1966 through the eyes of an Englishman

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The BEV Retrospective - 1966.

Topics this year are:
  • Vietnam war,
  • China's Cultural Revolution,
  • White separatists in Rhodesia,
  • Politics and happenings in the US,
  • Politics and happenings in the UK,
  • Other significant world events.

Vietnam War.

In his State of the Union address in January, LBJ left no doubt about his Vietnam policy:

"As the assault [of the NLF] mounted, our choice gradually became clear. We could leave, abandoning South Vietnam to its attackers and to certain conquest, or we could stay and fight beside the people of South Vietnam. We stayed. And we will stay until aggression has stopped."

A few days later, another 8,000 US soldiers arrived in Vietnam. They were joined by more Australian troops in March. BY the end of April the US has 250,000 troops in Vietnam.

A US fighter brought down over North Vietnam.
The war was not getting any more popular at home. There were many rallies against it, nation wide, in March, and in May, tens of thousands rallied against it at the Washington Monument. The next Day Martin Luther King made his first speech on the subject.

Later that month, a division of the North Vietnamese Army crossed into the south and clashed with a US Marine battalion. The marines were reinforced by most of the 3rd Marine Division, and the largest battle of the war to that date ensued. The NVA were driven back into the north.

In June, the US bombing of the north intensified, with attacks on Hanoi and Haiphong. Starting June 8th, on National Route 13, a major north-south highway in Binh Long Province, two battles were fought by the US 1st Infantry Division both initiated by NLF ambushes. Only superior American artillery and air support prevented a complete disaster.

On Independence Day, North Vietnam declared general mobilization, and 1,300 NVA troops were killed near Con Thien that month.

The following month, D Company, 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, met and defeated a Viet Cong force estimated to be 4 times larger, at the Battle of Long Tan in Phuoc Tuy Province. The Australians always were formidable opponents when hard pressed.

By the end of the year, American forces in Vietnam had reached 385,000 men, plus 60,000 sailors offshore. More than 6,000 Americans have been killed during the year, and 30,000 wounded. It was believed that 61,000 Vietcong had been killed, though such casualties were very difficult to pin down. However, the number of NLF troops continued to increase, and was now over 280,000.

The US was also concerned about the communist insurgency in Malaysia, and extracted a promise from the British government that British troops would stay there until the situation was stabilized.

Cultural Revolution poster.
China's Cultural Revolution.

In 1958 the Chinese leader Mao Zedong had initiated a program he called the "Great Leap Forward". This proposed to use collectivisation, and a system of communes, to kick start the Chinese economy into a modern, agriculturalized and industrialized society. It had been an abject failure, and has been credited with the death by starvation of perhaps 40 million people.

As a consequence, Mao had lost a significant proportion of his power within the Communist Party to his rivals Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. His 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution' was presumably intended to deal with this problem. His plan was to achieve this by the influencing the thoughts and mobilizing the actions of China’s youth, to form Red Guards groups around the country. They would set about destroying the 'Four Olds' - Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas.

On August 8th, Mao, who still had the army behind him, pushed a motion through CCP called its "Decision Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution". On the 16th, about 11 million Red Guards came to Beijing to see their leader, then went back to their homes to instigate a reign of terror against all who practiced the old ways.

To add power to their elbow, Mao issued a public notice, which stopped "all police intervention in Red Guard tactics and actions." Any in the police force who defied this notice, were to be labeled "counter-revolutionaries" - an automatic target for the Red Guard.
White Separatists in Rhodesia.

In January, the United Kingdom announced that it would cease all trade with Rhodesia, and in April it asked the UN Security Council for authority to use force to stop oil tankers that violated the embargo. This authority was given.

Not to be put off, Rhodesian security forces killed 7 ZANLA men in combat; 'Chimurenga', the ZANU rebellion, had begun.

In May, African members of the UN Security Council said that the British army should blockade Rhodesia, and in July, Zambia threatened to leave the Commonwealth of Nations because of alleged British peace overtures to Rhodesia. Such demands continued, and in November, 38 African states demanded that the United Kingdom use force against the Rhodesian government.

None of this did much good, Prime Minister Harold Wilson had too much adverse public opinion at home to allow him to use force. In December he met the Rhodesian Prime minister Ian Smith on HMS Tiger in the Mediterranean for negotiations. The results were inconclusive.

Later that month, the UN Security Council approved an oil embargo against Rhodesia, but South Africa refused to join the trade embargo against Rhodesia, which effectively negated its effects since the two countries had a common border.

Toward the end of the month, Wilson withdrew all his previous offers to the Rhodesian government, and announced that he will agree to independence only after the founding of a Black majority government. It was hot air. Ian Smith simply declared that Rhodesia was already a republic.

The Gateway Arch in St Louis.
Politics and Happenings in the US.

In January, the first 'Acid Test' was held at the Fillmore Hotel, San Francisco. These events were LSD parties, and were a marker of the beginning of a transition from a rock-and-roll/beat culture to the time of the 'hippies'. LSD was still legal in the US at this time.

In St. Louis, Missouri, during May, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended the dedication of the iconic 'Gateway Arch' - a part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

The rule know as 'Miranda Rights' was effectively imposed in June when the US Supreme Court ruled police must inform suspects of their rights before questioning them.

In October, LBJ signed a bill creating the United States Department of Transportation. its objective was to "Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future." The extent to which it has succeeded in achieving this is not entirely clear to me.

In November, an amiable looking actor called Ronald Reagan, was elected as republican Governor of California.

The aftermath of the Aberfan disaster.
Politics and Happenings in the UK.

In March of this year, in a well publicized interview published in The London Evening Standard, John Lennon was quoted as saying, "We're more popular than Jesus now." The remark was quoted out of context by an American teen magazine, and caused an outcry in the US bible belt. Their records were banned on some radio stations, and live performances were cancelled. Partly as a result of this, the Beatles gave up touring.

The same month, a bomb placed by ex-members of the IRA destroyed Nelson's Pillar in Dublin. An organization called the Ulster Volunteer Force was set up in Northern Ireland this same year, and it's possible that the two events may not have been just coincidental. The UVF killed two catholic men in West Belfast in the June of this year, signaling the start of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland.

Harold Wilson called for an election this year because he had a very tight majority in parliament - 4 seats, and because he had some grounds for optimism. The election was held on March 31st, and the Labour party won handsomely, giving Wilson a majority of 96.

On October 21st, the spoil heap from a coal mine in Aberfan, in South Wales, was subject to a land slip which demolished a school, some cottages, and a farm. The slip killed 144 people, 116 of who were children, buried by the debris.
Other Significant World Events.

On January 10th, peace negotiations between India and Pakistan reached a successful conclusion.

Later in the month, Indira Gandhi was elected as Prime Minister of India when the then Prime Minister Shastri died. She was sworn in on the 24th. She became the second woman prime minister after Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, who became prime minister of that country in 1960.

She proceeded to visit Washington in March, and then Moscow in July.

There were a number of skirmishes between Israeli and Syrian forces during this year, some about water rights. Then in November, the discomfort of the Israelis was increased when the Syrians entered into a joint defence pact with Egypt.


The space effort continued apace.

In February, the unmanned Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft made the first controlled landing on the Moon. Later in the month, the Soviet probe Venera 3, launched the tear before, crashed on Venus as intended, becoming the first spacecraft to reach the surface of another planet. In March, Luna 10 was launched, and would become the first space probe to enter orbit around the Moon.

Agena target vehicle seen from Gemini 12.

Harrier VTOL aircraft prototype.
The NASA Gemini program was very active again in this year:
  • March 16 - Gemini 8 docked with an Agena target vehicle then had a close brush with disaster when a thruster became stuck in the on state.
  • June 3 - Gemini 9A failed to dock with its target, but Gene Cernan completed the second US space walk after some hair-raising moments,
  • July 18 - Gemini 10 docked with an Agena target vehicle, Michael Collins made two space walks, and the docked vehicle/target pair did an orbit correction, setting a human altitude record of 763 km.
  • September 12 - Gemini 11 docked with an Agena target vehicle immediately after reaching orbit, Richard Gordon made 2 space walks, and re-entry was entirely computer controlled.
  • November 15 - Gemini 12 docked with an Agena, Buzz Aldrin for the first time successfully demonstrated that an astronaut could work effectively outside a spacecraft.
Explorer 32 was launched in May to study the Earth's upper atmosphere. It carried one ion and two neutral mass spectrometers, three magnetron density gauges, and two electrostatic probes.

Surveyor 1 was launched in June - the first launch in a program to explore the moon. It would soft-land in Oceanus Procellarum. As contributions to the same general objective, Lunar Orbiter 1 followed in August becoming the first US spacecraft to orbit the moon. Lunar Orbiter 2 followed in November.

In the UK, the worlds first military service VTOL aircraft, the Harrier GR1, was ordered from Hawker Aircraft by the RAF. A regular hovercraft passenger service began across the English Channel - it would run for more than three decades.

In Germany, the first practicable EFI system was developed by Bosch. The D-Jetronic was first used in the VW 1600TL in 1967, so was presumably developed at this time.

Nerdland was quiet, though Martin Richards designed a programming language called BCPL at the University of Cambridge. This was significant because it would be the grandfather of one of the worlds most widely used languages - 'C'. The Richards BCPL compiler was also the first one to generate intermediate code for a 'virtual machine'. To port the language to another computer architecture it was then only necessary to write code that would convert this intermediate code to the native code of the new system. In doing this it also established a precedent for another of the worlds most widely used languages - 'Java'.

Escape from South Yorkshire was now a priority for both of us. We didn't like where we lived, the work was boring, and we had no friends. I started job hunting again in earnest, and after a while, I got an interview with the North Eastern Region Scientific Services Department - SSD- of the CEGB in Leeds. It went OK, and I was offered a job in the Chemistry Division, starting in March.

Although we didn't like the area, there was plenty of local interest in the house now that the estate it was part of was more populated and established than it had been when we moved in. We soon found a buyer. Once we had, Elaine, now in the later stages of pregnancy again, high tailed it up to Yorkshire, and left me to wind things up.

Park Road area of Guiseley.

Silverdale Road.

Drax power station.
Inflation was low in 1966, but house prices were doing better than inflation, so when the house was sold, we would not have any difficulty with a deposit on another one back in West Yorkshire. We looked around in an area that was suitably positioned for access to both Leeds and Bingley and Shipley. We found one in a small town called Guiseley, which is to the north west of Leeds, and to the north east of shipley. It was on an estate that was established, but also quite new, and there were decent bus services in both directions.

I made my apologies for my short stay at the United Steel Companies, worked out my notice time, then rode with the removers van up to Guiseley. We did not move into the house immediately. The general thinking was that it would be better if we waited until Elaine had the baby. So we all stayed at the Stead's house for a while. My son Richard Charles William (I think Elaine had an attack of Christian name escalation syndrome) was born on the 13th of April - all went well, and in mid May, we moved in to number 16 Silverdale Road. My first memory of the place was that Elaine almost immediately succeeded in blocking the drains by flushing disposable baby nappies down the toilet. I had to open it up and do some shit bailing. Otherwise the house - another semi-detached, with three bedrooms - was fine. We had a policeman living on one side, and a schoolteacher on the other.

It was about five minutes walk from the main road between Leeds and Ilkley, just off a road that cuts across from the Leeds road to the Bradford Road. So you had a five minute walk to get to the bus for either Leeds or Bradford. To go to work, I'd take the walk to the Leeds Road, and catch a bus that would drop me right outside the gates of Kirkstall Power Station. The SSD buildings had been built in the grounds of the station a couple of years before.

The CEGB was a nationalized industry, being considered by the post-war governments as too strategic to be out of government control. As such,it had a research arm copied without too much modification from the civil service research establishments like the AERE at Harwell, and similar ethics. There was a central research laboratory site - CERL - at Leatherhead in Surrey, and other laboratories elsewhere, and then more recently, the Scientific Services Departments had been created in each of the CEGB regions to provide more immediate technical support to the power stations of the region, or to do research on problems or opportunities peculiar to the area.

The grading system was broadly similar, and I was employed as a 'band 3' scientific officer - the entry level grade for an SO. I worked in the Chemistry Division under a man called Jim Dunbar. His boss was the 'Scientific Services Controller', Leslie Young. His post made him a member of the Regional Executive, though to be fair, not a very influential one. The real raw power in the CEGB was wielded by the Power Station Superintendents. They were like ships captains at sea and had within their vested authority the power to do whatever they thought necessary to keep their plant running and the electricity on.

The focus of Chemistry Division's work was on corrosion of the steam generator tubes of the region's coal fired boilers. These boilers operated at a pressure of about 2000psi, so if one of the tubes corroded enough so it burst, the ensuing steam leak would soon cut holes in surrounding tubes and create a real mess, so you had to take the boiler out of service.
When this happened at one of the large power stations like Drax that were being built in the Aire Valley to the east, it meant that older, less efficient, plant had to be brought on line instead. This cost much more to run, and thus lost the industry money hand over fist.

I spent much of my time climbing up and down the gantries of the boilers at Ferrybridge 'C' power station collecting water samples from sampler tubes inserted into boiler tubes. Then we'd take the samples back to the labs and analyse the substances dissolved in the water to attempt to understand the corrosion process. It was not high-tech work, except possibly for the analysis, but it was interesting even if only because the plant itself was quite spectacularly large and powerful. A 500MW steam boiler/turbine combination is an impressive beast.

At this time of my life I first encountered haemorrhoids - piles. Climbing up and down steel staircases close to a hot boiler with sweat running down the crack of your arse is pretty good way to get them. Fortunately, when I stopped the boiler climbing, they went away.

What I missed in Guiseley was a good pub. The town was full of them but I was not impressed by any. I went to one on the Leeds Road called the "Yorkshire Rose" for a while, but it didn't have a good regular crowd. However, wherever I've lived I've always been an explorer, and while walking at the weekend I discovered a pub called "The Commercial Inn" at a little village called Esholt off the Bradford road half way down Hollings Hill. This was too far to walk for a drink in the evening, but was OK for the weekend.

Though I worked close to Leeds, we favoured Bradford as a sopping centre, since it was the city we'd been brought up with, and was actually a little closer. Now, in the new job we were a little better off, and things weren't as much of a stretch as they'd been in North Anston.

My classical music collection had expanded, and now I also had some of the music of Brahms, Dvorak, and Mozart. I would also listen to performances on Radio 3, and to the Henry Wood Promenade concerts when I got the chance

So life was quite agreeable, with challenges in the new job, my daughter, another baby, the new house, and with the ability to see friends at the weekend. 1966 slipped away quite quickly.

This years number ones in the UK, and the odd number two were as follows:

ArtistTitleMonth Comment
Nancy SinatraThese Boots Are Made For WalkingJanOle blue eyes daughter
Walker BrothersThe Sun Ain't Gonna Shine AnymoreMar
Spencer Davis GroupSomebody Help MeMar
Dusty SpringfieldYou Don't Have To Say You Love MeMar
Manfred MannPretty FlamingoApr
Frank SinatraStrangers In The NightMayOle blue eyes
Rolling StonesPaint It BlackMay
KinksSunny AfternoonJun
BeatlesPaperback WriterJun
Georgie Fame & The Blue FlamesGet AwayJun
Chris FarloweOut Of TimeJun
TroggsWith A Girl Like YouJul
Small FacesAll Or NothingAugInfluential London group representing the 'mods' formed 1965
BeatlesYellow Submarine / Eleanor RigbyAugThe Beatles changing style - no more touring.
Jim ReevesDistant DrumsAug
Four TopsReach Out I'll Be ThereOctFull blown Motown - their biggest hit and one of the label's biggest
Beach BoysGood VibrationsNov
Tom JonesGreen Green Grass Of HomeNov
SeekersMorningtown RideNovNumber 2 but Helen's definite favourite

The Monkees.

As you can see, the British groups had lost their grip to some extent, with new and established American performers pushing back in. The Beatles and the Stones were there less, and not there for as long.

It seemed in fact that the British invasion had triggered a sudden flowering of talent in the US, with so much good music being produced that it really is impossible to give an overall impression of it here. If you want to get a more detailed view, look at the Wiki 1966 in Music Page.

Apart from the UK chart list, the recordings I'd pick out as interesting were: I don't know which to pick, think it has to be the Supremes:

Interestingly, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass set a world record this year by having five albums simultaneously on Billboard's Pop Album Chart. Their music outsold The Beatles by two-to-one.
In May of this year, two further pirate radio stations - Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio - appeared, both broadcast from the same ship anchored off the south coast of England in international waters.

So, films? Well in that respect, in the US, it was a lacklustre year. The award winner was "A Man for All Seasons", the story of Sir Thomas More. The only other title I recognize from the top 10 was Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but I don't think I ever saw it.

The British list looked better. "A Man for All Seasons" was, of course, a British movie, then the others I remember were "Alfie" - Michael Caine does Don Juan, Antonioni's "Blowup", and "The Blue Max".

Morecambe and Wise.
In these years, I did not get out a lot in the evenings, so Television was important. Among other things, 1966 was a world cup year, and that provided its fair share of entertainment, since England beat West Germany 4 - 2 in the final, some 33 million people watched it.

The important thing though was regular content. BBC broadcasting was generally pretty good in the 60s. The Wednesday play was a staple, and the outstanding example in this year was "Cathy Come Home".

Regular weekly drama series included "The Avengers", "Maigret" - a TV adaptation of the works of French novelist George Simenon, "Dr Finlay's Casebook", and "Z Cars".

The comedy sitcom series of the time was "Till Death Us Do Part". For a simple good laugh you could watch the "Morecambe and Wise Show", and for topical satire, you could watch "Not Only - But Also...".

News and current affairs has always been strong on British TV, and a good example at this time was Granada TVs "World in Action". For nature, science, and technology you could watch "Horizon" or "Tomorrow's World".

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