Greenham Common in the Archive

This month not only marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Glasgow Women’s Library but also it is 30 years since women arrived at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire in order to oppose the siting of 96 nuclear cruise missiles at the base.

Greenham Common badge, The Greenham Factor and postcard of Greenham Common Blues by ennis gould
Greenham Common badge, The Greenham Factor and postcard of Greenham Common Blues by ennis gould

At the library we have some items relating to Greenham Common and other materials from the women’s peace movement including badges, music and leaflets.

What was it like for women attending Greenham and what motivated them?

The leaflet The Greenham Factor includes many personal quotes from the ordinary women who were involved in the protests, as well as snippets of poetry, song, quotations from various significant campaigners and legal reports, and photographs of the action. It was published by the Greenham Print Prop and was intended to be used as publicity for the cause.

One theme that runs through the testimonies of the women in The Greenham Factor is how some were inspired to get involved because they were mothers. My mum, Pamela Shaw, went there in the winter of 1982 to join with 30,000 other women who linked hands to embrace the 9-mile fence that encircled the base. I was only 3 years old at the time so I thought I’d email her about it because she kept a diary for this year. This is what she replied:

“I think my interest started after reading “Children of the Ashes: The People of Hiroshima, the Story of a Rebirth” by Robert Jungk. I kept friends with your midwife and she chatted to me about the anti-nuclear movement and may have lent it to me. It moved me so much. She invited me to CND meetings in and the diary records my frequently typing up notes of meeting. The group seems to be called SANG [Somerton against Nuclear group?]. I delivered some to houses on our estate one time and helped at Bazaar to raise funds for coach trip….

The diary will fill you in on the details and my feelings. The only postscript I should have added to the diary, but not enough space, was that on the news the only report was an image of a police horse being attacked so it seemed to negate the positive power and unity that all us women had shared together. I do remember fasting for a day to pray over the issue, probably my first fast ever.

Being mom to you all I felt so strongly about it. Reading it almost 30 years after I felt very emotional about it again. It all flooded back. Today we live with different threats that we cannot seem to do much about, such as terrorist attacks.”

Extracts from the diary

9/1/82
CND 1st meeting. Awoke in me a consciousness of purpose. Hard to debate with Carole on return – so in bath sorted out issues for myself.

5/3/82
Then dashed out to CND meeting. A packed hall & good feeling. It was lively at discussion time but pro-Nuclears were not conclusive or swayed us. Helped with coffee. I shook during the discussions!
11/12/82

… All kids early to bed. I flopped and stirred myself to write Peace letters and letter to M.P. about Greenham and now feel much better.

12/12/82
Early start – posted letter to M.P. on way to catch coach from Yeovil. To Greenham Common [Anti Cruise Peace Camp]. All the ladies very nice, and ordinary, no wierdos as expected. Amazed at number arriving and then felt horror at seeing length of wire fence and menacing building behind, but then as we walked along and saw massed decorations as everyone put of photos of children, mothers, baby clothes, flowers, candles and posters – it was made whole and peaceful. Linked hands at 2.00. A bit inhibited – especially as wailing started but chimed the bells I had brought. Felt so emotional and cried, just as a pressman popped up. Took 2 hours to leave after passing hand shakes etc. Very tired but committed – 1 of 30 thousand.

13/12/82
Mind full of arguments for anti-Nuclear… Fellowship [group] when I wanted to share my fears and hopes. Very defensive reaction, especially from John. Spent a sad night and cried for peace and sad marriage was not so shared and deep on large issues. But in the morning our prayers and music of the night were answered. U.N. voted to lessen arms. …

16/12/82
Parliament discussed Nuclear arms. We have made an impact and stir.

It was not until after the 1987 Nuclear Forces Treaty between the USSR and USA was signed that the missiles finally left the site in 1991.

If you have any memories, or mementos, of your experiences of Greenham Common or other peace protests, and would like to donate them to the library, please get in contact with us.

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