August 2: Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. Saddam Hussein's
regime had always claimed that Kuwait, which it referred to as
Province 19, was part of Iraq.
In the months before Baghdad had protested bitterly that Kuwait
was producing too much oil, driving down the international price.
Even so, no-one was prepared for what happened next. Saddam's
army invaded with speed and brutality, despite some courageous
fighting by Kuwaiti soldiers and pilots. Likely dissenters were
tortured and executed, hospitals were sacked.
The Kuwaiti royal family fled the country and begged for international
help. It was a plea from a sovereign nation that the United Nations
could not ignore.
Aware of the likely consequences, Saddam ordered the arrest
of foreign nationals, including Britons, whom he paraded as a
Undeterred, a UN task force headed by the United States and
including Britain, France and several Arab nations, moved into
Saudi Arabia and began preparing for war.
Iraq boasted the fourth largest army in the world. Its Scud
missiles were capable of drenching any attackers in nerve gas.
As the months passed and Saddam refused to give an inch, a bloodbath
February 11. Nelson Mandela walked to freedom after nearly
26 years in South African prisons. "I greet you in the name of
peace, democracy and freedom for all," he told 2,000 people who
the authorities allowed to see him emerge from Victor Verster
Prison, near Cape Town.
Later the black nationalist leader addressed a 50,000-strong
rally in Cape Town. The 71-year-old former terrorist, who was
jailed for life for sabotage and plotting the overthrow of the
South African government, was asked by President F W de Klerk
to help negotiate a political settlement between whites and blacks.
11. Halesowen was at the centre of the Iraqi supergun affair.
Parts of a giant gun capable of firing on Israel had been manufactured
at the Walter Somers plant in the town. The sections of the gun
labelled "petroleum piping" were impounded by customs on Teesside.
Trade and Industry Secretary Nicholas Ridley confirmed that the
giant cylinders were intended for the gun project.
December 1. Britain and France were linked when the final
breakthrough was made on the Channel Tunnel project. The occasion
was marked by champagne on the French side and mineral water on
the English side.
July 8. West Germany beat Argentina in a foul-littered
World Cup final in Italy. They had eliminated England in an emotion-charged
semi-final which was decided by a penalty shoot out after the
score was 1-1 after extra time.
November 22. Margaret Thatcher resigned as the longest-serving
British Prime Minister of the 20th Century after 12 years in power.
"It's a funny old world," she told cabinet colleagues before going
to Buckingham Palace to tell the Queen. She had failed two days
earlier by four votes to win outright in a Tory leadership ballot.
On November 28 John Major succeeded her after beating the challenge
of Michael Heseltine and Douglas Hurd.