To the brink of war . . .

October 28: The Cuban Missile Crisis brought Russia and the United States to the brink of nuclear war and was formally resolved on this day. While it lasted, in churches and schools throughout Britain, frightened people offered prayers.

The crisis began when US spy planes detected missile sites under construction in the newly-communist state of Cuba. The Soviet Union, claiming it was threatened by US missiles almost on its borders in Turkey and by America's growing nuclear arsenal, had been secretly shipping nuclear weapons into Cuba.

The US responded by blockading the island. Plans were laid to invade and, if that had gone ahead, Cuba could have attacked the US fleet with nuclear missiles. For a few tense days the US and Soviet leaders, Kennedy and Krushchev, stood eyeball-to-eyeball on the world stage.

In the end, Russia agreed to take down its missile sites and send the warheads home. It looked like a triumph of will for the United States but Kennedy, visibly aged by the confrontation, had agreed to remove nuclear weapons in Turkey.

Marilyn MonroeAugust 5: Goddess of the silver screen Marilyn Monroe was found dead. She had a bottle of pills at her bedside and a telephone receiver in her hand. She was, as the first version of Elton John's famous song "Candle In The Wind" was to remind us, stark naked.

The death of the troubled star, just weeks after being fired from the set of the movie "Something's Got To Give" for persistent absenteeism, was widely thought to be suicide. But it has sparked of almost as many conspiracy theories as those relating to a man now known to have been one of her many lovers, American President John F Kennedy.

February 20: After the successes of the Russians the previous year, the space race tilted back towards the Americans when John Glenn became his first countryman to orbit the earth. Glenn's flight in his Mercury capsule called Friendship had been postponed 10 times due to difficult weather conditions. He splashed down off the coast of Puerto Rico after circling the earth three times and declared: "My condition is excellent." He must have liked it for he came back for more in 1998 - at the age of 76.

April 30: A new magazine called "Private Eye" went on sale for the first time. The satirical magazine, which took swipes at those in public life, soon took on cult status among the young and the chattering classes. In danger of going under due to a series of financial blunders in its early weeks, it was rescued by one of the stars of the West End show "Beyond The Fringe" Peter Cook.

February 4: The first Sunday newspaper colour supplement was published by the Sunday Times. It featured articles on fashion queen Mary Quant and on Pop Art. Most readers of the first issue thought it was a great yawn and that the idea would never catch on. Newspaper proprietor Lord Thomson, ahead of his time as always, disagreed.


In brief

January 4: The Beatles were turned down by recording company Decca in the musical boob of the century.

January 14: West Midlanders rushed to get vaccinated against smallpox after a mini outbreak in Birmingham and a major one in Yorkshire where four people died.

January 20: Old Hill youngster Tom Beckett was rushed to hospital after collapsing with back pains while doing the twist.

March 15: Orpington Man took a bow as the Liberals romped home in a sensational by-election in the Kent commuter town.

April 9: The price of sweets went up in the budget but Chancellor Selwyn Lloyd sparked off a consumer boom by cutting purchase tax on cars and domestic appliances.

May 25: The new Coventry Cathedral to replace the one destroyed by German bombs opened.

June 2: Britain's first legal casino opened in Brighton.

June 25: Screen goddess Sophia Loren charged with bigamy after her marriage to film producer Carlo Ponti because Italian law did not recognise divorce.

July 11: Telstar beamed its first TV pictures across the Atlantic.

September 10: A 2,700 horsepower diesel train made the journey from Paddington to the West Midlands in a record time of one hour 43 minutes.

November 7: Nelson Mandela was jailed for five years in South Africa for incitement and leaving the country illegally.

November 21: Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon braved bitterly cold weather during a seven-hour visit to the West Midlands which included engagements at Dudley, Darlaston and Aldridge.