Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Weapons’

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


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.





Stop Trident, Save Refugees…

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

Last Tuesday I watched John Pilger’s 2010 film, The War You Don’t See, a film that takes an honest look at wars and the failure of most journalists to report honestly on them – and how those that do find their work fails to get broadcast or printed. It’s an at times harrowing view of war and lays open the whole huge PR web of lies that is used to persuade the public that they are necessary and to support them, based mainly around the propaganda over Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is now a matter of official record that all of the reasons put forward at the time for the invasion of Iraq, notably in the UK by Prime Minister Tony Blair were lies; but not only that, were known at the time to be false. It was simply a war for the control of Iraqi oil, and to keep the military industry growing. Of course many of us outside the
CIA and other agencies also knew that at the time, including the over a million who went to protest in London.

Pilger managed to get interviews with a wide range of people, including journalists and others who admit that they failed for various reasons to inform the public what was really going on. Those from other news sources, including the BBC, make a wholly unconvincing attempt to justify the approach they took, visibly squirming as Pilger asks his questions, trying to defend their toeing the government line rather than examining the evidence and reporting objectively.

We are in an age of perpetual war, not largely because of real disputes that could not be solved by other means, but manufactured and promoted by a huge web of deceptions to feed what is sometimes called the military-industrial complex, a term coined by Eisenhower for his final public speech in 1961 when he warned of the “economic, political, even spiritual” dangers of “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” it it could – and has – produced.

Pilger’s film deals briefly with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which it is now clear served no military purpose as the war with Japan was rapidly drawing to a close when they were dropped. The film includes an interview he made in the 1980s with Australian journalist Wilfred Graham Burchett who managed to evade the military security that kept almost all journalists simply taking down and passing on the military briefings which denied the existence of radiation sickness and went to Hiroshima and reported on the terrible effects of the bomb.

Despite censorship and other attempts to stop his report reaching the outside world, the first 200 words of his 3,000 word report reached the Daily Express who put it on the front page – and the world learnt of how 30 days after the bombing apparently uninjured people were still “dying, mysteriously and horribly” from what Burchett described as “the atomic plague.”

Journalists who step out from the official line can expect to suffer, and many. particularly those who refuse to be led and “embedded” have been killed reporting on wars. Others, such as Julian Assange find themselves the subject of deliberate campaigns to harass and discredit them – and in his case to imprison him in solitary confinement – possibly to be extradited to life in solitary in the USA – despite an extradition treaty that excludes those accused of political crimes.

Our so-called Independent Nuclear Deterrent is wholly a programme to feed that military-industrial complex, with its chilling threat hanging over us all, something that at least one US president has been prepared to consider using and which only the willingness of one Russian soldier to disobey orders saved us from its accidental unleashing.

On Saturday 27th February, around 60,000 came to Marble Arch to march from there to a rally in Trafalgar Square against government plans to replace the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons at a cost of £180 billion or more. They said Trident is immoral and using it would cause catastrophic global damage; these weapons of mass destruction don’t keep us safe and divert resources from essential spending on services like the NHS, schools and housing.

I was a little late to the official photocall because of the dense crowds as I made may way from the European March for Refugee Rights which had finished with a rally a short distance away in Hyde Park. This was taking place in various cities across Europe and demanding that governments take action now to open secure safe passage routes for all refugees and asylum seekers seeking protection in Europe. They called for an end to deaths at borders and for refugees to be allowed to keep their possessions and be reunited with their families.

At the end of this march, many of those taking part went to join the Stop Trident march, some forming up as a group ahead of the official front of the march despite attempts by the Stop the War stewards to move them. Eventually the stewards halted the main march for around ten minutes to create a gap between the two groups.

Stop Trident Rally
Stop Trident March
European March for Refugee Rights


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


End Nuclear Weapons Now

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Six years ago on 24 January 2015 I photographed a large protest in London calling on the UK to end its huge and pointless investment in nuclear weapons, calling for Trident to be scrapped and not replaced. We waste many billions on procuring and maintaining nuclear weapons – currently around £3 billion a year according to government estimates – on weapons that hopefully will never be used as the consequences would be too disastrous and also ultimately futile as it would lead to retaliation that inevitably would entirely destroy a small and densely populated country like ours.

Our nuclear weapons take up around 6% of the defence budget but offer no defence but are entirely a matter of prestige, something we use to continue to justify our continuing permanent seat on the UN Security Council as founding members under the 1945 UN Charter – along with China, France, Russia and the United States. And along with direct expenditure on the weapons we have also paid more for our electricity as the military nuclear weapon programme has depended on expensive civil nuclear power to provide materials.

Thanks to a sustained campaign by The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and others, the UN in 2017 adopted the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and last October this had been signed and ratified by the required 50 nations and so entered into force on 22 January 2021. Ireland and Austria are so far the only major European countries to have signed up, along with Mexico, but the majority of Caribbean and South American countries have ratified it (and most of the others signed but not yet ratified) among with others from around the world. Altogether 137 countries have now signed up, though 86 have yet to ratify. ICAN were awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its acheivement.

So far none of the nine states which actually have nuclear weapons – Russia, USA, France, UK, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea (in order of the number of warheads they hold) – have signed the up to TPNW. Nor have any of the other 27 NATO countries – essentially a part of the US military empire, many with US nuclear weapons on their soil. Only around another 20 states have yet to sign the TPNW.

ICAN has a list ‘What makes nuclear weapons the worst’, which makes the following points.

1 A single nuclear weapon can destroy a city and kill most of its people. Several nuclear explosions over modern cities would kill tens of millions of people. Casualties from a major nuclear war between the US and Russia would reach hundreds of millions.

2 The extreme destruction caused by nuclear weapons cannot be limited to military targets or to combatants.

3 Nuclear weapons produce ionizing radiation, which kills or sickens those exposed, contaminates the environment, and has long-term health consequences, including cancer and genetic damage.

4 Less than one percent of the nuclear weapons in the world could disrupt the global climate and threaten as many as two billion people with starvation in a nuclear famine. The thousands of nuclear weapons possessed by the US and Russia could bring about a nuclear winter, destroying the essential ecosystems on which all life depends.

5 Physicians and first responders would be unable to work in devastated, radioactively contaminated areas. Even a single nuclear detonation in a modern city would strain existing disaster relief resources to the breaking point; a nuclear war would overwhelm any relief system we could build in advance. Displaced populations from a nuclear war will produce a refugee crisis that is orders of magnitude larger than any we have ever experienced.

6 Whether or not they are detonated, nuclear weapons cause widespread harm to health and to the environment.

7 Spending on nuclear weapons detracts limited resources away from vital social services.

ICAN: catastrophic harm

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons includes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, deploy, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. It also has provisions for assistance to individuals affected by nuclear weapons testing and for environmental remediation.

Public opinion in the UK in a recent Survation Poll conducted for https://cnduk.org/tpnw/ CND showed 77% of the UK public support a total global ban on nuclear weapons and 59% want the British government to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty.

CND Scrap Trident rally at Parliament
‘Wrap Up Trident’ surrounds Defence Ministry
Christian CND against Trident Replacement


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


Peace, Slavery & Social Cleansing

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Three years ago December 9th was a Saturday and people were out on the streets in at least three protests which I photographed.

My day’s work began at the Ministry of Defence, where peace campaigners celebrated the award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, with a die-in on the steps.

ICAN was awarded the prize for its role in pushing for a United Nations global nuclear ban treaty which was approved by 122 nations at the UN General Assembly in 2017. In October 2020 Honduras became the 50th country to ratify it and will come into force on 22 January 2021. The UK government refused to take and part in the negotiations and has refused to sign the treaty and the award of the Nobel prize hardly got a mention in the UK media.

None of the main nuclear powers has signed the accord, and the protesters including members of ICAN UK, CND, Medact and WILPF, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, urged the UK to sign up and scrap Trident replacement. Bruce Kent made a presentation of a large cardboard Nobel Prize to ICAN UK, and handed out small ‘Nobels’ (gold-covered chocolate coins) to all who come up for them. After a few speeches there was then a die-in on the steps of the ministry.


A large crowd had gathered in Belgrave Square for the National Anti-Slavery March, organised by African Lives Matter after the news that African migants detained in Libya were being sold as slaves by Arab slave traders.

They marched to Knightsbridge and then along to Hyde Park Corner, going around the roundabout and then back along the other carriageway of Knightsbridge to the Libyan Embassy where there was a lengthy rally, including an African priest leading a libation ceremony in memory of the many Africans who have fought for their people against enslavement and colonialism; people in the crowd shouted out names for him to honour with pouring water onto the ground.

As well as demanding the closure of the Libyan detention centres, action by African governments to rescue people detained in the camps and condemnation of the slave trade and murders of migrants by all African leaders and the UN, calling on Libya to make and enforce laws that prevent these crimes against humanity, many also demanded reparations for the historic slave trade and the continuing despoliation of African resources by imperialist nations including the UK.


I had to leave before the rally ended as I was beginning to shake and feel unwell, weak and dizzy, the signs of an diabetic hypo, and I walked a short distance away to sit down eating one of the snacks I carry to give a rapid boost of my blood sugar. Soon I was feeling well enough to eat my lunch and take the tube to my final event of the day, a vigil outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton against the heartless policies of Lambeth Council.

Lambeth are one of the London Labour councils who are pursuing a policy of social cleansing under the guise of regeneration, realising the asset value of council estates by demolition and rebuilding with only small provision of social housing, resulting in many local council tenants and leaseholders being forced to move out of the area.

Lambeth have also made drastic cuts, shutting down community centres, cutting services for the disabled, those with mental health problems, young people and social services generally; although the Council claim these actions have been forced on them by Tory government cuts, the protester point out that Councillors’ expenses and allowances keep on growing and they have spent over £150m on a new Town Hall.

The vigil included a tribute to Cressingham Gardens resident and leading campaigner Ann Plant who died of cancer in December 2016, spending her final months continuing the fight to prevent the demolition of her home and her community by the council.

More from all 3 events on My London Diary:

Stand Up to Lambeth protest and vigil
National Anti-Slavery March
ICAN Nobel Peace Prize Die-In


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


No More Hiroshimas

Thursday, August 6th, 2020
A prayer by Japanese monk Rev Nagase, from the Battersea Peace Pagoda, 2011

Most years if I am in London at the start of August I attend the London CND Hiroshima Day commemoration in Tavistock Square. This year, the 75th anniversary, I will be at the online event.

The US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime on a massive scale and lacked any real military justification. So far, despite a huge number of atomic weapons being manufactured and many billions spent on them and their delivery systems none have been used, though we now know that it was only the refusal of one Russian soldier to obey orders that saved us from nuclear annihilation.

The theory of nuclear deterrence never made sense, and over the years more countries have created their own nuclear weapons, mainly as a status symbol. US, UK, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea currently have them. South Africa is the only country which has given them up (several soviet republics handed them back to Russia when the USSR broke up) but around 190 countries including South Africa have now signed up the the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, confirming they will not develop them.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signature at United Nations headquarters in New York on 20 September 2017 having been passed with 122 countries in favour – but none of the nuclear states or other NATO members voted and the Netherlands was the sole vote against. So far only 40 states have ratified the treaty.

The London 75th Anniversary event is one of many around the world you can join in or view online. I’ve posted a few of my pictures from earlier years here, but there are many more on My London Diary – for 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Jeremy Corbyn introduces the Mayor of Camden, Cllr Faruque Ansari, 2009
Hetty Bower, 105, holds up a Peace Card given her by a primary school class, 2011
Tony Benn speaks, 2011
CND Chair Kate Hudson, 2014
Flowers are laid at the Hiroshima Cherry Tree in Tavistock Square, 2015

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


Anti-Christ at the Abbey

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

I can’t understand how anyone Christian could condone the service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate 50 years of continuous nuclear threat by British submarines armed with nuclear missiles.  It seemed obscene and blasphemous, a total negation of the teaching of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels.

I’ve never really been a pacifist, believing that sometimes in extreme circumstances it can be the lesser of evils to pick up weapons and fight. I think I would have been prepared to fight the Nazis in World War II, though the question didn’t arise, as Hitler gave up the struggle a week before I was born. And had I been in South Africa under apartheid I would have found it hard not to support the armed struggle, and if I could have been of any use to have taken a part in it. There are times when its vital to fight for justice.

But fortunately I’ve never been faced with difficult decisions like that, though I did turn down the offer of interesting research on explosives when I graduated. Our country has not been under existential threat since the defeat of Germany in 1945, and the wars in which we have engaged have seldom been just or even in any way sensible, fighting to hang on to our colonies or enlarge our commercial sphere of influence. Chasing weapons of mass destruction we knew did not exist.

Nuclear weapons in particular are pointless – and extremely dangerous. Weapons that would only be used when we were about to be anihilated whether or not we used them, unless they were used by accident – and we now know that such an accident was only averted when one Russian officer had the good sense to disobey his orders.

Nuclear weapons are also very expensive – and the vast sums to be spent on replacing Trident could be spent so much more usefully on so many other things – and end the cuts to vital services.

Rather confusingly there were two protest vigils taking place opposite Westminster Abbey while the service was taking place there, one by CND and the other by Christian CND. Both were on the opposite side of the road to the church, but separated by a few yards. Christian CND I think held a short service and vigil, while the main CND protest culminated in a die-in on the wide pavement – and I think some came from the Christian CND vigil to join them.

Police made it a little difficult to photograph this event, with photographers being moved from the road in front of the protest at various times, and both photographers and protesters were made to come down from a wall at the back of the pavement which gave a better view of the people entering the Abbey for the service. There was higher than usual security as a couple of royas were attending the service, though one CND protester did manage to walk inside the Abbey, though was fairly soon removed and brought back across the road.

More pictures: Die-In against Nuclear Weapons celebration.