In 1981 a group of women,
angered by the decision to site Cruise Missiles (guided nuclear missiles) in the
UK, organised a protest march from Cardiff, Wales to Greenham Common Air Base
near Newbury, Berkshire. Here they set up what became known as the Greenham
Common Women's Peace Camp. Between 1981 and 1983 the protesters attempted to
disrupt construction work at the base, methods included blockading the base and
cutting down parts of the fence.
Protesters and police outside Greenham Common
Photograph taken by Isia Brecciaroli.
(IWM ref: HU 56670 )
In December 1982 more than
30,000 women gathered at Greenham to join hands around the base at the 'Embrace
the Base' event.
Despite the efforts of the
protesters, the first Cruise Missiles arrived at Greenham in November 1983. The
protest against the missiles, however, continued throughout the rest of the
1980s. Many women faced court cases, fines and sometimes imprisonment for their
actions. Newbury District Council tries many times in vain to close the camp by
evicting protesters. Numbers dwindled but the camp remained.
In 1987 US President, Ronald
Reagan and Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-range
Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which paved the way for the removal of Cruise
Missiles from Greenham. Between 1989 and 1991 all missiles sited at Greenham
were removed. The United States Air Force left the base in 1992 and were soon
followed by their British counterparts. The Peace Camp, however, remained as a
continuing protest against nuclear weapons.
Today Greenham no longer
belongs to the military. Part of it is in the process of being converted into a
business park, while the rest will be common land, open to all. The last of the
Greenham peace women left the base in September 2000, 19 years after they first
arrived. There are plans to commemorate the Peace Camp at the site.