Defending Greenham Women
Posted by Barbara Green
Copy of letter to the Today Programme
(Many women from Hebden Bridge went to support the camp at Greenham in the 80s, including Barbara Green - webmaster)
I have just listened to Michael Heseltine’s diatribe directed against the brave women of Greenham Common.
For years they endured obloquy and hardship because they believed that the presence of American nuclear weapons on our soil did nothing to protect us from the threat of global nuclear devastation. On the contrary, it laid us open to becoming the first target of any nuclear launch from any source. Meanwhile, this appalling man ponced around Europe in his ridiculous military fatigues, tossing his log blonde mane, of which he was plainly inordinately proud. At one time he actually threatened to have shot any women who dared to attempt incursions into that piece of foreign occupied territory, where the British writ did not run.
I remember asking a young soldier who was guarding the perimeter fence whether he would indeed shoot me if I attempted to enter the base. It was a cold night and I had offered him a mug of cocoa. “Oh yes,” said he,” if I was ordered to shoot you, I would,”
All hot air on Heseltine’s part, of course, because the younger women were able to enter the base at will and were photographed dancing on top of the silos!
In the end that particular arms race ended because the USSR ran out of money before the USA did, although the US economy suffered enormously because of it.
I should add that in another context, namely the long campaign against the American base at Menwith Hill, the biggest spy station in the world and an equally menacing place in a less obvious way than was the case at Greenham common, Heseltine overstepped his powers and was duly reprimanded by a High Court judge some years later. The rolling campaign was drawing unwelcome attention to the base’s existence, so he changed the by-laws and it became a criminal offence the touch the perimeter fence or even to balance a flower or a child’s photograph against it. The fines went up drastically, to such an extent that people could no longer afford to pay them every three months.
My friend and I, as retired women with no jobs to lose, decided not to pay our fines and were duly sent to prison. In my case the fine was £27 for making a token gesture of cutting the fence, which I thought, should not have been there in the first place.
Sadly, the Menwith Hill station is still there, a piece of America on the North Yorkshire Moors.
An ex policeman at that time took the matter to court and after much time and effort on his part, Heseltine was judged to have changed the by-laws illegally and all those fined have had their fines returned. Nothing appeared in the papers, except for a very short paragraph in the Guardian, but, of course, Heseltine should have been disgraced and sacked from the government. He is a very nasty man.