Greenham CommonTue, 10/03/09 - 16:26 - researcher
Greenham Common airfield was one of several wartime airfields in the Salisbury Plain area and was originally intended for use as an RAF Bomber Command Operational Training Unit. It was built to the Class A airfieldstandard, the main feature of which was a set of three converging runways each containing a concrete runway for takeoffs and landings, optimally placed at 60 degree angles to each other in a triangular pattern connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a standard width of 50 feet.
In late 1943, Greenham Common airfield was turned over to the USAAF Ninth Air Force. In the post-World War II years, the United States Strategic Air Command was based at three major airfields in eastern England: RAF Lakenheath, RAF Marham and RAF Sculthorpe. The increasing tension of the Cold War led to a re-evaluation of these deployments and a move further west, behind RAF fighter forces, to RAF Greenham Common, RAF Brize Norton, RAF Upper Heyford and RAF Fairford.
The Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile from 1975 caused major concern in the NATO alliance. The longer range, greater accuracy, mobility and striking power of the new missile was perceived to alter the security of Western Europe. It was feared that the Soviet Union could launch a nuclear strike against Western Europe with a reduced threat of nuclear retaliation (i.e. compared to an attack on the continental United States). After discussions, NATO agreed to a two part strategy:
* To pursue arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union to reduce their and the American INF arsenals.
* To deploy in Europe from 1983 up to 464 Gryphon Ground Launched Cruise Missile or GLCMs, as well as 108 Pershing II ballistic missiles.
The UK's share of this total was 160 missiles, 96 based at Greenham Common with four spares, and 64 at RAF Molesworth. When in June 1980 it was announced that RAF Greenham Common was to become the first site for cruise missiles, the outcry came more from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rather than the local populace.
From 1981 "women's peace camps" were established in protest at the deployment of the cruise missiles. They came to be known as "The Greenham Women" or "peace women", and their 19-year protest drew worldwide media and public attention, often by cutting through the fences.
On 11 September 1992, the USAF returned Greenham Common airbase to the Ministry of Defence. On 9 February 1993 the Greenham Common airbase was declared surplus to requirements by the Secretary of State for Defence and the facility was closed and put up for sale.
With the departure of the cruise missiles and the subsequent closure of the base by the MOD in 1993, the peace camps remained at the site until September 2000 to ensure the base was closed and the land returned to the public. However, the protesters no longer attracted the attention of the media as they did during the 1980s when there were some 40 camps spread around the base perimeter.
Source - Wikipedia - Field Notes to follow