July 5. The National Health Service, the most radical
health reforms passed anywhere in the world, came into force.
Free care "from cradle to grave" had been one of the Labour Party
promises which had won them the 1945 General Election. Many foreigners
were horrified that Britain should kick the war leader Winston
Churchill out of office. But the voters, especially the thousands
of servicemen and women still on active service, were determined
that after this war there really would be the land fit for heroes
they had been promised back in 1918.
NHS was part of that deal. Previously, people had to pay for every
visit by the doctor. At a stroke, not only medical treatment came
free by prescription but dentistry, glasses and even wigs. The
original belief was that, after a period of heavy spending, the
nation would become fitter and healthier and future costs would
be lower. History was to prove that view wrong.
The chief problem facing health minister Aneurin Bevan was the
reluctance of consultants to give up their highly paid practices
and work in NHS hospitals. He solved the problem by allowing them
to work a limited number of hours for the health service and keep
their private patients. When colleagues asked him how he had silenced
the consultants' protests, Bevan said bluntly: "I stuffed their
mouths with gold."
January 30. Mahatma Gandhi, seriously weakened by a fast
for Hindu-Muslim unity, was shot dead at the age of 78 by one
of his own countrymen as he was helped towards a prayer meeting.
His assassin was a Hindu member of an extremist sect who rejected
Gandhi's message of peace and love.
The man who, more than any other, secured India's freedom from
British rule, was a familiar figure at 10 Downing Street and other
seats of power. Riots erupted the moment the news of his death
reached Bombay and the police had to fire shots into the crowds
before order could be restored. Gandhi had won the affection and
loyalty of men and women, old and young, of Europeans of every
religious persuasion and of Indians of almost every political
May 14. The state of Israel came into being, fulfilling
a 2,000-year dream for Jews all over the world, and arriving 31
years after Britain's endorsement of the Jewish right to a national
home in Palestine. Zionism had drawn its strength from the genocidal
persecution of the Jews under Nazism but Israel's birth pangs
were marked by terrorist outrages by both Jews and Arabs. International
reaction was mixed - both President Truman and Stalin recognised
the provisional government but Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and
Jordan immediately mobilised their troops against the new state.
However, the Israeli Army had grown in numbers by the end of the
year to 100,000 and went on to achieve a decisive victory.
July 29. The 14th Olympic Games, known as the Austerity
Olympics, opened in London, the first to be held since "Hitler's
Games" in Berlin in 1936. Perhaps with British rationing in mind,
the Indian team brought their own eggs. Despite the absence of
the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan, the Games were a success,
particularly for the United States who won 38 golds.
Among the highlights were an astonishingly mature performance
from American teenager Bob Mathias who won the gruelling Decathlon
event at the age of 17, the great Emil Zatopek who picked up four
gold medals for Czechoslovakia, and the 30-year-old Fanny Blankers-Koen,
another quadruple-gold winner. The Dutch housewife and mother
arrived in London as world record-holder in the high jump and
long jump but competed in neither. Instead she won four track
events to emerge as the personality of the games.
January 10. Wolverhampton faced their first major event
in the town's 100th year with an away cup game. Thousands of Wolves
fans made the journey to Bournemouth to cheer on their team in
the FA Cup third round match. The Mayor, Alderman H E Lane, sent
a telegram to the team, telling them: "Wolverhampton expects you
to celebrate this, her centenary year, by winning the Cup." They
jumped this hurdle at least to be drawn at home in the next round
May 22. Wolverhampton marked its 100th birthday with
the start of a Centenary Pageant, celebrating the granting of
the Charter conferring borough status in 1848. It was also the
1,000th anniversary of the royal grant of land to Lady Wulfruna
on which was built the church of St Peter and the early town of
Wulfruna Haentune. Forty principal actors, with 140 bit-part players,
staged an ambitious series of plays on the extended stage of the
Civic Hall. The Pageant traced the history of the town from Saxon
times to the present and even looked into the future through the
eyes of the town's great manufacturing firms. "It is a living
drama," declared the Mayor, Alderman Lane. "The glorious pageantry
of a thousand years."
January 12. In Washington, USA,
admission to law school could no longer be decided on an
February 5. Prague was seized in
a coup by Czech communists.
March 15. Communists and fascists
were banned from the British Civil Service.
April 3. The Marshall Plan was
launched, pledging billions of dollars to re-build war-torn
May 13. A baby boom was announced
in the Registrar General's report, showing the highest birth
rate for 26 years.
June 18. Germany launched its new
post-war currency, the Deutschmark.
June 26. British and American aircraft
began delivering thousands of tons of supplies to West Berlin
after the Soviets cut road and rail links to the city.
August 14. Australian cricket legend
Donald Bradman quit after playing his last Test innings.
August 15. At the London Olympics,
a 30-year-old Dutch mother-off-two, Fanny Blankers-Koen,
took four gold medals.
August 23. A new sort of school
modelled on American high schools was announced by Middlesex
County Council - it was called a "comprehensive".
October 6. Cannock Rural District
Council heard that 16 local pits were likely to close over
the coming ten years.
October 8. The first Morris Minor
came off the production line.
October 17. Roy Binks, 19, from
Stafford was one of 29 sailors who drowned when a pinnace
turned turtle in Portland Harbour.
November 12. The Earl of Shrewsbury
announced that taxation was forcing him to sell one-third
of his 9,000-acre Staffordshire estates at Ingestre.
December 1. One of the worst smogs
of the year blanketed the Black Country. Driver A Hunter
of Whitmore Reans suffered minor injuries when his Paddington
to Wolverhampton express crashed into a light engine near
December 13. Israel moved its capital
from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
December 18. French actor Gerald
Depardieu was born.
December 23. Did supermarkets cause
shoplifting? In a case involving theft in "the open-store
system", chairman of Wolverhampton magistrates, J. E. Dideridge
said: "We do feel this method of trading is conducive to
a lot of pilfering."