Tag Archives: 1963

1960s memories

Kennedy_DallasSomeone who is writing a novel has asked me about my memories of the 1960s because they were not born then.

This makes me feel very old. But I did once meet someone whose grandfather had met someone who had been a boy soldier at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Time gallops.

The big social UK changes in the UK were in 1963 and 1967/1968.

In 1963 you had a perfect storm of the contraceptive pill, the Profumo Scandal, The Beatles, the assassination of President Kennedy and the rise of TV and print satire with That Was The Week That Was and Private Eye.

British society changed.

Before 1963, Britain was basically still living in the early 1950s or in the mid-1930s… 1963 was a social earthquake that rumbled on.

And then, in 1967, there was Flower Power and the Summer of Love which only really lasted about six months. I tried wearing a floral shirt, not wearing a watch and going around without shoes, but gritty pavements and dog shit soon scuppered that idealistic experiment.

1967 was immediately followed in 1968 by student unrest and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Grosvenor Square. They were riots, really – uprooted metal railings against police horses. Classmates from my school were at one and told me about police over-reaction, though I think there may be two sides to that story.

So 1967-1968 quickly switched from flower power, peace and love  to student revolt and potentially worse in the course of a year.

It was like that in London, anyway.

The other changes I remember were sights and sounds and smells.

Somewhere around that time, someone invented a way to clean soot-black buildings with (I think) high-pressure water. British cities like London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow had been black. Just black stone and brick smelling of soot. Slowly, they were cleaned and architectural details appeared.

Somewhere around then, too, sodium street lamps came in.

Before then, in back streets at night, you walked carefully in darkness between pools of light from not-very-strong white street lights. When sodium lighting came, it flooded the streets with an orange light.

And, somewhere around that time, rubber-soled shoes came in.

Before that, you heard everyone walking behind and beside you in clip-clop-clip leather-soled shoes. With rubber-soled shoes, you did not hear people behind you. At the time, I felt this was a bit unsettling.

But that was a long time ago.

If anyone remembers things differently, another blog on this may follow.

Kennedy_Dallas2So it goes.


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The News of the World, the Profumo Affair and the planned military coup

(This blog was later published in The Huffington Post)

I studied journalism at college – well, radio, TV and journalism.

The man in charge of the journalism part of the course was the Production Editor of the News of the World. So we got lots of good lecturers – people like Cecil King, who had created Mirror Group Newspapers and the then-all-powerful IPC.

As a result, we got a very good insight into the real workings of the press and occasionally some great anecdotes.

One was about Rupert Murdoch’s take-over of the News of the World in 1969.

At the time, obviously, there was a lot of publicity about the re-launch of the ‘new’ Murdoch version of the paper and the News of the World’s TV ads promised one big thing – the REAL story of the 1963 Profumo Affair which had brought down Harold Macmillan’s government.

The News of the World had been a major player in the 1963 scandal and had interviewed almost everyone involved in the affair on tape at the time and had sworn affidavits from all and sundry.

But, when Rupert Murdoch took over the News of the World in 1969, he realised that, sitting in the basement in boxes of tapes and papers, there was much that had gone unpublished in 1963 – in particular about the sexual proclivities of Profumo’s wife, actress Valerie Hobson… and about exactly what type of sexual services Christine Keeler provided to Profumo (the UK’s Secretary of State for War) and to Yevgeny Ivanov, the senior naval attaché at the Soviet embassy in London.

However, when the News of the World published their ‘new’ stories about the Profumo Affair, they were just the re-heated previously-published stories. There was nothing new or earth-shattering.

Apparently this was because there had been such unrelenting legal, political and financial pressure on the News of the World that they had backed off. There were even stories of the police listening to tape recordings in one room while, next door, News of the World staffers were busily erasing parts of tapes.

I am a great fan of Doctor Who and, boy, do I wish I had a fully-functioning TARDIS so that I could come back in 100 years or 150 years and find out what had really been happening during my lifetime.

Cecil King, our occasional lecturer at college, was an interesting man because, with some good reason, he had an ego that engulfed any room he entered. Years later, it was claimed or revealed (two words that expose a gulf of possibilities) that he had, in 1968, talked to Lord Mountbatten (who was later assassinated) about the possible overthrow of Harold Wilson’s government with Mountbatten replacing the Prime Minister.

It seems to have been a relatively low-key bit of idle ego-boosting by Cecil, as opposed to the more seriously-thought-through plans for a military coup to overthrow the Wilson government in 1974-1975.

This plan for a military coup in the UK was briefly mentioned in some editions of Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times in 1987 but, I think, removed from later editions. The article does not seem to exist online at the Sunday Times, but I have the original newspaper cutting.

I did once ask the MP Dale Campbell-Savours about the ‘Cunard Affair’ – part of the plans for a military coup in the UK – as he had brought the subject up in the House of Commons. He asked me to phone him at home at the weekend, not at the House of Commons. I did. And he then told me he could not remember any details. “We were looking into a lot of things at the time,” he told me. “I can’t remember.” I always thought this was a little strange. However many murky affairs you were looking into, a planned military coup to overthrow the UK government (with a dry run during which tanks were taken to Heathrow Airport), might stick in the memory.

Only journalists or time travellers know the truth about history while it is actually happening.

The general consensus seems to be that the perceived necessity for a military coup in 1974/1975 lessened and became unnecessary when Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in February 1975 and subsequently won the 1979 General Election. The so-called Operation Clockwork Orange in which Margaret Thatcher’s close adviser Airey Neave (who was later assassinated) may have been involved may also have had some effect.

Clockwork Orange and the linked Colin Wallace affair, in which he was framed and imprisoned for manslaughter after he claimed the security services had tried to rig the 1974 UK General Election, surely has the makings of a feature film. A pity the title has already been used.

Conspiracies and conspiracy theories are always gripping entertainment, especially if they are real and who knows what is real?

Earlier in this blog, I specifically wrote that both Lord Mountbatten and Airey Neave were peripherally involved in political machinations and were both later assassinated.

Paranoid conspiracy theorists could have a field day with that. But, of course, they were both assassinated by Irish terrorists for reasons totally, utterly unconnected with the alleged plots: they were assassinated because they were high-profile targets.

As for other matters, I always think it is healthy to maintain a certain level of paranoia. There was a saying circulating in the 1960s: No matter how paranoid you are, they are always doing more than you think they are.

I wish I could get a time machine and go forward 100 years to see what was really happening in the world during my life.

If only.

If only.

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Filed under History, Newspapers, Politics, Sex