October 4. To the amazement of the world and the horror
of the United States, the Soviet Union put the first satellite
into orbit above the Earth. Sputnik-1 made several orbits of the
earth, emitting a distinctive bleep-bleep signal which was picked
up on receivers all over the world.
The so-called Space Race had begun. From now on the rival communist
and capitalist world leaders of the USSR and the USA would strive
to outdo each other in space in the name of their respective creeds.
The Americans were startled by the size of Sputnik which orbited
500 miles high at nearly 20,000 miles an hour. At nearly 200lbs
it was six times heavier than the satellite that American scientists
had been planning to launch to mark International Geophysical
Both America and Russia had rounded up some of Germany's top
rocket scientists at the end of the Second World War and the Russians
were ahead in rocket propulsion. The size of Sputnik indicated
a more powerful rocket than the US had so far developed.
December 4. The Lewisham train crash in south London
claimed the lives of nearly 100 people and was caused by something
rarely seen in the capital these days - thick fog. Various parts
of the Clean Air Act have meant an end to the old "pea soupers"
which used to dog both the city and its outer fringes. But just
three weeks before Christmas two trains crashed in appalling weather
at the height of the rush hour. The collision - which very nearly
involved a third train - led to a bridge under which both trains
had been running to crash down on to the already wrecked coaches.
March 25. Politicians have been arguing about it ever
since and nowadays it is referred to as "Europe". Then it was
called the Common Market and it was created when the Treaty of
Rome was signed by six nations which did not include Britain.
We at the time were manoeuvering on the fringes in a bid to get
in to the economic grouping of nations in which there would be
free movement of people, money and goods.
January 10. Harold Macmillan, soon to be dubbed "Supermac",
became Prime Minister at the age of 62 following the resignation
through ill health of Sir Anthony Eden. In those days it was said
that Tory party leaders "emerged" rather than being elected. The
mysterious process that brought the crofter's son to the leadership
of his party - and therefore Number 10 - was said to contain high
drama and skullduggery.
Macmillan came to the fore after the party decided it would
have been split down the middle had R A B Butler won the power
struggle. The latter lived to fight another day some six years
later but would always be known as one of the nearly men of British
January 14. Favourite screen tough guy Humphrey Bogart
- pictured left - died of throat cancer at the age of 57. Like
many before and since, part of his fame rested on some words he
never actually said - "Play It Again, Sam". Bogart had been told
early in his career that he would never be a star because he had
a slight lisp. But he managed to turn this into a snarl and was
the star of 50 films including classics like "Casablanca" and
"The Big Sleep".