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Margaret Thatcher, who sadly died yesterday, was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and was the only woman ever to have held the office. Many believe that she was the greatest British peacetime prime minister and she led the United Kingdom in this capacity for 11 years from 1979 until her resignation in 1990.

Margaret Thatcher revitalised Britain's economy, curbed the trade unions, and re-established the nation as a world power. She oversaw an increase from 7 per cent to 25 per cent of adults owning shares, and more than a million families bought their council houses, giving an increase from 55 per cent to 67 per cent in owner-occupiers. Total personal wealth rose by 80 per cent, and women's pay rose dramatically to the highest level on record and stayed there.

What critics fail to recall is that in 1979 when she took office, inflation in Britain was running at 25% and the interest rate was 14%: her policies helped reverse these trends but they were faced with severe criticism from workers and unions which were related, especially, to the coal and steel industries which had been failing seriously for many years under previous governments and were no longer economically viable.

Her foreign policies made Britain again a serious player on the world stage and when, on 2nd April 1982 the ruling military junta in Argentina ordered the invasion of the British-controlled Falkland Islands and South Georgia, triggering the Falklands War, she authorised and despatched a naval task force to retake the islands. Argentina surrendered on 14th June and the operation was hailed a success, despite the loss of 255 British servicemen and 3 Falkland Islanders. Thatcher's popularity was, for a time, secured and Britons once again felt proud to be British.

Unfortunately her downfall and subsequent resignation were no doubt due in part to her insistence on imposing the infamous Poll Tax, first in Scotland and then in the rest of the United Kingdom, an action which was felt to be divisive and which gave nationalists more determination to attempt to break up the United Kingdom. But, of course, it was eventually the members of her own cabinet and not the electorate who finally made her resignation inescapable.

This picture, which was taken some time ago at the Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian, is of an Avro Vulcan B2A. The Avro Vulcan was one of Britain's nuclear bomb carrying "V-bombers" (the others were the Vickers Valiant and the Handley Page Victor) and first flew in August 1952. It was the World's first delta winged bomber and entered RAF service in 1960. Powered by four Rolls Royce Olympus engines, the Vulcan cruised at 625mph and had a range of 4,600 miles. It has a wing span of 111 feet and a length of just under 100 feet. This example (XM597) flew operationally in the Falklands War in 1982.

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Additional Photos by John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1244 W: 390 N: 4509] (18202)
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