From the Archives: CND at Molesworth in the 1980s
- Credit: ARCHANT
The decision in 1980 to station 64 cruise missiles at a USAF airbase in a tiny Huntingdonshire village triggered seven years of protest and conflict in the local area.
In 1982, protesters from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) took up camp outside the perimeter of RAF Molesworth to protest. Over time, they were joined by other groups and the Molesworth Peace Camp was set up.
Protesters were determined to play their part in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, politicians, on the other hand, called it “illegal trespass, and in time, most locals just wanted village life to return to normal.
There was some sympathy locally, but over time, the residents of Molesworth and nearby villages of Brington and Bythorn became irritated by the avalanche of marchers, peace campers and CND activists swamping the area.
In May, 1983, Huntingdon MP John Major branded the protesters as "irrelevant and irresponsible" and said: “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."
In 1985, the then Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine oversaw the eviction of campaigners and the erection of a perimeter fence, arriving at the site wearing a combat jacket. The operation saw 1,500 troops and police moved in to secure the site and erect floodlights, two fences, one of which was seven-miles long.
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 for the next three years. Finally, in September 1988, the 18 cruise 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 erected at the base cost £3 million.
* 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.