Retro: Alerts as storms hit UK

DATELINE: DECEMBER 1960

The country was lashed by storms, bringing widespread flooding, leading to the closures of 80 main roads and some 28 counties declaring flood alerts.

Hundreds of people were trapped in their homes and bridges were washed away in some areas.

Cardinal William Godfrey, Archbishop of Westminster, ordered that prayers for fine weather be included in all masses at Roman Catholic Churches throughout England and Wales.

The villages of Birkin and Haddlesey, near Goole, were in danger after river banks cracked. In other parts of Yorkshire, a 24-hour 'monsoon' caused river levels to rise in some cases by 14ft, leaving thousands of acres under water.

In Bath, hundreds had to be rescued from their homes in an operation described as a 'mini-Dunkirk.'

One of the worst places affected was Watergate, near Methley, a hamlet which was completely flooded, so that all of its roads and the majority of its houses, were affected by water.

THE HEADLINES

City Square in Leeds had its own policeman directing traffic. On December 1, he made the front page after a lorry driver ran over his fruit box, on which he normally stood – luckily, he had not been on it at the time. The box was replaced the following day by a custom-made one-man enclosure with black and white chequerboard sides.

Leeds University's electronic computer (singular) was helping the West Riding highways department to speed up work on bridge design for the London-Yorkshire motorway (M1)

Smog masks were on sale at chemists in Leeds, following a warning from the Meteorological Office. On Friday December 9, the fog was so thick it brought traffic to a standstill, with visibility down to 25 yards in places.

An engineer fell to his death shortly after starting work half way up Blackpool Tower. Father-of-two Joseph Thomas, 45, became the first person to die on the tower since 1935. Mr Thomas fell after scaffold boards gave way.

Two Leeds students, Freda Hilton and Claire Tracy staged a six-day vigil in freezing conditions outside Leeds Town Hall in protest over the means testing of students' parents. Miss Hilton said: "It is quite impossible for me to live on a grant of 230 a year, my digs cost 4 a week."

Postmaster General Reginald Bevins, rejected calls from the BBC to allow it to introduce a colour service, prompting criticism that the UK would be lagging behind other countries. Mr Bevins said it was not the BBC which wasn't ready, but people who made televisions.

Customs and Excise raised 2.822bn in taxes, up 94m thanks to record spending in 1959, a heat-wave year in which Britons smoked, drank and bet more than ever before, according to statistics read out in Parliament. The bonanza included 26m barrels of beer were consumed (2m more than 1958), 145m of revenue came from spirit shorts, an increase of 10m on the previous year, 2.6m came from wine sales, 318m from motorists and 39m from people having a bet. Some 501m came from the sale of electrical goods, such as TVs and washing machines, while some 1,752 people were convicted of smuggling offences.

The Queen made her first Christmas TV broadcast from inside Buckingham Palace. The speech was recorded on December 16 by a two-man camera crew from the BBC, watched over by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen's personal secretary, who stood in for her on checks for lighting.

The speech was immediately played back to the Queen so she could approve it.

The Ministry of Transport announced the start of compulsory vehicle testing in the UK, adding that owners would then have to ensure the vehicle had an up-to-date check every 10 years.

THE GOSSIP

Sir Laurence Olivier was ordered to pay the costs of two undefended cases in the divorce courts, the first of a Roger Leonard Cage, actor, who was granted a decree nisi on the ground of adultery by his wife, actress Joan Plowright with Sir Lawrence at an address in Chelsea. As a result of the same adultery, Lady Olivier was also granted a decree nisi. The couple had been married since August 1940.

Entertainer Arthur Askey became a grandfather after his daughter Anthea gave birth to her first child, which weighed 7lb

THE WORLD

Russia sent two dogs (Pchelka and Mushka), into space aboard its Sputnik 6 rocket. They were not the first or last dogs sent into space by Russia and their ordeal lasted all but a day, after the space pod they were inside crashed into the atmosphere and burned up.

French Army units with tanks and armoured cars took over from hard-pressed police to quell rioting in Algiers after President de Gaulle flew into the country on a six day visit. Protesters who were mainly French colonists were angry over his policy on giving the country self-determination.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Junior was baptised in the chapel at Georgetown University Hospital on December 9, after being born on November 25. He was the elder son of US President-elect John F Kennedy and wife Jacqueline - he died in a plane crash along with wife Carolyn and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette, on July 16, 1999.

AND FINALLY...

MPs in the House of Commons were said to be shaken by allegation radioactive tortoises were being imported into Britain. Tom Driberg, MP for Barking said special measures should be implemented to ensure tortoises be checked for radioactivity but Health Minister Enoch Powell said: "I am advised there is no hazard through radioactivity from imported tortoises and no evidence of any infection arising from them that would justify control measures."

‘Miracle’ as danger driver hits 100mph during police chase through Leeds estate