ON THIS DAY    18 April      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1960: Thousands protest against H-bomb

Tens of thousands of people marked the end of the Aldermaston "ban the bomb" march this afternoon with a rally that built up to a tremendous climax this Easter weekend in London.

At least 60,000 protesters gathered at Trafalgar Square. Organisers said the crowds numbered at least 100,000.

But there was no doubt this was the largest demonstration London has seen this century.

It is the third annual Easter march from the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire, to the capital organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

Canon John Collins, who founded CND in 1958 with Bertrand Russell, introduced various speakers.

They included the Bishop of Southark, Dr Mervyn Stockwood who praised Prime Minister Harold Macmillan for his efforts to bring about world peace.

He added: "I hope that just as he has spoken for all that is best in Britain by condemning apartheid in South Africa, so he will set an example to the world by renouncing the hydrogen bomb."

'Military dictatorship'

Prominent Labour MP Michael Foot also spoke out against the bomb. He said nuclear weapons threatened the very existence of democracies around the globe because decisions were gradually being removed from elected bodies to military advisers.

He said the Aldermaston march was a democtratic protest against "military dictatorship".

In spite of the huge crowds, there were few disturbances. Police divided the marchers into sections when they arrived at the end of Whitehall and moved them into areas around the main crowd already in the square.

At the head of the march, protesters carried a banner that read "Aldermaston to London". The slogans on the banners showed the marchers came from towns around the country and from all backgrounds, representing trade unions, local government and students.

Demonstrators came from all over the world - Pakistan, Sweden, India, Cyprus , Iraq, Malta, South Africa, France, Ghana and Nigeria. Among the religious groups represented were Quakers, Unitarians, Methodists and Roman Catholics.

In Context
The last Aldermaston march took place in 1963, the same year the international test ban treaty was signed, which partially banned nuclear tests.

From then on, CND fell out of favour but re-emerged under the chairmanship of Bruce Kent in the 1980s when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher allowed new nuclear weapons to be deployed in Britain by the US.

Throughout the 1980s there was a continuous peace demonstration outside the US airbase at Greenham Common in Berkshire.

When the Cold War ended in 1990, CND went into decline once more.

Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |