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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 August 2006, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
The peace camp, protest and power
Ann Pettitt (picture: Honno)
Ann Pettitt says the protest helped focus minds on the arms race
When 36 women began a march on 27 August 1981 from Cardiff to the then US airbase at Greenham Common in Berkshire, it led to a 19-year vigil involving hundreds.

Ann Pettitt, 59, from Llanpumpsaint, Carmarthenshire, who came up with the idea, and who is publishing a book about her experiences, recalls what inspired her.

"What few people realise is how hard it was to set the march up, and subsequently how fragile the peace camp was in the beginning.

I wasn't twiddling my thumbs looking for a cause
Ann Pettitt

I think that's what inspired me to write the book because our campaign did start so very slowly and nobody really knows how it all began.

At the end of the 1970s and early 1980s, the Cold War was always in the news. Nightmares about nuclear attacks started affecting my dreams.

Women held a peace vigil at Greenham Common for 19 years
1941: Greenham opens as an airbase
1968: USAF occupies the base
1981: Ann Pettitt and fellow protesters march from south Wales
1991: The last of the missiles leave
1997: The land is sold to the Greenham Common Trust and given back to the local council
2000: The last peace caravan leaves for good

I had to do something and Greenham Common seemed to be at the centre of what I wanted to stop, but I was reluctant to take on the march at first.

I wasn't twiddling my thumbs looking for a cause, my partner and I had two sons at the time and we were doing The Good Life bit - we had a smallholding with a cow, a pig and some chickens.

In the end I had some support and we eventually planned and set off on the march - we did 120 miles in 10 days.

When we arrived we chained ourselves to the fence at the base, but nothing happened, so we decided to stay. The first six weeks were grim.

It wasn't until I spoke at a CND rally in Hyde Park in October 1982, that we started attracting interest from around the UK.

As for what we achieved, the march and the camp empowered women. I hate that term, but it gave them a voice and confidence and I'm sure it helped people like Joan Ruddock, who became an MP.

It made people focus on the arms race and the ludicrous situation that countries were threatening mutual suicide."

Walking to Greenham: How the Peace Camp Began and the Cold War Ended is published by Honno on 31 August.

Greenham Common website launched
16 Aug 03 |  Berkshire


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