Bevan unveils the NHS

July 5. The National Health Service, the most radical health reforms passed anywhere in the world, came into force. Free care "from cradle to grave" had been one of the Labour Party promises which had won them the 1945 General Election. Many foreigners were horrified that Britain should kick the war leader Winston Churchill out of office. But the voters, especially the thousands of servicemen and women still on active service, were determined that after this war there really would be the land fit for heroes they had been promised back in 1918.

Aneurin Bevan and Jennie LeeThe NHS was part of that deal. Previously, people had to pay for every visit by the doctor. At a stroke, not only medical treatment came free by prescription but dentistry, glasses and even wigs. The original belief was that, after a period of heavy spending, the nation would become fitter and healthier and future costs would be lower. History was to prove that view wrong.

The chief problem facing health minister Aneurin Bevan was the reluctance of consultants to give up their highly paid practices and work in NHS hospitals. He solved the problem by allowing them to work a limited number of hours for the health service and keep their private patients. When colleagues asked him how he had silenced the consultants' protests, Bevan said bluntly: "I stuffed their mouths with gold."

January 30. Mahatma Gandhi, seriously weakened by a fast for Hindu-Muslim unity, was shot dead at the age of 78 by one of his own countrymen as he was helped towards a prayer meeting. His assassin was a Hindu member of an extremist sect who rejected Gandhi's message of peace and love.

The man who, more than any other, secured India's freedom from British rule, was a familiar figure at 10 Downing Street and other seats of power. Riots erupted the moment the news of his death reached Bombay and the police had to fire shots into the crowds before order could be restored. Gandhi had won the affection and loyalty of men and women, old and young, of Europeans of every religious persuasion and of Indians of almost every political line.

May 14. The state of Israel came into being, fulfilling a 2,000-year dream for Jews all over the world, and arriving 31 years after Britain's endorsement of the Jewish right to a national home in Palestine. Zionism had drawn its strength from the genocidal persecution of the Jews under Nazism but Israel's birth pangs were marked by terrorist outrages by both Jews and Arabs. International reaction was mixed - both President Truman and Stalin recognised the provisional government but Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan immediately mobilised their troops against the new state. However, the Israeli Army had grown in numbers by the end of the year to 100,000 and went on to achieve a decisive victory.

July 29. The 14th Olympic Games, known as the Austerity Olympics, opened in London, the first to be held since "Hitler's Games" in Berlin in 1936. Perhaps with British rationing in mind, the Indian team brought their own eggs. Despite the absence of the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan, the Games were a success, particularly for the United States who won 38 golds.

Among the highlights were an astonishingly mature performance from American teenager Bob Mathias who won the gruelling Decathlon event at the age of 17, the great Emil Zatopek who picked up four gold medals for Czechoslovakia, and the 30-year-old Fanny Blankers-Koen, another quadruple-gold winner. The Dutch housewife and mother arrived in London as world record-holder in the high jump and long jump but competed in neither. Instead she won four track events to emerge as the personality of the games.

January 10. Wolverhampton faced their first major event in the town's 100th year with an away cup game. Thousands of Wolves fans made the journey to Bournemouth to cheer on their team in the FA Cup third round match. The Mayor, Alderman H E Lane, sent a telegram to the team, telling them: "Wolverhampton expects you to celebrate this, her centenary year, by winning the Cup." They jumped this hurdle at least to be drawn at home in the next round to Everton.

May 22. Wolverhampton marked its 100th birthday with the start of a Centenary Pageant, celebrating the granting of the Charter conferring borough status in 1848. It was also the 1,000th anniversary of the royal grant of land to Lady Wulfruna on which was built the church of St Peter and the early town of Wulfruna Haentune. Forty principal actors, with 140 bit-part players, staged an ambitious series of plays on the extended stage of the Civic Hall. The Pageant traced the history of the town from Saxon times to the present and even looked into the future through the eyes of the town's great manufacturing firms. "It is a living drama," declared the Mayor, Alderman Lane. "The glorious pageantry of a thousand years."


In brief

January 12. In Washington, USA, admission to law school could no longer be decided on an applicant's race.

February 5. Prague was seized in a coup by Czech communists.

March 15. Communists and fascists were banned from the British Civil Service.

April 3. The Marshall Plan was launched, pledging billions of dollars to re-build war-torn Europe.

May 13. A baby boom was announced in the Registrar General's report, showing the highest birth rate for 26 years.

June 18. Germany launched its new post-war currency, the Deutschmark.

June 26. British and American aircraft began delivering thousands of tons of supplies to West Berlin after the Soviets cut road and rail links to the city.

August 14. Australian cricket legend Donald Bradman quit after playing his last Test innings.

August 15. At the London Olympics, a 30-year-old Dutch mother-off-two, Fanny Blankers-Koen, took four gold medals.

August 23. A new sort of school modelled on American high schools was announced by Middlesex County Council - it was called a "comprehensive".

October 6. Cannock Rural District Council heard that 16 local pits were likely to close over the coming ten years.

October 8. The first Morris Minor came off the production line.

October 17. Roy Binks, 19, from Stafford was one of 29 sailors who drowned when a pinnace turned turtle in Portland Harbour.

November 12. The Earl of Shrewsbury announced that taxation was forcing him to sell one-third of his 9,000-acre Staffordshire estates at Ingestre.

December 1. One of the worst smogs of the year blanketed the Black Country. Driver A Hunter of Whitmore Reans suffered minor injuries when his Paddington to Wolverhampton express crashed into a light engine near Warwick.

December 13. Israel moved its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

December 18. French actor Gerald Depardieu was born.

December 23. Did supermarkets cause shoplifting? In a case involving theft in "the open-store system", chairman of Wolverhampton magistrates, J. E. Dideridge said: "We do feel this method of trading is conducive to a lot of pilfering."