Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp (1982-2000) was formed in response to NATO's decision in 1979 to base ground cruise missiles at Greenham Common.
RAF Greenham Common had first became home to the US Army Air Force in November 1943, when the 354th Fighter Group moved in as part of the Allies efforts to meet the Nazi Government's aerial operations. Greenham Common, near Newbury in Berkshire, became a bomber operational training unit. Following the invasion of France, the Americans transferred their resources to France and Greenham Common reverted to RAF control until it was closed in 1946. However, as the Cold War began, it was reopened in 1951 as a US Strategic Air Command, coming into American Air Force operational control in Jun 1953. It was closed once more in 1961 only to be reopened in 1964, when it also became a NATO standby base. NATO's decision in 1979 to base ground cruise missiles at Greenham Common was a response to the proliferation of nuclear forces, which occurred throughout that decade. It was in the wake of this announcement that the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp opened at this site.
In September 1981 a Welsh group of 36 individuals opposed to nuclear power, called Women for Life on Earth, walked 120 miles from their headquarters to raise awareness of this issue and to protest against NATO's decision to site cruise missiles at Greenham Common. On reaching their destination they chained themselves to the perimeter fence and subsequently established a 'peace camp' there which was to remain for another two decades. The 'camp' itself consisted of nine smaller camps: the first was Yellow Gate, established the month after Women for Peace on Earth reached the airbase; others established in 1983 were Green Gate, the nearest to the silos, and the only entirely exclusive women-only camp at all times, the others accepting male visitors during the day; Turquoise Gate; Blue Gate with its new age focus; Pedestrian Gate; Indigo Gate; Violet Gate identified as being religiously focussed; Red Gate known as the artists gate; and Orange Gate. A central core of women lived either full-time or for stretches of time at any one of the gate camps with others staying for various lengths of time.
From the beginning, links were formed with local feminist and anti-nuclear groups across the country while early support was received from the Women's Peace Alliance in order to facilitate these links and give publicity through its newsletter. In Mar 1982 the first blockade of the base occurred, staged by 250 women and during which 34 arrests were made. In May the first attempt to evict the peace camp was made as bailiffs and police attempted to clear the women and their possessions from the site. However, the camp was simply re-located to a nearby site. That same year, in Feb 1982 the camp went onto a women only footing and in Dec 1982, in response to chain letter sent out by organisers 30,000 women assembled to surround the site and 'embrace the base'. In Jan 1983 Newbury District Council revoked the common land bylaws for Greenham Common, becoming the private landlord for the site and instituting Court proceedings to reclaim eviction costs, actions that were ruled as illegal by the House of Lords in 1990. In Apr 1991, CND supporters staged action which involved 70,000 people forming a 14-mile human chain linking Burghfield, Aldermaston and Greenham. However, the first transfer of cruise missiles to the airbase occurred in Nov 1983. Another major event occurred in Dec 1983 when 50,000 women encircled the base, holding up mirrors and taking down sections of the fence, resulting in hundreds of arrests.
In 1987, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty was signed by the USA and the Soviet Union, and two years later in Aug 1989 the first step in the removal of cruise missiles from the Greenham Common airbase occurred, a process that was completed in Mar 1991. The American Air Force handed control of the base to the Royal Air Force in Sep 1992, who handed the base over to the Defence Land Agent three weeks later. On 1 Jan 2000 the last of the Greenham Common Women protestors left the camp. A memorial garden was erected after this - the only individual name included in the memorial was that of Helen Wynn Thomas who had died in an accident at Greenham on 5 Aug 1989.
The archive consists of papers mainly concerned with the Yellow Gate camp, although other camps are represented. The camps had always maintained separate identities, however a split emerged following an incident at the 1987 Moscow World Conference on Women, thus consolidating the separate identities of the camps and causing some enmity between different groups. Yellow Gate was the last camp to be maintained at Greenham Common and had become a political organisation in its own right, listed in the 1994 New Statesman Directory of British Political Organisations.
The majority of this material was created by a core group of women (including Sarah Hipperson, Rosy Bremer, Katrina Howse, Jean Hutchinson, and Anniko Jones [sometimes spelt Aniko, Anito]) who were at Greenham for the majority of the protest. Sarah Hipperson brought the material together on their behalf.
The archive includes the women's papers re legal cases, correspondence, publications, press cuttings, photographs and videos.