January 30: Bloody Sunday in Londonderry. The Parachute
Regiment was drafted in to deal with a demonstration that turned
into a riot. Shots rang out. The paras, who claimed they were
under attack, fired back. By the time it was over 13 civilians
Many claimed afterwards that the first shots had been fired
by a Loyalist sniper. The subsequent inquiry exposed as lies the
claims that some of the dead had been carrying bombs. There was
outrage, too, at the firepower unleashed by the soldiers.
Bloody Sunday became a watershed in Anglo-Irish relations which
lingers to this day, despite Tony Blair's formal apology in 1998
and the offer of a new inquiry. As soon as the carnage was known,
the IRA vowed revenge. It struck without warning at the paras'
headquarters in Aldershot. The bomb killed five women, a gardener
and a Roman Catholic priest.
February 16. It was the year of the power cuts. Industry
went on to a three-day week to conserve fuel as the miners' dispute
began to bite. On this day Britain groped its way through the
dark as blackouts lasting nine hours were imposed - and worse
seemed on the way as the power workers declared that they would
not move oil trains past pickets set up by the miners. Lord Wilberforce
led an inquiry into miners' pay which did its work in less than
two days and concluded that the miners deserved an extra 6 per
September 5. The Munich Olympics were plunged into a bloody
nightmare as Arab guerillas seized nine hostages from among the
Israeli sports team. The
terrorists, who demanded the release of Palestinians held in Israeli
jails, also wanted safe passage out of Germany with their hostages.
The Israeli team immediately said they would quit the Games, alleging
that the Germans had not done enough to protect them. As the terrorists
and their captives made a move that night, German police marksmen
opened fire. It was a botched operation. Four Arabs were killed
but one policeman and all nine Israeli hostages perished in the
September 21. The first of thousands of Ugandan Asians
began arriving at Heathrow, having been expelled by the Ugandan
dictator Idi Amin. For years the Asians had formed the prosperous
middle class of Uganda.
Amin was determined to "Africanise" his nation. He not only kicked
out the Asians but allowed his soldiers to rob them. Most of the
newcomers arrived penniless at Heathrow, to be greeted by a suspicious
public, already wary of mass immigration, and temporary housing
on old air-force and army bases.
They went on to become one of the most successful examples of
immigration, starting from nothing and turning small businesses
into big ones. Within 20 years some of the children of Uganda's
Asians were millionaires.
August 11. The last US ground troops in Vietnam were
withdrawn as a battalion of the 21st Infantry packed up and left
the Da Nang airbase. The Vietnam trauma had begun for America
in 1965 when marines went ashore in a defensive role. Later it
was claimed that US forces were no more than advisers to the South
But as conscripts were drawn into the fighting and public opinion
turned against the war. President Nixon promised to "bring the
boys home" and hand the fighting over to the South Vietnamese.
The war cost America more than 45,000 dead. Even after the last
of the infantry returned home, the US Air Force continued to pound
North Vietnamese positions.