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Allied force had been withdrawn.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.
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.
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
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."
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