Looking Back: Cruise missiles in tiny village were not welcome!

A CND protest at Molesworth in 1983.

A CND protest at Molesworth in 1983. - Credit: HUNTS POST

Over the years, the district of Huntingdonshire has seen some determined groups and individuals standing up for what they believe in and fighting for just causes. Animal rights perhaps being one of the loudest and most high profile, but in the 1980, a group of activists literally 'dug deep' to make their feelings known to the rest of the world!

The decision in 1980 to station 64 cruise missiles at a US airbase in a tiny Huntingdonshire village triggered seven years of protest and conflict in the local community.

In 1982, protesters from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament took up camp outside the perimeter of RAF Molesworth to protest.

Over time, they were joined by others and the Molesworth Peace Camp was set up. Protestors were determined to play their part in ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

This is how The Hunts Post reported the story in one edition in 1980.

This is how The Hunts Post reported the story in one edition in 1980. - Credit: HUNTS POST

Politicians described it as “illegal trespass" and locals just wanted a return to normal village life. There was a lot of sympathy locally, but over time, the residents of Molesworth and nearby Brington and Bythorn became irritated by the avalanche of marchers, peace campers and CND activists swamping the area.

In May, 1993, the then Huntingdon MP, John Major, branded the protesters as "irrelevant and irresponsible".

He went on to say: “The overwhelming majority of my constituents consider the illegal trespassers at Molesworth and their encampment to be deeply offensive and are anxious that action be taken to remove them at the earliest possible moment." 

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In 1985, the then Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine oversaw the eviction of campaigners and the erection of a perimeter fence. Must to the amusement of the media he carried out this activity while wearing a combat jacket.

It was going to take more than that to put the protesters off, and they dug deep, organising sit-down protests, religious services and demonstrations. 

The Molesworth protests took a toll on police, it was reported later.

The Molesworth protests took a toll on police, it was reported later. - Credit: HUNTS POST

Finally, in 1988, the 18 missiles at RAF Molesworth were removed. 

The conversion of RAF Molesworth to a missile station cost £60 million pounds and took 30 months to complete. 
A total of 650 acres of land were used to upgrade and expand the area.
Two fences which were seven miles long and cost £3 million to erect, were put up around the base.
The pressure of monitoring and guarding the base took its toll on Cambridgeshire police which reported days lost through illness in 1985 reached 14,114 in 1985 an increase of 15 per cent on the previous year.