15 November 1984 – 16 August 1985
Thursday 15th November 1984 – Arborfield, Reading
All of my personal possessions, including my journal, songbook, clothes, paints, etc. were evicted on 19th October. I started a new journal which has since disappeared. I don’t really feel that inclined to repeat all that I have written, so I’m not going to. I moved to Red Gate on the same day that I lost my belongings, and I’ll start this again in some detail from Hallowe’en.’
31st October 1984
was a night to remember! About 50 wimmin went into the base during large-scale military exercises both inside the base and on Salisbury Plain, with a full 22-vehicle convoy involved. The day before Yellow Gate had lost all of its structures, many belongings and the stand pipe, in the awaited ‘big’ evictions. What else could go wrong? The accumulation of events and disasters, in theory, should have made us so depressed that we would give up then, if ever, and go elsewhere. But let me tell you, the energy that night was so amazing and powerful. Wimmin split up into little groups and did various things all over the base. For instance I danced on the runway holding sparklers, with another wimmin. Rebecca Johnson and Becky locked themselves into an American police car, and were driving away when an American smashed the window in order to get them out. Wimmin took over the Control Tower and phoned up the Security Guards, etc. We totally fucked up everything for a few hours and ruined their exercises.
The following Saturday/Sunday we did the long-awaited bus action. 21 of us got all the way to the silos and those of us with bolt-cutters cut the fence to the silos. The whole lot of us are being charged under the Theft Act (1968) for knowingly being aboard a stolen vehicle without lawful authority. I cut the fence and passed my cutters onto Helen, who was stopped before actually managing to do anything. I haven’t been charged for Criminal Damage, but she has, but I intend to point out the fact that I did it, and not she, in court, which may mean that I get charged if they believe me. Anyway we were detained at 12.40 am and released at about 9.10 am. As we are being done under the Theft Act we can take it to Crown Court (jury) which we are going to do.
As a follow-up to this we had a coat hanger action, so-called because we planned to use coat-hangers to climb the silo fence. Unfortunately someone forgot the coat-hangers! Nevertheless about 25 wimmin went into the base and headed for the silos. A funny thing happened to Jiff and Katrina. They went off on their own and wandered across the runway to Indigo Gate where they were caught and put in a sentry box. (Inside there was a sign saying “Please keep radios turned down as we want to remain on good terms with the legal locals”. Indigo is opposite the golf club!) Eventually the guards had to open the gate to let someone in or out. Jiff and Katrina shot out of the box and to the gate. Katrina was stopped, but Jiff escaped and was last seen heading across the golf course!
Last Sunday Anne Francis and I thought that we would go to Greenham Church, as it was Remembrance Sunday, instead of Thatcham. Well, we lasted for about 1 hour 20 minutes and then left as it was really awful. Ronald Reagan Mark II sort of stuff, and looked like dragging on for about another hour – at least. We decided to walk around the base, as we were a good halfway around, from Orange Gate’s point of view. We stopped at Green and Emerald and we were halfway between Green and Yellow when we saw some temporary fence just held on with little bits of wire. Naturally we stopped and undid a few sections of it. Unfortunately we were also spotted by some keen soldier who radioed ahead so that while we were sitting around Yellow Gate’s fire he popped out with two MOD police, identified us, and we were promptly arrested and taken into the base! At first we refused to co-operate, the CID recognised Anne immediately and I decided that I really ought to be out to sort out the money situation the following day, so I gave a false name. Unfortunately instead of ‘Sylvia Pearce’ I spelt it ‘Syliva’ by mistake, but stuck with it all the same, as I couldn’t really admit to spelling my name wrong!! Well, we got refused bail and were held overnight and brought up to court the following day, where we were made to plead. Although we asked for time to consider our pleas, they wrote down ‘not guilty’ which is how I would have pleaded anyway. We are up for that on 18th February 1985. It is almost inevitable that Anne will have to do her 4 months suspended (sentence) then! If we get found guilty I am certainly not going to pay any fine!’
Wednesday 26th December 1984 Greenham Common, Secret Bender
(I had built a fairly substantial structure away from the general camp as a retreat in bad weather.)
I am angry. A woman from camp has been murdered. She was ‘Mad’ Dee, as Cola used to call her. She was hitching down to London from Oxford on Saturday. On Thursday before she cam around to Orange because she couldn’t sleep at about 4.00 am. Recently I had found her quite irritating – being unnaturally cheerful in the pouring rain and making little attempt to help in evictions – rescuing the fire, etc. …
Nevertheless I am extremely angry but at the same time sad. Meryl told me yesterday afternoon (about 5.30pm) as we were going off to do an action. Inside the base we drank almost a whole bottle of rum between us – I’ve never done that before – another weird twist to the day – In the past I’ve never been near the base if I’ve had the slightest drop to drink. At Yellow Gate five MOD bods stood and looked at us for a few minutes, saw that Meryl was out of her head and threw us out without even bothering to take any names. So I got a lift back to Orange from Fenja and Katy who just happened to be at Yellow, and later on went around with some wimmin to Blue (Listy, Val, Pip and Karen) for a memorial for Dee. We lit a bonfire in the middle of the road in front of the gate, sang a little and talked about Dee. It was quite traumatic. Then the fire brigade arrived to put out the fire – and everybody exploded. That was just about the excuse we needed to SCREAM our heads off. A new fire arose from the ashes.
I feel so angry but at the same time washed out by the whole thing. That could have been any woman from camp – we all hitch alone most of the time. That dead woman could have been me, Meryl, Patti, Fenja – anyone.
Her murder is a summing up of all that I am working against – violence, hatred, darkness, death, and makes me even more determined to carry on.
Sunday 10th February 1985
I wrote in my diary that I still didn’t know what I was going to say at my case… “I’m getting quite nervous about that, although I know that I’ll be alright on the day because I feel so angry.”
Monday 18th February 1985
We went to court, ‘practically everyone went to court to support us, which was really nice. A RAF bod lied through his teeth, saying that he saw us with bolt cutters, and we were charged with £151.52 worth of damage. Mein Gott! I’ll never get over the way that he lied. I took the oath, after a lot of internal debate. I’m convinced that the magistrates believed us, but considered that our evidence pointed to the fact that we committed criminal damage. Anyway it took them about 20 minutes to decide on a verdict, which was ‘Guilty’. As a compromise we got a conditional discharge.’
I was travelling around the country and beyond. In February after my court case I went to northern France for a few days break, and began to plan a trip to West Wales for later in the Spring. I went to Manchester for a conference and Northants for a speaking engagement. I was planning a trip to Comiso in Sicily in April and hoping to fit in seeing Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Thursday 21st March 1985 I wrote:
‘I’m feeling fed up with Greenham in general, and Orange Gate in particular for a variety of reasons. So few people seem to care as to whether Orange closes or not. So few come and do night-watch that I end up feeling really guilty if I go away for a few days. I haven’t been away from Greenham for more than five days at once since last June, except for going to Brawdy. I really hate doing a night-watch, so I hardly ever do; which means that other wimmin end up doing more. I also feel that we are focusing too much on ourselves – I mean myself, I can’t really speak for anyone else – and not doing enough about the base. There’s nobody at Orange at the moment who is into doing a lot of actions – and I haven’t got the energy to go around the other gates at the moment. Although I’m not happy with the situation at Orange at the moment I still feel that Orange Gate is my home and that’s where I want to stay. I’ve been thinking of setting up Indigo Gate, but that would only be for a couple of days, either Monday or Tuesday until about Thursday. I don’t think I could bear living at Indigo with anyone else, however, so it would have to be a one-woman camp! But I feel very strongly that I want to be at Orange, whatever the case!’
Friday 5th April 1985
At midnight there was another mass trespass as soon as the bye-laws came into effect (enforced illegally using the 1893 Military Lands Act provisions to protect military land). It was an absolutely foul night – we all got soaked and muddy. Eventually me and Jilly – separated from Annie, Elinor, Liz and two others – got picked up circa 1.30am, charged and eventually released around 6.00 am. I was getting a little manic towards the end – I was the last one of the group of about 20 that we were put in with to be processed! Chris Drake was with us too – at one point – just after we’d been moved onto another building – the door on the portacabin got jammed – it took them around 1 and a half hours to undo it! I’m glad that I didn’t get stuck in there with those awful policemen – at that point the electricity failed as well!!!’
I went to bed at about 6.30am and got up at 12.30pm. As soon as I’d had my breakfast – courtesy of Sherridan – I pinned some clothes and my bed on the fence in contravention of the bye-laws. I was still feeling pretty mad after that so I painted a wimmins peace symbol on the byelaws notice attached to the gate in Red Paint. It was quite obviously me who did it - the only wommin wearing a blue skirt and with red paint on my hands!!! Well, the squaddie radioed to the MODP who came and arrested me.
I got taken inside the base, then to Newbury. Held there until 9.40 pm when I was taken to Reading for the night. I got brought back c. 7.15 am; taken to court at about 11.50 am and made to plead to a ‘series’ of crimes – namely trespass and criminal damage. They’re bloody right that it was a series! I pleaded not guilty to both charges. The case will be on 14th June. There were no wimmin in court as they had all gone to Reading for the Control Tower case. I felt really awful. I was getting really intimidated by the situation! They put some really nasty bail conditions on my poor young (!) head. At first they said that I couldn’t enter or try to enter any MOD property in Berkshire but I was being really flippant so they changed to any base in England and Wales, which is a bit of a bugger. I’m going to either not break these conditions, or not get caught breaking them, until the night of 6th June – or else I will not only miss my eighteenth birthday but also both my Sociology Exams – they sent me the dates the other day!
Wednesday 7th April 1985
I arrived at La Ragnatela, Comiso, Sicilia, but there was very little going on there – I found the camp deserted but I did meet up with Cecilia from Indigo Gate.
At the end of May I went to Genoa to give a talk. On 25th May I wrote: ‘I think that about four different wimmin may have been going to do this speak at some point. First Sarah Green, then Rebecca Johnson, then myself (Isis and Jill were asked) isn’t that just typical Yellow Gate! Somewhat of a come down though, eh?
I had been nervous about going through customs because other Greenham women on their way to Canada had been strip searched, their baggage thoroughly searched and closely questioned about whether they had been inside the base. By the time they had been released they had missed their flight. They found that a metal object that hadn’t been there before had been hidden in their luggage. It was my first experience of speaking to a foreign audience. I had to submit what I was going to say in writing so it could be translated as I spoke.
Wednesday 5th June 1985, Violet Gate
The action was very successful. Most camp wimmin were recognised, charged and thrown out; but as about 150-300 wimmin took part that didn’t matter too much. Special courts were set up on Monday (Bank Holiday!) and 34 wimmin who continued to not give their names were sent down. I spent the entire day in Court One, thus missing most of the Orange Gate wimmin who were in Court Two. About halfway through the morning everybody, except me, got thrown out for questioning the legality of the whole thing, verbally supporting wimmin on trial, etc. That was so violent. The police totally over reacted. They were dragging wimmin and kicking them about like sacks of old rags. About three wimmin were dragged off, charged with assault and held until the next day. I felt absolutely sick. I was shaking and almost in tears for the rest of the morning. They ‘let’ me stay in because I got out of the way and made an application to be allowed to remain and take notes, on condition that I didn’t disrupt the proceedings.
Life went on. A couple of days later I was sitting my Sociology A level but on Friday I was in court. ‘I reckon the magistrates quite liked me. For the ‘trespass’ I got £25 fine + £10 costs in default of which they just gave 5 days. For the ‘criminal damage’ - £15, and another 5 days to be served concurrently. Not bad, eh? I got let out on Tuesday morning.’ But the next paragraph in the diary is not so good. My appeal against the Jesus Christ Action was going to be held the next day and I was going to be on my own as Anne Francis’s papers had been lost. The barrister had advised me to drop the whole thing as I would probably get £200 + costs as well as a harsher sentence. ‘I want justice however,’ I wrote. ‘Why I’m bothering I don’t know, there’s no justice to be had from the British legal system!’ I wrote ‘I hated Holloway. I really don’t want to go there ever again.’
Thursday 27th June 1985, Yellow Gate
I wrote that the Appeal ‘wasn’t that bad. We lost, but it was obvious that we should have won, so I don’t care too much, although I’m really angry about being labelled ‘liar’. They managed to get Anne to Reading and she was allowed to appeal at the same time which was good. In the in-between bits they kept locking me up with Anne – which was great – the first time that I’ve got to talk to her since about February! We have both still got conditional discharges and Anne’s four months won’t be applied.’
I recorded things about our domestic life at the camp. At this time I was ‘somewhat irritated’ with Orange Gate and I had moved to Yellow, where I noted that the ‘rats are amazing. There are probably 40-50 of them. This afternoon, when everyone else was asleep, one of them was playing by the fire in broad daylight. I’ve been feeding them, much to the others’ horror!’
In August I hitch-hiked to Rochester to meet Anne when she was released from prison. ‘That was quite complicated as they haven’t finished the M25 yet! Anne is fine. It was wonderful to see her. I’m so relieved.’
Friday 9th August 1985, Yellow Gate
The previous Sunday I had decided to go to church inside the base! So I put on my best clothes, cut a hole around the corner on the way to Green by the first squaddie hut, climbed up the bank and started to look for the church. I walked through the RAF regiment HQ saying ‘G’morning’ to all whom I met and onto the main road. I asked an American where the Protestant church was and got directed to the ‘Chapel Center’.
Here I was half an hour too early for the service so an American guy gave me a cup of coffee which I drank while some carried on with their choir practice. When I’d finished my coffee I got up and walked out, following the directions that I’d been given. I was walking up the high street when a police van with a guy in it who, alas!, knew me drop up … charged with ‘trespass’. They gave me bail to appear in court the next day to plead, which I did and pleaded not guilty. Hiroshima Day was given in court as the date for the actual court case (next day, that is!) I strongly objected in court, said that I couldn’t possibly go and left a letter stating my reasons. Obviously the magistrate didn’t accept these as a warrant was issued on which I was picked up (when I didn’t attend court) by no less than Sergeant Divine himself at 4 in the afternoon.
At 4 in the afternoon. Held overnight, as usual and brought into the magistrates court with the additional charge of non-appearance. I got found guilty of that basically because I mentioned Hiroshima Day amongst my excuses. He said that there was obviously no point in punishing me and gave me a conditional discharge (3 months). I’m going to keep to that if I can – good reason to take a break – anyway it’s only until November 7th. There were 4 months between the last two charges that I acquired and 5 months the last but one and last but two.
At the moment my criminal record stands at two Criminal Damages, one ‘trespass’ and one failure to appear in court. I have another ‘trespass’ and two charges under the theft act. The ‘trespass’ has been adjourned until 13th September 1985. I want to call Naomi and/or Jill, Peter Sear and the chap inside the base – if I can get hold of him, which I doubt. Evonne might be useful just to say that she saw me going off to church as usual. I must look up freedom of religions practise acts as well and information about the Common, Commoners’ rights etc. I want to base my case on my right to attend church services and challenge the trespass laws at the same time. ‘
I set off on a couple of weeks cycling around Ireland while I waited for my A level result. Four days later I was in a Cork Youth Hostel. I was planning to go to the Dublin Women’s Centre and the shop where an anti-apartheid picket was going on.