Britain in 1975


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THE HEADLINES


January


The Channel Tunnel project is cancelled, to the dismay of the French. Boring had begun on both sides the previous year but doubts over Britain’s continued membership of the EEC and a troubled economy lead the Labour government to scrap the work.


More than 150 prisoners are released during a brief ceasefire in Northern Ireland. It ends after only 25 days but during that period, security restrictions in towns and cities are relaxed and people can go about their lives in relative peace and normality.


The writer P G Wodehouse is knighted at the age of 93. Sadly, he dies only six weeks later.




The heiress Lesley Whittle is kidnapped from her home in Shropshire by Donald Neilson, the so-called Black Panther. She is found murdered in March.


February


The Moorgate Disaster is the worst accident in the history of London Underground. Forty-three people are killed when a south-bound Tube train fails to stop at the terminus and crashes into the wall at the end of the tunnel.


Margaret Thatcher succeeds Ted Heath as Leader of the Conservative Party, following the party’s defeat in the 1974 General Election. She will go on to become Britain’s first female Prime Minister and one of the dominant political figures of the twentieth century.


March


The Army is moved in to clear 70.000 tons of rubbish from the streets of Glasgow, the result of a dustmen’s strike. Troops are received with cheering. The dustmen are not!


Charlie Chaplin is knighted in an  investiture at Buckingham Palace at the age of 85.


Richard Baker is the Newscaster of the Year and receives his award from BBC colleague Robert Dougall.


May


Energy Minister Tony Benn turns on the tap that signals the flow of Britain’s first oil from the North Sea


April


There is a stampede to buy TVs, washing machines and other electrical goods before the deadline of May 1, when the Chancellor, Dennis Healey announces an increase in VAT to 25 per cent.


Unemployment passes one million and inflation rises to more than 20 per cent.


June


In a referendum, Britain votes to remain part of the EEC.

More than 67 per cent of voters elected to stay in the European Economic Community, or Common Market, which Prime minister Harold Wilson describes as an ‘historic decision’. Only Shetland and the Western Isles of Scotland vote to leave Europe.


Radio broadcasts of proceedings in Parliament begin on an experimental basis. It would be 14 years before the TV cameras followed.


July


John Stonehouse, the MP who faked his own death is discovered in Australia and flown home to face charges of fraud, theft and forgery.


Prime Minister Harold Wilson addresses the Durham Miners’ Gala to appeal for wage restraint. He repeats his warning that ‘one man’s wage increase is another man’s ticket to the dole queue.’

Inflation has reached 25 per cent and unemployment is at its highest level since 1940.

His words fall largely on deaf ears.


August


Six men are found guilty of the Birmingham pub bombings, carried out by the IRA, in which 21 people were killed and 166 injured.

Sixteen years later, the men are acquitted and freed from jail when the forensic evidence used at their original trial is discredited.


The Headingly Test Match between England and Australia is abandoned after the pitch is sabotaged by supporters of the ‘Free George Davis’ campaign. A ludicrous but huge movement including many celebrities and left-wing politicians had been demanding the release from prison of Davis, a gangland villain who they claimed had been wrongly convicted. Some time later, Davis is released, only to be convicted of another armed robbery 18 months later. This time he is jailed for 15 years.


Bob Hope and Bing Crosby appear at Sunningdale at the start of the European Women’s Golf Championship.



Dutch Elm Disease is ravaging England as the heatwave conditions assist the beetles which carry the disease to spread rapidly across Europe.


London has its hottest day for 35 years and, as the temperature in the capital soars, ice-cream sales hit 100 million per week.



The Queen Mother is greeted by crowds at the gates of Clarence House as she celebrates her 75th birthday.


September


An IRA bomb explodes on the ground floor of the Park Lane Hilton. The device is thought to have been left beneath a large armchair in the hotel’s lobby.


Some streets in the capital are closed off as a five-day siege takes place at the Spagetti House restaurant in Knightsbridge when armed raiders hold staff hostage. The incident ends peacefully.


Other IRA outrages on the mainland this year have included a bomb placed under the car of Conservative MP Sir Hugh Frazer, which explodes outside his house in Holland Park (left). Sir Hugh is not in the car but the bomb kills the leading cancer surgeon Professor Gordon Hamilton-Fairley, who happens to be walking by.


One of the editors of the Guinness Book of Records, Ross McWhirter, (right), was an outspoken critic of the IRA and had called for the restoration of the death penalty for terrorist bombing. He is murdered by gunmen who shoot him on the doorstep of his home in Enfield.



November


One of Britain’s greatest motor racing drivers, Graham Hill, is killed along with five members of the Lotus team when their Piper Aztec aircraft crashes in fog on its approach to Elstree aerodrome in Essex.

Twice the World Champion, Hill is piloting the aeroplane when it clips a row of trees on a nearby golf course.



December


A strike by junior doctors closes many casualty departments in London. Patients are treated in nearby hospitals where doctors are not on strike but the festive period is busy and there are 135 emergencies during the the first hour of Christmas Day.


Elsewhere in the capital, Christmas celebrations go ahead and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe conducts carol singers in Trafalgar Square.


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