It happened then

Lets Talk Magazine, Post on 25th January, 2013

Historical highlights from previous Februarys. Compiled by Peter Sargent.

  • 70 years ago 1943

A vital turning point in the Second World War. The German 6th Army, trapped and encircled at Stalingrad in the USSR since November, finally surrendered. Gen von Paulus disobeyed Hitler’s orders to fight to the last man, and up to 110,000 Axis prisoners of war went into Soviet captivity. It is estimated that up to two million people died on both sides, many of them civilians, in one of the bloodiest and most inhumane battles of history.

  • 60 years ago 1953

James D Watson and Francis Crick, of Cambridge University, announced the discovery of the structure of the human DNA molecule. It was a significant scientific breakthrough, handing humanity the key to the secrets of life. Watson, an American from Chicago, was just 24 years old at the time; his British colleague Crick was 12 years older.

  • Sweet rationing finally came to an end – a sure sign that post-war austerity was slowly being lifted.
  • Walt Disney’s animated feature film Peter Pan was premiered.

50 years ago 1963

From surrounding farms, many of which were completely frozen up, farm workers gather at The Green, Hempnall, to fill up with water from a standpipe.

The big freeze just went on and on across Britain. It held East Anglia in an icey, snowy grip. At Diss, for example, the Mere froze over; at Brandon and Thetford roads were impassable and at Harleston and Fakenham snow ploughs were brought in to deal with snowdrifts. Sporting fixtures were probably the furthest away from people’s minds – not that many were played. Norwich City’s 3rd Round FA Cup tie with Blackpool, originally scheduled for early January, was postponed nine times.

  • In sunnier climes, Australia retained the Ashes following an anti-climactic draw with England in the final test match in Sydney.
  • Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party, then in Opposition to Harold Macmillan’s Conservatives. The 46-year-old succeeded the late Hugh Gaitskell, defeating George Brown and Jim Callaghan, and was the youngest leader of the Labour Party. His salary? £3,750 per year.
  • Mr William W Tuxford, the last Norwich survivor of the Siege of Ladysmith, died at home in St Faith’s Lane, aged 91. Regimental signaller of the 5th Lancers, he joined up in Norwich in the 1890s and was present at the 118-day siege during the South African Boer War.
  • French President Charles de Gaulle survived a fresh assassination plot – the fifth to date. Dissident members of the French military, opposed to granting independence to Algeria, had planned to shoot the President as he addressed students at a Military College.

 40 years ago 1973

  • A bill to end discrimination against women was ‘talked out’ in the House of Commons. According to the Eastern Daily Press report of the day, the public gallery was packed with “women’s libbers” supporting the proposed legislation by Labour MP William Hamilton. Afterwards, up to 500 female supporters of the measure marched to the House of Commons where they delivered a letter to Prime Minister Edward Heath. They were given a glimmer of hope when the Leader of the House, Lowestoft MP Jim Prior, promised to discuss a second reading for the bill.


  • Norwich Union were recruiting vacancies for men and women aged 16-19. Insurance trainees with O and A levels were offered posts at a salary of between £537 and £813 per year, subject to qualifications. Office Juniors (girls) aged 15-16 could earn between £432 and £540pa.
  • In Vietnam the Viet Cong released the first of their American prisoners of war. A total of 27 men were repatriated, the first batch of 142 to be released as peace talks continued.
  • Saturday evening television viewers could enjoy the Val Doonican Show on Anglia. Jon Pertwee was the contemporary incarnation of Doctor Who, scaring the children on BBC1, while Cilla Black presented a Song for Europe. On BBC2 you could watch War and Peace.
  • Sidney the boxing kangaroo stole the show when Gilbert’s International Circus came to the Theatre Royal, Norwich. Other animals at the circus included a sealion, horses, dogs, doves – and a “precocious” monkey.
  • England’s footballers trounced Scotland 5-0 at a snowy Hampden Park. Alan Clarke, Mick Channon and Martin Chivers were among the scorers for Alf Ramsey’s team.

 30 years ago 1983

  • Near hurricane force winds and floods battered the east coast “from the Wash to the Waveney” as the whole country endured early February storms. The sea poured over the road at Walcot, north Norfolk, while other places to suffer included Wisbech, Oulton Broad, Wells, Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.
  • Breakfast television began. Anna Ford, Michael Parkinson and Angela Rippon were among the big hitters on show as TV-am launched its Good Morning Britain programme. On BBC1 Frank Bough and Selina Scott fronted the rival Breakfast Time.
  • Nazi fugitive Klaus Barbie was extradited from Bolivia to face war crimes charges in France. The man dubbed “The Butcher of Lyons” was returned to the city, accused of murder, torture and deportation of thousands of French people to Germany during the Second World War.
  • Wonder horse Shergar was kidnapped – and police in the Irish Republic admitted they were baffled by the disappearance. The horse was taken from the Aga Khan’s stud farm in Co Kildaire. Shergar’s owner received an anonymous call from the supposed kidnappers, dropping a ransom demand from £2 million to £40,000.
  • Keith Bertschin fired Norwich City into the FA Cup quarter-finals. The Canaries beat East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town 1-0 at a packed Carrow Road, with the former Blues striker getting the only goal of the game.



  • Bobby Robson with the FA Cup on Cornhill, Ipswich, in 1978

    1933 Bobby Robson, Ipswich and England football manager (d 2009) pictured right in 2001; 1943 Feb 9 Joe Pesci, American actor; Feb 18 Graeme Garden, ‘Goodie’; Feb 25 George Harrison, Beatle (d 2001); 1963 Feb 2 Eva Cassidy, singer (d 1996); 18th Rob Andrew, England rugby union player; 1973 Feb 26 Ole Gunnar Soskjaer, Man Utd footballer; 1983; Feb 23 Emily Blunt, actress.


  • 1943 Hans and Sophie Scholl, aged 24 and 22, German brother and sister White Rose resistance members executed by the Nazis; 1953 Feb 24 Gerd von Runstedt, German field marshal (b 1875); 1983 Feb 4 Karen Carpenter, singer; Feb 25 Tennessee Williams, playwright (b 1911).

Lets Talk Magazine (writer)

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