May 5: As a bank-holiday television audience watched in
amazement, a bloody siege at the Iranian Embassy in London came
to a spectacular end. Figures in black swung down ropes and leaped
over balconies to get into the embassy. A huge explosion ripped
out the front window.
a moment it looked as though everything was going horribly wrong.
But minutes later, after a fusillade of firing and with the embassy
in flames, the hostages were led to safety.
The truth slowly emerged. The men in black were members of Britain's
Special Air Service Regiment. The SAS had been raised during the
Second World War to carry out hit-and-run raids deep inside enemy
territory. Its modern role, if the Cold War ever turned hot, was
as "sneaky-beaky" spy units operating far behind enemy lines.
But it had also spent years rehearsing to deal with the growing
international threat of organised terrorism. That training was
put to the test at the Iranian Embassy in the full glare of publicity.
The SAS, having been handed the embassy incident by the Metropolitan
Police, did the job, formally signed it back over the the police
and quietly returned to their top-secret barracks in Hereford.
For a sickly Britain at a low economic ebb, with unemployment
hitting two million and inflation roaring at 20 per cent, the
SAS operation showed that the nation still bred heroes, and could
still do something right.
May 4. President Tito of Yugoslavia died, aged 87. The
wartime leader had become an inspiration for his people. Tito
not only welded together a nation which had been cobbled together
at the end of the First World War but had given its various cultures
a common pride in being Yugoslavian. The secret of his success
was firm government, coupled with a variety of communism that
was distinctly different from the Moscow version.
Yugoslavia under Tito was open to Western ideas and a popular
holiday venue for British tourists. When he died, there was a
power vacuum. Without him, Yugoslavia seemed destined to fall
apart into its ancient, warring states. For a decade, all seemed
well. Then the inevitable happened and the scenes in Bosnia and
Croatia were as savage as anything seen in the world wars.
August 14: Lech Walesa, an electrician at the Lenin shipyards
in Gdansk, led 17,000 fellow workers out on strike in protest
at increases in food prices and the sacking of trade union activists.
The unrest spread and workers called a general strike, presenting
the government with a series of demands.
After a summer of strikes and demonstrations that won far-reaching
concessions from their Communist leaders, the independent trade
union Solidarity was formed. The Party had experienced defeat
of a magnitude never experienced in the Soviet bloc. The historic
deal gave workers the right to strike and softened censorship.
June 12: Teenage hostage Gail Kinchen was shot by a police
marksman during a siege in Birmingham. West Midlands Chief Constable
Sir Philip Knights denied a cover-up after police originally blamed
the gunman, who had taken the pregnant 16-year-old on a seven-mile
terror ride ending in the police shooting at a Rubery tower block.
The truth only emerged after they received medical reports, Sir
Philip told a press conference. Two different guns had caused
the four wounds to Gail but both officers responsible would remain
on duty throughout an inquiry into the incident, he insisted.
9: Former Beatle John Lennon was gunned down outside his New
York apartment by a deranged fan. His attacker, 25-year-old security
guard Mark Chapman, who had a history of mental illness, then
simply dropped the revolver and waited to be arrested. Lennon,
aged 40, had given him his autograph earlier in the day.
January 1: A New Year's Day baby
came as a complete shock to her 41-year-old West Bromwich
mother Gloria Palmer. Gloria didn't know she was pregnant
- and was under treatment for wind and heartburn.
February 13: Wembley fever hit
Wolverhampton after Wolves' fighting win over Third Division
Swindon. Fans jammed the Molineux switchboard for tickets
for next month's League Cup final against Nottingham Forest.
March 4: Robert Mugabe, former
Roman Catholic mission boy and Marxist revolutionary, is
elected Prime Minister of the new state of Zimbabwe, the
former British colony of Rhodesia.
April 25: A bid by America's crack
Delta Force to rescue 53 hostages being held in Teheran's
US Embassy ended in humiliating failure before it had even
begun. The mission had been aborted when a helicopter refuelling
to go home crashed into a tanker aircraft, killing eight
May 12: An industrial tribunal rejects
the claim by BL shop steward "Red Robbo" Robinson that he
was unfairly dismissed.
June 9: Bus
drivers and engineers in the West Midlands were told they
had to take a 13 a week pay cut to help wipe out an expected
£12 million loss by the Passenger Transport Executive
- passengers faced a 15 per cent increase in fares.
July 1: Sixpenny pieces cease to
be legal tender.
August 3: The Olympic Games end
in Moscow on an up note despite disruption from the American-led
boycott. The event saw the clash of the world's two greatest
middle-distance runners, Britain's Steve Ovett and Sebastian
Coe, who each won gold though not in their predicted events.
August 15: The wreck of the Titanic
was reported to have been located 12,000ft below the sea's
Ex-actor Ronald Reagan, the Republican Governor of California,
trounced Jimmy Carter in the US presidential elections.
The failure of the Teheran hostage rescue was thought to
have sealed Carter's fate.
November 19: Addicts of the TV
soap Dallas tuned in to find out who shot JR. The episode
had the highest ratings of any TV programme yet screened.
Hundreds of mourners lined the streets of Bilston for the
funeral of shot security guard George Smith who died during
an 11,000 wages raid on a Willenhall factory in November.