It happened then

Peter Sargent, Post on 20th December, 2012

Historical highlights from previous Januarys. Compiled by Peter Sargent.

60 years ago 1953

  • Dwight D Eisenhower was inaugurated as 34th President of the USA. The former Second World War supreme commander called for an end to the Cold War and unity in Western Europe in his speech. Earlier he was visited by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary following his holiday in Jamaica.
  • In the Soviet Union, Stalin’s regime arrested nine doctors, five of them Jewish. They were charged with murdering two Soviet leaders and plots to kill others. As outbreaks of anti-semitism were reported across the USSR, it looked like a new purge and a crackdown on ‘Zionism’.
  • Derek Bentley, 19, was hanged at Wandsworth Prison for his part in the murder of PC Sidney Miles. The execution came despite last-minute hopes of a reprieve.
  • The 1st Bn the Suffolk Regiment left Malaya after three and a half years fighting insurgents in the British colony. As they marched through the streets of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on their way to ships taking them home, their Australian commanding officer, Lt Col P A Morcombe, reflected on the 12 men killed in action, and others who died of sickness.
  • Closer to home, the Waveney Valley Railway’s last trains ran between Beccles and Tivetshall. A crowd of 1,000 cheered and held a mock ‘funeral’ as the last train arrived, ending 90 years’ service.
  • TV Manufacturing Ltd at Lowestoft were busy making televisions. Problem was most of East Anglia lacked a TV service – so the sets were sent elsewhere in the country.
  • Bonds of Norwich held its New Year sale. “Hundreds of hats” were on show, from wool felts at 5/ to fur felts at 15/; double breasted coats were offered at 95/ and a tweed dress at 50/.

50 years ago 1963

  • “Siberian 1963” held Britain in its grip. Heavy snow in the first week of January was the prelude to a month of freezing temperatures and disruption. Norfolk’s coldest night since 1941 came on the 10th, when -15C was recorded; ships were stuck in ice on the River Yare and there were fears of water rationing. Snowdrifts blocked roads on the 21st and sporting fixtures were postponed. Despite a slight thaw late in January, fresh snow was on the way. Winter was not finished yet.

    A boy digging in a snowdrift in January, 1963.

  • If you fancied getting away from these shores, newspapers were filled with enticing adverts for foreign holidays. Fifteen days in Italy would cost £33, while two weeks in Majorca would set you back 36.5gns. Longer haul trips were offered to the Canary Islands and Bahamas.
  • Talks broke down on Britain’s entry to the European Economic Community. Edward Heath, who had led Britain’s bid to join alongside Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, said: “This is a great blow to the cause of European unity.” He added: “We shall not turn our backs on Europe.”
  • The Queen Mother opened the new central library in the centre of Norwich. Like everyone else, she had to brave bitter east winds.
  • England and Australia were tussling for The Ashes Down Under. David Sheppard’s innings of 115 in Adelaide and Freddie Trueman’s demon bowling helped England to a seven-wicket victory in Adelaide, but the Aussies levelled the series with a win of their own in Sydney. The series would go on into February. . .

Harold Wilson

  • Triumph for Edward Heath as Britain finally joined the EEC on January 1. The Prime Minister hailed this “tremendous moment” and told the people of Britain it would lead to a future of better jobs and a higher standard of living. Labour leader Harold Wilson pledged any future government of his own to a referendum on membership, and called for the entry terms to be renegotiated. “The British people must have the final word for or against entry,” said Mr Wilson.
  • A fragile ceasefire was agreed in Vietnam. After tortuous talks led by Henry Kissinger with Hanoi, US President Richard Nixon ordered the end of all bombing and shelling of North Vietnam.
  • The Cod War was hotting up. In an ongoing dispute between several fishing nations and Iceland, British trawlers had their lines cut by Icelandic patrol boats as they refused to leave the 50-mile exclusion zone. Despite strained relations, the Royal Navy was not ordered to intervene.
  • Norwich City Football Club reached Wembley. They beat Chelsea 1-0 at Carrow Road in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final. An earlier match had been fogged off in December, with the Canaries minutes from victory. They were not to be denied this time; Steve Govier’s winning goal delighting a 34,000 crowd.
  • Ross Poultry, of Flixton, Bungay, were busy recruiting. Men over 18 could earn £21.75, women got £18. Over at King’s Lynn, Anglia Canners were advertising for an office manager/accountant at a salary of c£2,500pa.

 30 years ago 1983

  • Margaret Thatcher’s government was not to blame for the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. That was the verdict of the Franks Committee report, published in January. On a visit to the South Atlantic, Mrs Thatcher was granted the freedom of the islands.
  • Peaceful, if rather bizarre, anti-nuclear power protests greeted the opening of the Sizewell B inquiry. Held at Snape Maltings concert hall, the opening stages were attended by 200 people – plus protesting clowns and National Unions of Miners’ leader Arthur Scargill.
  • Record crowds turned up at Sandringham to see the Royal Family on the first day of their annual holiday. Sunny weather helped the turnout, reckoned by seasoned observers the largest seen for many years.
  • Saturday night television viewers could see quiz show 3-2-1 and David Frost’s Guinness Book of Records Special on Anglia; Les Dawson, Dynasty and Terry Wogan’s chat show on BBC1; a Mendelssohn oratorio on BBC2, while fledgling Channel 4 showed Brookside and Patricia Hayes in The Lady is a Tramp.

Births: 1943 Jan 6 Terry Venables, football manager; Jan 19 Janis Joplin, singer, died 1970; Jan 29 Tony Blackburn, disc jockey; 1963  Jan 18 Ian Crook, Norwich footballer.

Billy Fury in 1982.

Deaths: 1963 Jan 18 Hugh Gaitskell, Labour leader; 1973 Jan 22 Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th US President, born 1908; Jan 26 Edward G Robinson, actor, born 1893; 1983 Jan 2 Dick Emery, comedian, born 1915; Billy Fury, singer, born 1940.






Peter Sargent (writer)

Pete is the sub-editor and page designer on Let’s Talk. He became a journalist in the late 1980s, and has worked on a number of newspapers and magazines in the UK, Malta and Hong Kong as a writer and page designer.

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