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Bromley activist on 55-year campaign against nuclear weapons

PUBLISHED: 10:09 27 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:09 27 March 2014

(L-R) Julie Etter, 76, Bromley, Geraldeen Cowan, 60, Penge, Ann Garrett, 74, Plaistow Grove at the Budget day protest. Picture: David Esbester

(L-R) Julie Etter, 76, Bromley, Geraldeen Cowan, 60, Penge, Ann Garrett, 74, Plaistow Grove at the Budget day protest. Picture: David Esbester

Archant

Bromley Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) members descended on Hyde Park this month to mark the third anniversary of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, which followed an earthquake and tsunami and displaced 300,000 people from their homes.

RAF Greenham Common air base the site of continuous women's peace protests from 1981 until 1991 when the final American Cruise missiles were removed. The demonstrations ended with the closure of the base.   The fence that has surrounded Greenham Common for 50 years will be pulled down marking a final victory for peace campaigners. Picture: PARAF Greenham Common air base the site of continuous women's peace protests from 1981 until 1991 when the final American Cruise missiles were removed. The demonstrations ended with the closure of the base. The fence that has surrounded Greenham Common for 50 years will be pulled down marking a final victory for peace campaigners. Picture: PA

Tireless in her cause, group secretary Ann Garrett first became involved with CND in 1959 on a 52-mile march from the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire to London.

“I went when I was still in drama school to demonstrate against the horrors of nuclear weapons and the pollution being created by them,” she said. “That was when CND formed.”

In the 1980s, Ann was part of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, set up to protest against nuclear weapons being based at the site in Berkshire.

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government had agreed that cruise missiles could be based there and a blockade began in May 1982.

By December, 30,000 women had joined hands around the base.

“Bromley, Orpington and Beckenham, we all went down and tied ourselves to the rails,” recalls Ann. “The men used to come visit us at weekends to leave food for the women.

“Men would come and support us too, but they couldn’t be down there protesting – it was a woman’s protest.”

Ann, of Plaistow Grove, described how it felt to be there at the time.

“It was a mixture of feelings,” she admits. “It was very challenging and one felt very worried about cruise missiles.

“At the time there were more tensions with Russia and we felt that missiles could be used, but at the same time there was a great deal of fraternity of feeling.

“The police and army agreed with our opinions most of the time, but they were just doing their jobs.”

Ann has since taken part in demonstrations against the war in Iraq, on the anniversaries of the 1945 bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in northern Ukraine.

She and Bromley CND also regularly protest against replacing the British Trident missile programme which could cost more than £100billion.

“Seeing as we are in austerity and people are affected by low incomes, maybe we should spend the money on social services and education not nuclear weapons,” she said.

“I have never been arrested, but I have been near to it.

“We will keep on challenging and campaigning until the number of nuclear weapons are reduced.”

Bromley CND will run a stall in Bromley Market Square on April 26 to mark the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

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