Saddam invades Kuwait

August 2: Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. Saddam Hussein's regime had always claimed that Kuwait, which it referred to as Province 19, was part of Iraq.

In the months before Baghdad had protested bitterly that Kuwait was producing too much oil, driving down the international price. Even so, no-one was prepared for what happened next. Saddam's army invaded with speed and brutality, despite some courageous fighting by Kuwaiti soldiers and pilots. Likely dissenters were tortured and executed, hospitals were sacked.

The Kuwaiti royal family fled the country and begged for international help. It was a plea from a sovereign nation that the United Nations could not ignore.

Aware of the likely consequences, Saddam ordered the arrest of foreign nationals, including Britons, whom he paraded as a "human shield".

Undeterred, a UN task force headed by the United States and including Britain, France and several Arab nations, moved into Saudi Arabia and began preparing for war.

Iraq boasted the fourth largest army in the world. Its Scud missiles were capable of drenching any attackers in nerve gas. As the months passed and Saddam refused to give an inch, a bloodbath looked inevitable.

February 11. Nelson Mandela walked to freedom after nearly 26 years in South African prisons. "I greet you in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all," he told 2,000 people who the authorities allowed to see him emerge from Victor Verster Prison, near Cape Town.

Later the black nationalist leader addressed a 50,000-strong rally in Cape Town. The 71-year-old former terrorist, who was jailed for life for sabotage and plotting the overthrow of the South African government, was asked by President F W de Klerk to help negotiate a political settlement between whites and blacks.

Pipeline or supergun?April 11. Halesowen was at the centre of the Iraqi supergun affair. Parts of a giant gun capable of firing on Israel had been manufactured at the Walter Somers plant in the town. The sections of the gun labelled "petroleum piping" were impounded by customs on Teesside. Trade and Industry Secretary Nicholas Ridley confirmed that the giant cylinders were intended for the gun project.

December 1. Britain and France were linked when the final breakthrough was made on the Channel Tunnel project. The occasion was marked by champagne on the French side and mineral water on the English side.

July 8. West Germany beat Argentina in a foul-littered World Cup final in Italy. They had eliminated England in an emotion-charged semi-final which was decided by a penalty shoot out after the score was 1-1 after extra time.

November 22. Margaret Thatcher resigned as the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th Century after 12 years in power. "It's a funny old world," she told cabinet colleagues before going to Buckingham Palace to tell the Queen. She had failed two days earlier by four votes to win outright in a Tory leadership ballot. On November 28 John Major succeeded her after beating the challenge of Michael Heseltine and Douglas Hurd.


In brief

January 7. British film actor Terry Thomas died aged

January 25. A storm with gusts of up to 110mph swept across southern England and Wales killing 46.

May 22. Comedian and actor Max Wall died aged 82.

June 1. A league table putting Aston Villa fans at the top of a table of arrests by police was branded by the club as unfair and out of date

June 12. Russian Federation declared independence from USSR.

June 22. Wolverhampton's Wulfrun College banned the showing of a film about the controversial death in police custody of Clinton McCurbin.

July 2. Pilgrims visiting Mecca blocked a pedestrian tunnel and when the ventilation system failed 1,426 were suffocated or trampled to death.

July 30. Tory MP Ian Gow, who had issued a warning to the IRA that the Government would never surrender to them, died in an IRA car bomb at his home.

September 10. Wolverhampton air hostess Jan Thomas arrives home from Kuwait after disguising herself to dodge Iraqi troops.

September 18. IRA tried to assassinate Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Terry at his home in Milford, near Stafford. Hit by at least nine bullets, the former Governor of Gibraltar survived.

October 3. Germany is reunified after 43 years of division.

October 24. Former Prime Minister Edward Heath returned from Baghdad with 33 released British hostages after negotiating with Saddam Hussein.

November 23. Author Roald Dahl died .

December 3. The High Court awarded 8,000 compensation for negligence by West Midlands Police to the mother of Gail Kinchin, shot dead in a 1980 siege.