Yuri Gagarin in the UK

Following his historic spaceflight, Yuri Gagarin, who was a former foundry worker, was invited to visit Manchester by the Foundry Worker's Union. The Macmillan Government extended the invitation to London, adding an extra few days to the planned tour in July 1961.

As part of YuriGagarin50 activities, we are looking to compile as detailed a timeline as possible for Gagarin's movements during the four days that he spent in the UK. The timeline below is a work in progress. If you have any personal recollections about Gagarin's visit, please contact office AT yurigagarin50.org.

More details of Gagarin's UK tour and links to associated RIA Novosti images are available in the timeline of Gagarin's Life.


Date Time Description
Tuesday 11th July 10:30

A Russian TU104 carrying Yuri Gagarin touches down at London Airport (source: Pathé) and is met on behalf of the Government by Mr Turnbull, Secretary of the Minister of Science Office (source: Pathé) and Air Marshal Sir Ronald Lees, Deputy Chief of the Air Staff. (Source: Flight)

Gagarin's interpreter for the visit is Boris Belitzky of Radio Moscow. (Source: Flight, Voice of Russia)

Gagarin is driven from the airport in an open-top Rolls Royce, registration number YG1, on his way to the Russian Embassy. From Hammersmith onwards, the streets are crowded with people. (Source: Pathé)


Arrives at the Soviet Embassy (Source: Daily Worker 10/7/61).

At the Embassy, Gagarin is presented with a bouquet of flowers by a little girl. (Source: Hulton Archive )


.Gagarin arrives at Earl's Court to see the Soviet Exhibition. He meets the organisers. (Source: Pathé, Guardian 12/7/61)



After lunch there is a press conference in the fashion theatre of the Soviet Exhibition attended by 600 journalists (for details of the questions asked, see the article in Flight).

12 year-old Mike Scanlon gatecrashes the press conference and manages to shake hands with Gagarin (Source: Hulton Archive)


.At the end of the press conference, Gagarin is awarded the first British Interplanetary Society Gold Medal by the Society's president, Dr W.R. Maxwell. (Source: Flight, Hulton Archive)


Gagarin leaves Earl's Court and returns to the Soviet Embassy (Source: Guardian 12/7/61)


Gagarin attends an evening reception at the Soviet Embassy (Source: Daily Worker 10/7/61)

. . .
Wednesday 12th July 10:00

Gagarin flies to Manchester in an BEA plane and arrives in the rain at Ringway Airport, Manchester. Seeing the crowds, he asks for the top of the car to be taken down saying, “If all those people are getting wet to welcome me, surely the least I can do is get wet too!” (Souce: Guardian 13/07/61)


Gagarin visits the Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers, at Brook's Bar, in Old Trafford. He is made an honorary member and Union President, Fred Hollingsworth presents Gagarin with a gold medal (source: Pathé).


Gagarin visits Metropolitan Vickers in Trafford Park (source: Messenger Newspapers).


Gagarin is taken to the Town Hall for a reception. A brass band plays the national anthem of the USSR (source: Working Class Movement Library)

Gagarin meets Bernard Lovell, Director of the Jodrell Bank Observatory (source: Messenger Newspapers).


Gagarin flies back to London from Manchester Airport

. . .
Thursday 13th July 11:00

Gagarin visits Mansion House and meets the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Bernard Waley Cohen. He waves on the balcony to gathered crowds of city workers. (Source: Pathé, Daily Worker 13/7/61).


Gagarin visits the Tower of London. (Source: Pathé, Hulton Archive)


The Royal Society honours Gagarin with a recption and lunch at Burlington House (Source: Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society).  Gagarin is presented with books on the Society and Isaac Newton (Source: Hulton Archive).


Gagarin meets the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan at Admiralty House, Whitehall. Gagarin is introduced to Macmillan by Sqn Ldr Jimmy James (Source: BBC Shropshire). Macmillan says of Gagarin, "He's a delightful fellow". Gagarin presents Macmillan with an autographed book about his space flight. (Source: Pathé)


Gagarin lays a wreath on the Cenotaph in Whitehall


A reception is held for Gagarin at the Air Ministry. Among those present are Air Chief Marshal Sir Thomas Pike, Chief of the Air Staff, Ambassador Soldatov and Maj-Gen I.P. Efimov, the Soviet Military Attache. Gagarin is presented with a silver cigarette box by the Secretary of State for Air, Mr Julian Amery, who receives in return a copy of Gagarin's book about his flight (source: Flight)..


Gagarin attends a reception in Kensington at the Society for Cultural Relations between the British Commonwealth and the USSR. (Source: Daily Worker 13/7/61).


Gagarin attends a reception hosted by the Great Britain-USSR Association and the Hyde Park Hotel. (Source: Daily Worker 13/7/61)


Gagarin goes to the Dorchester Hotel to meet with the Moscovites, an association of British men that trade with the USSR - This meeting was cancelled and Gagarin took in a sight-seeing tour of London. (Source: Guardian 14/7/61)


 Gagarin returns to the Russian Embassy. (Source: Daily Worker 13/7/61)

. . .
Friday 14th July


Gagarin has lunch with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace (source: Flight). He is accompanied by his interpreter, Boris Belitzky, Soviet Ambassador Alexander Soldatov and Lieutenant-General Nikolai Kamanin, who was at that time in charge of the cosmonaut unit (Source: Voice of Russia).


Gagarin returns to the Soviet Embassy


Earl's Court (Source: Daily Worker 14/7/61)


Gagarin returns to the Soviet Embassy to receive a gift from the British Soviet Friendship Society. (Source: Daily Worker 14/7/61) 


Gagarin visits Highgate Cemetery


 Gagarin is interviewed on BBC Television and thanks the British people for the warmth of their welcome. (Source: Daily Worker, 17th July 1961).


Earl’s Court Live BBC TV interview (at 21:30) from Earl’s Court with Richard Dimbleby, Tom Margerison, science editor of the Sunday Times, and Yuri Fokin of the Soviet Television Service. (Source: Daily Worker 14/7/61)


 Gagarin Returns to the Soviet Embassy

. . .
Saturday 15th July 11:00

Gagarin leaves the Soviet Embassy for London Heathrow Airport. (Source: Daily Worker 15/7/61)

A crowd of 2000 people gather outside the Soviet Embassy in London to wave Gagarin off. Thousands more line Kensington High Street and the Bath Road. Well-wishers pack every bus to London Airport. (Source: Daily Worker, 17th July 1961).


There is a final press conference at the airport. Gagarin says "I carry back with me the most warm memories of the friendly reception and of the hospitality of Great Britain, the population of your capital and in the celebrated city of Manchester". (Source: Daily Worker, 17th July 1961).


Gagarin stands for several seconds on the steps of the plane and several people rush forward to shake his hand and embrace him. He flies home from Heathrow. (Source: Daily Worker, 17/7/61).


Gagarin arrives in Moscow (Source: FO 371-159606 12/7/61 - National Records Archive)


Thanks to Gurbir Singh for his help in assembling this timeline.


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