Posts Tagged ‘Aldermaston March’

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60

Friday, April 1st, 2022

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60 – Twice in the last ten years, on 1st April 2013 and 1st of April 2018 I’ve got on my bike and cycled to Aldermaston to take part in protests by CND around the UK’s Aldermaston nuclear bomb factory, 12 miles west of Reading.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

I wasn’t there for the first big Aldermaston March in 1958, though one of my older brothers went, and I remember him coming back rather tired and muddy but please he had managed the whole 4 day march. CND had then just been formed and supported the march organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War and the next year they began a series of annual marches, marching from Aldermaston to a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

The annual marches continued until 1963, and in 1964 there was just a one-day march in London which I think I may have taken part in, though by then I was a student and I don’t recall well which of many demonstrations I took part in during the sixties. I didn’t keep a diary and couldn’t afford to take photographs then. There was a shorter march in 1965 from High Wycombe and the march in the original direction to Aldermaston was revived in 1972 but with fewer marchers taking part. And a number of marches and rallies in London since then which I did photograph.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

The next revival of the march I think took place in 2004, and on that occasion I photographed the rally in Trafalgar Square at the start of the march on Friday 9th April and marched with around 2,300 to Hyde Park but left the around 430 of who set off to spend the night in Reading. I got on my bike on the Sunday to meet them again at Maidenhead, walking with them to their lunch stop at Knowl Hill, from where I walked back into Maidenhead to pick up my bike and ride home.

Kate Hudson, Natalie Bennett and Pat Arrowsmith, Aldermaston, 2013

On the Monday I was up early to catch a train to Reading where the final leg was starting with my wife and elder son. I didn’t feel I could walk the 12 miles with my usual heavy camera bag so took along just my Canon Digital Ixus 400, (aka PowerShot S400), an ultra-compact and light camera with a 36-108mm equivalent lens giving remarkably sharp 3.9Mp images, although the autofocus wasn’t always precise. You can view a large number of pictures from 2004 on My London Diary

The pictures on this post come from two more recent events, the Nuclear Fool’s Day – Scrap Trident rally at Aldermaston on Easter Monday, 1st April 2013 and CND At 60 at Aldermaston on Sunday 1st April 2018. On both occasions I cycled from Reading station the 12 miles there carrying my normal camera equipment. I think I was a little tired when I got there on both occasions, and perhaps not working at my best. The ride back was a little easier as it is downhill much of the way.

Aldermaston, 2018

In 2013 there were protests all around the extensive site and the bike enabled me to get around and take pictures of the protesters at each of half a dozen gates around the over 5 miles of the site perimeter, as well as of people walking around and attaching messages and banners to the tall security fence.

Aldermaston, 2018

The speakers were also travelling from gate to gate, but in a couple of cars and a lorry and among those I heard and photographed were CND Vice-Chairs Jeremy Corbyn MP and Bruce Kent, CND General Secretary Kate Hudson, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett and South East Green MEP Keith Taylor, Stop the War’s Chris Nineham and CND founding member Pat Arrowsmith and another veteran Walter Wolfgang, as well as US activist Linda Pentz Gunter, the founder of ‘Beyond Nuclear’.

Rebecca Johnson holds up a copy of the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons

The 60th anniversary event in 2018 was easier to cover as it took place mainly in the Atomic Weaopons Establishment Car Park close to the Main Gate and on the fence close by, so I didn’t need to ride around the area, parts of which are rather hilly. As well as 60 years of campaigning by CND it celebrated the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, finalised last year and signed by 122 nations, for which ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, of which CND is a part was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Something that went almost unnoticed in the British media.

More at:

2004 on My London Diary
Nuclear Fool’s Day – Scrap Trident
CND At 60 at Aldermaston


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Aldermaston 2008 – 50 years

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Protesters join hands to surround the nuclear weapon factory at Aldermaston

I missed the first major march to Aldermaston organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and supported by the newly formed CND at Easter in 1958. I was only thirteen at the time and not that interested in politics at the time, but was very aware it was taking place as my two older brothers (both no longer with us) walked the full distance, coming back tired and rather muddy after four days of marching from Trafalgar Square in the centre of London to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons.

I didn’t go the whole way on the 50th anniversary in 2008, and although I had planned to join the group that were cycling from London I didn’t manage to do so, though I did photograph the cyclists as they rode down Oxford St.

On the Bank Holiday Monday they were cycling from Reading where they had stayed the night along with the walkers, mainly sleeping on the floor in church halls, and I had hoped to join them there for the final stage to Aldermaston. But I got up too late and missed the early train which would have got me there in time – and the next train half an hour later ran late, so I missed their start. Instead I rode on my own along the route that I’d taken on the march there four years previously, finding that on a bike it was rather hillier than on foot.

The Bikes not Bombs group arrive at the Aldermaston bomb factory

Once at Aldermaston, the bike made it easy for me to go to all the gates around the large site of the AWE to take photographs of the protesters there who later moved to surround the perimeter of the base, holding hands around it. And although I’d left Reading later, my more direct route meant I was able to photograph the arrival of the ‘bikes not bombs’ group with their police escort of two cars and several motorbikes.

After making the human chain around the AWE – I think around 4 miles long – and speeches and performances at the main gate it was time to go home, and I got back on my bike for the 12 miles or so to Reading, a slightly easier ride as the wind was behind me and Reading is around 60 metres lower, though the road still had plenty of uphill sections. But I took my time, even stopping to take a few photographs on the way.

Our nuclear weapons programme has never made any sense and the idea of nuclear deterrence has served only to enrich the arms industry. The expense of our nuclear submarines and their warheads diverts money away from more useful areas such as health and education, and the nuclear programme has skewed our power generation to increase electricity costs for us all. It cannot be justified in military or economic terms, but for most of those protesting the most important aspect is that the use of nuclear weapons can never be justified on moral grounds.

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which entered into force on 22 January 2021 prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, Instead of signing this, the British government have announced an increase in number of nuclear warheads – in contradiction to our previous international agreements about the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, Walter Wolfgang, John Mc Donnell and Japanese peace campaigners

More pictures at Aldermaston – 50 years


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.