Abdication divides nation

December 11. King Edward VIII, the former Prince of Wales, announced his abdication of the throne in a broadcast from Windsor Castle. The Abdication Crisis had divided the nation. Some felt that Edward should be able to keep the throne and marry his beloved Wallis Simpson.

The Duke and Duchess of WindsorBut Church leaders and others said it was unthinkable for the monarch to marry a woman who had already been divorced. How could he break Church law and yet hold the title of Defender of the Faith? America knew of the impending crisis long before Britain because of an agreed black-out of the news by the barons of Fleet Street.

Edward announced to a stunned nation that it was impossible to carry the burden of the throne, "without the help and support of the woman I love." He and Mrs Simpson left Britain, married and became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The Abdication thrust Edward's brother on to the throne as George VI. Far less well known than his flamboyant brother and suffering from a bad stammer, the new king seemed unpromising material but the hour found the man and he went on to become a fine war leader.

May 27. Britain's 80,733 ton superliner, the Queen Mary, left Southampton on her maiden voyage - making a four-and-a-half hour journey to Cherbourg before steaming on to New York.

Dubbed "Britain's Masterpiece" by its owners, the Cunard liner was given a massive send-off from Southampton Docks. Crowds cheered, a band played and a host of admiring spectators surrounded the giant ship in escort vessels.

Enormous media interest surrounded the progress of this vast, yet speedy, liner on both sides of the Atlantic as she began the 3,000-mile trip to New York. The cost of a trans-Atlantic trip on the vessel was advertised as being from 37.5s, including meals and accommodation.

October 5. The famous Jarrow March to London by 200 unemployed men started off with thousands of wellwishers lining the streets of the town. The marchers carried with them an oak casket containing a petition with 11,572 signatures which they planned to present to the Government. They wanted to focus attention on the 68 per cent unemployment in the town.

July 31. Spain was plunged into a bitter civil war in the few weeks since the Republican Party's victory in elections. Battle started when the Nationalist Party leader, General Francisco Franco, landed at Cadiz with a party of Moroccan troops. Franco had some powerful allies, with Hitler pledging his support in Germany and Mussolini in Italy.

August 16. The Berlin Olympic Games, aimed at glorifying Hitler's Nazi regime, caused grave embarrassment when the talented black American athlete, Jesse Owens, became the undisputed star of the event. He arrived in Berlin after an incredibly successful year and proceeded to set up four world records, for the 100 yards, 220 yards. 220 yards hurdles, and the long jump - all in the space of a single afternoon. Afterwards Adolf Hitler refused to be photographed with Owens and left the stadium rather than acknowledge his fourth victory in the long jump. The games closed with a host of records by 5,000 athletes from 53 nations.

May 19. In the years before the Second World War, the Nazi salute may have caused some raised eyebrows but had not yet become associated with the worst excesses of the Third Reich. On this day a group of German ex-servicemen were entertained in Wolverhampton. When they visited the town's war memorial, they paid their respects to their fallen former enemies with the Nazi salute.


In brief

January 28. At Windsor King George V was laid to rest amid the tombs of his ancestors. Some 124 naval ratings had pulled his body on a gun carriage through London's silent but crowded streets.

February 1. In London traffic figures were released showing that there were 2,581,027 registered cars on the road - a rise of 17.5 per cent over 1934.

April 19. In Tel Aviv 11 people died and 50 were injured in rioting between Arabs and Jews.

May 9. A new fashion craze for pierced ears swept the smart set in London's Mayfair with one specialist saying he was piercing 100 ears a month.

July 3. A Hagley butcher's assistant committed suicide by putting a humane killer to his head in a slaughterhouse, an inquest was told.

July 9. £750,000 was added to the dole budget by Prime Minister Baldwin in London.

July 14. The production of gas masks on a mass scale was launched. The target was one gas mask for every citizen.

July 18. Bilston's Midland Velodrome - claimed to be the fastest track in the country - was the venue for the staging of a special cycle racing event.

August 12. A raid at a Birmingham factory was made by "The Black Hand Gang", according to a note left behind by the gang of boys who broke in, a juvenile court was told.

August 20. Wolverhampton Council planned to build a "Satellite Town" on 750 acres of land at Pendeford complete with model factories, a shopping centre and school.

September 6. Beryl Markham, aged 33, became the first woman to fly the Atlantic alone. She crash-landed on arrival in Nova Scotia.

October 5. Two hundred unemployed men began the Jarrow Crusade, marching from their home town in the North-east to Downing Street to plead for jobs.

November 30. Crystal Palace, Britain's best-loved exhibition centre, was burned to the ground in. It dated from the Great Exhibition of 1851.