May 4. Exactly 100 years after the Great Exhibition, King
George and Queen Elizabeth declared the Festival of Britain open.
Quite what it was meant to celebrate was a mystery to millions
of Britons still enduring the misery of post-war austerity.
Many criticised the £8 million cost at a time when Britain
was almost broke. Some visitors complain that a cup of coffee
at the Festival was ninepence (4p). But there was general admiration
for the Dome of Discovery and one of the Festival's permanent
buildings, the Festival Hall.
The event was sponsored by the Labour government and hailed
by minister Herbert Morrison as "the people giving themselves
a pat on the back." It occupied nearly 30 acres of bomb sites
near London's Waterloo station and its themes of fun and colour
were in stark contrast to the grim building and "make do and mend"
philosophy of the real Britain.
The Festival gave the first hint of "contemporary" styling.
Here, for the first time, were chairs of laminated wood and strange,
angular furniture which, before long, would be arriving in fashionable
homes. Towering above it all was the aluminium Skylon, reaching
for the heavens with no visible means of support. Just like Britain,
June 7. "Back on Monday" was the reply shouted back to
a Southampton docker when two British diplomats in a hurry left
their car engine running at the quayside and leapt aboard a ship
that was just to pull out of harbour.
Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean were not destined to return the
following Monday or any other Monday. The two high-ranking officials
were Soviet spies having been recruited while still at university.
They had betrayed secrets to the Russians while posted in the
British Embassy in Washington and were to spend the rest of their
days in Moscow.
January 28. The flash of a nuclear explosion lit up the
south west of the United States when two Atom Bomb tests took
place in the Nevada Desert in two days. Observers in Las Vegas
were urged to stand well back - at a distance of 45 miles to be
exact. In Boulder City, more than 100 miles away, people said
the flash lit up whole rooms.
All this was followed by a statement from the US Atomic Energy
Commission that there was no indication of "any radiological hazards".
But just as a precaution they grounded all civil aircraft lights
within 150 miles of the site.
May 14. South Africa ended the right of coloured - or
mixed race - people to vote by removing them from the country's
electoral register. The move, supported by the majority Afrikaaner
Nationalist party, only went through by 10 votes. Dr Theophilus
Dronges, the South African Minister of the Interior, said the
action was necessary to "avoid the collapse of white civilisation
in the whole of Africa". Coloured people had had the vote in the
colony for the best part of 100 years.
October 26. At a time when most people have long since
retired Winston Churchill was back at Number 10 to form his first
peace time government. He was 77 years old and it had been more
than six years since the style of leadership which had won the
war was deemed unsuitable by an electorate of service people for
the era of peace.
His Tory party had squeaked in with a narrow majority in an
election in which the Liberals were decimated. Recriminations
in the Labour camp started almost as soon as the polling stations
closed with outgoing premier Clement Attlee blaming left wingers
for the defeat.