Recalling the protest Cambs protest that lasted a year

The Hartleys caravan at RAF Molesworth in 1985, watched by police huddling around a brazier

The Hartleys caravan at RAF Molesworth in 1985, watched by police huddling around a brazier - Credit: Archant

A COUPLE have published a memoir recalling the year they spent living in a peace camp at RAF Molesworth.

Jennifer and Ian Hartley at RAF Molesworth where they joined a peace camp in 1985

Jennifer and Ian Hartley at RAF Molesworth where they joined a peace camp in 1985 - Credit: Archant

In January 1985, Jennifer and Ian Hartley bought a caravan, rented out their Ipswich home and moved to the edge of the airbase to join others unhappy at its use for storing nuclear missiles.

The camp had been set up in 1981 and news of the creation of a chapel appealed to the Hartleys’ Christian faith.

They were also inspired to act after attending a conference run by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the anti-war movement whose members had founded the camp.

Mrs Hartley, who is now 71 but was in her early 40s at the time and had been at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, said: “Other people had been going to Molesworth and having different forms of protest. I don’t like the word ‘protest’ but we liked the idea of positive witness.”


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The pair had been there only a fortnight when 1,500 troops and police moved in to secure the site with a fence and floodlights – the biggest military operation on English soil since the Second World War.

Mrs Hartley recalled: “People kept saying it was going to happen. The number of police and soldiers was just incredible.

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“Suddenly, overnight, they built gates. A lot of people were evicted from the camp but the extraordinary thing about our caravan was that it was in a lay-by which turned out to be owned by the church and not the council or the MOD.”

The Hartleys’ book, Paths Are Made By Walking, was written from diaries they kept and recounts the conversations they had with politicians, the military, peace campaigners, people who lived in the area and church ministers.

Mrs Hartley said: “We met so many interesting people on both sides of the fence and tried to build bridges. I find it hard to believe how we coped with the terrible weather – cold and rain – but we were a great deal younger then.”

The pair spent nearly 11 months at Molesworth, before heading off to India to attend an international peace conference.

Mrs Hartley went on to train as a counsellor and worked for many years in a GP surgery, while Mr Hartley, who is 67, worked for mental health charity Mind and is now a lay reader at a church in Ipswich.

The couple have two children each from previous marriages and nine grandchildren and Mrs Hartley said she would have no hesitation in supporting them if they did something similar.

“You just have to do what you believe is right at the time. You have to stand up and be counted – if you have a principle, I believe you should do something about it.”

INFORMATION: Paths Are Made By Walking is available for £8.99 from www.fast-print.net, online retailers and in bookshops.

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