April 12: The Soviet Union announced that Major Yuri Gagarin
had become the first man in space. It
was another huge leap forward for the Russians in the space race.
Gagarin completed an orbit of the earth in just over 89 minutes
at a height of about 200 miles. After orbiting, his spacecraft
returned safely to earth by parachute.
"The sky looks very, very dark and the earth bluish," he reported
as the Vostok capsule circled the earth. The experienced test
pilot was 27 years old, married with two children and immediately
became a hero not only in the USSR but throughout the world. He
became, at a stroke, the best-known Russian of his generation.
Even in the United States there was little of the shock and
outrage that had greeted the first satellite in space four years
earlier. It had been rumoured for some time that the Russians
were about to put a man in space. Nasa chief James Webb had nothing
but praise for the "fantastic, fabulous achievement." Soon, President
Kennedy would commit the USA to putting a man on the moon within
December 15. Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death in
Jerusalem for war crimes. By far the most important of Hitler's
henchmen captured after the war, Eichmann had been responsible
for the plans to wipe out all the Jews in Europe.
He used the traditional defence, that he was just a small cog
in a huge machine and was only obeying orders. His lawyers pointed
out, too, that the state of Israel had not existed at the time
of the alleged crimes and that Eichmann had been brought to court
by illegal means, having been abducted by Israeli agents in Argentina
in 1960. Such technicalities cut no ice. Adolf Eichmann was hanged
for what he had done. His victims had been slaughtered simply
for what they were.
April 3. The wraps came off the latest Jaguar - and motoring
would never be quite the same again. The new E-Type was the ultimate
in slung-low sweet chariots, offering 150mph performance at a
price well below other supercars. The E-Type grabbed the imagination
of a Britain on the threshold of the Swinging Sixties. It became
the favourite accessory of TV celebrities, pools winners and football
stars (this was also the year when the 20-a-week maximum wage
for English league players was abolished.) It may have looked
like a dream but the E-Type's was founded on Jaguar's proven racing
success and was a direct descendent of the legendary D-Type of
Le Mans fame.
January 30. One of the most important days for 20th century
women. The contraceptive pill became available on prescription,
although not immediately through the NHS. Women were warned that
the Pill could bring side effects including headache, tension
and weight gain. Yet it offered women the chance to restrict their
fertility and take control of their lives in a way that their
mothers and grandmothers could only have dreamed of.
August 31. The Berlin Wall went up, virtually overnight
as the Soviet bloc turned up the heat in the Cold War. The city
had been administered by Russia, Britain, America and France since
the end of the Second World War in 1945. But the communists were
alarmed at the haemorrhage of people from the austere East to
the affluent West. West Berliners defied the soldiers and trampled
down the first coils of barbed wire, but were driven back at bayonet
point. Friends and families were cut off from each other and Berlin
would remain a divided city for the next 30 years.
February 6: Danny Blanchflower,
on the verge of captaining Spurs to the century's first
league and cup double, became the first person to to refuse
to appear on "This Is Your Life".
March 6: Much-loved comedian George
Formby died aged 56.
April 21: Top Soviet choreographer
Vladimir Bourmeister visited Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre,
whose manager needed the expertise of the Express & Star
to prepare a welcome message in Russian.
May 18: The Government announced
the creation of three new universities to be called Warwick,
Essex and Kent.
16: Ballet star Rudolf Nureyev
defected from Russia with a plea to the West: "Protect me.
July 8: For the first timer since
the days of long skirts before the first world war two British
women reached the ladies single final at Wimbledon, Angela
Mortimer defeating Christine Truman.
August 4: Three tubes of deadly cyanide
were found on a tip at Wombourne near Wolverhampton after
a woman mislaid them - on a corporation bus.
August 24: A man was murdered and
his girlfriend raped in the so-called A6 killing which is
still having repercussions today.
September 17: Philosopher Bertrand
Russell, playwright Arnold Wesker, jazzman George Melly
and actress Vanessa Redgrave were among celebrities arrested
in the biggest ban-the-bomb demo so far seen in London.
November 27: A new expression was coined
for a group of upper crust poachers who were causing headaches
to landowners in South Staffordshire. They were dubbed "Pin
December 13: The Huxley family of Shifnal
won the cup for the best butchers' beasts at Wolverhampton
Christmas Fatstock show for the fifth year running.