Aldermarston Marches – I Become A Revolutionary.

Back in the mid 50’s of the last century (God that makes me feel old to say that – the last century indeed!), owing to my mother’s very left wing attitudes I attended the first meeting of what was to become the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in London, and became a fervent anti-nuclear activist – well, a moderately active one perhaps I should say.

At this meeting it was decided to adopt what has since become the universal Peace Sign, that upside down “Y” thing, and that as a form of protest, an annual march from Aldermarston Atomic Weapons Research Establishment which was about 80 km from London to London – or vice-verse – would take place.

aldermarston march
We couldn’t afford to buy new banners when we changed the direction of the march!

I took part in the first three of these marches, which each took three days of gentle marching through the countryside, in the company of many thousands of other peaceniks and were actually very enjoyable to be honest. Lots of friendly people, lots of singing, happy songs, as well as the sort of dismal dirges more normally associated with such demonstrations of people’s will.

And it was quite fun marching in the company of such people as Bertrand Russell and Michael Foot as well.

Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria and mountaineer:

A short diversion here, My maternal Grandmother who had been a member of the Communist party since about 1895 – at which time she was a Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria – and who was a splendidly eccentric woman, once went on holiday to Crete with Bertrand Russell and together they both made the first recorded ascent of a large mountain there, which the locals renamed Mount Lilly in honour of my splendid Grandmother.  So if you happen to visit Crete, check out Mount Lilly and think of Lily and Bertrand clambering up to the top of it – as unlikely as that sounds!

Back to the marching now:

On the third march, I was asked to help out with the organisation of it all – not as a serious planner, but as one of the crew who set up and looked after the portable toilets we used at each overnighting site – Oh the honour!  The recognition!

So instead of walking all the way, I went in comparative luxury in a truck, and set up those dunnies each day… and then of course, the following morning, emptied them, dismantled them and set off to the next stopping point. It made a change from foot slogging all the way, and funnily enough I rather enjoyed being part of the organisation, no matter how humble my task happened to be.

I become a true resistance hero… 

Inevitably my involvement in CND brought me into contact with some rather more active individuals, who felt strongly that whilst the marches and their attendant demonstrations were worth doing, more was needed to spread the good word. So at a certain point I was approached by a couple of guys who had a moderately powerful radio transmitter at their disposal – I never actually discovered who was behind them, but I formed the opinion it was the British Communist Party.

Anyhow, they asked me if I could get my hands on some sort of a van, and would be prepared to help them make illegal radio broadcasts from the van as I drove it around to avoid being located and caught by the cops.

This rather appealed to me, so I casually asked Russ (my dad) if I could borrow his Bedford Dormobile occasionally, to which he agreed, being a nice bloke. So I duly found myself driving around various London suburbs late at night, while the two guys sat in the back and broadcast prepared tapes on the TV channel (In those days TV stopped broadcasting at about 11 pm).

Obviously I never actually heard what we were broadcasting, but they assured me it was messages about banning nuclear weapons. Not that I can imagine anyone ever listened to whatever it was we were broadcasting to be honest.

But I felt like a real resistance worker doing this.

Share with us:

Were you involved in the early days of CND or the Committee of 100?  If so, do write about your memories of those far off days….

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