June 2. The official dawn of the new Elizabethan age was
also the day television came of age. More sets were sold in the
run-up to the Coronation of Elizabeth than at any time before
Queen, who during the war had driven military trucks, rode to
her Coronation in a coach made of gold - for those people (that
is, everybody) who were watching in black and white.
That summer was a cold and wet one and the big day was no exception
but thousands braved the discomfort and waited for hours for a
glimpse of the procession. The day made a star of another Queen,
the enormous Salote of Tonga, whose own carriage to Westminster
Abbey became flooded with rainwater.
February 3. Disaster struck eastern England. Hurricane
force winds combined with unusually high tides sent a wall of
water crashing through coastal defences from Lincolnshire to Kent.
Nearly 300 people drowned including some in villages five miles
Canvey island was devastated and holiday chalets near Clacton
were under 12 feet of water. In Suffolk, boats were rowed into
a church to rescue 40 people. Thousands of acres of farmland vanished
under water and a massive operation began to save people and provide
temporary accommodation for thousands of homeless. The cost of
the damage was put at a then astronomical 50 million.
June 1. It was Britain's crowning glory.And by one of
those happy quirks of timing it came on the eve of the Coronation
of the young Queen Elizabeth 11. The summit of Everest, at 29,000
feet the highest mountain in the world, was conquered by the New
Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing in an expedition masterminded
by Colonel John Hunt. Tensing and Hillary spent 15 minutes on
top of the world taking photos, hoisting the British flag and
eating mint cake and biscuits.
August 19. It was good to be British in 1953 and even
better if you were a cricket fan. England set the seal on a magnificent
year by regaining the Ashes from the Australians for the first
time in 20 years. Four drawn test matches, in one of which Willie
Watson and Trevor Bailey staved off almost certain defeat, were
followed by victory in the shadow of the gasometer at the Oval.
The victory was spearheaded by England's first professional captain,
March 25. One of the most notorious killers of the 20th
century was briefly on the run and inspired one of the greatest
manhunts of all time. John Reginald Halliday Christie came quietly
enough after being spotted in a bedraggled condition beside the
Thames. Later that summer he was to hang for the murder of three
women whose remains were found walled up at 10 Rillington Place
in West London.
The public was familiar with that address for it was there that
Timothy Evans, who had gone to the gallows protesting his innocence
of the murder of his wife and baby, had lived. More than a decade
was spent trying to convince a succession of sceptical Home Secretaries
that it was unlikely two killers were living under the same roof.
Evans was pardoned in 1966 when it became clear Christie had also
killed Beryl Evans and the little girl.