Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp

A guest post by Placement Student, Caitlin LaPorte

Fire Dragon Feast for the Future poster, copyright People's History Museum  During my work placement at the People’s History Museum I was given the opportunity to curate a display from objects featured in the museums peace collection. The peace collection is quite extensive, containing various anti-war photographs and memorabilia. While researching the collection I found the material surrounding Greenham Common women’s peace camp to be very intriguing and decided to focus my display on the subject.

Greenham Common Peace Camp banner, copyright People's History MuseumRAF Greenham Common was a Royal Air Force station located in Berkshire, England that was chosen to house nuclear cruise missiles during the Cold War. In September of 1981, the peace group Women for Life on Earth marched from Cardiff to Greenham in protest of the government’s decision. The first on-site protest occurred when the women arrived at Greenham and chained themselves to the base fence. Shortly after this, the camp was officially established.

Greenham Common Peace Camp banner, copyright People's History MuseumLife was not easy for the women living at Greenham Common. The conditions could be harsh since they were living outside and without electricity. There was also constant opposition from authority and the local community. Greenham Common underwent several camp evictions over the years and hundreds of women were arrested by police. The locals staged protests as well, not wanting the presence of the camp in their community.

Despite the opposition they faced, the women of Greenham Common were extremely committed to their cause. They believed in a life without threat of cruise missiles and violence. Greenham Common women’s peace camp quickly became internationally recognized, bringing a new focus to the peace movement. The last of the cruise missiles were removed in 1991, but the site remained an active peace camp until 2000. Greenham Common is now public park land.

Caitlin’s exhibition Greenham Common is on display from Thursday 7 May – Thursday 28 May 2015.

Snapshot on Greenham Common

The first Monday of every month brings a lunchtime Snapshot session in the archive down in the museum’s lower level. It’s an opportunity for anyone to have a look at a selection of some of the 80,000 photographs in our huge collection from the Labour Party and Communist Party archives in a friendly and informal setting.

Greenham Common - green gate

On Mon 2 Dec Snapshot focuses on Greenham Common and other peace camps.

Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp was established at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire in 1981 to protest against the British government allowing Cruise nuclear missiles to be located there. There was a constant presence of peace campers living permanently or temporarily at the base. Mass demonstrations took place in April 1983, when 70,000 protesters formed a 14 miles human chain to the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, and in December 1983, when 50,000 women encircled the base. The last missiles left Greenham in 1991, but women remained at the site until 2000 to protest against the U.K.’s Trident nuclear programme.  There were also peace camps at Upper Heyford and Molesworth, among others, and they too form part of our collection.

Greenham Common - women linking hands

Snapshot sessions last from 12:30pm – 1:30 pm on the first Monday of every month (except January). There’s no need to book; just come along. A 15% in the museum cafe is available to anyone who attends.

Greenham Common Air Base - women tear down perimeter fence