Posted by: helenrobertsbradford | August 31, 2010

Peace camping

Hands off Greenham! poster

Hands off Greenham! poster, November 1983

In his historical compendium of British peace camps, Peace camping: a history, Michael Waugh records evidence of Quaker peace camps in southern England as early as the mid 1930s.  Following the first march to Aldermaston AWRE at Easter 1958, the Direct Action Committee set up a temporary camp during their summer-long picket of the site.  They attempted the same at Harrington rocket base in January 1960 (see Inside the box).  But it was not until the early 1980s that peace camps began to blossom as a campaign method in Britain.  This followed the NATO decision to station Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe.  Many of the military bases which attracted peace camps had been a target for protests by an earlier generation of DAC, CND and Committee of 100 activists.  But the decision to set up camp at these sites and sustain this over several years was a new phenomenon.

The Commonweal Archives include several collections on peace camping, with the best material available for Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, 1982-1985 (papers of Sarah Meyer) and Molesworth Peace Camp, 1982-1986 (papers of Tim Wallis, and Ian and Jennifer Hartley).  Life at Greenham Common, the most iconic of the 1980s peace camps, is described in handwritten newsletters, Women’s Peace Camp Green and Common, and documented by photographs of women living at the camp and taking part in direct action.

The Peace News archive contains much wider coverage, gathering news and photographs for the following peace camps: Bull Point; Boscombe Down; Burghfield; Burtonwood; Capenhurst; Chilwell; Daws Hill; Derby (Rolls Royce); Fairford; Faslane; Fylingdales; Greenham Common; Holy Loch; Lakenheath; Lossiemouth; Menwith Hill; Molesworth; Northwood; Porton Down; Rosyth; Shoeburyness; Upper Heyford; and Wethersfield.

Banner at Mutlangen peace camp

Banner at Mutlangen peace camp

The roots of this revival of the nuclear disarmament movement lie also in opposition to nuclear power.  Reflecting this there are leaflets, newsletters, reports of meetings and direct action, and photographs of the campaign against a new nuclear power station at Torness, 1978-1983.  The Torness Alliance occupied the site of the power station using many of the non violent direct action ideas and techniques which later spread to Greenham.

Sources for a number of European peace camps are found both in the Peace News archive and the papers of Sarah Meyer.  These include camps in Budapest (Peace Group for Dialogue); Florennes, Belgium; Mutlangen, West Germany; La Ragnatela in Comiso, Italy; and Woensdrecht, the Netherlands.

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