Deploy to Greenham Common

1982: Surrey deploy Police Support Unit (PSU) to Greenham Common to support Thames Valley Police when cruise missiles were delivered.

Mark Clark: There were lots of us there, Inspector Chris (C.P.R.L.) alias 'corporal' Farmer (He was a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines before joining Surry Constabulary) was my boss for one stint and I think Tim Brake) I clearly remember being the driver of one of the PSU buses parked at the entrance to Greenham base one Easter Saturday, when there was a general protest against the Cruise missile movements by several thousand people plus normal Greenham Common ladies, and suddenly I saw Chris Farmer go completely white as the crowd started to approach us.

I asked him what was wrong to which he replied "I don't believe it; my wife is in the front line!" (See Chris's response below) Needless to say much hilarity and ribaldry in the van until he made us get out and hold the crowd back with some Hampshire and Thames Valley lads.

Chris Farmer: My experience of the Greenham Common deployment was very limited, I think I only went there three or four times. Unfortunately, Mark Clark's recollection of Mrs Farmer being amongst the protesters must be mistaken: although the memsahib had many sympathies with the good ladies of Greenham, she certainly never went there! Nice story, though – and Mark was certainly the traffic driver attached to my unit on many occasions.

Policemen make their own fires to keep warm atGreenham Common

Keeping warm at Greenham.

The police contingent was based at Newbury racecourse, where we were briefed, fed, rested, etc, prior to being deployed to our allocated sectors around the base perimeter. I do recall a night duty there. We were deployed in small groups around the entire perimeter of the base, the protesters not being prepared to limit their attention to the main gate, and had previously breached the substantial perimeter fence in a number of places.

It was bitterly cold that night, and many of us re-discovered long forgotten Boy Scout skills to light and maintain warming and very welcome camp fires. A couple of enterprising Surrey officers even built themselves a brushwood shelter!

Christian Duckett: This was before 1984 as Greenham Common died a death during the Miners Dispute.

Simon Nelson: The 1980s were the last full decade of the "Cold War" which existed between the two world super-powers of the USA and the USSR with Europe stuck in the middle. It became common knowledge through the media that the Americans had been granted permission to store their nuclear Cruise Missiles in bunkers at Greenham Common Air Base.

This base was situated near the town of Newbury and was in effect American territory inside the perimeter fence and guarded on the outside by the Ministry of Defence Police. The perimeter fence stretched about five or six miles with open common land on the southern edge and thick woods along the northern perimeter.

As soon as the woman's peace movement found out about the cruise missile's imminent arrival by transport aircraft from the USA they began to organise demonstrations around the base. This went on for a number of weeks with coach loads of demonstrators arriving at week-ends with their banners, and pushing their children along in buggies. A few "full time" women camped in tents around the base.

Keeping amused on the boundary fence of Greenham

Keeping amused on the
boundary fence of Greenham.

The Surrey Constabulary PSU was deployed to back up the MOD Police and Thames Valley Police. There were other PSUs from Hampshire, Dorset, and the Metropolitan Police as far as I remember and we arrived early each morning at about 7 am before the crowds arrived. We used to spend this time trying to keep warm and built ourselves small shelters with fallen branches and dead bracken.

The demonstrators were generally peaceful but you had to keep an eye on them all the time as some of them would bring wire cutters and start cutting holes in the fence which was about twelve feet tall. We were told that as long as they had not caused any damage to the fence to seize the wire cutters and give them a warning. Anyone we caught damaging the fence was arrested for criminal damage and handed over to Thames Valley arrest teams. We related the circumstances to them and provided statements at a later time if required.

Most of the women were very pleasant towards us but there were a few very strange characters. Some would stand directly in front of you holding up small mirrors towards your face. When I asked what they were doing the said they were "Reflecting away the evil".

I remember huge American Galaxy transport aircraft landing at the base and a lot of activity with armed soldiers patrolling the inside perimeter. An Army spotter helicopter constantly flew around the fence at about sixty feet. Every evening when the woman went home the fence was covered in brightly coloured wool and cloth, messages, and photographs of children which had been tied on the wire.

After the cruise missiles had been secured in the bunkers the Greenham Common demonstrators turned their attention to other American Air bases in Suffolk and Bedfordshire at which I attended briefly with Surrey PSUs. There were still a small number of women camped at Greenham Common until the base was closed in the 1990s sometime after the Berlin Wall was taken down. In about 1998 I flew in a light aircraft over the site of the base and saw the runways and buildings had all been removed.

Keeping amused on the boundary fence of Greenham

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