Home Decades 1950s 1954


6 May. British runner Roger Bannister breaks the 4-minute mile.


01 – Flashing indicator lights become legal on motor vehicles in Britain.

10 – A BOAC Comet jet airliner on its way from Singapore to London comes down into the Mediterranean about 20 minutes after taking off from Rome. The 29 passengers and crew of six are killed.


14 – Marilyn Monroe marries ex-baseballer Joe DiMaggio.

21 – First US nuclear submarine – USS Nautilus – is launched.

24 – New coalition in Israel is formed by Moshe Sharett.

26Marshal Tito is re-elected as President in Yugoslavia.


01Marilyn Monroe is on a tour of the battle front in Korea, boosting morale by entertaining the troops.

12 – British government announces that research has revealed a possible link between smoking and lung cancer.

12 – a new body – the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) – is established to control the production and development of atomic energy in the UK.

18 – US actor John Travolta is born in New Jersey.

18McCarthy‘s anti-Communist committee begins investigations of US military personnel. The Secretary of the US army orders two generals subpoenaed by senator Joseph McCarthy to ignore the summons.

25 – US Senator Joseph McCarthy is censured by President Eisenhower for his bullying tactics.

25 – Nasser takes temporary control in Egypt.


01 – The USA explodes its second hydrogen bomb – “Castle Bravo” – at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. The blast is equivalent to 12 million tons of TNT (600 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb) and Japanese fishermen, who see the explosion from 70 miles away, think the sun is rising. The event results in an international backlash against atmospheric nuclear testing.

The mushroom cloud produced by the Castle Bravo experiment at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

01 – Five US Congressmen are shot on the floor of the House of Representatives by Puerto Rican nationalists.

08 – US and Japan sign mutual defence pact.

08 – Cheryl Baker (Bucks Fizz) is born.

12 – British arrest 700 Mau Mau activists in Kenya.

12 – Senator Joseph McCarthy claims the US Army tried to blackmail him to halt his attacks on Communists.

22 – The London Gold Market opens for the first time since 1939. Gold is priced at $35 an ounce.

25 – British MPs approve the establishment of commercial television.

27 – ‘Royal Tan’ wins the Grand National after a race in which four horses died.

30 – Singer Lene Lovich is born.

31 – The USSR offers to join NATO.


03 – Oxford wins the 100th Boat Race.

12Bill Haley and The Comets record Rock Around The Clock.

18 – After seizing full control, Colonel Nasser becomes prime minister and military governor of Egypt.

18 – At least nine babies die in a fire in a maternity home in Reading, UK.

21 – The US Air Force flies a French battalion to Vietnam to defend that country against the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu in North Vietnam.

22 – The nationally-televised Army-McCarthy hearings begin in Washington DC.

25 – Peron is re-elected in Buenos Aires and arrests four opposition leaders for “talking disrespectfully” about him.

27 – Georgi Malenkov becomes premier of the USSR.


01 – West Bromwich Albion beat Preston North End 3-2 in the FA Cup Final.

06 – British athlete Roger Bannister runs the first sub-four-minute mile, in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

07 – The French garrison at Dien Bien Phu falls to the Vietminh (Communists). Vice President Richard Nixon urges direct intervention.

08 – France proposes Vietnam truce.

13President Eisenhower signs St Lawrence Seaway Bill.

14 – Boeing unveils the prototype 707 airliner.

15 – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip start a Commonwealth tour.

17 – US Supreme Court’s Brown vs The Board of Education decision outlaws racial segregation in schools.


01 – British television licences go up from £2 to £3.

02 – ‘Never Say Die’ wins the Derby at Epsom, ridden by 18-year-old Lester Piggott.

02McCarthy alleges serious Communist infiltration of the CIA and nuclear weapons plants.

06Eisenhower says he will prevent McCarthy investigating the CIA.

17 – The reformist government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala is overthrown in a CIA-backed coup.

18 – Pierre Mendès-France becomes French Premier.

27 – The first atomic power station is opened at Obninsk, near Moscow.

30 – Millions of people witness a total eclipse of the sun as the moon casts its shadow from America through Europe and on to Asia. For people in Britain, it is the first time they can see this natural phenomenon since 1927.


04 – Fourteen years of food rationing in Britain ends as restrictions on the sale and purchase of meat and bacon are lifted.

07Elvis Presley performs on the radio for the first time, singing That’s All Right Mama.

15 – The Boeing 367-80 (later developed as the 707) makes its maiden flight from Seattle.

16Ella Fitzgerald stars at the first Newport Jazz Festival.

17 – Theodor Heuss is new President of West Germany.

19Elvis Presley records That’s All Right Mama.

20 – An armistice in Indo-China is signed. Vietnam is divided; the north under Communist rule and the south supported by Great Britain and the USA.

30 – The Independent Television Authority (ITA) is inaugurated to oversee and regulate commercial television in the UK.


01 – The 5th Empire Games opens in Vancouver with 24 countries taking part.

03 – The first VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft is flown in Britain. The Rolls Royce TMR is nicknamed ‘The Flying Bedstead’.

17President Eisenhower commits the US 7th Fleet to stop China invading Formosa (Taiwan).

24 – Facing charges of corruption and conspiracy to murder, the president of Brazil, Getulio Vargas, kills himself.

24President Eisenhower outlaws the Communist Party in America.

25 – British singer/songwriter Elvis Costello is born Declan MacManus.

26 – The first book in JRR Tolkein’s Lord Of The Rings series is published in London.


03 – The National Trust for Scotland takes control of Fair Isle, famous for its birdlife and knitted sweaters. The remote island situated between Shetland and Orkney was bought by George Waterston, an Edinburgh ornithologist, in 1948. He set up a bird observatory which has since built up a worldwide reputation.

05 – 28 people die when a Dutch KLM airliner crashes into the River Shannon in Dublin.

08 – South East Asia Defense Treaty (SEATO) is signed to prevent the spread of Communism through South East Asia.

09 – Algerian earthquake kills 1,500.

15 – All China People’s Congress held in Peking.

17 – World heavyweight boxing champ Rocky Marciano beats Ezzard Charles in New York for his 47th consecutive victory.

19 – South Sydney win their 15th Australian Rugby League Grand Final, beating Newtown.


01 – A federal constitution comes into effect in Nigeria.

05Marilyn Monroe sues Joe DiMaggio for divorce citing conflicting career demands.

08 – Hanoi is taken by Communist troops. US ships help move thousands of refugees to South Vietnam.

13 – 23-year-old Oxford blue, Chris Chataway, breaks the 5,000 metres world record by five seconds in what has been described as one of the most remarkable races seen on a British track. His time is recorded as 13 mins 51.6 secs.

14 – Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie arrives in Portsmouth on the cruiser the Gambia. His visit is part of a world tour, his first since his triumphant return to Ethiopia in 1941

16 – 118 people are reported dead after Hurricane Hazel sweeps through eight US states.

16Elvis Presley makes his first commercial radio broadcast on a show in Shreveport, Louisiana, called Louisiana Hayride.

18 – Texas Instruments make the first transistor radio in the USA.

23 – Britain, France, the USA and the USSR agree to end the occupation of Germany. Germany will now be allowed to commence rearmament.

26 – Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser escapes an assassination attempt in Alexandria.

30 – The Swedish parliament approves the introduction of a national health care system.


03 – Outbreak of terrorism in Algiers as the Algerian National Liberation Front begins an armed campaign against French rule.

03 – French painter Henri Matisse dies.

05 – Burma and Japan sign peace treaty.

12 – New York’s main immigration control centre, Ellis Island, shuts down after 62 years. The site, which has admitted around 15 million people into America from overseas since it first opened in 1892, will no longer be used as an examination centre for those wanting to live in the United States.

17 – Gamal Abdel Nasser becomes official Head of State in Egypt.

30 – The Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, celebrates his 80th birthday in a day of ceremonies and tributes to his remarkable career. The festivities begin at midday, with a presentation of gifts from both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.


01 – US signs a pact of mutual security with the Nationalist Chinese Government.

02 – US Senate votes 67-22 to condemn Senator Joseph McCarthy for ‘conduct unbecoming of a Senator’ and for abuse of Select Committee privileges.

07 – Mike Nolan of Bucks Fizz is born.

11 – Jermaine Jackson (Jackson 5) is born.

14 – Disturbances and riots in Cyprus and Greece over the ENOSIS (union with Greece) issue.

21 – Birth of US tennis player Chris Evert.

23 – 20,000 French troops sent to Algeria.

24 – Laos becomes a constitutional monarchy independent from France.

25 – 28 die and eight are rescued when a BOAC Stratocruiser crashes at Prestwick in Britain.

25Eurythmics diva and pop singer Annie Lennox is born.

25 – Robin Campbell (UB40) is born.

Also this year . . .

  • Empire Games in Vancouver.
  • The Moonies (Unification Church) is founded by Korean Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
  • Rationing ends in Britain for butter, fats, bacon and meat.
  • American evangelist Billy Graham preaches for 72 consecutive nights on his British tour, culminating in 120,000 people flocking to Wembley Stadium.
  • Ten thousand West Indians arrive in Britain looking for a better life.
  • Television Act establishes commercial television in Britain and sets up the ITA (Independent Television Authority).
  • A new Morris Minor costs £439 10s 0d.