United against Nuclear Threat

Article excerpt

Byline: By Ray Marshall

Because of the nuclear arms race between the West and Russia, the British government requested the US place strategic nuclear missiles on its territory.

Five new bases were identified in Europe and on September 5, 1981 the Welsh group Women for Life on Earth arrived on Greenham Common in Berkshire, the location for the first 16 nuclear missiles in Europe.

Eventually 96 were to be stored on the site, where a vast programme of works had taken place to build specially hardened shelters that could withstand the force of a direct hit by a 500lb bomb and a 10 megaton thermonuclear airburst explosion 1,600ft above them. Six shelters were built to protect transporters, support and communications vehicles.

The women delivered a letter to the base commander requesting a meeting. This was ignored and the Greenham Common Peace Camp was born. The presence of the peace camp outside an operational nuclear base brought a new perspective to the peace movement, which until then had mainly been CND marches and rallies.

Journalists came from every corner of the globe to report on what was taking place and the camp began to grow. More camps sprang up around the base.

Living through wintry conditions without electricity, running water and telephone was difficult. There were frequent evictions and vigilante attacks, but the resolve of the women grew. The original settlers were joined by women from all over the UK and abroad. …