ONE of the largest ever civil disobedience demonstrations took place at USAF Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, between the 31 May and 3 June 1983. The base was then home to eight F-111 planes armed with live nuclear weapons always on standby.
More than 5,000 people took part in the ‘peace blockade’ over four days. It was entirely peaceful but by its conclusion, 752 people had been arrested – one of the highest numbers of people ever detained at a peace protest.
Organisers and supporters of that demonstration are revisiting Upper Heyford at 11am on Saturday 3 June, where they will hold a meeting at the site of the Peace Camp (on Portway, Camp Road). They will then walk to the Heritage Centre, within the perimeter of what was the airfield, where there are soon to be two new display panels with information about the blockade and other protests.
Steve Barwick, a founder of the Peace Camp and one of the blockade organisers, said: “The spirit of idealism and protest, which the Upper Heyford Peace Camp represented, is still relevant forty years later. With recent nuclear sabre rattling by Vladimir Putin, nuclear rearmament taking place across all Nuclear Weapons States and the Doomsday Clock advancing to 90 seconds to midnight, it is vital that voices for peace are raised again. Russia should stop its aggression against Ukraine and the world should get back on the path to nuclear disarmament, rather than towards nuclear rearmament.”
Nuala Young, a strong supporter of the camp and current Secretary of Oxford CND, said: “The EF-111 planes that we opposed at Upper Heyford helped escort the nuclear-armed F-111s under ‘enemy’ radar. They presented a real risk to global security. The new F-35 planes stationed at Lakenheath airbase today once again pose a great threat; they can carry the new B61-12 guided nuclear bombs which have GPS and satellite and can be used as attack weapons. Once again, the chance of a nuclear war in Europe has become increasingly likely and must be opposed.
Adrian Sinclair, a student in Oxford in 1983 who helped organise the four day peace blockade, said: “Looking back it is remarkable how much was achieved by so few people. The peace camp was forever organising protests – not just marches and blockades but vigils, occupations, and even prayer meetings. Fears about a nuclear conflict were genuine, and people felt they had to do something to stop nuclear Armageddon.”
* More information on the events planned for 2 and 3 June 2023 here.
* Source: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament