Crisis in the Falklands

Troops in the Falklands

April 2: Britain listened with growing astonishment and alarm to the news that Argentina had invaded the Falkland Islands. What began in March with a bunch of Argentine scrap merchants landing illegally at nearby South Georgia quickly turned into Britain's last great imperial adventure.

When it was all over, each side would blame the other. Britain never imagined that Argentina would use force to take the Falklands. Argentina never dreamed that Britain would use force to regain them. More than 1,000 young men - 255 of them British - would perish as a result of those misjudgments.

As soon as the invasion happened, Margaret Thatcher announced that a task force would be sent. It was put together at breakneck speed and sailed amid scenes reminiscent of 1914. On April 25 Royal Marines regained South Georgia; "Rejoice!" said Mrs Thatcher. On May 1, the RAF's ageing Vulcans bombed the runway at Port Stanley. The next day a British submarine sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano with huge loss of life.

Retribution came as Argentine warplanes began sinking British ships: HMS Sheffield, Ardent, Antelope, Coventry and the freighter Atlantic Conveyor. Bloodiest of all was the bombing of two British landing craft at Fitzroy. But the task force which landed on June 1, though heavily outnumbered, never contemplated defeat.

As peace talks foundered, Marines, Paras, Guards and Gurkhas "yomped" across the Falklands and fought a series of bloody battles: Goose Green, Tumbledown, Wireless Ridge. On June 14 the Argentine commander in Port Stanley surrendered. The following year, buoyed by the "Falklands factor," Margaret Thatcher won a second term as prime minister in a Tory landslide.

May 30: An army of 350,000 pilgrims turned Baginton Airport near Coventry into a vast open-air cathedral as they spent a Bank Holiday "picnic with the Pope". John Paul II's historic visit to Britain was the first by a head of the Roman Catholic Church for 450 years.

Hundreds of coaches packed with people left the Black Country for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Pope and attend a Mass led by him. Among them was wheelchair-bound Jacek Kos, a 19-year-old from Stourbridge, who was one of 26 people confirmed by the Pope. The Midlands' faithful were willing to pay a high price for souvenirs of the Pontiff's visit. Goods on sale ranged from 25p for a papal carrier bag to 1,200 for a gold medallion and included cardboard telescopes for 1, called Pope Scopes.

July 20: The peace of a sunny summer's day was shattered by two IRA bombs in London which killed nine people. Six died in a blast under the bandstand in Regent's Park where the band of the Royal Greenjackets was playing and three people, including two members of the Household Cavalry, were killed earlier by a car bomb in Knightsbridge.

Both explosions were at popular tourist spots. Military bands, like that of the Greenjackets', played twice a day in Regent's Park in the summer and the Household Cavalry were on their way to the changing of the guard in Whitehall. The bandstand was set on fire by the blast, and elderly people ran sobbing from the scene.

A spectator, who witnessed the carnage, said: "I was sitting in a deckchair looking at the band when everything seemed to come up from the bottom of the bandstand and blow right in the air - the bodies, instruments, everything. There were mangled bodies all over the deckchairs."

The injured were taken to three London hospitals, one of which was on strike but as soon as picketing staff outside heard the explosion they returned to work. Seven horses were also killed by the Knightsbridge blast or had to be destroyed. Public attention focused on a horse called Sefton who underwent an eight-hour operation to remove shrapnel.

July 7: The Queen woke to find an intruder sitting on her bed in Buckingham Palace, drinking from a bottle of wine he'd taken earlier from her cellar and wanting a chat. Her Majesty obliged for 10 minutes but it was not until 30-year-old Michael Fagan asked for a cigarette that she was able to summon help. Fagan was remanded in custody, charged with theft of the wine while trespassing. The incident highlighted lax security at the Palace. Horrified MPs were told Fagan has simply shinned up a drainpipe to get in.

February 19: John De Lorean's dream of making luxury sports cars for the American market was finally shattered when his Belfast company was put into receivership. He had hoped to sell 20,000 of the flashy low-slung cars with their distinctive wing-like doors at $25,000 each. The flamboyant former boss of General Motors admitted he needed a further 16 million to 27 million to survive but the government told him there would be no more state cash for the ailing firm.


In brief

January 2: A bomb exploded at the Birmingham HQ of Severn Trent Water, shattering windows and blasting a hole in the roof. The Welsh Army of Workers claimed responsibility.

January 4: Erika Roe set a popular trend when she stripped naked from the waist up and ran on to the pitch during the England rugby international against Australia.

January 12: Mark Thatcher goes missing in the Sahara on the Paris-Dakar rally. He was rescued by a search plane two days later.

February 5: Laker Airways collapsed, leaving 6,000 passengers stranded. Offers of help flooded in - from 25 million from a merchant bank to 16p from a 10-year-old schoolboy.

February 13: West Bromwich Albion star Remi Moses was fined £200 for attacking another driver at traffic lights in an early instance of road rage.

April 1: A 12-year-old Birmingham boy was found guilty of murdering a young boy whose strangled body was found in a cable drum. The youngster was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure for killing eight-year-old John McLean.

April 21: West Midland planners called "foul" over Walsall FC's ground-sharing plan with Wolves. They claimed the club misled a Department of the Environment inspector.

June 21: William Arthur Philip Louis is born, first child of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

June 11: Israel began to bombard Beirut with terrible force, combining air raids, naval bombardment and heavy artillery barrages in a bid to destroy the PLO.

July 1: Express & Star reporter Bill Buckley landed a top job with the BBC's That's Life programme - thanks to his mum, who wrote in to the show on behalf of her 23-year-old son, based at the company's Oldbury office, while he was on holiday in Australia.

July 11: In Madrid, Italy won the World Cup for the third time, equalling Brazil's record.

September 15: Princess Grace of Monaco died of head injuries suffered when her car plunged 120ft off a mountain road due to a suspected brake failure.

November 10: Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev died after 18 years at the helm. His successor was Yuri Andropov, until recently, head of the KGB.

December 9: The film ET, the charming story of an alien space creature accidentally abandoned on earth, was released in Britain after breaking box office records in America.

December 12: More than 20,000 women joined hands to surround the airport at Greenham Common in protest at the proposed siting of 96 US Cruise missiles there.