April 1: Anti-nuclear campaigners formed a 14-mile human
chain around the American cruise-missile base at Greenham Common.
The base had become a focus for protest ever since the United
States and the Thatcher government agreed to station the missiles
in the UK.
Cruise was deployed in the bitterest days of the Cold War in
response to the Soviet Union siting a new generation of highly
accurate medium-range nuclear missiles in East Germany.
As both sides raised the nuclear stakes, Whitehall reissued
the civil defence document, Protect and Survive. In the event
of nuclear war, householders were urged to create a "refuge" deep
inside their homes and cover the windows with silver foil to reflect
the H-bomb blast.
At Greenham a women-only peace camp sprang up and remained even
after 1988 when the Americans announced that agreement had been
reached with Moscow and the missiles would be withdrawn.
Cruise missiles, guided at low level by a satellite-guided computer
which could "read" the terrain, were accurate to a matter of feet
over a range of hundreds of miles. Withdrawn from Greenham, they
were stripped of their nuclear warheads, fitted with high-explosives
and went straight into the front line of America's war machine.
In 1991 the cruise missiles that had caused such a furore in Britain
dealt the first blows against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War.
September 1. A Boeing 747 carrying 269 passengers and
crew from New York strayed into Soviet air space off Sakhalin
Island and was shot down by a Soviet fighter. There were no survivors.
As the Cold War world watched in disbelief, Russia claimed that
the airliner had been on a spying mission. President Reagan condemned
the incident as "a barbaric act."
October 25. Britain's "special relationship" with the
United States was put under strain when US Marines invaded the
Commonwealth island of Grenada. Britain had been given no advance
warning of the invasion which followed a Cuban-backed coup on
October 12 in which the prime minister, Maurice Bishop, and his
Cabinet were slaughtered.
The fighting was one-sided. A US airborne division, allegedly
acting to protect US civilians on the island, quickly overcame
resistance from armed irregulars. Despite media protests, the
US forces kept all press and television out of Grenada until the
operation was completed. Even so, the folks back home learned
that 47 patients in a mental hospital had died in a mistaken US
attack. Seventeen Americans died in the invasion.
October 4. Following in a fine British tradition, Richard
Noble claimed a new world land-speed record for the UK. His jet-powered
car hit 633mph in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. In the year ahead
Noble would gradually refine his machines until, in 1998, his
design smashed the sound barrier, leaving rivals from America,
and the rest of the world, far behind.
February 9. Shergar, the champion racehorse and winner
of the 1981 Derby event was kidnapped by armed intruders at his
stables in Ireland. A £2 million ransom was demanded but
despite a massive police search, the horse was never seen again.