Peace women return to Greenham Common to commemorate 40th anniversary of the Greenham Common Peace Camp
THERE were emotional reunions at the weekend as hundreds gathered on Greenham Common to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the start of the peace camp at the base.
A group retraced the steps from Cardiff to Greenham, taken four decades ago, before arriving to songs and cheers at Greenham control tower on Sunday.
Newbury mayor Billy Drummond, along with Thatcham deputy mayor Jeff Brooks, joined the crowd gathered there to welcome the group – which included four people carrying a mock missile, as well as others carrying flags and waving hand-crafted doves and other peace symbols.
Mr Drummond addressed the group in a tent adorned with 150 hands – created by Newbury Knitters to represent the hands of the ‘Embrace the Base’ protest that took place back in 1982.
He said: “I personally believe that all protesters made a different to the end of the Cold War.
“I would like to thank all who walked from Cardiff this week and I do hope you were warmly welcomed on your overnight stops and that Newbury and Greenham also extended the hand of friendship to one and all.
“And finally I would like to thank all of you who made history by doing the first walk in 1981 and that we remember all those who walked or took part in the demonstration, but are no longer with us.
“Thank you all.”
Angela, who travelled from Austria to be at the event with her friend Linda Evans, said afterwards that it was “so important” to have heard him say thank you.
Ms Evans, from north Wales, added: “It has been very emotional being back here. It is lovely to see the transformation of the common. I think it is such a huge thing we did and I really hope the legacy lives on.”
Mr Brooks also gave an impassioned speech to the assembled crowds, telling them: “Let’s be clear, the western world has a lot of things to thank you for.”
He added: “The enduring protests; that selfless protest; the hardship you endured was immense.
“You made it happen, there was a nuclear proliferation treaty and we can only thank you for that all these years later.”
A number of the original peace women returned to the common; where they had previously spent nearly 20 years protesting against the siting of US cruise missiles at the base in Newbury.
They joined around 800 people who visited the common across the weekend, enjoying talks from Nobel Prize winners, the opening of the ‘Both Sides of the Fence’ exhibition at Greenham Common Control Tower, live performances and decorating a peace fence.
Hundreds of meters of bunting, made by Newbury Creative Stitchers, also adorned the control tower.
Vanessa Pini, who helped organise the event and walked the whole way between Cardiff and Newbury, described the week as “amazing”.
“It was very emotional arriving at Bloo Gate,” she added. “There were a lot of people who hadn’t seen each other for many years.
“But it’s disappointing that we still have to do this. That we still don’t have equality and that we still have nuclear weapons being built.”
Fellow organizer, Rebecca Mordan, who also walked from Cardiff this time and was brought to the original camp by her mother as a five-year-old, added: “It has been absolutely intense and hard to process.
“I am having amazing conversations and Greenham women in particular are being so embracing.
“It has been such an honour. Today I feel elated; you are not there on your own, you are standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Sue Lent and her son Christopher were on the original march in 1981 – Christopher just a small baby in a pram. This year they again joined in parts of the march.
The weekend also saw around 100 women camp outside of AWE Aldermaston, where the original peace women ‘handed on the baton’ to a younger generation.
Nuala Young, from Oxford, was at the original protests and also camped at Aldermaston at the weekend.
She said: “There was such enthusiasm and we were singing and we went back over to the gates again. It was about women getting together and the positive aspects of life.
“I realised I had never been so happy in all my life.”
Alison Smith and Ros Dunhill travelled back to Greenham from Southend, retracing the journey they made twice in the 1980s.
“We were here 40 years ago and this is a reunion,” Mrs Dunhill said. “We still hold the same anti-nuclear beliefs as we did then.
“We were here in 1982 for Embrace the Base and then blockade. The disruption was important but it would have been very disruptive to our lives if we had been arrested; we were putting a lot of ourselves on the line. We had careers that would have been difficult and children; but we felt it was worth it.”
Mrs Smith added: “We are here to support the women who made the march. It is definitely an important thing to keep remembering.
“I have felt quite emotional, reading some of the some in the exhibition and being with some of the people who were actually here then.
“I remember it being freezing cold and being very frightened. I remember sitting down in front of the lorries and linking arms and blockading the gates.
“It was great at the time that women were finding their own power. It was important as it was a women’s peace camp.”