February 11: Grocer's daughter Margaret Thatcher was elected
leader of the Tories, becoming the first woman boss of a British
political party. The news was greeted with enthusiasm by women
of all political persuasions.
49-year-old mother of twins beat off competition from four male
rivals in the battle to succeed Edward Heath. Her victory was
overwhelming - she won almost double the votes of her nearest
rival, William Whitelaw. Also-rans were Sir Geoffrey Howe, James
Prior and John Peyton. A confident Mrs Thatcher had already arranged
a Press conference before the poll began. Her supporters at Westminster
were talking of the victory as a rehearsal for her "coronation".
March 7: Young Midland heiress Lesley Whittle was found
dead at the bottom of a 60ft sewer shaft in a Staffordshire country
park two months after her meticulously-planned kidnap by the notorious
Black Panther. The 17-year-old Wulfrun College student had been
strangled using wire. Her killer was already wanted for three
post office murders including one in Langley, Oldbury. Lesley's
family owned the Whittle coach business, based at Highley and
Kidderminster, one of Britain's biggest private coach firms. Det
Chf Sup Bob Booth, who led the murder hunt, said she was never
intended to be returned. In December Donald Neilson was arrested
near Mansfield after forcing two policemen to drive him in their
Panda car at gunpoint. The officers managed to overpower him with
the help of passers-by who handcuffed the gunman to the railings
of a fish and chip shop.
April 17: The Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh surrendered
to the Khmer Rouge without a fight after the defending forces
are ordered to cease fire. Standing on the pavements waving to
the incoming black-clad insurgents, the citizens welcomed the
Communist-led rebels with white flags and banners on every building
in the city. Many among the crowds were Government troops who
had hastily changed into civilian clothes. The surrender came
at the end of a three and a half month siege, and a war that lasted
five years, killing 250,000 people and devastating the country.
October 10: In Botswana, Richard Burton and Elizabeth
Taylor married for the second time in a mud hut village deep in
the African bush. Ambrose Masalia, the district commissioner who
married them, said the ceremony lasted 20 minutes. "They exchanged
rings, held hands and I pronounced them man and wife," he said.
"Then they went off to take photographs near a river. They drank
champagne toasts with two hippos and a rhino looking on." The
Burtons, both 49, divorced last year after 10 years of marriage
but were reconciled in August and had been spending a second honeymoon
in a Botswanan game park.
December 6: IRA terrorism came to the streets of London
in the infamous Balcombe Street Siege. It began with a running
gun battle through the streets of the capital as police pursued
two men wanted for the cold-blooded murder of television personality
The wanted men burst into the Balcombe Street flat of a middle-aged
couple, John Matthews and his wife Sheila. The men phoned Scotland
Yard, declared that they were IRA and demanded an aircraft to
fly them and their hostages to Ireland.
The message from Scotland Yard was blunt and simple: no deal.
Over the next six days police negotiator Superintendent Peter
Imbert performed a classic exercise in wearing the pair down.
Requests for food were refused.
The siege was the first time such a drama had been seen on mainland
Britain during the IRA troubles. The spectacle of police in flak
jackets brandishing revolvers in a London street was followed
live by millions of TV-watching Britons. Six days after the siege
began it ended with the terrorists surrendering. The Matthews
were tired but unharmed.
February 6. Jensen, the West Bromwich-based
luxury car firm, announced 700 sackings, two-thirds of their
February 28. Underground crash
at Moorgate killed 35 after the 8.37am commuter train overshot
March 1. Aston Villa won the League
Cup against Norwich at Wembley with an 80th minute goal
from Ray Graydon.
March 4. Silent screen star Charlie
Chaplin was knighted at the age of 85.
April 3. Anatoly Karpov became
the youngest world chess champion, at 23, after the holder
American Bobby Fischer failed to meet the entry deadline.
April 24. Unemployment passed the
April 26. Wolves striker Derek
Dougan played his last match as a professional footballer
June 5. The Suez Canal reopened
after eight years in a gesture of peace.
June 6. In a referendum, Britons
voted overwhelmingly to stay in the Common Market.
June 14. Ambulance services in the
West Midlands began a ban on non-emergency calls in a dispute
over pay and hours.
July 17. The commanders of a joint
Russian-American space flight shook hands through the hatches
of their crafts after docking 140 miles above the Atlantic.
September 9. Teenage Czechoslovakian
tennis champion Martina Navratilova defected to the United
September 30. Muhammad Ali beat
Joe Frazier to retain his world heavyweight title.
October 13. Wolverhampton motor
cycle plant Norton Villiers employing 1,600 people was officially
October 30. Dutch elm disease was
reported to have killed 6.5 million trees in Britain.
November 22. Juan Carlos sworn in
as King of Spain two days after the death of General Franco.
November 29. British racing ace
Graham Hill was killed when the light aircraft he was piloting
crashed in freezing fog.
December 31. International Women's
Year comes to an end with two major legal victories - the
Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act.