January 17: At dead of night in the Gulf, the coalition
attack to liberate Kuwait began. It was codenamed Desert Storm.
In a matter of hours government and military buildings in Baghdad
were destroyed by cruise missiles and stealth bombers, invisible
In the desert mighty B-52 bombers began destroying Saddam's
fleets of tanks. RAF Tornados were sent to destroy Iraqi airfields
in daring low-level strikes, but so many were shot down that low-level
attacks were quickly banned. Iraq responded by firing Scud missiles
into Israel, causing a gas-attack scare. But Israel refused to
be drawn into the war. Behind enemy lines, SAS units were seeking
out and destroying Scud launchers.
The allied commander, US General Norman Schwarzkopf, refused
to send in his ground troops until the bombers had done their
work. On February 24 he unleashed his forces. It was all over
in 100 hours, the Staffordshire Regiment playing a key role in
the British armoured division's lightning advance. As Iraqi soldiers
surrendered by the thousand, some tried to flee using the main
road north to Iraq. But the column was spotted and hundreds perished
in a "turkey shoot" as US jets and helicopters attacked.
The UN's job was to liberate Kuwait. That done, the coalition
forces halted and made no attempt to invade Iraq or topple the
Saddam regime. An estimated 100,000 Iraqi conscripts perished
in the war he had begun, but the "Butcher of Baghdad" was still
March 14. The Birmingham Six who had been jailed for
the 1974 pub bombings were freed after their convictions were
quashed by the Court of Appeal.At their original trial, which
lasted more than 50 days, the Six faced what looked like a rock-solid
case based on forensic and circumstantial evidence and some confessions.
But the forensic tests were debunked and the men claimed that
the confessions had been beaten out of them by West Midlands Police.
The first Appeal Court hearing rejected their case out of hand.
But by 1991 the weight of new evidence made the convictions unsafe.
April 24. The managing director of Ratners, Britain's
biggest jewellers, Gerald Ratner, joked that some of his goods
were "crap" and earrings were likely to last for less time than
a Marks & Spencer sandwich. Although he tried to prevent catastrophe
by pointing out that he was referring only to a very few items,
the damage was done. "Ratners" became synonymous with poor quality
goods and contempt for the customers. It was an object lesson
in poor public relations. The company's share prices plunged.
5. British publisher and business tycoon Robert Maxwell fell
to his death from his yacht in the North Atlantic near to the
Canary Islands. Maxwell had been born in Czechoslovakia as Ludvik
Hoch and liked to portray himself as a war hero (he won the MC)
and a gentleman.
But the Mirror boss's business methods had been called into
question long before his death and he covered up media investigations
into later scandals by the ruthless use of injunctions. After
his mysterious death his many enemies denounced him as a crook,
a liar and a bully. It emerged, too, that he had looted millions
of pounds from his employees' pension fund. The Maxwell scandal
led to reforms in company pensions designed to protect workers
from similar raids.
August 19. Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev was imprisoned
in his holiday home in the Crimea as Communist hardliners attempted
a coup in Russia. The coup failed largely thanks to the efforts
of Boris Yeltsin who enlisted the support of a handful of tank
commanders and forced the coup leaders to flee Moscow and allow
Gorbachev to return. In the wake of the failed coup, Yeltsin suspended
the Communist Party, ending 74 years of its rule.
January 1. A Midland survey showed
that more than 30 per of us wanted the honours system scrapped.
January 5. Gales swept Britain
and 27 died.
January 23. BBC Radio WM announced
big cutbacks in its Heartlands operation in Birmingham.
February 7. The IRA launched a
mortar bomb attack on 10 Downing Street when the war cabinet
was meeting. No-one hurt.
February 27. Kuwait City was liberated
by the UN coalition forces.
March 3. The beating given by Los
Angeles policemen to black motorist Rodney King was captured
on videotape. The following year his attackers were cleared
by an all-white jury and race riots swept LA.
March 20. Michael Heseltine announced
that the unpopular poll tax was to be scrapped.
April 30. A cyclone hit Bangladesh
and 138,000 people died in floods.
May 6. A gang escaped with 50,000
after drilling into the strongroom at Barclays Bank, Shifnal.
May 19. Britain's first astronaut
Helen Sharman was blasted into space on a Russian Soyuz
rocket to join space station Mir.
May 21. Indian Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi was assassinated with a bomb as he campaigned for
May 29. In a protest over poll
tax, Dudley campaigner Martin Blatchford was jailed for
two weeks. As he was led away to the cells, he declared:
June 20. The German Bundestag voted
to move the seat of government from Bonn to Berlin.
June 25. The disintegration of
Yugoslavia began as Croatia and Slovenia declared their
October 17. Police swooped on addresses
in the West Midlands, following a 1 million seizure of cannabis
near London. Six arrested.