Mods and Rockers clash

May 18: By now, two Britain's were living uncomfortably alongside each other. The first was the staid, traditional Britain of bowler hats, umbrellas, floral frocks and tea. The second was the phenomenon known as the Swinging Sixties.

Mayhem at MargateOn a tidal wave of new music and fashion, one of the most conservative capitals in the world suddenly became Swinging London with Carnaby Street as its focus. But the emergence of youth culture had a darker side. Respectable Britain looked on in horror as Mods and Rockers fought running battles at Whitsun on the beaches at Margate, Brighton and other resorts.

Mods were fashionable city kids identified by cropped hair and motor scooters, often weighed down by a maze of bump bars, mirrors and lights. Rockers were long-haired, leather-jacketed motorbike gangs modelled on the American Hell's Angels.

When Mod and Rockers met, trouble followed and the British bobby, still respected and adored by the public, was piggy-in-the-middle. It was mindless, motiveless violence and the Mods v Rockers battles faded into history. But for a while, to an older Britain raised on war, discipline and National Service, it looked like the breakdown of everything they held dear.

August 7: The world began to focus with greater clarity on events happening in the Far East. America was getting deeper and deeper into the long-running Vietnam War. On this day President Lyndon Johnson asked for, and received, approval from Congress to take "all necessary action" against the communist regime in North Vietnam. The latest crisis arose following an attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on the US destroyer Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson's retaliatory strike sent shock waves around the world and brought the war right into the forefront of public consciousness.

January 17: Steptoe and Son was voted Britain's most popular TV show. No-one was too surprised. For a generation of telly-watchers raised on Auntie Beeb's staid post-war offerings, the rag-and-bone men Harold and Albert (Harry H Corbett and Wilfred Brambell) were a taste of something altogether earthier.

And as with all the best humour, there was an underlying pathos. Albert was of the strict old generation who had fought in the First World War and been taught that sons respected their fathers. Harold wanted all the good things that the Swinging Sixties promised: money, travel and as much sex as possible. Yet time after time his hopes were sunk either by his father's demands or his own sense of guilt.

October 16: Labour was back in power for the first time in 13 years when Harold Wilson's populist image won him the 1964 General Election - but with an overall majority of only three. "Nice place we've got here," he quipped on the doorstep of Number 10 where he had been prophetically photographed as a schoolboy many years before.

If not the best loved Prime Minister, Wilson was certainly to go down in history as the most imitated with his nasal Yorkshire vowels and pipe sucking gestures. Labour was elected on a manifesto of "purposive planning" with steel, water and building land all scheduled for varying forms of public control.

August 12: The man with the golden pen, James Bond creator Ian Fleming, died just as his books were being made into films and gaining huge popularity. Old Etonian Fleming, the brother of explorer Peter Fleming, was just 56 and had suffered a heart attack, possibly linked to heavy smoking.

As well as Eton he had been to two European universities and had been a Reuters foreign correspondent in Moscow and an assistant to the head of Naval Intelligence. His literary blend of sex, violence, action and high living was once described as "snobbery with violence".

June 12: Pirate radio stations London and Caroline - broadcasting from ships somewhere off the East coast of England - provided a boon for the country's hungry pop fans who complained that the BBC was starving them of real music. Many of those rebel DJs were to come ashore, swim into the mainstream and join the Beeb themselves. But for the time being the pirate radio phenomenon was exciting because of its illegality.


In brief

January 7: Reports that a flying saucer had been spotted landing at RAF Cosford were discounted following an official investigation.

January 13: Mary Quant became another icon of the 60s when she took the Paris fashion houses by storm.

February 8: Beatlemania crossed the Atlantic to America with thousands of screaming fans at New York to welcome the Fab Four.

March 14: Jack Ruby sentenced to death for the murder of Kennedy's killer Lee Harvey Oswald.

March 19: The Government announced plans for three new towns, including what was to become Milton Keynes, to stop London choking with people.

April 13: Ian Smith was elected Prime Minister of Rhodesia.

May 28: India's beloved leader Jawaharlal Nehru died at the age of 74 .

June 9: Canadian-born newspaper tycoon Lord Beaverbrook died aged 85.

July 2: President Lyndon Johnson did what Kennedy never lived to do when he signed the US Civil Rights Act which outlawed racial discrimination.

August 19: Great Train Robber Charles Wilson was on the run after a daring escape from Birmingham's Winson Green prison.

August 21: Three women were found guilty of indecency after appearing in public in topless dresses.

September 28: Harpo Marx (the silent one) died following a heart operation.

October 15: Khrushchev was deposed as Soviet leader while taking a seaside holiday and was replaced by the double act of Brezhnev and Kosygin.

October 31: London's Windmill Theatre, which boasted that it never closed, was finally forced to put up the shutters after being overtaken by the new permissive age.

November 11: A radical new look was announced for the famous "laundry end" at Walsall's Fellows Park football ground.

November 26: Rolling Stone Mick Jagger was fined £16 after admitting motoring offences at Tettenhall magistrates court.

December 21: MPs voted by 355 votes to 170 to abolish the death penalty.