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 in Berkshire. Here they set up what became known as the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp.

Demonstration: RAF/USAF Greenham Common, December 1982 by Ed Barber

A line of protestors linking hands during a demonstration at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, December 1982. The women are holding hands and have open mouths while shouting/talking during the demonstration.
© Edward Barber ‘Embrace the Base’
30,000 women link hands, completely surrounding the nine mile perimeter fence at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, Berkshire (1982).

Between 1981 and 1983 the protesters attempted to disrupt construction work at the base. Their methods included blockading the base and cutting down parts of the fence. In December 1982 more than 30,000 women gathered at Greenham to join hands around the base at the 'Embrace the Base' event.

Picket: RAF/USAF Greenham Common, February 1982 by Ed Barber

A picket mounted by the Women’s Peace Camp at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, Berkshire (1982). A woman sits on a folding chair next to a sign reading "Hello can you stop for a talk?"
© Edward Barber
A picket mounted by the Women’s Peace Camp at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, Berkshire (1982).

Despite the efforts of the protesters, in November 1983 the first cruise missiles arrived at Greenham. However, protests continued throughout the rest of the 1980s. Many women faced court cases, fines and sometimes imprisonment for their actions. Newbury District Council tried many times to close the camp by evicting protesters but were unsuccessful. The numbers of women at the camp dwindled over time but it remained standing.

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 the 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 remained as a continuing protest against nuclear weapons and the last of the Greenham women left the base in September 2000, 19 years after they'd first arrived.

Today Greenham no longer belongs to the military. Part of it is a business park and the rest is common land.

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