One’s earliest memories are usually of things related to the family or which directly concerned oneself. But what is the earliest news of national or international importance you can recall?
In my case it is Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile. On 6th May 1954 Roger Bannister, a 25-year-old British medical student, became the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. It was a feat which most people thought could never be achieved. His time was 3mins 59.4 seconds, achieved at the Iffley Road track in Oxford and watched by about 2 to 3,000 spectators. I don’t think any athletic record since that one has had the same impact. It seemed there were no longer any limits to what man’s body could achieve.
From 1956 onwards I recall a few things – the Suez Crisis, the opening of Calder Hall power station and most amazingly to me the laying of the trans-Atlantic telephone cable between Newfoundland and Scotland. I even recall Dad showing me on the globe exactly where Newfoundland was.
But of all the events of 1956 none sticks in my memory more than the arrival of Soviet troops in Hungary. The day after my 7th birthday the Hungarian people rose up against Soviet rule and the picture above shows Hungarians mobbing a Russian tank. But a week later 1000 Russian tanks rolled into Budapest and put down the ‘revolt’. The freedom fighters, hoping for help from the West, were ignored by the British government which was too busy with the Suez Crisis to risk taking on the USSR on its home turf. I remember my teacher, Miss Perry, standing at the front of the class on 5th November to tell us, in a most emotional manner, about hearing on the radio of the brave young men who had stood in front of the tanks only to be mown down. It was unheard of for any teacher to show emotion to her pupils and that alone would have made the events stand out in my mind. In all some 30,000 Hungarians were killed in Budapest alone as Russia “crushed the forces of reactionary conspiracy against the Hungarian people".
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