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England - The Last 75 Years, Key Cultural and Moral Milestones and Events

strikeKey Cultural and Moral Milestones and Events which have influenced the attitudes, strengths and weaknesses of the English living today

Pre World War II

1930 England still rule the BRITISH EMPIRE which covered about 1/4 of the world.

This is a huge trading block which has made Britain rich but which the Japanese eye with envy because of the free land and minerals in Australia, sheep in New Zealand, people resources in India and oil and rubber in Burma and Malay.

1931 Japan invades China who were no match for the Japanese.

The Great British Empire in the Far East and Australasia is under threat.
The Japanese want to emulate the British Empire

1933 Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany and in '34 Fuhrer (Leader)

1936 Germany invades France (Rhine Land) followed by Austria and Czechoslovakia.

1939 Hitler shows his anti Semitic leanings when he destroys the key Synagogues in Austria. The world takes no notice.

1939 Germany threatens to invade Poland. Great Britain replies "if you invade Poland we will declare War"

They did and

World War Two commences

Britain is unprepared for war against Germany and Japan who have secretly built up their armed forces to be at least equal to those of the British who 100 years previously had a Navy equal to the rest of the world's put together.  September: Britain sends a poorly equipped "Expeditionary Force" over the channel to join up with French forces against the Germans. English children are evacuated from London and other major cities as the German bombers are expected over England at any moment. The battle commences but first at sea where German submarines, U-boats, begin to sink British convoys coming from America and Canada with food. Food disappears from the shops. Food and clothes rationing commences. The meat ration is 4 ounces per person per week!!

1940

  • January: Two Million Brits "called up" to the armed services.
  • May: Winston Churchill is appointed the new Prime Minister of Great Britain as head of an all party coalition. German superbly equipped "Panzer" troops attack the English forces in France.
  • June: Dunkirk. British forces in France have no chance against the superbly trained German "Blitz Kreig" forces who use combined infantry and tanks with aerial support for the first time. The Brits retreat to the channel coast where at Dunkirk they are rescued by about 200 ships including any motorised pleasure boat the army can lay its hands on. Over 300,000 are saved to 50,000 lost. A miracle of British ingenuity. For ever after known as the British "Dunkirk Spirit". (Everybody muscles in when there is a disaster.)

    The Germans enter Paris and the French surrender immediately. French leader, Charles de Gaulle flees to London where he is reluctantly given resources to set up a "Free French" HQ. Churchill does not like the Frenchman. 

    British forces driven out of Norway by the Germans.

    British Channel Islands fall to the Germans

    Italy declares war on Britain in support of the Germans.

    Britain now stands alone waiting for the long expected German land invasion. They have already conquered 5 countries. Is Britain going to similarly collapse? Strangely there is no panic, where possible civilian men and women arm themselves with rifles. Even mothers say they will fight to the death.

  • July: Battle of Britain commences. The Germans attack from the air as a sea born assault is impossible because of the strength of the British Navy. So local Naval ports need to be destroyed, then the British Air Force, then London and other English towns to break the moral of the country prior to a land invasion. Fortunately the English have invented Radar, a radio detection system which can spot incoming aircraft from 50 miles out. This allows the English fighter planes, Spitfires and Hurricanes,to get airborne and attack the German fighters and bombers so they are less effective. The battle is non stop. No rest for two months. And the RAF destroy enough German planes for Churchill to declare a battle victory and to say "Never was so much owed by so many to so few." Referring to the small number of very young pilots who took on the German elite who had been training for months if not years. At the same time the RAF retaliate by bombing German cities and manufacturing sites with their better long range bombers.  A final massive aerial assault of London by the German Luftwaffe.

  • Sept 15th British claim victory in the "Battle of Britain".
    This major battle lasted 24 hours as the Germans threw the full might of the Luftwaffe, not at airfields as previously but at London. They were met head on by Hurricane squadrons led by the legless English flying ace Douglas Bader who flew against, both in the morning and afternoon, German waves of fighters and bombers. The Germans made the mistake of changing from airports to London in retaliation for the British bombing Berlin ,allowing British fighters to take off to enter the battle relatively unmolested. After this setback the Germans realise invading England needed a change of plan.

1941

  • March: USA commence sending arms to England to help the fight against the Germans with payment waived until after the end of the war (Lease Lend).
    Women called up to work in factories and enter the military in uniform in backup services. Young women in uniform seem more ready for sex and romance in these terrible times and many become pregnant out of wedlock. There is a sense of, "I might never see you again", which causes young women to fulfil their love when they can as their boys could be dead tomorrow. With 1.7 million girls in uniform Britain has a larger proportion of female conscripts than in any other country.

  • May: worst German bombings yet. London on fire and House of Commons destroyed. 1,400 Londoners killed. Londoners start living deep underground in the "Tube" stations. But British fighter aircraft are still holding their own as numbers increase and they are fitted with Radar. Royal Navy sink the largest German battleship, the Bismarck. Clothes go on ration as well as food which is getting very short.

  • June: Hitler who is frustrated by his inability to invade England attacks his ally Russia and their Soviet Empire. Churchill breathes a sigh of relief. Russia and their huge Red Army now joins the war on the British side.

  • September: French President Charles de Gaulle who has fled to England sets up headquarters of Free French in Ashridge Forest Hertfordshire. Churchill does not like him. The "Free Polish" also have headquarters in UK and contribute to the war effort as fighter pilots and military radio designers.

  • December 7th 1941 Japanese make a fatal mistake, they attack and bomb the American Pacific Fleet at anchor in Hawaii's Pearl Harbour. America declares war on Japan and joins the war (finally). Churchill breathes another sigh of relief. The British are fighting the Germans in the deserts of North Africa as the Germans try and take British Egypt and the quick sea route to the British Empire in the East, the Suez Canal. Without the Suez Canal Britain feels it has no hope of defending it's Empire which is under treat from the Japanese.

    The Empire includes Australia, India, Hong Kong, Burma (Oil supplies), Malay (Rubber supplies) and Singapore the largest British Naval port in the area. The Japanese are known to want the lot.

    The Desert battle to keep the Germans away from the Suez Canal has turned into a personal battle between Englishman Field Marshall Montgomery and his German counter part Rommel.

    The English outnumber the Germans by 2 to 1 but guns on the German tanks were much more powerful and the German tanks are faster. Churchill travels to the US to address Congress and discuss joint global war plans. Churchill finally can breathe easier or can he? British Hong Kong falls to the Japanese.

    The war is now global The Soviet Red Army stops retreating and the Germans are bogged down short of Moscow. Americans are now escorting their merchant ships carrying supplies to England as far as Iceland. There the Royal Navy takes over. Losses of shipping reduced by 75%.

    The English enjoy slightly larger meals if they have time to sit down and eat.

1942

  • British ruled Malay (now Malaysia) overrun by Japanese. Kuala Lumpur the capital falls.
  • January: The first American troops arrive in Britain. Set up a base in Derry Northern Ireland, then in southern England.

  • February: A bitter blow. Britain's major naval port in SE Asia, Singapore surrenders to Japan without firing a shot. The worst military defeat in British history. 80,000 British and allies taken into captivity by the Japanese who starve them and force them into labour camps. The Japanese have marched through what the English thought was impregnable Jungle and walked into Singapore from the North while all the British guns are pointing towards the sea to the South. Rangoon in Burma falls to the Japanese in March. Burma was ruled by the British administration in Calcutta in next door India.
  • India is horrified and can see that their protector, Britain, can no longer be counted on for defending their country and ask again for independence. Australia and New Zealand have much the same thoughts.

  • March: Coal, gas and electricity rationed in England. So life for the old gets worse as they freeze at home. Worse sweets (candy) are rationed! 
  • Britain sends huge squadrons of bombers (200) to destroy German cities aided by a new 1000 lb bomb, the biggest used by either side in the war yet. Japanese Air Force attack Darwin Australia. Australians begin to think, where are the British, the protectors of the Empire. Japanese submarines shell Sidney, much damage caused. Japanese kick the mighty Americans out of the Philippines.
  • Largest civilian loss of life in one event in the war and the British are to blame. A rust bucket of a ship full of fleeing Jews from Romania is stranded in the Black Sea as the British can't make up their mind whether or not to let them into British controlled Palestine. In the meantime they are sunk by a Russian torpedo. 800 die, one survivor.

  • May 12. US Air Force arrive in England in significant numbers. England's 'Bomber Harris' sends 1000 RAF bombers for a night raid on the | German city of Cologne. 1455 tons of bombs were dropped in 90 minutes. The city is destroyed by the ensuing fires. 

  • August: US heavy bombers fly their first bombing raid from English territory in World War 2
  • English girls in trouble as they lose their reserve and are swept off their feet and into bed by American Forces (GI's) billeted in the South of England.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury asks them to think of their morals as unwanted babies, abortions and Venereal disease show the size of the problem.
  • The Allies stop the unstoppable forward march of the Germans and the Japanese.

  • The Americans
  • June: Battle of Midway. This is claimed to be the most significant sea battle in WW 2 which saw the US and Japanese Pacific fleets fight for supremacy of the Pacific Ocean. The US managed to break the Japanese code and by setting a trap they win the 4 day sea battle.

  • The British
  • October: North Africa. Germans under Field Marshall Rommel have been making steady gains towards the British HQ in Cairo, Egypt but under newly appointed British Lt-General Montgomery with the help of Australian and New Zealand divisions, the Germans are stopped at El Alamein. One of the most important British victories in the war. The Germans will not now capture Cairo and the Suez Canal. Is this the turning point in the Second World War in favour of Britain, America and their allies? 
  • Britain has now been at war for 3 years.
  • It was now 18 months after the Japanese attack on the US at Pearl Harbour which brought America into the war.

  • November: US Army goes into action at last. Lands in North Africa to help Montgomery against the German Rommel. The Americans have been sent to North Africa because they are raw recruits and the British seem to have got things under control. However it is the biggest seaborne assault ever undertaken (up to then) with 107,000 men supported by 300 warships and 370 merchant ships landing at Algiers and Casablanca.  While all this is going on the British parliament have time to consider a proposal from Sir William Beveridge for the setting up of a free National Health Service (NHS) for everybody. This report was to be circulated to the world at large where it was considered a master piece of original thought.  What the general reader did not know was that Germany and Japan already had such a health scheme.

1943

  • RAF sends heavy bombers, for the first time in daylight, to bomb the German capital Berlin which is a 1000 mile round trip, mainly over German occupied territory. Very heavy bombing also takes place on the sea port of Hamburg and the industrial centre of the Ruhr. The British also develop a special water "bouncing bomb" to destroy water reservoirs (Dams) to cut off German water supplies and cause major flooding.
  • At the same time food and munitions convoys' from the US and Canada to Britain break through the German submarine Atlantic "Wolfe Packs" by breaking German codes, detecting the U boats with advances in Radar and improving anti submarine bombs (Depth Charges). So successful is this operation that the German Wolfe Packs are withdrawn from the Atlantic.

  • September: British, American and other allied forces set sail to invade Italy. The Italians immediately surrender but Hitler sends high grade German "Storm Troops" to block the allied progress north. 
  • The miracle drug Penicillin developed in England but made in America is used for the first time to kill infections. This includes some venereal diseases so British girls are freer to entertain their rich American friends in bed. Coal which is still mined in Britain and supplies all heat, light and power runs short due to so many miners being at war. Coal goes on ration and water for domestic baths is limited to 4 inches. The country shivers and is unwashed.
  • A mining strike commences and escalates until more than half of all pits are idle!

1944

  • The Fight Back with land based troops begins in earnest.
  • Slight hiccup. The new conscripted coal miners in Wales go on strike again.
  • Clothing rationing is lifted. This makes life feel a bit better.

  • January: The British and their Allies land in Italy 30 miles south of Rome.
  • Italians and Germans nowhere to be seen. The British want to advance to Rome immediately but the Americans who are in charge are more cautious.

  • March: British forces stationed in India supported by Indians and Ghurkha's, Chinese and Americans cross over to the British territory of Burma and commence the fight back against the Japanese invaders.

  • May: in London England the invasion of France is planned. St Pauls the elite London private school is used for the "D" day planning HQ. The Allies will field 8 Divisions of about 10,000 men each designed to land on the Normandy beaches over a maximum period of 48 hours. The Germans have 60 divisions waiting for them but the British have fooled them to think the landings will be at Calais which would be the shortest sea crossing. 20 compared with 80 miles. Allied bombers destroy roads and rail lines near the coast to stop the Germans rapidly deploying their troops to the chosen landing points when they finally know it. The 'French Resistance' underground force is also in action destroying railway lines and roads.

  • 6th June 1944. 'The D day landings' commence in the biggest armada the World has ever seen, more than 6000 ships leave the coast of England.
  • By the first night the Allies manage to land 155,000 men about 50% American with 35% British and 15% Canadian. 9000 soldiers are killed during the landing phase. British intelligence learns that the Germans are running short of fuel in the area because of successful allied bombing. 
  • Simultaneously the Germans launch a new secret weapon the "Flying Bomb" which is in modern terms an unmanned suicide plane powered by a rocket or "ram jet", very advanced but nicknamed by the English a Doodle Bug. London was its main target but fortunately it was very noisy, quite slow, rather inaccurate and could be shot down or even turned round to go home by Spitfires or Hurricanes. Some Londoners were petrified by these monsters but small boys would stand and watch these marvels of German engineering. These were quickly followed by V2 real rockets which were launched in Northern France and were out of sight and totally silent until they exploded without warning in central London. Quite scary!
  • The first prefabs are erected in London to provide housing for those who had been bombed out. (Hence homeless) They looked like a large flat topped caravan without wheels. The accommodation included a bathroom hence was better appointed than 80% of the houses destroyed by the German bombs.

  • Late July: Paris was liberated by the Americans. 2 weeks later the British enter Brussels. Berlin is still a long way away.

  • October 1944: Rommel the German Field Marshall admired by both the Germans and the British is forced to commit suicide by Hitler because of allegations of being involved in an assassination plot.
  • In the meantime the Russians, now our allies, have pushed back the German armies as far west as Poland and are on the outskirts of the capital Warsaw. The British public don't know that the Germans have exterminated the majority of Jews who made up 50% or the population of Warsaw. The inhabitants of Warsaw who have been waiting for the Russians to arrive expecting liberation rise up and attack the Germans. The Russians just stand and watch as the German occupying troops raise Warsaw to the ground.
  • Are Jews hated so much by both the Germans and Russians that they paused in their battle to exterminate a few thousand more Jews?

Taking stock Mid 1944

  • The British had been at war for five years. 1939-44
  • At this time the Japanese who had occupied all the British territories east of India with the exception of Australia and New Zealand plus all French colonies (e.g. French Indo China now Vietnam) and the American islands of the Philippines plus the Australian island of New Guinea were now in retreat from the combined assault from the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand plus India and China.
  • In Europe the final target is Berlin and the Allies have it surrounded but still some 400 miles to go. The feared Russians (feared because Germans know any prisoners taken will most likely be murdered) are already in German occupied Poland and Bulgaria. The Western Allies are in Italy and southern France from Mediterranean landings and north western France from the D day Normandy Atlantic landings. (But there is 12 months of fighting and dying to endure both in Europe and in South East Asia/Pacific. While at home the Germans show their advanced engineering with their just invented rockets launched from German occupied Europe targeted at London.)
  • Back home the general public knew nothing of the Germans and Russians murdering Jews and each other nor did they realise that the Japanese also had different moral standards. For the Western Allies, a prisoner of war would be treated much the same as a criminal in an English jail. (The Geneva Convention). The Japanese had taken many thousands of prisoners of war in the countries they occupied. But the Japanese considered anybody who surrendered to be morally worthless and proceeded to put many prisoners in work camps to build roads and bridges for their armies. Food, clothes and sanitation for prisoners were a secondary consideration. British soldiers and civilians who had been captured by the Japanese were sometimes broken souls when they finally made it back to their home land. When the allies re-took previous colonies from the Japanese they found that the Japanese would never surrender but would fight to their last man standing or alternatively commit suicide.

1944 July- 1945 July

Blood, Tears and Sweat to victory. A summary and more details.

  • In Europe the Russians have taken Warsaw in Poland, the British take the town of Caen in Normandy France, the Americans take Paris and also Lyons in southern France with the "Free French". The Americans and the British have also marched from south to north Italy.
  • But the Germans are still hitting England. They have three new weapons; The V1 or Doodle Bug or Flying Bomb mainly aimed at London, followed by the V2 which is an early intercontinental ballistic missile also aimed mainly at London and also are the first to introduce a Jet fighter into armed combat.
  • In India the British and Indian army finally push the Japanese out of Indian territory and with the Burma road open the Chinese attack the Japanese rear as much welcomed support to the overstretched British.
  • Finally the Americans with their new superb long range heavy bomber the Boeing B29 or Super Fortress, bomb Tokyo for the first time.
  • But neither the Germans nor the Japanese look like giving up.
  • In a bizarre show of kindness, when the Americans march into Paris they invite the leader of the Free French Charles de Gaulle to drive in ahead of them to enable him to demonstrate to the Parisians that he has been a key part of the invasion. Whereas he has simply been sitting in Ashridge Forest waiting for such a PR opportunity.
  • At much the same time the Polish inhabitants of Warsaw hearing that the liberating guns of the Red Army are almost within sight rise up against their German masters to make an entry into Warsaw easy for the Russians, the "Warsaw Uprising". Instead the Russians just stand and watch as the Germans in defiance raise the beautiful city of Warsaw to the ground and annihilate as many Poles as they can get their hands on. The Poles have not forgotten this atrocity to this day.
  • A little later Himmler who was the man behind the German death camps orders the 'Gas Chambers' of the death camp, Auschwitz to be blown up to destroy the main evidence of his program for exterminating Jews by poisoned gas.
  • The Japanese also show their desperation as they resort to suicide missions in an attempt to destroy US Aircraft Carriers and Battle Ships. The so called Kamikaze pilots fly their fighter bombers at full speed onto the decks of these ships detonating the huge bombs they have on board. A lot of damage is suffered by US shipping.

  • 1945 January The last German offensive of World War 2 attempted to retake Strasburg and to bomb the Allied airfields now operating from Belgium and Holland but it is too late as the Americans and the British commence an awesome bombing schedule in an attempt to shorten the War. In Europe 'Bomber Harris' the infamous English bomber chief sends almost 10,000 bombers to Dresden in the East of Germany which cause raging firestorms and the death of 100,000 German civilians. Other cities are also bombed.
  • In the Far East the Americans using their B29 Superfortresses bomb Singapore harbour and firebomb Tokyo and other cities causing similar loss of life as in Dresden. (In retrospect this level of mass killings was very controversial).

  • March: In Europe the Western Allied armies are now on the Berlin side of the Rhine and the Russians are only 50 miles from Berlin as the Germans evacuate Danzig (Gdansk) the main port used by the German Prussians for years.
  • The Italian war is over as the Allies surround the German troops in Bologna and Supreme Commander General Eisenhower asks the Germans in Berlin to surrender. Hitler refuses. Mussolini is captured fleeing with his mistress and both are shot. Hitler falls out with Herman Goring and Goebbels commits suicide with his wife having previously murdered his children. Hitler in his bunker in Berlin marries his long term mistress Eva Braun. A day later 30th April 1945 they commit suicide.
  • On hearing this the Premier of Ireland Eamon de Valeria who has remained neutral for the whole of the war expresses his contempt for the British by sending condolences to the German attaché.

  • May 7th The Germans unconditionally surrender to the Allies at Reims in Northern France.

  • June The British forces based in Europe begin 'Demob' but the war with Japan continues. The American, Australian, British and Chinese armies slowly move forward against a fanatical, we'll never surrender, Japanese. Borneo is won by the Aussies, the Japanese Island of Okinawa is captured by the Americans, any remaining Japanese commit suicide. The Philippines are liberated and Tokyo is within range from American Aircraft Carriers.

  • July: Truman, now President of the US hints they have an Atomic Bomb.

  • August 6th a Boeing B29 Superfortress flies towards the town of Hiroshima Japan and drops one bomb, the first ever Atomic Bomb. The whole town is effectively flattened and burnt to the ground and its inhabitants either killed immediately or later from atomic radiation.
  • August 9th second Atomic bomb dropped, this time on Nagasaki. Japanese Generals attempt a coup to ensure the Japanese Emperor never surrenders. It fails.
  • August 15th Emperor Hirohito surrenders. The Allies rejoice. VJ Day.
  • But oh dear this was unexpected:-
  • A colonizing Soviet Russian Red Army enters China and Korea as the Japanese leave. Stalin prepares to start a Cold War with his then allies the Free West.
  • The Japanese still fighting in other parts of Asia just keep on fighting.
  • The British retake Japanese occupied Hong Kong and Rangoon.
  • August 31st American General MacArthur takes control of the Japanese government.

  • September: Finally the American liberate the Philippines and sign the official Japanese surrender document on board an American Aircraft Carrier in Tokyo Bay.
  • September 22nd British troops still fighting the Japanese in Vietnam release 1400 French nationals from Saigon prison camps.

  • December: The British Home Guard are disbanded.
  • The war is ended and the British are effectively bankrupt but still rule one quarter of the world's population over an Empire where the sun never sets. The Russians control half of Europe behind a soon to form impenetrable 'Iron Curtain' and make political inroads into much of Asia including China and Vietnam.
  • Britain is no longer a superpower but the world is divided ideologically into two.
  • One the United States still not interested in geographical expansion but head of the capitalist free world and
  • The Soviets (Russia and its satellites) who stand for rule by dictator, all capital in the hands of the government, a large military for territorial expansion and a feared secret police to jail anybody who speaks out against the Soviet Communist ideology.
  • This Communist ideology is set to cover to some degree the British Labour Party, British trades unions, the poor French and Italians, the whole of Eastern Europe including 30% of Germany, and India and Pakistan, Egypt and the Middle East, much of Africa and South America.
  • Britain remains a free democracy but is bankrupt.

The Post War period

decade by decade and year by year.

1940s

1945-51 This period has been dubbed "The austerity years"
Looking back it is astonishing that rationing lasted after the war period until at least 1953. Simply Britain had no money to buy the sort of food available in the US or indeed in Ireland. Middle class Brits went in droves to Ireland to see and eat eggs or bananas for the first time for 6 years.

The Economy and society
Britain turned its back on War Hero Churchill and voted in a Left Wing Labour government under the un-charismatic Clement Atlee who was not sure whether to align Britain with America or the totalitarian Soviet Communist Russia (thank goodness he chose America). In spite of no money a free health service was introduced for everybody.

Some small improvements in productivity were already evident.

On the land tractors rather than horses were seen to plough fields and in the dairy cows were being milked by early milking machines. It was not long before farms, milking about 100 cattle, needed only 2 rather than 6 hands. There were few jobs for redundant farm workers. On the other hand trenches needed to be dug for telephone lines, easy if you have a mechanical digger but there were none in England. Instead teams of men dressed in old suits armed with picks and spades dug the four foot deep trench required. A team of 20 men would dig without a pause, rain or shine, for half an hour until the foreman blew his whistle. 5 minutes for a break and then back to digging. Tough back breaking work.

Morals
The lax morals of young women during the war came to an abrupt end as husbands and wives were together again but the divorce rate was high as some wives found the broken soldiers returning from war were less fun than their war time American boy friends. But they were a minority.

Dress and fashion
As clothes were still rationed there was no scope for a new outfit unless you made it yourself. This is exactly what the majority of females did and to good effect. Generally girls wore longer skirts and blouses buttoned to the neck. Older women's dresses were also buttoned up to the neck, but were shapeless enough to do the house work and always augmented by the ubiquitous apron. Everything in dull colours. It seemed compulsory to cover the head with a headscarf when outside even if it was only the front door. This was because many women used hair curlers but were too proud to admit it.

Homes and cars
The majority of homes had no inside loo or even a bath, heating was by open coal fires and bedrooms were freezing. Full body washing was via a galvanized metal tub in the Kitchen where water could be heated on the stove. There was always frost on the inside of bedroom windows during a cold winter which could remain below freezing for weeks. Yes, ice would not melt inside for weeks. There were two very cold winters 1947 and '49 when the snow was over 6 inches deep all over the country for more than two consecutive months and all ponds and lakes were good for ice skating. (Only middle class homes had central heating and bathrooms (one) with two inside toilets, one up one down. The boiler would be coal fired and there might be a gas fire in the bedrooms.)

Cars would generally not start in a cold winter. But only the middle class had cars anyway. The notable exception was those lucky enough to have bought an American or German car before the war. Of course nobody dare show a German car and American cars were only for rich car enthusiasts. That is almost100% of cars were designed and made in Britain.

Gadgets
The most common gadgets were a cigarette lighter and a radio, perhaps also a clockwork gramophone. Records were about 12 inches in diameter and could break if you dropped them. They would only last about 2 minutes of playing time, fine for a pop ballad but useless for classical music.

Music and dance
As a result if you wanted music or dance you went out to somewhere where a live band was playing. The Hammersmith Palais or a large hotel.
A band could be as small as four musicians, piano, bass, rhythm, plus violin/sax/trombone/trumpet/clarinet or a "Big Band" would have the same spread of instruments but perhaps six of each except for base, piano and rhythm. More often than not somebody would sing using the only microphone on the stage. Songs were all ballads, that is slow, romantic and tuneful. Dance was 'ballroom' where the man always asked the girl "would you like to dance" or "may I have the next dance" if she was particularly popular. The poor girls who never got a dance were called "Wall Flowers".

The key dance was the last, always to the same tune, "it's time to say goodbye". If the girl accepted the man's invitation to this last slow waltz she was signalling he may have a chance amongst her many suitors.
During the war the American soldiers introduced new music, big band swing, (viz Glen Miller) and the jitterbug dance. Which was very similar, but more violent, to the '50s jive dancing neither of which were romantic but both required skill and athleticism. Both sexes could show off.

American film/movie stars also dominated song and dance both on records and on the Hollywood movies. Bing Crosby, the original crooner, (that is somebody who could not sing to a large number of people without a microphone) and Frank Sinatra sang romantic ballads generally written by either Irvin Berlin or Cole Porter and dance was dominated by American Fred Astaire very often with his sophisticated partner the beautiful Ginger Rodgers.

Sport
Sport was dominated by football as it is now but the top professional players would be paid less than the manager of a department store. Cricketers were divided into two, professionals called players and amateurs called gentlemen. Other than boxing and golf virtually all other top sportsmen were amateurs.

The 1950s

TV brought about the big changes in the '50s when even though a TV cost nearly the same as a small car some 50% of households bought one for the living room. This was a social revolution as conversation round the fireplace was eliminated overnight to no conversation round the tele. TV was black and white and the BBC funded by an annual licence fee needed no ads. In 1955, advertisement funded commercial TV started but still only on black and white.

Other milestones

  • 1953: June Queen Elizabeth 2nd who came to the throne in 1952, is crowned and seen on tele. She is 27 years old.
  • The benefits of a national health program began to show, specifically from free mass immunisations. The days of every child getting Chickenpox, Measles, Whooping Cough, German measles, Mumps and Tonsillitis were over. Later around 1955, Polio (a terrible disease which could effect a child's muscle development for life) was eradicated.
  • The Kinsey report on the sexual habits of women in the US is published. Everybody talks about it but few admit to buying it. Kinsey claims American female sexual appetites are suppressed by society norms.
  • 1954 Roger Banister is the first in the world to run the mile in under 4 minutes.
  • Not generally known; he used a German speaking (Austrian) coach who was soon after driven out of England by the snobby establishment. Franz Stamphl was certainly one of the best coaches ever to practice in this country.
  • 1955 FM radio is broadcast by the BBC. This revolutionized the sound quality by eliminating the constant interference and fading of the AM signal and adding more of the higher and lower frequencies. Reproduction by radio was then better than by record player. This was the pre-birth of Hi Fi. This was mono, stereo was to follow.
  • 1956 England leaves the Suez Canal
  • The Brits now realise they are no longer a world power as the US tell the Brits to leave Suez when along with France they have retaken the Canal from Egypt's Nasser.
  • However:-
  • Nuclear Power: Britain is the first in the world to make commercial grid electricity from Nuclear power.
  • 1957 National Service Ends.
  • 12 years after the end of the war 18 year old boys no longer receive the discipline of a two year military training.

Pop Music
The revolution commences with the change from romantic ballads and jazz to rock and roll. Sinatra is out Elvis is in, (Heartbreak Hotel is perhaps the original rock song and it sets music lovers buzzing) along with Bill Hailey, Lonnie Donnigan and England's Tommy Steele.

Elvis was of course originally a singer of romantic ballads.

Playwrights
While Elvis was changing the course of music John Osborne, Shelagh Delaney, Arthur Miller(US) and others changed the ways people permitted themselves to think and speak through their plays. The previous norms were set by the likes of Noel Coward before the war with his "drawing room farce" describing only the upper classes. Osborne and Delaney wrote about real people particularly the working classes and let the actors speak in the vernacular. Osborne is remembered particularly for "Look Back in Anger" and for criticising the establishment. Similarly America's Arthur Miller, but in the US he was branded a communist. Delaney hated the way working class people were always portrayed as dumb and how homosexuals were described so insensitively. She raised most of the issues later taken up by feminist writers. (Viz a Taste of Honey.)

Other milestones

  • Homosexual acts were legalised with participants no longer subject to a prison sentence.
  • Women allowed in the House of Lords for the first time

1958

  • Parking Meters are seen for the first time
  • Also the dreaded Double Yellow Line!
  • And the hated Traffic Warden
  • The Hover Craft is invented in Britain
  • The first sign of a shortage of hitherto unlimited sea fish. A Cod War starts with Iceland.
  • The Long Playing record comes into general use with British Pioneer Decca.
  • For the first time listening to classical music at home in true High Fidelity is possible with a whole Symphony on one record ,however the main financial benefit was in pop with the invention of the multi song/number Album.
  • The hobby of Hi Fi would last for 20 years many building their own Turntables, pickups, Amplifiers (Valve) and speakers with woffers and tweaters.
  • British manufactures Leak and Quad led the world.
  • The telephone operator was made redundant with the introduction of Automatic Trunk Dialling.
    Prior to this to make a call it was necessary to lift the hand set and speak to an operator (normally a pleasant sounding female) and ask for a number which would be a combination of an area name (e.g. Farnborough or Whitehall and three or four numbers.) The operator could always listen to the conversation even though this was forbidden. Operators were still required for international calls for which there might be a 1 hour delay. After this people would generally call before a visit to a neighbour when previously you just turned up.

1959

  • The Mini was launched and the M1 was opened.
  • The Brits were 25years behind the Germans with twin carriageway road building and about level with the Americans with their Interstates. No wonder the German cars were faster more comfortable and reliable. 70mph would be about as fast as any average British car would go. A new Mini might do 75 just but would stop if it rained! Triumph and "Austin Healy 100 six" British sports cars would top the ton (100mph) compared to the more expensive German Mercedes 300 SL which could rocket to over 150mph and seemingly never break down. However the Mini became an icon in the international car world regularly seen in Paris and Tokyo especially with the Cooper S tag, winning the Monte Carlo Rally 5 times running bar one when the French said it was illegal!

Other nuggets

  • Two thirds of the British population now had a TV
  • The Medical profession warned that smoking could cause Cancer.
  • Employers in London were putting off employing the mass of newly arrived black people now available in London being frightened the tough white workers would knife them. There was no white unemployment so jobs were available.

The 1960s

This was the revolutionary decade because of sex, drugs and rock and roll, plus the increase in traffic making playing in the street impossible and the building of residential tower blocks forcing kids to play away from parental control. Anybody who was a teenager in the sixties was very different from teenagers in the '50s. Why? Largely down to the availability of the contraceptive pill and the new music style of rock and roll. Girls who hitherto had been nervous of sex unless married because of the risk of having an unwanted child, were now happy to experiment sexually with literally anybody often aided by loud beat music and a 'high' thanks to a little marijuana or cocaine.

Smaller children were influenced by the availability of cheaper plastic rather than metal or wooden toys. The throwaway society was born as the younger children no longer valued their toys as they were so cheep and could easily be replaced. (Lego and Matchbox were examples of the new plastic brand names.)

Parents lost control of their kids as they now had access to motorbikes, scooters and even cars and could rave anywhere aided by portable battery powered ghetto blasters. Married adults were equally liberated as office girls were now quite happy to sleep with the boss or indeed somebody you just met at the bus stop.

The meaning of the word Gay was changed from just being happy to free homosexual acts and now legal sex with as many partners per night as your body would allow. The word Gay Sex came from California to mean same gender sex with multiple partners.

The change of music from public produced romantic ballads with live singers and bands to home Hi Fi and Jungle Rock increased the urge for private experimental or recreational sex in the comfort of your flat.

This crazy situation which was only brought to an end with the uncontrollable spread of STD (sexually transmitted diseases) and with the advent of Aids and a few high profile deaths like that of pop singer Freddy Mercury in 1991.

English stiff upper lip
An astonishing change took place in boys about this period. Before 1960 boys above 12 years old hardly ever cried. Indeed it was considered unmanly to do so either in front of girls, parents or other boys. This act of self discipline changed from the '60s onwards until it even spread into sport if your team or you actually lost. This coincided with the discouragement of competitive sports at school when the loser would never cry in front of his mates. This was probably connected with the Plowden Report into education where competition was frowned on.

Year by year during the '60s

1960
England produced the most beautiful woman of the period, the model and actress Jean Shrimpton whose face appeared on the front cover of Vogue and all other competing magazines. She was more beautiful and equally as sexy as Brigette Bardot and more photogenic than Marilyn Monroe. She became the mistress of the most famous photographer of the time, streetwise East End Cockney David Bailey. Ms Shrimpton wore a mini skirt before anyone else when her dress maker did not buy enough material for her photo shoot outfit. Bailey's photographs of Shrimpton changed Vogue magazine for ever also changed the way girls modelling dresses were portrayed for ever from stationary poses to obviously action snaps.

The book Lady Chatterley's Lover was taken off the obscene publications list. Thence forth the word Fuck as used in the book became much more widely used but not in polite company.

Also

  • The Queen changes her family name to Mountbatten- Windsor from just Windsor.
  • NHS provides free hearing aids.
  • Nigeria and Cyprus both parts of the British Empire become independent.
  • The Royal Shakespeare Company is formed.

Playwrights and acting changes for ever
Most of the plays and films directed at the public were previously about posh people with posh/cultured speech. The working class character with uncultured speech was always in the minority. New writers produced plays and some of the stars were actually working class and actually spoke to each other in uncultured accents (Vernacular). This was a revolution.

Gadgets
A pocket transistor radio appears in the shops, a Zenith from America. This was a revolution as it used 'solid state' transistors rather than valves to tune the signal and amplify the sound. Batteries now last 10 times as long compared with the now obsolete valve radio. From this moment on kids were free from their parent's sitting room to rave with their peers anywhere.

1961
The Pill is available free on the NHS (Contraceptive pill)

Theatre 
England has a larger number of people in Drama per head than any other country in the world.
The satirical drama group "Beyond the Fringe" is formed providing crazy jokes in short scenes with no restriction on offending different races, classes or religions.
The four founding members are, Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore. All four are Cambridge Graduates.

Music
The Beatles perform regularly in Liverpool and in Hamburg. No Fab Four hit records yet.

Sport
Tennis: the Wimbledon ladies final is an all English affair, Angela Mortimer beats Christine Truman. There are few English girls currently in the top 100.

• British apply for membership of the European Common Market (Not yet the EU)
• South Africa leaves the British Empire now called Commonwealth.

World news; The Cold War hots up
Is this the start of a Nuclear World War Three?

  • Russia puts the first man, a Mr Yuri Gagarin, into an orbit round the world.
  • Russians send missiles to Cuba to be assembled and pointed at US cities. The world is horrified as this could trigger a World War Three. Kennedy persuades the Russians to take them back or have them destroyed by the US. The Russians take them out and the world breathes again.
  • Kennedy also pledges that America will land a man on the moon by the end of the decade thus taking up the Russian challenge to a space race.

More Cold War action
The Berlin Wall is built. During the height of the Cold War Russia orders the building of a wall through the middle of Berlin to stop the now poorer people in the Communist east from escaping to the free West. This barrier lasted until 1983

1963
John F. Kennedy the leader of the Free World is assassinated. The Brits are horrified. The charismatic strong man of the Free West has been shot.
French President Charles de Gaulle says "no" to British entry into the Common Market. This was his decision in spite of Britain giving him a home during the 2nd world war. Why do the French dislike the Brits so?

In Government

  • In the peerage bill, Parliament allows Lords to renounce their titles. It can be a disadvantage to be posh
  • Sex scandal in the cabinet. The Minister for War John Profumo is found sleeping with the rather attractive high class call girl Christine Keeler. Unfortunately Christine is also sharing her body with a Russian from their embassy. Clearly defence secrets could be murmured at a time of passion so Profumo has to go. Christine is clearly a girl for the '60s as she is skinny and is photographed in the nude and happily strips naked for swimming in pools in aristocratic surroundings.

The Great Train Robbery
A Million pounds in old notes is stolen from a train passing through Buckinghamshire. Most of the money is never recovered.

Music 
The Beatles finally find hit record fame and "Beatlemania" arrives.
Note the Beatles are not a rock band but sing many tuneful ballads with moving lyrics mainly written by McCartney or Lennon.

The landed Gentry
The Earl of Home, Douglas Home-(pronounced Hume) becomes the Tory Prime Minister. He is the last of the landed gentry to so do.

Parliament votes to expand university education. The immediate change is that Polytechnics are allowed to award degrees. They are unfortunately seen a second grade degrees by the English class ridden society even though the Sandwich degree was seen a producing more practical skills preferred by employers in design and manufacturing. Polytechnics were allowed to change their name to university in 1992.

1964
The left wing Labour Party is back in power under Harold Wilson.

Fashion 
London leads Paris with the swinging sixties girl Mary Quant. Mary is famous for designing (inventing?) firstly the 'Mini Skirt' and secondly 'Hot Pants'. Both are so short as to show the naked lower cheeks of the female butt.  Women are liberated from 'Roll-On' elastic corsets and have to get used to the new fangled 'Tights' (American Pantie Hose) and slim thighs and hips are a must.

Social mobility
The Office. Here there is a revolution as factories close in London and are attracted north with government bribes (grants). The ex factory girls find jobs in the offices to man the recently developed copying equipment. Management ban mini skirts as the blokes would do no work but all such bans are soon forgotten.
Huge recently developed computers (British made Leo Computers) are installed needing rooms occupying whole floors in newly erected office tower blocks. Unfortunately the software engineers who should have been trained in polytechnics are not and mathematicians and accountants have to teach themselves new skills.

Music
The Rolling Stones band was formed under the leadership of Mick Jagger. The Stones relied on more amplification and distortion of the guitar music than the Beatles, made much more noise and many lyrics were unintelligible. 40 years later they are still playing the same music and are very rich men.

The Beatles made their first US tour.

Commercial Radio
Up to this point, only the government owned BBC were allowed to broadcast. 1964 saw the commencement of illegal broadcasting from pirate ships outside territorial waters. Radio Caroline was the first, was funded by ads and played non stop Pop.

BBC Two, a second Channel from public broadcasting TV was started intended for the more discerning viewer.

TV
Meanwhile the most popular show on British TV, then still in Black and White, was Steptoe and Son. A drama based on the lives of London based ancient rag and bone man and his playboy and accident prone, modernizing son.

Women and morals again

  • Three Women were fined for walking topless down a main street in London.
  • Women could now receive free advice on contraception on the NHS
  • Women could be found topless cutting men's hair and filling up cars with petrol.
  • The Sun Newspaper started, it's main feature being a topless model on page three.

Crime and Punishment
Hanging for murder was stopped. (Capital Punishment)

1965

  • Churchill dies aged 90
  • Morals again: Mary Whitehouse makes a name for herself as she tries to clean up British entertainment, basically no swearing, sex or nudity.
  • Motorways. 70mph speed limit imposed following a sports car manufacturer testing out their Le Mans cars at 170 mph on the M1 (AC cars. At night)
  • Drink Drive laws for motorists introduced.
  • Britain goes metric, but nothing happens. Imperial and metric mixed to this day.

1966

  • England wins the Football World Cup. Euphoria!
  • England's Francis Chichester sails single handedly round the world.
  • Credit Cards introduced but not yet used widely.
  • House prices start to escalate markedly.
  • A major change in city dwelling: Up to this point city side streets have been ideal play areas for the local kids there being few parked cars and little traffic. Football for boys and skipping, hand standing and cartwheels for girls. The under 12s were ultra fit. But two events occurred. A rise in car ownership and traffic and the building of residential council tower blocks. The first killed back street sport the second should have been accompanied by building local play and games areas but wasn't. This coupled with the deployment of television resulted in idle, fat, unfit youth with unsupervised time on their hands. A social disaster.

1967
Education
The Plowden report. Because it was seen that England was falling behind other countries in educational standards this report was commissioned mainly for primary schools. The results were piecemeal and not as intended. Discipline collapsed. Rote learning organised by a teacher standing in front of the class was changed to individual experimentation and observation. Text books were scrapped and replaced by individual task sheets.

The smaller class sizes required were not implemented instead unqualified class assistants were introduced. The Prefect System was scrapped as was corporal punishment. Undisciplined noisy classes were the result. Less than 80% of class time for teaching is still not unusual in English schools. Private fee paying schools did not follow Plowden.

Abortion legalised

The contraceptive Pill is now free on the NHS

Cosmopolitan magazine re-launched in the US. This was the first magazine directed at women which openly talked about sex and sexual issues. A UK edition appeared in the early '70s
In the USA the ban on whites marrying blacks was legally removed. While in England blacks were happily marrying whites in growing numbers and producing mixed race offspring sometimes with outstanding physical and mental qualities.

Gays/Homosexuals
Homosexual acts in private and between consenting adults is legalised. It is frightening to remember that 15 years previously, 1952, gay man Alan Turing was castrated for homosexual acts. Turing was a philosophical mathematician working in the German code breaking centre of Bletchley Park during the war thus significantly shortening the conflict. At the same time he was the first to invent the concept of the modern computer. Turing committed suicide.

First ATM goes into service. (ATM=Cash vending machine) Not a success.

1968

  • Mary Whitehouse's moral clean up is forgotten in the theatre. Straightaway the production of 'Hair' commenced. Men and women prance about naked and say Fuck and very little else.
  • Divorce made easier. "irretrievable breakdown of marriage".
  • School: Free milk ends in secondary schools.

Race Relations

  • MP Enoch Powel gives a speech which is now known as "Rivers of Blood" as masses of black families settle in England and start ghettos of unemployed immigrants. (Brixton in London and Toxteth in Liverpool etc).
  • Government outlaws discrimination based on colour.
  • Meanwhile in the US Black civil rights peace activist, Martin Luther King is assassinated. The Ku Klux Klan rejoice. Note the KKK have never got a foothold in England. They have tried in South Wales but have failed to garner support.

Economy
Nobody seems to have the answer for Britain's massive balance of payments deficit (Importing too much, exporting too little), so five girls in Surbiton start a 'Back Britain' campaign. Soon it spreads across the country and the public look for products made in England rather than abroad.

Motoring
Road deaths fall by 23% after the introduction of the breathalyzer.

Fashion
Twiggy a very skinny, flat chested girl becomes a top model. She is size zero.

1969

  • The Kray Twins, gangsters who had ruled and terrorised the East End of London for 20 years, are imprisoned for murder, first major murderers not to be hanged.
  • Rupert Murdoch takes over the wide circulation News of the World (An adult comic, his words)
  • Test Tube Babies: first successful birth, quintuplets.
  • Economy: High Grade oil found in abundance in the North Sea, Britain soon to become a net oil exporter.
  • The US successfully puts two men on the Moon in July thus meeting President Kennedy's promise in 1961 to get men on the moon and back again by the end of the decade. The US repositions itself as technically the most advanced nation in the world after the race with Moscow for rocket supremacy.
  • Sport: England's Tony Jacklin wins US Golf Open.
  • Commercial air transport
  • England with France as partners demonstrate the first supersonic passenger jet airliner Concorde. Full service commences in 1976.

The 1970s

A very different decade compared with the '60s. The only obvious common feature for men to observe is the continued steady decline in female morals with girls still being keen to show their naked breast off to men in public and still being thus used by men to sell petrol and cut hair in men's barbers. (e.g. SE London, Bexleyheath and Erith)

Sex was now a subject that serious writers produced beautifully illustrated manuals of how to turn the act of procreation into an art form. An essential text available in all good bookshops was the Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort which has now notched up 8 million copies. Unfortunately the extra exercise in the bed room was not sufficient to counter the general lack of movement elsewhere and the obese television couch potato was born.

Otherwise the 1970s were a disaster for all. In short Britain was in an industrial meltdown with hard core left wing elements in the trade union movements refusing to allow any productivity increases by sticking to "job demarcation" (e.g. electricians refusing to do a fitters job) and striking at the slightest provocation. This was further fuelled by rampant inflation caused by the OPEC, the oil producers' cartel, tripling the price of crude oil coupled with a weak pound sterling. Militant strikers had a field day.

Meanwhile in Germany the steady progress towards lower and lower manufacturing costs through productivity gains never stopped. This together with a strong Deutsch Mark allowed Germans to earn 3 times as much as Brits by one man doing the job of three in Britain (simply no job demarcation). British car plants and much of British manufacturing was doomed. The same thing was obvious with office workers. The '70s saw the introduction of Transistors rather than Valves in computers which made them desk size rather than room sized and they were programmed (often in assembler) for word processing or stock control. In Germany the introduction of word processors were generally accompanied by typist and secretary redundancies and stock control computers by 'Just in time deliveries'. This did not happen in the UK. German costs went down again, the Deutsch Mark soared as the pound slumped even more.

The '70s also saw the commencement of the breakdown of England's rigid class structure. In Pubs the Saloon bars for posh people and Public bars for dirty manual workers merged. On the railways "third class" compartments disappeared.

Southall in West London became an Indian Sikh ghetto.

The decade year by year, in more detail.

1970

  • The Beatles pop group split
  • Germaine Greer starts Women's lib movement.
  • First Female minister ordained in the Methodist church.
  • Parliament says equal pay for women by 1976 (not happened yet)
  • First Boeing 747 Jumbo jet lands at Heathrow.
  • Britain along with Ireland, Denmark and Norway open talks to join Common Market.

1971

  • Britain under PM Edward Heath (Conservative) Britain finally joins Common Market.
  • Rolls Royce cars goes bust but Rolls Royce aero engines goes from strength to strength. (At the same time England demonstrates its engineering design skills by becoming the major designer and manufacturer of Formula 1 racing cars. Rolls Royce aero engines are not mass produced. However road cars are not successfully manufactured at a profit until Nissan comes to England followed by more Japanese then German BMW and Indian Tata creating the highly successful BMW Mini and the Tata Jaguar and Range Rover. (lessons?)
  • Sport: Prime Minister Edward Heath skippers Morning Cloud to victory in the America's Cup.

1972

  • Women students are resident in Men's University colleges for the first time.
  • 50,000 Asians (mainly Indians) expelled by Idi Amin of Uganda come to Britain. These were generally hard working educated men and women but this characteristic did not stop more problems building in race relations
  • Militant unions commence a program of civil unrest which is set to last more than a decade and brings British industries to their knees.
  • Coal miners go on a long term strike for higher wages. Coal is rationed.
  • Government freezes wages and prices in an attempt to stop inflation.

1973

  • Strikes continue, resulting in the Government introducing a 3 day manufacturing week to conserve coal. 1.6 million workers go on strike.
  • 50 mph speed limit introduced on all de-restricted roads to conserve fuel.
  • Cod Wars with Iceland continue.

1974

  • Miners end strike winning a 35% pay rise.
  • The Morecombe and Wise TV show tops with over 20 million viewers.
  • McDonalds open in London.

1975

  • The first woman is appointed to lead a political party in Britain. Margaret Thatcher aged 49, daughter of a green grocer owner and herself a Cambridge Chemistry and Law graduate. (Social mobility and gender equality is working?)
  • Unemployment rises to 1.25 million
  • Inflation tops 25%.
  • First oil pipeline connected to North Sea oilfields.
  • The Silicon Chip is invented and simple pocket calculators appear at around £70.

1976

  • Pound Sterling collapses and Britain requires an IMF loan of £3000 million.
  • £1 falls to $1.63.
  • Cod War hots up and Iceland severs all links with Britain.
  • Agatha Christie the prolific crime writer dies aged 85
  • Car Seat belts are made compulsory
  • The head of the Liberal party Jeremy Thorpe resigns after it is reported he had a Gay boyfriend.
  • England enjoys the driest, hottest, sunniest year of the century. The lush green of the country side is turned a golden brown but for those going skiing in Europe there is no snow.

1977

  • Queen's silver Jubilee year.
  • Virginia Wade an English girl obliges by winning the Wimbledon Ladies tennis.

1978

  • Punk Rock at its peak with the Sex Pistols. (Punk Rock defined as music to entice rebellion and anarchy)
  • The school milestone exam for 16 year olds is changed to GCSE from "O" levels. "A" levels the 18 year old school leaving exam remains.
  • The General Certificate of Secondary Education GCSE is course work based rather than purely exam based "O" levels.
  • Ian Botham becomes major Cricket icon.

1979

  • Chaos as lorry drivers strike along with all public workers. There are no trains, schools or hospitals.
  • Labour PM Callaghan calls a General Election but loses to the Tory lady, Margaret Thatcher who immediately demands a rebate of £1000 million from the EC.

The 1980s

The major feature of this decade was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's need to restructure the British economy which required her to reduce the power of the unions who were doggedly standing in the way of any major productivity improvements and to restructure commerce and industry. A mighty task. She largely succeeded but is either loved or hated for it as she had to ride roughshod over anybody who got in her way. She had to deal with hyper inflation, balance of payments deficits, militant left wing unions, strikes, unemployment and an outdated infrastructure in transport and manufacturing, fat inefficient conglomerates, conservative banking, an outdated Stock Exchange and overmanned, inward looking post and telephones.

Her strategy for solving these problems was developed by Sir Keith Joseph and it was based on privatisation of the state monopolies producing the telephone company BT and with deregulation in as many areas as possible as for example in the Stock Exchange.

The idea was to make it easier for entrepreneurs to create wealth and jobs. Her ideas worked as the following notables launched new products or services during her leadership: James Dyson, ballbarrows and vacuum cleaners, Alan Sugar, a range of cost effective PCs, Richard Branson, Virgin Airlines, Ernie Harrison, Vodaphone and Lord Harris the arch asset stripper.

The decade significantly saw the introduction of the PC and the Apple Mac and the development of the first email services, BTs Dialcom and Cable and Wireless' Easy Link and the mobile phone

1980

  • Mrs T started with huge public spending cuts. (similar to 2010/11)
  • Then British Steel needed to sack 11,000 jobs to solve over manning.
  • Not surprisingly steel workers go on 4 month strike.
  • Unemployment rises from 1.6 to 2.0 million in 3 months.
  • Some of her colleagues called the "liberal wets" revolt. She wins the case to continue in the cost cutting modernizing course with her speech in Parliament "This Lady's not for turning"
  • Inflation drops to 21.8%
  • Britain is the first of America's allies to allow US Cruise Missile launching pads to be set up. There are immediate objecting rallies at Greenham Common and Molesworth to get rid of them even though they are in retaliation to Russian SS20 missiles pointing at UK.
  • Britain is now self sufficient in oil.
  • Sebastian Coe wins 1500 meters in Moscow Olympics.
  • Ex Beatle John Lennon is shot dead outside his flat in New York

1981

  • Unemployment reaches 2.5 million
  • More uneconomic coal pits to close. (Oil effect?)
  • Arthur Scargill elected president of the miners union with a ticket to fight Thatcherism.
  • Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer.
  • The worst riots of the century take place in Brixton London then Toxteth Liverpool, Hull, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Preston and Reading, triggered by "heavy handed" treatment of unemployed blacks in Brixton.
  • IBM release the PC (Personal computer.) with the MS DOS operating system supplied by Bill Gates founder of Microsoft.

1982

  • Thatcher's polices bite. The English problem of the under employed (over manning) at work solved by better management at work making the under employed redundant.
  • Unemployment rises to 3 million but Britain becomes more competitive.
  • Management hierarchies begin to breakdown aided by the new highly paid software engineers, who refuse to conform to norms, choose to come to work in T shirts rather than suits and ties and call everybody by their Christian name. Office girls encouraged by this management breakdown and many who were teenagers in the '60s enjoy sleeping around again.
  • The Post Office is broken up into a Postal delivery service and the telecoms companies BT and Cable and Wireless who can compete with each other. This follows what was happening in the States but Europe wants to keep it's State monopolies. Thatcher leads Britain ahead particularly in the rapidly growing telecoms sector.
  • Complaints come in that the new TV Channel 4 is too risqué and explicit. It was however designed to cater for minorities.
  • The future King, William is born to Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
  • CDs are invented and compete with LP records but no honest person can hear the difference.
  • Hi Fi is replaced by computers as the main indoor hobby for the practical electronics man.
  • Argentina invades the British Falkland islands. Thatcher is quick to react with a naval task force. Argentina surrenders within two months. The Prime Minister's position at home and abroad is vastly strengthened.

1983

  • Thatcher calls a snap election to test her unpopular polices and is re-elected.
  • Opposition party leaders resign in despair.
  • Labour: Michael Foot is replaces by Neil Kinnock
  • Liberal: Roy Jenkins is replaced by David Steel.
  • No obvious threat to Thatcher.
  • Cecil Parkinson, Chairman of the Conservative party, admits sleeping with his secretary Sarah Keays and resigns.
  • Britain's charismatic Daly Thomson, a mixed race Athlete wins the Decathlon in the world championships and thus becomes the world's top all round sportsman. Nobody complains about his colour.

1984

  • IRA (Irish Republican Army) blow up the Grand Hotel Brighton in an attempt to kill the leaders of the Conservative party who are in conference. Thatcher escapes unharmed but 5 are killed.
  • Global Warming is predicted if the world burns too much coal and other fossil fuels.
  • British coal miners go on strike. (No known connection)
  • Thatcher acts quickly, Arthur Scargill is arrested for obstruction.
  • 100 miners arrested for violence then
  • 250 more miners arrested for rioting.
  • Thatcher also hits the militant unions hard by outlawing secondary picketing and the closed shop. Both hugely help Britain the improve productivity and costs in manufacturing and make Britain an attractive place for foreign manufacturing investment.
  • HIV virus identified.
  • English Cockney entrepreneur Alan Sugar releases his Amstrad PC which quickly becomes a favourite in England because of its low price and reliability.
  • England's favourite entrepreneur Richard Branson launches Virgin Atlantic. Branson has the opposite background to Sugar, Branson being a public school boy but both were making money before they were 16. The Virgin brand is still one of the top brands worldwide.

1985

  • Miners strike ends. It lasted one whole Year, longest ever strike.
  • Pound Stirling falls to lowest level ever against the US Dollar; £1=1.08$
  • Mobile phone company Vodafone is created by Earnest Harrison out the military radio company Racal. By 1987 it has the largest network in the world.
  • At much the same time Lord Hanson, who Prime Minister Thatcher said "I am trying to run the country like Hanson runs his business", was the country's biggest corporate raider or asset stripper. He acquired companies in boring businesses which he could purchase with their own generated cash aided by selling off the less profitable parts and the bits being nurtured for the future. Hence an early private equity company.
  • He was as controversial in this as Thatcher was with running the country.
  • Hanson in his youth dated film stars like Jean Simmons and Audrey Hepburn.
  • German Boris Becker wins the gentlemanly game of tennis at Wimbledon but later admits to having sex with a maid in a broom cupboard. The girl does not complain.
  • In another gentlemanly sport, golf, England and the rest of Europe beat the US in the Ryder Cup.
  • On the other hand English football hooligans cause the FA to ban the English team from playing in Europe.
  • Major Race Riots in Brixton again. Over 200 arrested.
  • "Worst Race Riots ever" in Tottenham Broadwater Farm Estate. White policeman hacked to death with knives by black rioters.

1986

  • Rupert Murdoch takes the News of the World (a popular newspaper for the masses) production from Fleet Street, the home of newspapers, to a new factory at Wapping. At the same time he reduces manning levels by about 2/3. The print unions strike. (This is a land mark action backed by Thatcher to break the print unions who have demanded ridiculously high manning levels. For years printers have been over manning sophisticated machinery to such an extent that half the workforce never come to work, just signed in by their mates. Thatcher and Murdoch win.)
  • Thatcher is re-elected for a third term.
  • Disaster in the City, Stocks/FTSE fall more than in the 1929 crash. Cause, America's huge trade deficit.
  • English golfer Nick Faldo wins the (British) Open.
  • Nick Faldo helps Europe to win the Ryder Cup in the US.
  • House Prices in England soar. 26% in 12 months.

1988

  • Year of strikes
  • Nurses Strike. This previously dedicated profession no longer want to work just for the love of the job. They are looking for a 20% pay rise.
  • Cross Channel ferries strike.
  • Postmen strike, no mail deliveries.
  • Drinking hours in pubs extended to 12 hours: 11am to 11pm.
  • Church of England to ordain women priests.
  • Education: under Kenneth Baker a schools national curriculum is introduced for the first time. Previously teachers could teach what they like so long as pupils passed state exams. Now what kids were taught was determined by Central Government. This followed a Thatcher inspired study of how the best countries operated.

1989

  • More strikes. One day national strike, including the London Underground, over pay.
  • 250,000 Chinese Hong Kong residents apply to settle in Britain.
  • Thatcher sacks Chancellor Lawson over his wish to join the European Monetary System. (Precursor to the Euro.)
  • Parliament televised for the first time.

The 1990s

The main feature of this decade was the invention of the World Wide Web, followed by the internet browser, initially by Netscape which enabled the development of the www information machine at zero cost to the user, if you had a computer. It also saw the creation of "New Labour" by Tony Blair which was a development to the right of the Left Wing socialist Labour Party. A feel good factor was created but mainly arising from a rapid inflation of house prices providing easy unearned money in your pocket by simply increasing your mortgage. Prime Minister Blair was therefore seen as a success.

Socially girls continued to wear office dresses which revealed more and more and were now proud to suggestively show off their new tattoos either at the top of their thigh, just above their pubis or on their breasts. It was also smart to behave badly like boys and get uncontrollably drunk.

The Royal family had a sensational new star, Princess Diana who the country, even the world loved, but could not behave like a Royal or perhaps Royalty was not prepared to climb off their pedestal and behave more like her. The Princess did not have either a need to get drunk of to put tattoos anywhere. Unfortunately she was killed in a car crash while being chased by newspaper paparazzi. (Photographers snapping celebrities for the popular press)

1990

  • Britain joins the ERM (Forerunner of the Euro).
  • Thatcher resigns after an attack from her top supporters Heseltine and Howe, Replaced by uncharismatic but safe John Major, youngest PM so far this century.
  • AIDS in the UK claims 1,600 lives

1991

  • Englishman Tim Berners Lee invents the World Wide Webb while working for CERN in Switzerland.
  • Britain joins a coalition of Western military powers headed by the US to evict Iraqi Saddam Hussain from Kuwait. (Kuwait had asked for assistance against this unprovoked invasion by Saddam) The battle is easily won by the coalition and the world is put in awe by America's fire power.
  • Britain under strict financial controls has to reduce military manpower at this inopportune time.
  • Pop singer Freddie Mercury dies of AIDS.

Sport

  • England Cricketers win at home against the West Indies, first time for 22 years.
  • England reach final of Rugby World Cup only to be beaten by arch rival Australia.

And

  • Shops start trading on Sundays in spite of laws forbidding Sunday trading.
  • John Major opts out of closer integration with Europe at Maastricht.
  • Robert Maxwell owner of the Mirror Newspaper dies (commits suicide?) due to financial crisis at his Newspaper.
  • Longest recession since 1929 comes to an end.

1992

  • Britain has to leave the ERM after a run on the pound sterling and looses £15 billion.
  • Prince Charles and Princess Diana split. Diana is fed up with having to put up with Charles' long term mistress Camilla Parker Bowles.
  • The First Muslim is elected to the UK Parliament.
  • AIDS amongst heterosexuals increases by 50%
  • The magazine Punch closes after 150 years.
  • Conservatives under John Major win for the 4th consecutive time. Labour leader Kinnock resigns and is replaced by John Smith.
  • Conservative Heritage Secretary David Mellor resigns after a sexual affair.
  • The weather, 1992 sees the worst drought since 1745.
  • Ireland: 3000 people have now died during the 30 year religious/sectarian "Troubles" in the North of Ireland still part of the UK.
  • Note: Parts of Ireland have been ruled by England for over 800 years.
  • Queen Elizabeth 2nd calls 1992 her "annus horribilis".

1993

  • Royal Family. Bookmakers shorten odds on the Royal Family breaking up by year 2000 from 100-1 to 50-1.
  • Unemployment goes up above 3 million again.
  • England's black 100 metre sprint champion Linford Christie beats American Carl Lewis at Gateshead.

Women gain some more power in high places.

  • Both of Britain's famous secret services are run by women. MI5 Pauline Neville-Jones; MI6 Stella Rimington.
  • Rebecca Stevens becomes the first woman to climb Mount Everest.
  • Using IVF a 69 year old British woman has twins.
  • Barbara Harmer becomes the first woman to pilot a Concorde.

  • The Grand National is stopped by animal rights protesters.
  • RAF celebrates its 75 birthday.
  • Race relations; well educated black boy Steven Lawrence is murdered in SE London by a group of feral white boys. (takes until 2011 for two white men to be convicted using DNA technology)

1994

  • The First internet Browsers come on the market both developed in the US. New company Netscape beats Microsoft to the lead. The technology is now there for the dot com boom and bust and boom again, but London venture capital investors can't understand the concepts and many English pioneers can't raise even seed money. WWW inventor Berners Lee says his inventions are free for all to exploit with no royalties.
  • England's dying car maker Rover is purchased by German BMW (80% for £800 million) with a plan to revive the Mini, looks exciting. (This is both ironic and sad as BMW was offered for a song to the British car maker after the war.)
  • Tony Blair is made Leader of the Labour Party in opposition ahead of Gordon Brown.
  • John Major, the PM, calls for a Back to Basics ideology in view of Britain seemingly losing its moral codes.
  • Age of consent for the now legal homosexual acts reduced from 21 to 18.
  • Sunday trading permitted by act of Parliament.
  • National lottery introduced. 7 winners share £15.8 million
  • 32 Women priests are ordained by the Church of England.
  • Last of the British Forces stationed in Germany following World War Two are brought home.
  • Wales win the 5 nations rugby again!

1995

  • Committed Christian Jonathan Edwards Triple Jumps to a world record of 17.98 m.
  • More alcohol drinking time allowed. Pub licensing laws relaxed again. Extended Sunday opening reflecting the demise of the Church and the attraction of alcohol.
  • Princess Diana goes on TV and talks about the untalkable. Her adultery and Charles' continuing sex with Camilla.
  • The Queen hopes they will divorce.

1996

  • Both Charles and Diana and the Queen's second son the Duke and Duchess of York divorce. Princess Diana said she didn't want to but the Queen is adamant.
  • The new Globe Theatre opens.
  • Standards of reading and maths decline further in English primary schools.
  • The Daily Mail and some other newspapers see their small ad revenues under pressure from the internet and buy struggling dotcom start ups in travel and recruitment. Venture capitalists begin to see the dot com possibilities but too late. Dotcom stocks already on the rise even though many have no income! Have Chartered Accountants and investors lost their marbles?

1997

  • Charismatic Labour leader Tony Blair wins general election from the steady eddy conservative John Major. Pretty/sexy MP Edwina Curry admits she had an affair with Major while in office.
  • Blair drops key Labour ideology "Strive for growth through common ownership" Nobody had realised that Blair was a Tory in a Labour's clothes. And so it was to continue even with Gordon Brown as Chancellor.
  • John Major stands down and is replaced by broad Yorkshire speaking William Haig the youngest leader of a party since 1783
  • Princess Diana is killed in a car crash in Paris with her Egyptian lover Dodi al Fayed. Her driver was trying to get away from the Paris paparazzi. The good looking Princess Diana really established the desire by the English Tabloid Press for endless photos to fill their adult comics with celebrity candid shots to establish fashions and scandals.
  • The British public mourned her death en masse and the Queen who wanted a low key funeral was forced by public opinion, supported by Tony Blair to allow the people to mourn with a proper State funeral.
  • Wales and Scotland were granted home rule with local parliaments. But they remained within the UK.

1998

  • Fuelled by a dotcom stock market boom the FTSE climbed to a record 5612.
  • The automatic hereditary route to the House of Lords is scrapped.
  • Birth rate in England at record low of 1.73 children per couple, 1875 4.8, 1960 2.8.

1999

  • A national minimum wage of £3.6 per hour is introduced.
  • David and Victoria Beckham both super stars in their own right get married and remain so for years

The new millennium year 2000

The First Decade

Morals
Prime Minister Tony Blair was seen as the master of Spin, or making bad news sound good. Or was it just not telling the truth. This loss of the English custom for plain truthful speaking spread down the hierarchical ranks until some echelons, including MPs turned out to be just plain liars (expenses affair) or were they just stupid?

Business
Chartered Accountants and Bankers can be singled out, the former for signing accounts showing profits when without meaningful income there was clearly none, and Bankers who bought products with clearly little value, "sub-prime mortgages". Obviously banks ran out of cash to lend and being too big to go under had to be bailed out by the tax payer. British Chancellor Gordon Brown who positioned himself as above the average Treasurer could have spotted the problem but didn't. If he had he would have gone down in history as a genius. Others did and became billionaires.
Earlier in the decade the dotcom fiasco was a similar story causing stocks to crash.

Further the country and in fairness the world woke up to the fact that we are all living longer and pensions, money saved by the old rules was inadequate. Perhaps strikes by public sector workers could have been avoided if the Blair and Brown administration had been truthful rather than only spinning the good news.
The riots of 2011 are discussed in a separate section.

War
The other main feature of the decade after year 2000 was America's decision in 2003, with Britain as its main coalition partner, to invade Iraq on the spun evidence of Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction coupled with a retaliation for the audacious aerial suicide attacks by terrorist group al-Qaeda on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 (9/11). Saddam Hussein was unearthed and put on trial and Iraq was occupied for 7 years. No atomic or other frightening weapons were found and Saddam's connection with al-Qaeda was not proven.

Terrorism
Militant Islam arrived in England with Muslim activists publicly instructing other Muslims to kill the infidel, that is the ordinary Brit.
Britain was now the obvious target for terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda sympathizers in revenge and they materialized on the 7th July 2005 (7/7) with deadly attacks by suicide bombers in the London Underground and on a London bus in Tavistock square. There were also attempts to blow up passenger airliners in flight by similarly motivated Muslim terrorists. Airline travel from this moment on became a pain because of the process of searching all travellers. Can air travel ever be a pleasure again?

The main perpetrators of these atrocities were from Iraq, Jamaica, Pakistan and Yemen. The leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden was captured and assassinated by an airborne US marine squad in Pakistan on 2nd May 2011.

Other indicators in this decade of the breakdown on the country's moral code was with Newspapers and the mobile phone hacking scandals by journalists to get a story at any cost to spin to the public. The editor of the Express Newspaper when asked under oath if he had any moral code as an editor said he did not know the meaning of the word Morals. David Cameron was right.

At the same time mobile phones go smart, tablet computers become a must have, British car manufacturing goes from strength to Strength under foreign ownership and girls get drunk more frequently as their even lower necklines demand artificial breast enlargement to maximise the affect!

Queen Elizabeth 2nd visited Ireland to mend fences with her oldest colony and is greeted with calm and decorum. This venerable and respected old lady is now nearer 90 than 80 and in 2012 is to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. It's impossible to start the London Olympics with a better jamboree than that.