were delayed three weeks to allow for postal votes cast overseas by members of the armed forces.

18 June 1945, The first demobilisations began in Britain (see 22 September 1944).

9 May 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 May 1945 the German occupiers had been issuing orders to improve coastal fortifications.

8 May 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 May 1945. Street parties were held all over Britain.

23 April 1945, Blackout restrictions removed in Britain.

20 April 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.

See France/Germany for main events of World War Two

3 December 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.


-2.0, Britain and World War Two, 1941-44

27 November 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 September 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 June 1945.

6 June 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 May 1944. In St Pauls School, London, the D-Day landings of 6 June 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 May 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 May 1944, Rehearsals for the D-Day landings were held at Slapton Sands, Devon.

8 March 1944, 9,000 Welsh miners went on strike over pay differentials; the government met their demands.

18 January 1944, The first batch of UK conscripts to be sent down the mines, nicknamed ‘Bevin Boys’, began their training.

See France/Germany for main events of World War Two

20 November 1943. Oswald Moseley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, was released from gaol on grounds of ill-health. The UK Labour Party protested.

31 October 1942, The Germans bombed Canterbury in retaliation for the bombing of Cologne.

22 October 1942, German planes dropped high explosives and incendiaries on Appleby-Frodingham steelworks, Scunthorpe, injuring 15 employees.

4 October 1942, A small British air raid on Sark.

2 July 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.

1 July 1942. The charity, Oxford Famine Relief (Oxfam) was formed, see 1 July 1948.

5 May 1942, The first of the ‘Baedeker raids’; the Germans used Baedeker guidebooks to guide them to targets in British towns and cities.

3 May 1942, Heavy German air raid on Exeter. 30 acres of the city were destroyed, 156 killed and 593 injured.

29 April 1942. York was bombed by the Luftwaffe. 79 were killed.

24 April 1942, The Germans bombed Exeter, in revenge for the raid on Lubeck on 28 March 1942.

6 May 1941, The Luftwaffe bombed the town of Greenock, Scotland.

1 May 1941, The first of seven consecutive nights of bombing raids on Liverpool began

16 April 1941, Belfast was bombed by the Luftwaffe.

11 April 1941. Major German air raid on Coventry.

13 March 1941, Heavy German air raid on Clydebank, 1,100 killed

19 February 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.

15 January 1941, Heavy air raid by 126 bombers on Avonmouth Docks, Bristol.


-3.0, UK rationing 1940-44

1944, Food distribution was ‘zoned’ in Britain to save on transport costs, so that Mars Bars were now only available in the south of the country.

22 December 1943. The UK government announced there were only enough turkeys left for one in ten families.

1942, The Oxford Marmalade factory near Oxford, UK, was requisitioned by the Government, so that no more of this food was made until after World War Two. Oxford Marmalde was a thick-cut orange marmalade originally marketed by Frank Cooper from 1908.

31 July 1942, Driving for pleasure was banned in Britain.

26 July 1942, In Britain, sweets were rationed.

17 March 1942, In the UK, coal, electricity and gas were to be rationed.

1 March 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 February 1942. The British public were urged to take fewer baths and to only use five inches of water when they did.

9 February 1942. Soap rationing began in Britain.

4 July 1941. In the UK, coal rationing began.

2 June 1941. Clothes rationing was introduced in Britain, and not lifted until 15 March 1949. 60 clothes coupons were allowed a year; for all except baby clothes; a dress cost 11 coupons, a man’s suit, 26.

8 January 1940. Sugar, butter, ham and bacon were rationed in Britain. Bacon, butter and ham were limited to 4 oz (110 g) per person per week, and sugar to 12 oz (330 g) . The UK had not seen food rationing since 1918. This was about half the pre-War consumption for middle-class families. However poor families seldom consumed this much meat anyway, so butchers found themselves with a surplus of these meats. The Ministry of Food then doubled the rations.


See France/Germany World War Two for main events of World War Two


-4.0, UK civil measures 1940-43

2 December 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.

6/1943, In Britain, 65,000 members of the Women’s Land Army were now producing 70% of the nation’s food.

3 May 1943. The UK government made part-time war work compulsory for women aged 18 to 45.

7 April 1943. Keynes published his plan for the post-war recovery of Britain.

21 February 1943, Britons celebrated ‘;Red Army Day’ to congratulate the Russians on their success at Stalingrad.

6 March 1942, A controversial political cartoon by Philip Zec appeared in the Daily Mirror, showing a seaman clinging to the remains of a ship in rough seas with the caption, "The price of petrol has been increased by one penny – Official." Winston Churchill interpreted the cartoon as ‘defeatist’ and considered banning the Daily Mirror from publication.

5 December 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 December 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.

18 August 1941, Britain set up a national fire service.

26 March 1941, Britain passed the National Service Bill, making civil defence duties compulsory.

17 March 1941. The UK Labour Minister, Ernest Bevin, called for women to fill vital jobs.

1 February 1941. The Air Training Corps, the junior arm of the Royal Air Force, was formed.

21 January 1941, In  Britain the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker was banned.

14 January 1941, King George V signed a royal warrant authorising the formation of the Reconnaissance Corps.

31 December 1940. Fire-watching became compulsory in wartime Britain.

19 December 1940, The British Purchasing Commission placed an order with the US for U$750 million of military equipment, including 12,000 aircraft.


29 March 1943. British Prime Minister John Major was born.

28 March 1942.  Neil Kinnock, Labour leader, was born in Tredegar, south Wales.

1941, Woolton Pie, a vegetable pie designed to eke out meagre meat rations, was publicised by the UK Government. It was named after FJ Marquis (1883-1964), 1st Earl of Woolton, then Minisyter for Food.

27 February 1941, Jeremy (Paddy) Ashdown, Liberal leader, was born.

10 November 1940, Screaming Lord Sutch, British politician, was born.

8 January 1941. Lord Baden Powell, British soldier and Boer War hero, also founder of the Boy Scouts in 1908, died aged 83.

9 November 1940. The former British Prime Minister (1937-1940), Neville Chamberlain, died of cancer, at Heckfield, near Reading.


-5.0, Britain and World War Two, 1940-41

17 May 1941, Rudolf Hess was brought to the Tower of London by train from Scotland.

10 May 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.

17 February 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.

31 December 1940. Fire-watching became compulsory in wartime Britain. Air raid casualties in Britian for December were 3,793 killed and 5,244 injured

22 December 1940, The heaviest raids of the Manchester Blitz began. Over the next two days a total of 654 people were killed and over 2,000 injured.

20 December 1940, Heavy German bombing raid on Liverpool.

12 December 1940, Heavy bombing of Sheffield; a further raid followed on 15 December 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 November 1940, The first large scale air raid on Bristol, by 135 bombers.

14 November 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.

4 November 1940, Night air raid on London.

3 November 1940, German aircraft losses over England to date amounted to 2.433 planes

27 October 1940, A German bomb fell on Scunthorpe, killing 11.

25 October 1940, Air raid on Birmingham.

19 October 1940, British destroyer Venetia struck a mine and sank in the Thames Estuary.

11 October 1940, German air raids on London and Liverpool.

7 October 1940, German air raids on London, Liverpool and Wales.

30 September 1940, The last Luftwaffe major daylight bombing raid on England; London and te aircraft factory at Yeovil were hit. However the Luftwaffe lost 43 aircraft against 16 for the RAF. These losses convince the Luftwaffe to switch to night time attacks.

23 September 1940. The Red Cross was instituted. This was the highest British civilian award for acts of courage.  The George Medal was also instituted.

18 September 1940, German air raids in SE England and Merseyside.

See France/Germany World War Two for main events of World War Two


-6.0, Battle of Britain 1940; German bid to defeat the RAF failed.

17 September 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 September 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 August 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.

1 September 1940, Biggin Hill aerodrome in Kent was heavily damaged by a German bombing raid.

28 August 1940, Heavy German bombing raid on Liverpool

25 August 1940. First British air raid on Berlin.

17 August 1940, Germany began a blockade of British waters.

14 August 1940, German air raids on Dover, Southampton and Hastings.

13 August 1940, German air raids on the Thames Estuary and Southampton.

12 August 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 August 1940, Further German air raids on Weymouth and Portland radar stations.

8 August 1940. Battle of Britain began. See 31 October 1940. German aircraft had already made raids on Britain; on 10 July 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 August 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 August 1940 and 6 September 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 August 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 November 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’.


-7.0, Britain declares war on Germany. Early stages of World War Two in the UK, 1939-40

7 August 1940. First German air raid on Exeter.

31 July 1940. Hitler gave orders for a massive air offence against Britain (see 8 August 1940).

23 July 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.

13 July 1940. Hitler declined an offer by Italy to assist in the invasion of Britain.

10 July 1940. The British Union of Fascists was banned.

30 June 1940. German troops occupied Guernsey and Alderney, Channel Islands, after the defeat of the French.

20 June 1940. The first Australian and New Zealand troops arrived in Britain.

5 June 1940. The UK government outlawed strikes.

31 May 1940. Britain arrested Sir Oswald Moseley, leader of the British fascists. He was interned at Brixton Prison. 24 May 1940, Middlesborough became the first British industrial town to be bombed by Germany.

14 May 1940. Local Defence Volunteers, later called the Home Guard, was formed in Britain as a makeshift protection against Nazi invasion.

11 May 1940, Winston Churchill became head of the Wartime Coalition Government. 

10 May 1940. Neville Chamberlain, born 18 March 1869, resigned as Prime Minister in favour of Winston Churchill, who was born on 30 November 1874. Chamberlain died on 9 November 1940.

9 May 1940, German bombs fell near Canterbury.

16 March 1940, The first British civilians were killed by a German bomb, in the Shetlands.

4 March 1940, In Britain, the Home Office announced that women would not be asked to work more than 60 hours a week in British factories, and youths under 16 would not be required to work more than 48. In World War I, women were frequently working up to 70 hours a week.

13 February 1940, The British Governemnt took partial control of the railways. The private railway companies had been unprofitable in recent years. Rail fares were now government-controlled but the companies would be guaranteed against bankruptcy.

6 February 1940, In Britain the Government launched a ‘careless talk costs lives’ campaign.

3 February 1940, At Whitby a Heinkel He111 bomber became the first German plane shot down over England.

31 January 1940, In Britain, large numbers of schoolchildren evacuated from the cities (whilst their parents remained at home) had returned home. Homesickness, and an attempt to charge the parents of these children 6 shillings a week, were the main factors for the return.

20 January 1940, Churchill called for the neutral nations of Europe to join the Allies, and condemnd the Soviet invasion of Finland.

18 January 1940. Nazi saboteurs were blamed for an explosion at an arms factory in Essex which killed 18.

14 January 1940, The British Government announced that it was to arm all merchant shipping vessels.

1 January 1940. In Britain, 2 million 19 to 27 year olds were called up.

6 December 1939, Churchill reported British shipping losses as averaging 1 ship per 750 sailings.

16 October 1939, German air raid on the Firth of Forth, causing naval casualties.

14 October 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 October 1939. Britain and France rejected Hitler's peace bid.

30 September 1939. Identity cards were issued in Britain.

10 September 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 June 1940.

4 September 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 September 1939 on her way to Montreal, and was informed about the outbreak of war at 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 May 1945. The German fleet was attacked by the RAF.

2 September 1939. Men aged 18-41 were conscripted in Britain under the National Service Bill.

See France/Germany for main events of World War Two

1 September 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 On 3 September 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 also declared war on Germany. See 28 March 1939.

30 August 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 August 1939, Britain signed an assistance pact with Poland.

9 July 1939, In Britain, Churchill proposed a military alliance with Russia.

26 June 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 May 1939.


1 July 1940. The practice of informal marriages at Gretna Green was abolished by Statute.

1939, Citizen’s Advice Bureaux were established across the UK. By 1990 the UK had over 600 of them. They were originally set up to help solve family problems in wartime, when the husband was likely away on te Front and the children were evacuated to the countryside.


-8.0, Preparations for War, 1937-39

23 November 1939, The deadline for British households to register for their ration books for bacon, butter and sugar rations. Delays were caused at shops because many customers had failed to write their name and address in the ration book.

9 September 1939, In response to the War, Britain re-established a Ministry of Food.

21 August 1939. Civil Defence started in Britain.

1 August 1939, The UK Government announced that if war broke out, petrol would immediately be rationed. This did not encourage people to travel on holiday, despite assurances by some hoteliers that bookings cancelled because of a national Emergency need not be paid for.

6/1939, In Britain, as hostilities loomed in Europe, the Women’s Land Army was reconstituted.

1 June 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 May 1939, Britain interned Oswald Moseley and other fascists as the Government consolidated emergency powers.

25 May 1939, An Anglo-Polish treaty was signed in London.

19 May 1939, The TUC decided not to oppose the UK Government’s conscription plans.

27 April 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 March 1939. The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, pledged to defend Poland, if attacked by Germany; so did France. 

21 December 1938, The UK Government allocated £200,000 to the building of air-raid shelters.

1 December 1938, Britain started a National Register for war service.

1 November 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 September 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 September 1938, The British navy was mobilised.

9 September 1938, The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women’s branch of the Army, was formed by Royal Warrant.

See France/Germany for main events of World War Two

15 July 1938, The UK Government ordered 1,000 Spitfire fighters.

9 July 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.

9 June 1938, The British Government ordered 400 warplanes from the USA.

30 March 1938, The UK Government announced it was to spend £11 million on new RAF airfields.

24 March 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 March 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 February 1938. Churchill led a protest against Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement.

20 February 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.

3 January 1938. In the UK, the government announced that all schoolchildren would be issued with gas masks.

16 November 1937, MPs in Westminster voted in favour of constructing air-raid shelters in towns and cities.

5 November 1937. The Air Raid Precautions Bill was introduced in the Commons. Passed on 16 November 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 September 1937, The TUC voted in favour of re-armament.


13 September 1938, John Smith, leader of the UK Labour Party 1992-94, was born in Dalmally, Argyllshire.

2 July 1938, David Owen, British politician and first leader of the Social Democratic Party, was born in Plympton, Devon.

16 May 1938, The WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) was started in Britain by the Marchioness of Reading. It became ‘Royal’ in 1966.

3 May 1938. King George VI opened the Glasgow exhibition.

31 March 1938, David Steel, Liberal Party leader, was born.

11 January 1938, Arthur Scargill, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, was born.

9 November 1937. Ramsay MacDonald, British Labour Prime Minister in 1924, died at sea whilst on a cruise for his health.

28 May 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 August 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 had 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.

16 March 1937, British statesman Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain died.

14 January 1937. First ever Gallup opinion poll in Britain, conducted by Sir Henry Durant.


-9.0, Britain re-armament and Fascist conflicts, 1933-37

10 October 1937, In Liverpool, Oswald Moseley was knocked out by a stone as he prepared to address a rally.

10 January 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 January 1937. Britain banned political uniforms under the Public Order Act, so sounding the death-knell for Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.

4 October 1936, Oswald Moseley’s fascists clashed with local anti-fascists in Cable Street, east London.

14 July 1936, Britain started producing gas masks.

30 April 1936, The UK Government announced plans to build 38 warships.

14 July 1935, In Britain the Peace Pledge Union was formed, after a meeting at the Albert Hall, to oppose re-armament and war.

8 May 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).

22 May 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.

9 May 1935, The British government ordered aircraft manufacturers to increase their production to the fullest capacity and not to fill any foreign orders for aircraft without the Air Ministry's approval.

4 March 1935, The UK Government published a White paper on defence. The emphasis was on defence rather than attack, with increases planned for all three armed services but especially the air force. Germany was blamed for raising the threat of war.

19 July 1934. The UK government announced that the RAF would receive another 500 planes.

21 January 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 October 1933, Moseley’s Fascist supporters were stoned in Manchester.

24 May 1933. In Britain, the TUC called for a boycott of Germany to protest against Hitler, who became Chancellor on 30 January 1933.

1 October 1932, The British Union of Fascists was founded.

30 April 1931, Moseley’s New Party candidate split the vote in a by-election in Ashton Under Lyne, letting in the Conservative candidate.

28 February 1931, Oswald Moseley formed the 'New Party' in Britain after leaving the Labour Party.


-10.0, Jarrow March 1936

5 November 1936, A special train took the Jarrow Marchers back home again from London. They received a hero’s welcome, and the news that their unemployment benefit had been cut as they had made themselves unavailable for work.

1 November 1936, Baldwin refused to meet the Jarrow Marchers.

5 October 1936. The Jarrow March, of 200 unemployed ship workers, started from Jarrow, Tyneside, towards London; their petition had 11,000 signatures.  Jarrow had an unemployment rate of 67%. The march was led by Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson. Jarrow had an unemployment rate of 67%. The marchers reached London on 1 November 1936, where Ellen Wilkinson presented a petition of 11,572 signatures so the Government. See 5 November 1936.

18 March 1935, Large protest marches in South Wales and Sheffield against the UK’s means test laid down by the Unemployment Assistance Board. The tests were intrusive, requiring some to sell furniture and assistance was reduced if other family members lived in.

30 October 1932. Hunger marchers, protesting at unemployment, clashed on the streets of London with police.


27 October 1936. Mrs Wallace Simpson divorced her second husband Ernest, becoming free to marry King Edward VIII, see 13 November 1936.

6 October 1936. The British Labour Party refused to affiliate with the Communists.


-11.0, Postal and telephone developments 1932-37

1 July 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.

24 July 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.

24 July 1935. Greetings telegrams were introduced by the GPO. If they were in a gold envelope they cost an extra 3d.

20 November 1934, Plans for numbered postal districts in British towns were introduced.

18 April 1932, Business reply-paid enveloped were introduced by the GPO in Britain.


5 June 1936, Sir Samuel Hoare, who had resigned as Foreign Secretary in December over the Hoare–Laval Pact fiasco, returned to Stanley Baldwin's cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty to replace the retiring Viscount Monsell.

22 May 1936, In Britain, J H Thomas, Colonial Secretary, resigned over his leakage of Budget information.

14 May 1936, Viscount Allenby, British Army Commander in Palestine in World War One, died.

22 December 1935. In the UK, Anthony Eden was appointed Foreign Secretary.

8 October 1935. Clement Attlee was appointed stopgap leader of the Labour Party.

7 June 1935. Stanley Baldwin became British Prime Minister. Ramsay McDonald retired.

19 May 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.


-12.0, Leisure and Tourism developments 1927-38

1 August 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.

21 January 1935, Snowdonia, Wales, was designated a national park.

14 November 1932. Book tokens were sold in Britain for the first time.

24 April 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.

10 June 1931, Chester Zoo opened.

23 May 1931. Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire opened.

1 November 1929, The Pony Club movement was founded in Britain.

2 October 1929, Britain set up a committee to consider the establishing of National Parks.

21 April 1927. The National Museum of Wales opened in Cardiff.


7 March 1934, John Campbell Aberdeen, British politician, died (born 3 August 1847).

7 September 1933, Sir Edward Grey (born 25 April 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 August 1933. The King and Queen opened the new Civic Hall at Leeds.

21 May 1933. Britain signed a ten-year non-aggression pact with Italy, France, and Germany.

19 April 1933. The UK banned trade with the USSR. See 18 April 1933.

21 March 1933 Michael Heseltine, British Conservative politician, was born.

28 December 1932, Roy Hattersley, British Labour Deputy Prime Minister, was born.

25 October 1932. George Lansbury was elected leader of the British Labour Party.

6 April 1932, The British Ministry of Health urged local authorities to clear their slum areas.

22 March 1932, Sir Arthur Cecil Tyrrell Beck, British Liberal Party politician, died (born 3 December 1878).

11 March 1932, Nigel Lawson, British Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, was born.

11 December 1931. The Statute of Westminster, recognising the independence of the British Commonwealth, became law.

27 October 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.


Austerity measures 1931-2

25 October 1932. UK policemen’s pay was cut by 10%.

15 September 1931, The British Royal Navy mutinied at Invergordon over servicemen’s pay cuts.

10 September 1931, Street riots in London and Glasgow in response to the Government’s economic measures.

9 September 1931, In Britain, as the economic crisis deepened, Chancellor Snowden announced a 10% pay cut for all Government employees.


24 August 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 July 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.

29 March 1931, Norman Tebbit, British Conservative politician and chairman of the Party, was born.

27 October 1930, The London Naval Treaty was ratified.

29 August 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. Formal school education had only arrived on St Kilda in 1884.

(2) The Reverend William Spooner, originator of spoonerisms, died.

27 July 1930, Shirley Williams, British politician who co-founded the Social Democratic Party, was born, the daughter of Vera Brittain.

19 March 1930, Arthur James Balfour, British Conservative Prime Minister from 1902-06, died aged 81.

15 January 1930, Ramsay Mac Donald advocated that the world powers abolish battleships.

4 December 1929, The House of Lords voted 43 to 21 against the UK resuming diplomatic relations with the USSR.

1 October 1929, Britain resumed diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia.

29 July 1929, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur Henderson, had talks with his Soviet counterpart about restoring Anglo-Soviet diplomatic relations.

30 May 1929. UK General Election. Labour secured its first Parliamentary majority – see 22 January 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 May 1929, Lord Roseberry, British Liberal Prime Minister, died.

29 April 1929, The future Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, was born.

20 April 1928, Archaeologist Gerard Stanley Hawkins was born in Norfolk, England,

15 February 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 January 1928, General Earl Haig, WW I Commander and founder of the British Legion, died in London. He was buried at Dryburgh Abbey.

31 December 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 November 1927, 200 unemployed Welsh miners marched to London, but Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin refused to meet them.

5 October 1927. The Labour Party voted to nationalise the coal mines at its party conference at Blackpool.

8 September 1927, In Edinburgh, the  Trades Union Congress voted to cut ties with Soviet trades unions.

14 July 1927, The Prince of Wales opened the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh, It now contains the names of over 100,000 Scots who died in both World Wars.

23 June 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 May 1926.

20 November 1926. 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.

19 November 1926. British striking miners returned to work, after a six-month strike, agreeing to work longer hours in return for no pay cut.

12 May 1926. Striking miners in Britain resolved to carry on alone, after the TUC called off a general strike in support. 10 May 1926. Striking UK miners grew angry as the army moved food from the docks by rail (see 1 May 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 May 1926, The naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough was born.

3 May 1926, The General Strike began in Britain.

1 May 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 July 1925). The miners were locked out, and voted overwhelmingly for strike action. The first General Strike In British history began on 4 May 1926 when the TUC (Trades Union Congress) voted to back the striking miners. There were worries about a Communist revolution in Britain. On 11 May 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 May 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 May 1926). Students also drove lorries, trams, and buses, the illegality of this being ignored. On 23 June 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 May 1926.

6 March 1926. Fire destroyed the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford on Avon. Only a blackened shell was left.

25 November 1925, In Britain, 12 Communists arrested in October 1925 were jailed for sedition.

13 October 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 August 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 August 1925. The Summer Time Act in the UK was made permanent.

5 August 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 May 1925, Sir John French, British General who led the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium, died.

12 May 1925, Alfred, Lord Milner, British statesman, died aged 71.

9 April 1925, Tom Jackson, British union leader, was born.

3 April 1925, Anthony Wedgewood Benn, British Labour politician, was born.

20 March 1925, Lord Curzon, British statesman, died aged 66.

13 March 1925, British MPs approved the Summer Time Bill, making annual daylight saving time permanent,.

2 December 1924, The UK and Germany signed a trade pact.

21 November 1924, The new Conservative Government of Britain repudiated a treaty made by the previous Labour administration with the USSR.

6 November 1924. The new Conservative Prime Minister of Britain, Stanley Baldwin, appointed Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

9 October 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 October 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 October 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 October 1924, The British Labour Party banned Communists from becoming members.


 January 1924 General Elections; Labour win

23 January 1924, Ramsay McDonald formed Britain’s first Labour Government (without an overall majority). Philip Snowden became Chancellor of the Exchequer.

22 January 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 July 1945. The first Labour government in Britain was elected. King George V sent for Ramsay MacDonald (born 12 October 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 May 1929.

The new Labour government was to prioritise unemployment; slum clearance and house building would also be tackled.


8 December 1923. In the UK 8 women were now MPs. The British general election resulted in a hung Parliament. The Conservatives, standing on a platform of protectionist tariffs to reduce unemployment, lost seats, finishing with 258 seats. Labour had 191 seats, and the Liberal had 159 seats.

30 October 1923, Andrew Bonar-Law, Canadian-born UK Prime Minister, died.

22 May 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 October 1922.

11 April 1923, In Britain, the Conservative Government suffered a Commons defeat, by 145 votes to 138, on a motion on ex-servicemen.

21 November 1922. Ramsay MacDonald was elected leader of the Labour Party.


November 1922 General Elections; Conservative win

16 November 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.

26 October 1922, King George V dissolved parliament and called new elections for November 15.


23 October 1922, A Bonar Law became UK Conservative Prime Minister, succeeding Austin Chamberlain.  He resigned 22 May 1923 due to illness (died 30 October 1923), and was replaced by Stanley Baldwin on 22 May 1923, becoming the shortest term of office in the 20th century.

20 May 1923, Bonar Law, UK Prime Minister, resigned due to illness.

19 October 1922, At the Carlton Club Meeting, in Britain, the Tories decided to quit the coalition with the Liberals.

1 August 1922, Britain distributed the Balfour Note to the rest of the Allies, stating that Britain would only attempt to recover from its European debtors the same amount as the US was seeking to recover from Britain as a War Loan. This placed the burden of moral responsibility for war damages squarely on the USA.

14 May 1922, William Abraham, British Labour politician from south Wales (born 1842) died.

26 February 1922, Britain and France concluded a 20-year alliance.

13 February 1922, Francis Pym, British politician, was born.

4 January 1922, 80 acres of Hartlepool devastated by a major fire.

1921, The British Medical Association estimated that a family of five needed to spend 22s 6 ½ d on food to eat healthily; however Unemployment Benefit was just 29s 3d a week, and the poorest slum accommodation still cost 6s a week to rent.

11 November 1921, The British legion held its first Poppy Day.

23 August 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 June 1921, Lady Randolph Churchill, American mother of Winston Churchill, died.

22 June 1921, The British Labour Party decided against affiliating with the Communists.

12 June 1921. Last Sunday deliveries by British postmen.

14 May 1921. The British Legion was founded in London by Earl Haig. It was renamed the Royal British Legion in 1971.

15 April 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 April 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 April 1921. In Britain, a coal strike began; a state of emergency was proclaimed. Coal rationing began on 3 April 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 July 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 March 1921. Austen Chamberlain succeeded Andrew Bonar Law as Conservative leader (who had resigned due to ill-health).

17 March 1921. In Britain, Andrew Bonar Law resigned leadership of the Conservative Party.

12 February 1921, In Britain, Winston Churchill was appointed Colonial Secretary.

8 January 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 January 1921, The Navy, Army, and Air Force Institute, or NAAFI, was founded in Britain.

11 November 1920, The Labour politician Roy Jenkins was born at Abersychan.

18 October 1920. Britain's miners walked out over a claim for 2 shillings (10p) more a week, work did not resume until 3 November 1920.

1 August 1920, The Communist Party of Great Britain was founded. 

30 April 1920. Britain abolished conscription.

6 January 1920, Walter Cunliffe, British banker (born 4 December 1855), died at Epsom.

11/1919, A year after World War One ended, the Women’s Land Army was disbanded.

27 October 1919, Lord Curzon succeeded A J Balfour as British Foreign Secretary.

10 October 1919, British teachers, their salaries still at pre war levels, asked for a doubling of their pay.

10 September 1919, The TUC favoured nationalising the coal industry.

3 August 1919, Riots in Liverpool during the policemen’s strike.

19 July 1919, Allied victory in the Great War was celebrated with parades and banquets, three weeks after the Treaty of Versailles had been signed. However many British demobbed servicemen felt aggrieved at this, being unemployed and without the ‘Homes for Heroes’ they had been promised. There were civil disturbances in several towns, which escalated into a full riot in Luton, where a crowd burnt down the Town Hall, where a feast had been prepared for local dignitaries. The Mayor was forced to flee the town.

23 June 1919, The British Government recommended nationalising the coal mines.

21 June 1919. German sailors unexpectedly scuttled the captive German fleet, 72 warships, at Scapa Flow.

31 January 1919, In Glasgow, a sheriff was hit by a bottle as he read the Riot Act; 40 were injured in clashes with police.

7 January 1919, Labour began to act as the official opposition in the UK House of Lords.

31 December 1918, The British War Cabinet met for the last time.

28 December 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.

20 November 1918, The Germans surrendered their submarines at Harwich.

19 November 1918, The UK government revealed that the War had cost 767,000 deaths and some 2.3 million injured.

11 November 1918. Armistice Day. World War One ended. Fighting ceased on the Western Front, and Austro-Hungary signed an armistice with the Allies. See 29 September 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 August 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 November 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.

See France-Germany for main events of World War One

15 September 1918, Mr C Chubb gave Stonehenge to the nation.

1 July 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 their 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 June 1918, The UK Government asked for a further War Loan of £500 million. General rationing in the UK began on 19 June 1918.

19 April 1918, Alfred Milner became British War Secretary.

7 March 1918, Bonar Law asked the UK Commons for another War Loan of £600 million.

25 February 1918. Rationing of meat, butter, and margarine began in London and the Home Counties.

6 February 1918. A deposit of £150 was required from UK Parliamentary candidates.

30 January 1918, The Commons rejected the Lords’ proposal for proportional representation.

23 January 1918, The UK Government ordered restaurants to have two ‘meatless’ days a week.

19 January 1918, The training ship Warspite was destroyed by fire.

17 January 1918, Sir Keith Joseph, British politician, was born.

1 January 1918, Sugar rationing began in Britain.

31 December 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 October 1917. Sir Arthur Lee donated Chequers to the nation as a country retreat for British Prime Ministers.

14 September 1917. German submarine shelled Scarborough.

2 September 1917, Major German night time air raid on Dover.

30 August 1917. Denis Healey, British Labour politician, was born.

28 July 1917, The formation of the Royal Tank Corps in the British Army was authorised.

17 July 1917. Churchill returned to UK government as Minister for Munitions.

5 July 1917, Joe Gormley, President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), was born.

19 June 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 June 1917, Large German air raid on Folkestone, Shorncliffe and other Kent towns. 95 died and 260 were injured.

12 May 1917. The British army began to accept men aged 41-50.

26 April 1917.  German naval raid on Ramsgate.

18 March 1917. Ramsgate and Broadstairs shelled from the sea.

February 1917, In Britain the Women’s Land Army (WLA) was set up, to boost domestic food production whilst the men were away fighting in the trenches. The UK Government promoted a ‘voluntary rationing’ scheme. By 1918 the WLA had 20,000 volunteers, doing dairy work, ploughing, and tree felling.

26 January 1917, A violent storm breached sea defences at the English village of Hallsands, leading to all but one of the houses becoming uninhabitable.

7 December 1916. In Britain, David Lloyd George succeeded Herbert Asquith as Prime Minister (see 8 April 1908). A Coalition government led by the Liberals was formed.

5 December 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.

28 November 1916, First German aeroplane raids on London.


Military Tanks

15 September 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.

29 January 1916. Military tanks were trialled at Hatfield, Hertfordshire.


26 July 1916, The US protested at a British blacklist banning trade with some 30 US firms.

9 July 1916. British Prime Minister (1970-74) Edward Heath, was born in Broadstairs, Kent.

25 May 1916, Britain extended compulsory military conscription from single men (Military Service Act, given Royal Assent on 27 January 1916) to married men too (a second Military Service Act).

21 May 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 May 1916. The Daylight Saving Act was passed. Clocks went forward in Britain for the first time on 21 May 1916, causing some confusion. See 7 August 1925.

16 May 1916, French diplomat Francois-Georges Picot and British diplomat Mark Sykes began a secret correspondence to decide how the Middle East would be divided up after World War One (see also 30 October 1917). The Western Powers had already decided that the Ottoman Empire was too vast and too corrupt to be allowed to survive. Britain would claim Jordan, most of Iraq, and the port city of Haifa. France  would take SE Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Palestine would be jointly administered between Britain and France. Russia would be granted the city of Constantinople and several Armenian-dominated regions. In fact the Russian Revolution of 1917 and further diplomatic developments meant that not all these provisions became reality, but the Sykes-Picot agreement set the scene for many of the issues of the Middle East during the 20th century.

2 April 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 March 1916. British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.


Britain faces unanticipated issues during the War

29 September 1916, The British Government asked people to observe a ‘meatless day’ to prevent food price rises.

10 March 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 February 1916, The British Government urged well-off families to release their servants for ‘more useful purposes’.

6 January 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 November 1915. Churchill resigned from the cabinet over the Dardanelles.

See France-Germany for main events of World War One

9 November 1915, British war casualties now totalled 510,000.

12 October 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.

25 May 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.


26 September 1915. Kier Hardie, founder of the Labour Party, died.

15 July 1915. 200,000 Welsh miners went on strike for more pay.


Wartime curbs on civil liberties

24 January 1916. Conscription started in Britain. It was for single men aged 19-30.

13 October 1915, The British Government banned ‘treating’ – buying drinks for another – in an effort to curb drunkenness amongst factory workers.

16 July 1915, In Britain the National Registration Act made it compulsory for men eligible for military service to register.

14 May 1915, Britain began internment of enemy aliens.

13 May 1915, In Britain, street violence against those suspected of being ‘aliens’ increased following the sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May 1915.

1 May 1915, Widespread resentment by British workers at alcohol sales restrictions.

30 March 1915, In Britain King George V offered to give up alcohol as an example to the munitions workers.

1 February 1915, British passport holders were required to carry photographs, not just written descriptions.

27 November 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.


10 May 1915. Denis Thatcher, wife of Margaret, British Prime Minister, was born.

26 February 1915. Clydeside armament workers went on strike for more pay.

30 January 1915, John Profumo, British Cabinet Minister involved in the Profumo Affair with Christine Keeler and a Russian attaché, was born.


Build up to World War One in Britain

26 November 1914, At Sheerness, Kent, the HMS Bulwark exploded, killing 700 people.

3 October 1914, The first national flag day was held in England, in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund.

11 August 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 August 1914. The first British troops arrived in France. The British Expeditionary Force was landed from 9th to 17th August at Boulogne.

4 August 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 August 1914, and 6 August 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.

See France-Germany for main events of World War One

2 August 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 August 1914), although at the end of July most of the Cabinet had been for non-intervention in Europe.

1 January 1914, Lloyd George called the arms build-up in western Europe ‘organised insanity’.

22/ July 1912. To counter the growing German naval threat, the British Admiralty recalled warships from the Mediterranean to begin patrols in the North Sea.

9 October 1911, The King George V, Britain’s biggest battleship to date, was launched.

21 July 1911, Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, warned Germany not to threaten British interests in the western Mediterranean, or Gibraltar.  See 1 July 1911.  Germany denied such ambitions, but Britain began preparing for war with Germany.

9 March 1911, The British Government announced that five more battleships were to be built.

2 February 1910, The British army was concerned about a possible shortage of horses if war should break out with Germany.


2 July 1914, Joseph Chamberlain, British politician, died.

4 June 1914, In Britain, railway workers and miners came out on strike in support of builders and other workers already on strike.

15 May 1914, The Commons rejected the idea of Home Rule for Scotland.

10 May 1914, In Britain, the Liberal Unionist Party united with the Conservatives.

30 March 1914. 100,000 miners in Yorkshire went on strike.

1913, Almost 4 million holidaymakers had visited Blackpool this year, up from nearly 2 million in 1893 and 850,000 in 1873.

7 November 1913. Box Hill, Surrey, was formally given to the nation.

26 October 1913, Hugh Scanlon, British trade unionist, was born.

14 October 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 July 1913, Lloyd George said the Lords should be abolished.

23 June 1913, Michael Foot, UK Labour Party Leader, was born.

3 January 1913, James Hamilton Abercorn, British politician (born 24 August 1838) died.

1912, The D Notice committee was founedto ‘guide’ the press on matters concerning national security.

18 December 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 November 1953 it was revealed as  a hoax, the skull was that of an orang-utan.

22 November 1912, The wives of striking Welsh coal miners in  joined their husbands in rioting against the police, during the 1912 National Coal Strike.

21 September 1912, Ian McGregor, chairman of British Steel and British Coal, was born.

24 July 1912, Emma Cons, British social worker and philanthropist, died at Hever, Kent (born 4 March 1838 in London).

21 July 1912, UK, Second reading of the Franchise Bill, giving all men over 21 the vote.

26 June 1912, The first Alexandra Day.

16 June 1912. Enoch Powell was born in Stechford, Birmingham.

26 May 1912, The UK was paralysed by a transport strike.

10 April 1912, Troops were called out to quell riots in Wigan.

27 March 1912. British Labour leader and Prime Minister 1976-1979, James Callaghan, was born in Portsmouth.

15 February 1912, An attempt by the British Labour Party to institute a Minimum Wage was defeated in the House of Commons.

13 November 1911. Bonar Law became leader of the Tory Party, succeeding Arthur James Balfour.

9 November 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 November 1911, Arthur Balfour, Conservative leader, resigned.

23 October 1911. Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.

6 October 1911. Barbara Castle, British Labour politician, was born.

6 September 1911. The British TUC condemned the use of troops in strikes.

18 August 1911. In the UK, the Official Secrets Bill got Royal Assent. This made it a criminal offence for government departments to disclose certain categories of information.

17-19 August 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 August 1911, South Wales miners ended their strike after 14 months.

13 August 1911, Rioting broke out in Liverpool after Tom Mann and other trade unionists held mass meetings near St George’s Hall.

8 August 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.

20 July 1911, 20 rioters in Wales shot dead by troops.

19 July 1911, The Liver Building in Liverpool was opened.

23 June 1911. Coronation of King George V.

22 June 1911, Liverpool’s Liver Clock, called ‘Great George’, began showing the time.

15 May 1911, King George V and his cousin the Kaiser reasserted their friendship.

3 May 1911, In Britain, Lloyd George introduced a National Health Insurance Bill.

7 April 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.

6 February 1911. The Labour Party elected Ramsay MacDonald as its leader, replacing Kier Hardie.

20 December 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.

28 November 1910, In Britain, Parliament was dissolved with a General Election scheduled for early December. The Liberals gained just two seats.

29 October 1910, A J Ayer, British philosopher, was born (died 1989).

10 May 1910, In Britain the House of Commons resolved that the House of Lords should have no power to veto money Bills, limited power to postpone other Bills, and that the maximum lifetime of a Parliament should be reduced from seven to five years.

27 April 1910, In Britain the ‘People’s Budget’ was passed again  by the Commons; after three hours of debate it was also passed by the Lords, and received Royal Assent.

4 April 1910, The first Commons reading of a Bill to abolish the Lords’ power of veto.

11 March 1910, A dam burst in The Rhondda, Wales, sweeping away 500 children; 494 were rescued.

21 February 1910, Douglas Bader, World War Two fighter pilot and squadron leader, was born in London.


Continued defence worries over Germany

15 January 1910. UK General Election. German rearmament, the power of the Lords,and Irish Home Rule were major issues. The Liberals won with a reduced majority of 275 seats, against Labour with 40, the Irish nationalists with 82, and the Unionists with 273 seats.issue.

1909, The security agencies MI5 and MI6 were founded in Britain.

21 March 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 February 1909, The UK Government announced that six more Dreadnought battleships were to be built for the Navy.

7 November 1908, The British Navy launched its biggest battleship to date, the HMS Collingwood.

16 October 1908, A new harbour at Dover was opened as part of a national system of defence.

11 August 1908, King Edward VII of Britain met Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany at Friedrichshof, Germany. The main point of contention was the increasing size of the German Navy.

1 April 1908, The Territorial Army was officially founded, as the Territorial Force, by Lord Haldane.

26 October 1907, The UK’s  Territorial Army was conceived by the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane.

28 February 1907, Britain’s Royal Navy ordered three more Dreadnought warships.


30 November 1909, The House of Lords threw out a Budget by Liberal Chancellor Lloyd George they considered too left-wing. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith now faced a General Election. The controversial Budget proposed taxing the highest 10,000 earners with incomes over £5,000 a year in Britain an extra 6d in the £ income tax, over and above the rate of 1 shilling 2d in the £ paid by all earners above £2,000 a year, a rise from 1 shilling in the £. Unearned income was also to be taxed at 1s 2d in the £. Death duties were to be doubled. The tax money would fund rearmament and old age pensions. The Tories described the Budget as a tax on the propertied classes. On 3 December 1909 King Edward VII dissolved Parliament, and taxes on alcohol, tobacco and cars were suspended as no Budget had been passed. For half a century it had been accepted that the unelected Lords could not veto a money Bill from the elected Commons, but the Tories argued this Bill had too many non-financial measures to come under this rule.

5 November 1909, The first Woolworth store opened in Britain, in Lord Street, Liverpool.

9 October 1909, Donald Coggan, 101st Archbishop of Canterbury, was born.

30 July 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.

6 June 1909, Isaiah Berlin, Russian-British political philosopher, was born.

28 November 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 November 1908, Charles (Lord) Forte, hotelier, was born.  He opened Newport Pagnell services on the M1 in 1959, and died in 2007.

6 November 1908, A cotton workers strike in Lancashire ended after seven weeks with the workers accepting a pay cut.

5 November 1908, The Cullinan Diamond was cut for Queen Alexandra, Britain.

25 October 1908, Lewis Campbell, British classical scholar (born 3 September 1830) died.

12 September 1908, Winston Churchill married Clementine Hosier.

15 August 1908, Winston Churchill announced his engagement to Clementine Hosier.

7 September 1908, Frederick Blayes, English classical scholar, died in Southsea (born Hampton Court Green 29 September 1818).

2 June 1908, Sir Redvers Buller, British General, died (born 1839).

30 May 1908, Bernard Fitz Alan Howard, 16th Duke of Norfolk, British statesman, was born.

11 May 1908, The foundation stone of the Liver Building, Liverpool, was laid.

12 April 1908, Herbert Asquith was appointed Prime Minister, replacing Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who had resighned through ill-health. David Lloyd George became Chancellor of the Exchequer.

5 April 1908, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, English Prime Minister, resigned due to ill health (born 7 September 1836).

1 March 1908, John Adrian, 1st Marquess of Linlithgow, died.

22 January 1908, The British Labour Party decided to adopt Socialism.

6 January 1908, 2,000 textile workers went on strike in Oldham, Lancashire.

6 October 1907, Henry Brampton, English judge, died in London (born in Hitchin 14 September 1817)

5 September 1907, King Edward of Britain met the Russian Foreign Minister, Alexander Izvolski, at Marienbad (now, Czech Republic), to strengthen mutual relations.

31 August 1907, The UK and Russia agreed an entente, defining spheres of influence in Persia, Tibet, and Afghanistan.  There was an implicit agreement that Britain would not allow Russia to control the Bosporus, and the entente opened up the London money markets to Russia, allowing it to recover from the Japanese defeat of 1904/5. France was also part of this agreement, forming a Triple Entente to contain the newly unified Prussian-dominated Germany.

14 June 1907, The UK Government announced a Bill to curb the House of Lords.

19 May 1907, Sir Benjamin Baker, British engineer, died in Pangbourne, Berkshire (born 1840).

2 May 1907, King Edward VII of Britain met the French President in Paris.

24 April 1907, Winston Churchill, Colonial Under-Secretary, was made a Privy Councillor.

25 March 1907, The British Government killed off a Channel Tunnel Bill.

9 March 1907, John Alexander Dowie, Scottish evangelist and faith healer (born 25 May 1847 in Edinborgh, Scotland) died in Chicago, Illinois.

23 January 1907, In the UK, Lloyd George advocated reducing the power of the House of Lords.

19 January 1907, Captain Henry Singleton Pennell, English soldier who received the Victoria Cross, died.

30 November 1906, The Prince of Wales opened the new Cotton Exchange in Liverpool.

21 November 1906, In Glasgow, a man died when 200,000 gallons of hot whisky burst out of vats.

30 October 1906, Gathorne Cranbrook, British statesman, died (born 1 October 1814)

14 October 1906, Sir Richard Tangye, British industrial machinery manufacturer, died (born 24 November 1833 in Redruth, Cornwall)

2 October 1906, John Humphreys Whitfield, British scholar of Italian language & literature, was born in Wednesbury, England (died 1995).

8 March 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.

12 January 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.

10 January 1906, Britain and France began closer co-operation on military and defence issues.,

4 December 1905, British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour resigned.

25 October 1905, Lord Roseberry called for a future Liberal Government to challenge the power of the House of Lords.

22 July 1905, Ralph Lingen, British civil servant, died.

19 April 1905. A judge decided the public had no right of way to Stonehenge.

31 March 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany arrived in Tangier, Morocco, to give a speech in favour of Moroccan independence. This was intended to humiliate France, who saw Morocco as their own protectorate, and to test the closeness of the Franco-British entente. Germany intended to subsequently ‘grant France limited control in Morocco’, a move supposed to bring France closer to Germany and away from Britain. However Germany was surprised by the forcefulness with which British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey backed France; Germany was further isolated from France, Britain and hence Russia too. This event paved the way for the Agadir crisis of 1911.


Concerns over poverty

1904, Child malnutrition in the poorest parts of Britain was attributed to a decline in breast feeding. In turn some of this was due to mothers working, but more was due to chronic ill-health of the mothers making them incapable of breast feeding.

1902, A survey found that in the poorest parts of Leeds, England, 60% of the children had bad teeth and half had rickets.


Demographic concerns

11 September 1905, Figures were released showing rural lunacy on the rise; this was attributed to the tedium of living in the countryside.

1 July 1905, The Colonial Office considered a plan to relocate Britain’s ‘surplus population’ in various parts of the Empire.

1904, Construction work on Letchworth New Town began.

15 December 1904, In London, British politician Joseph Chamberlain called for curbs on immigration; he said they were responsible for crime and disease.

7 July 1903, Britain’s falling birth-rate would result in a halt to population growth in 18 years.

26 February 1903. In the UK, a Commons Debate called for curbs on immigration.


Rising British Protetcionism; concerns about Germany, increased ties with France

10 February 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.

19 September 1905, Britain and Germany held simultaneous war manoeuvres.

1 March 1905, Britain announced that spending on the navy was to increase by 350%..

For Dogger Bank Incident, October 1904, see Russia

28 August 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 April 1904.

12 July 1904, Britain and Germany signed a five-year treaty, to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than by military means.

8 April 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 August 2904.

1 February 1904, Britain agreed with France to remain neutral if there was war between Russia and Japan.

29 January 1904, The Esher Committee (see 7 November 1903) submitted preliminary recommendations on improving the British military. These included, an Army Council to reorganise the Army, also a Defence Council  overseen by the Prime Minister to oversee the wider aims of UK defence. This later became known as the Committee of Imperial Defence.

7 November 1903, In the wake of the Boer War, Britain appointed the three-man Esher Committee to improve the British military.

6 July 1903, French President Emile Loubet, and Theophile Delcasse, visited London to begin the Entente Cordiale.

6 March 1903, In response to the growing German navy, construction began on a huge new British naval base at Rosyth.

4 March 1903, King Edward VII of Britain concluded a visit to Paris, during which Anglo-French relations were strengthened.

8 November 1902, The Kaiser arrived in London on a 12-day State Visit to try and improve Anglo-German relations.

18 December 1902, In London, the Committee of Imperial Defence held its first meeting.

30 June 1902, At the Colonial Conference in London, a principle of Imperial Preference was agreed; that Britain and the colonies should set preferential tariffs for each other’s goods.

24 May 1902, Empire Day was celebrated for the first time (Queen Victoria’s birthday).

27 October 1901, Negotiations on an Anglo-German alliance broke down, after the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, made an anti-German speech in Edinburgh.

1 August 1901, The Commons voted an extra £12.5 million for naval and war budgets.

15 May 1901, The British Admiralty decided to build three large battleships.


17 August 1904, In the UK, the Postmaster General reported that postcard usage increased by 25% in 1903.

9 December 1903, The Glasgow East End Industrial Exhibition opened in Duke Street, Glasgow, Scotland. It ran until 9 April 1904, attracting 908,897 visitors. The opening ceremony, led by Alexander Bruce, 6th Lord Balfour of Burleigh, was followed by a choral concert given by the Royal Marines.

24 November 1903, Sir John Maple, British business magnate, died.

22 August 1903. Lord Salisbury, four times Conservative Prime Minister, died, aged 73.

10 July 1903, Kenneth Clarke, UK Conservative politician, was born (died 1983).

3 September 1902, The Trades Unions Congress voted in London to back independent Labour Parliamentary candidates rather than rely on local alliances with Liberals.

12 July 1902. (1) Arthur Balfour (Conservative) succeeded Lord Salisbury as Tory Prime Minister. 

(2) Kitchener returned to a heroes’ welcome in London.


Funeral of Queen Victoria

4 February 1901, Queen Victoria was buried at Windsor, next to Albert.

22 January 1901. Queen Victoria died, at of a cerebral haemorrhage Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, aged 81; the longest reigning and longest lived monarch of Britain. Accession of King Edward VII to the British throne. His coronation was on 9 August 1902. King Edward VII was born on 9 November 1840, and was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Crowned at 60 years of age, he proved a popular monarch who gave his name to the Edwardian era. He was made Prince of Wales by his mother when only one month old. His free and easy social life made him a prominent figure in society and he was involved in several scandals. His coronation was elaborate and was a departure from the rather dour image of the monarchy in the latter part of Queen Victoria’s reign. Edward VII is remembered as a popular man who tried to ensure peace in Europe, touring European capitals in a diplomatic role. An estimated 500,000 watched the funeral. procession of Queen Victoria as it travelled through the silent streets of London, on 2 February 1901. The funeral took place at Windsor.


31 December 1900, At Stonehenge, Stone No. 21 and its lintel fell down.

17 October 1900, Lord Salisbury’s Tory government was re-elected, in the British General Election. Tory popularity was high after the Boer War victory.

See South Africa for events of Boer War

25 June 1900, Earl Louis Mountbatten, military commander and last Viceroy of India, was born at Frogmore House, Windsor.

22 May 1900, William Lindley, English engineer, died (born 7 September 1808).

27 February 1900, The British Labour Party was formed by the Trades Unions, along with the Fabians. Ramsay MacDonald was its secretary; he later became its leader and Prime Minister.


Click here for events, Great Britain, to 31 December 1899


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