Suez row sparks a crisis

November 5. British and French troops invaded Egypt to prevent the nationalisation and seizure of the Suez Canal by the Egyptian leader Colonel Nasser. Many Britons were horrified at what they saw as a needless exercise in old-style gunboat diplomacy.

Under pressure from the United States the attack was called off, but not before Britain's credibility in the Middle East, and throughout the world, had been seriously damaged.

British paras struck inland and Royal Marines fought their way through the streets of Port Said. There was little resistance and casualties were light. But at midnight on November 8, and before the Anglo-French forces had won control of the canal, the United Nations ordered a ceasefire. By the end of the month the Allied force had been withdrawn.

Although Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd tried to persuade Parliament that Britain had decided to quite as an act of faith in the UN, most saw it as a humiliating climbdown from a botched operation. Anthony Eden, the Conservative Prime Minister, was left a broken man by the crisis.

Bill HaleySeptember 11. Rock 'n' roll sparked riots in Britain when the film "Rock Around The Clock" was shown at cinemas up and down the country. Seats were ripped out as teddy boys and girls jived in the aisles and all police leave was cancelled for a few heady weeks. Bill Haley, a balding musician who had been around for years, was an unlikely anti-establishment figure and there were predictions that the craze - and the concept of the teenager - would not last.

April 19. Dial M for Marriage. The prince married his showgirl when Prince Rainier of Monaco married American actress Grace Kelly in the glamorous setting of the French Riviera. It was one of the first royal weddings to be televised and set the tone of such ceremonies for three decades. More than 1,200 guests from 25 nations attended.

July 27. It would have been a miraculous performance on a village green never mind in a Test match - and against the old enemy at that. Jim Laker, the bluff Yorkshireman who played his cricket for Surrey, took an incredible 19 of the 20 Australian wickets to fall in the fourth test at Old Trafford. The achievement, spread over several days, created a record that is unlikely to be beaten at that level. Afterwards the modest hero stopped off on his way home to London for a pint and a pie at a pub in Lichfield. He watched the highlights of the match he had just won almost single-handedly - and was not recognised by any of the other customers.

October 26. If Suez was on of the words on everyone's lips in 1956 Hungary was the other. The Hungarian Revolution lasted only three days but it was the first time ordinary people had risen up against Soviet domination. The rising produced a grim death toll with an estimated 3,000 casualties many of whom tried defy the Russian tanks with their bare hands. What made this brief rising significant was that it embraced the whole nation and was not just confined to the capital and other large cities.


In brief

January 2. The Astronomer Royal rejected the idea of space travel as "bilge".

February 18. The first provincial ITV station started broadcasting from Birmingham.

March 6. The death knell sounded for steam trains with the news that electrified services would soon be introduced on major routes.

  April 4. Walsall Council's efficiency was called into question when a mother revealed she paid only 1 1s 3d (1.06p) for her three children to attend nursery for a week.

  May 12. Norton Pool at Brownhills was officially renamed Chase Water as part of a long-term plan to create a lido.

  May 21. Bank holiday traffic returning to the West Midlands was the worst ever seen with jams several miles long converging on Lichfield.

July 5. London "pea soupers" became a thing of the past with the passing of the capital's Clean Air Bill.

September 3. Willenhall Civic Restaurant, the last local venue for teddy boy dances, decided to cancel them following "outrageous behaviour." According to one councillor, "these alleged specimens of humanity" were in danger of turning Willenhall into "a Paris of the Midlands."

  September 20. More than 1,200 redundancies announced at Tube Investments factories in the Black Country.

October 17. The Queen opened Britain's first nuclear power station at Calder Hill.

November 22. The Duke of Edinburgh opened the 16th modern Olympic games in Melbourne, Australia.

December 2. Reports of the death of Cuban rebel leader Fidel Castro turned out to be greatly exaggerated.