IN SEPTEMBER 1981, three dozen women, four children in pushchairs and six men began a 120-mile peace march from Cardiff city centre that would go on for 19 years.
Few would have predicted that the odd band would morph into one of the longest and best-known sit-ins in modern history - which at its height attracted up to 70,000 people from across the globe to a windswept heath in Berkshire.
The group took up residence outside a top-security American cruise missile base at Greenham Common and were a persistent thorn in its side until they left in 2000.
Living in the mud, physically evicted every morning from their makeshift camp and arrested regularly as they repeatedly broke into and defiled the US military base, the small band of Welsh protesters arguably did more to shine a spotlight on the campaign for nuclear disarmament than any other civilian protest.
Along the way, the women's guerrilla tactics attracted a torrent of abuse, denounced as Communists, vagrants, thieves, anarchists and squatters.
But while the Government loathed them, they attracted the imagination of women across the world.
Numbers swelled and, at its height, thousands of protesters formed a 14-mile human chain from Greenham to Aldermaston.
Thalia Campbell, now 73 and living in Pembroke, was part of the initial band that set off from Cardiff when she was a 44-year-old art teacher.
"I had four kids. The youngest 15, and she was very embarrassed by her mum, by all of this stuff," she said.
"We were vilified in the press, we were called horrendous things. Untrue things. We were called bad mothers, dirty drop-outs, lesbians, hippies, dupes of Moscow. These are things that have been levelled at women throughout history.
"When I went to Greenham, I saw and heard the same things they said for the Suffragettes.
"The gutter press was recycling all of that - because they were frightened of us.
Who else would break down fences like we did? Who else would put up the banners? We were not scared, we were a real threat."
The women also fought a war on multiple fronts, with a fractious relationship with the police and military at the camp, viewed with antipathy by the right-wing press and loathed by the diametricallyopposed Thatcher.
Among the women's tactics was an elaborate, and successful, attempt to cut down seven miles of perimeter fence.
Later, Mrs Campbell said, they spray-painted a spy plane that the government had denied was even there, causing millions of pounds worth of damage - and escaping prosecution, because otherwise it was admission of the plane's existence.
And as the tabloids cranked up the pressure, she took on the role as the camp propagandist in an attempt to fight back against the media onslaught.
She believes the banner messages provoked the ire of their enemies, leading to a dirty tricks campaign designed to undermine the swelling numbers.
As she tried to erect a banner, soldiers were simultaneously trying to smash and break her fingers.
The camp was infiltrated by an unsympathetic tabloid journalist, who then wrote a scathing critique of the women.
She believes special branch attempted to plant drugs on the women via English squaddies. Only a tip-off meant the women could unceremoniously dump the "mules" out of the camp.
The women spent one sleepless night after they suspected that unstable mental patients had been sneaked into the camp, fearing - as Mrs Campbell put it - that they would be "killed in their sleep".
The women's unapologetic approach was to disrupt the base as much as possible, and revolved around breaching the camp's perimeter and challenging the authority of the police and military who inhabited it.
"Early one morning, I had put up about 20 banners with others on the fence and on the gates," Mrs Campbell said.
"As I tied the banners on the fence, soldiers were trying to smash and break my fingers.
"That day, we blockaded all nine gates of the base - which was exhausting. We got up at 6am, and there were hundreds of women at the blue gate and a few partners and children standing observing. We sat and lay down in front of the gates.
"There was row upon row of us, and the police picked us up and more or less threw us in the ditch and on the grass nearby.
"This went on and on until 4pm. It took two police to pick up small women but four to pick up the larger women. They had sweat running down their faces after a few hours, dripping on us.
"But we just picked ourselves up and went back time and time again."
Relentless struggles like that were rinsed and repeated throughout the 1980s as the two sides looked to gain the upper hand.
"We were the Wikileaks of the day - spreading far and wide what our government did not want the British people, or the world, to know."
Mary Millington, who lived in Cardiff and Newport before moving to Glasgow, lived at the camp for five years from August 1982, and described the vitriol levelled at the women as "relentless".
She said: "We got quite a lot of abuse, people shouting 'slags', 'lesbians' and so on - we knew we weren't popular.
"We faced protests from groups like Parents Against Greenham and Ratepayers Against Greenham Encampments (RAGE), which was funded from the USA.
"There was a woman journalist that came in and did a sort of hatchet job on us - it was spiteful and nasty, and was not in tune with the support we were getting.
"But there was such opposition because we were winning - they didn't like it and they wanted us to go."
The women's cause was complicated by the opposition on their doorstep, with the people at the nearby town of Newbury showing them an almost allergic animosity.
"While in Wales there was broad support, probably because it all started there, but the people of Newbury hated us," Ms Millington said.
"There was only one cafe that let us in - none of the others would even allow us to come close to coming in - but there was that one, she let us have a hot meal and brush our teeth.
"We were fighting for what we thought was right, but the problem was that some others didn't see it like that, and the authorities wanted to discredit us and paint us as dirty vandals."
Far from the women being provocative, she suggests the police were being "unnecessarily rough" and says the timing of the start of the protest meant that the police were "practising" on the Greenham women.
She added: "The police could be brutal - especially as the camp was set up just before the miners' strike, and the police seemed to be practising their techniques.
"The police were dealing with us on horseback, with truncheons, they'd pin your arm hard behind your back - quite a lot of the women had injured shoulders. We were thrown into ditches.
"I can remember one incident in particular that was very shocking.
"There was a baby born in the camp, a little boy, and two weeks on, the mother brought him round to the other side of the base from the main gate, where a number of women were cutting the fence.
"She was just sitting quietly on the other side of the road holding her baby, but the 'miners tactics' employed by the policemen was to zone in on one person and isolate her and - beat her up, really.
"For some reason they turned on this woman with the baby.
"I was trying to sit next to her when they were shouting 'don't think just because you have got a baby you would be treated differently'. It was like they'd gone mad."
Ms Millington, who went to prison multiple times for her efforts, points to the results of the dogged protest as vindication of the women's controversial tactics.
"It was absolutely worth it," she says. "There are no missiles on Greenham Common. The fence is down. The land is now a nature reserve.
"I think history will see us as the brave women we were."
For Sian ap Gwynfor, a minister's wife and mother of two from Llandysul, Carmarthenshire, who stayed at the camp during the height of the protests in the 1980s, the experience was also one of great pride.
The 54-year-old pointed to the government as villains, but added: "I hated what they were doing in that camp. I hated what Margaret Thatcher was doing. I hated the way she thought. But she was still a human being at the end of the day, but the policies were policies of injustice.
"I don't regret anything that I did, I don't regret going or being a part of it at all. It doesn't bother me that I have broken the law many a time."
She agreed that the "unladylike" image cultivated of the Greenham protesters made them easy targets for a government scared of what it might lead to.
She said: "For me, a minister's wife, hanging around in muddy fields was just not a thing that was done.
"There was a photo taken of me standing next to a toilet - the 's*** pit', as we called it - a photo which went back home, to a lot of churches.
"You can imagine what people would have thought of that. But at the end of the day, things like that were not all that important."
She added: "I was caught with many a hacksaw down my trousers during my time there, I was always prepared.
"I was taken into hospital wearing a lot of hacksaws on my body. My sister-in-law was with me - and I was trying hard to get to the toilet quietly before they examined me.
"I was begging her, 'tell them something - say I'm weeing myself'. They insisted on someone coming in with me. When I tried to pull my trousers down, one of the hacksaws fell out - and they just looked at me... and just turned around."
Mother-of-three Sue Lent, 59, now living in Roath, Cardiff, was another who set off on the original, epic march - clad in her flip flops and with a baby in tow - now her 30-year-old eldest son, Chris.
She said the women were simultaneously being portrayed as heroes in some quarters, and villains in others.
"Strangely enough, I remember the Welsh media was different from the English media, they were a lot more supportive," she said.
"I remember a lot of English newspapers denouncing us as unclean, unwashed - and lesbians, of course.
"But a few of the original marchers were men and there were mothers. I took my one-year-old son with me."
Ms Lent pointed to the predominantly-female protest as a possible reason for the sustained bad publicity, as it ironically cemented its overwhelmingly pacifist ethos.
"It was quite an important element that it was women and mothers that carried the protest on," she said. "There was a feeling with some women that if there were men staying at the camp, it might have a potential to be violent.
"But there were a few ladies groups that were against the camp - it was if we were defiling respectable ladies by not working, and camping out.
"Instead of this expected ladylike behaviour, we were the vandals, breaking into the camp using bolt cutters, breaking the law - we were bad wives and mothers."
Ms Lent suggests that the women achieved as much as the Suffragettes for women's standing.
"In terms of giving up themselves for the cause - and some women stayed at the camp week in, week out, for five years - and giving an enormous sacrifice for the cause, it was similar to the Suffragette movement."
PETER HAIN ON BEING VIEWED AS A HERO AND A 'VILLAIN' IN TOMORROW'S WESTERN MAIL
From left, Sian ap Gwynfor now and Sian at Greenham Common; Thalia Campbell now and Thalia speaking at Greenham Common in 1981; Sue Lent now and a shot of the protests Greenham Common airbase where women anti-cruise missile protesters repeatedly broke down the fences and disrupted the work of the US military…