22nd September 1985 – 13 September 1986
I started the new diary angry, mainly because Katrina Howse had been jailed for six months on ‘that set-up charge’. I wrote ‘about Katrina – what I want to do is not only extremely illegal, but involves years in prison if caught, so I shan’t write, in case I get arrested with this on me or something.’ Life had become even more difficult at the camp because of vigilante actions, mainly setting fire to our tents etc.
‘It’s awful the way that these set-ups (like Katrina’s) work – you’re forced into a legalistic wrangle all the time which basically boils down to an anarchical women’s society versus the status quo – which always wins in this situation – obviously even – because it is the establishment that’s being asked to judge whether it is in the right or us. A totally no go situation.
‘The tank action came up yesterday. I took charge of the ‘press’ side of things – which as it turned out was a mistake. About the only thing that took it was Peace News, and possibly the Guardian. (The case was adjourned until 16th October after the bench spent ages trying to decide whether there was a case to answer.)’
At this time I was beginning to feel the stresses and strains of life at the camp and recorded in my diary that on the way into town ‘I had this really strong urge to throw myself in front of the traffic. I stopped myself (thank God!) but was really shaken and just felt like crying and I wanted to either go back to Green or Yellow (Gates) or cross over onto the pavement and push my cycle in to town. I couldn’t cross over though. … I just couldn’t face phoning up anybody else as my usual paranoia about telephones was getting extremely acute, and I just couldn’t face talking to anyone on it!’
Three weeks later things weren’t much better as I wrote that I had been too anxious to write recently. I was having a break, cycling down to Canterbury from Greenham to raise money for the Samaritans – one of several charities being sponsored by St Mary’s Church in Thatcham. On the way to Canterbury the pedal snapped off my bike (actually Listy’s bike) and I had camped in a lovely Oak wood somewhere in Surrey. Before I went I had taken part in an action with Lyn and a woman called Dee (later called Sparticus), who had recently gone to the camp to live, and I wrote it all down in detail - I thought it was ‘ludicrous’:
‘We were going into the vehicle compound near Jade to paint and generally do as much sabotaging as possible before being caught. Anyway, as we were walking along by the fence we saw two men fiddling with it – so we dashed after them; they got into a Land Rover and turned the headlights off! Then we saw two squaddies walking up to us. We stopped and talked to them for a while then climbed along towards the Land Rover, when the two men started walking towards us with pieces of fence – they were fence menders! Well, we carried on round the lurked until they had all gone and went back to where they had all been before. Lyn started cutting a hole and was cutting the barbed wire when we saw vehicles approaching from inside! I lay flat on the ground with my head behind a fern (!) while Lyn ran off and Dee hid somewhere else. Then three MoD men arrived outside the base! One ran after Lyn and caught her – because she was laughing so much, and another found Dee. I didn’t realise that Lyn had been caught as well, so I got up and marched up to them and demanded to see their numbers! I was standing a few feet away from them, watching to see what they were going to do next. Then one of them started getting suspicious: ‘What are you doing here this time of night?’ he asked.
‘I’m the legal observer.’ (Me!)
‘You’ve got a lot of undergrowth on your face – I’m arresting you for suspicion of criminal damage.’
Nicked too! – shucks!
‘Anyway they took us down to Newbury and after a couple of hours charged all three of us with criminal damage. That’s the first action that I’ve done for ages. My reasons for doing it were twofold. Firstly acute anger with the continued existence of the base and the casual immorality that this implies, and secondly I was very worried about Lyn and didn’t want her to go off and get into a situation where she was obviously the one who was going to get the majority of the blame. We are up to plead on 18th November.
The bus action case is at Aylesbury and we have to be there for a pre-trial hearing on 5th November. The provisional date for the case is 2nd December 1985 – well, that solves my dilemma over what to do for Christmas!’
I was busy with life outside the camp as well, frequently going up to London. On Sunday 27th October 1985 I wrote about going to a Peruvian weaving exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute in the morning and an Anti-Apartheid Demonstration outside the South African Embassy in the afternoon. That demonstration had been ‘organised’ (my punctuation from the diary) by the NUS and was ‘thus about 90% young people. As well as a blockade outside South Africa House there was a CND type rally in Trafalgar Square. There must have been about 4000 people there. About 300 were arrested on the blockade, so the rest of the blockade got up and marched to Rochester Row police station to demand the arresteds’ release, without charges. Eventually they were all released with the charges dropped later that evening. There must have been 50-70 Greenham women there, most of whom got arrested immediately!’
In November I went for an interview at Nottingham University and enjoyed it. The man who interviewed me told me that I would almost definitely get an offer and I liked the sound of the course – ‘a traditional historical theology course, with at least one biblical language compulsory, with a look at the sociology of theology and some religious studies.’
It was in November I wrote that the geese had been liberated from the pen in the vehicle compound near to Jade. The Americans had an obvious group of geese in the pen in between Yellow and Green Gates. It seemed that they were being fatten up for Thanksgiving, so women resolved to rescue the geese and annoy the American servicemen by ruining their dinner. The geese were set free on the River Kennet in the centre of Newbury. They were indistinguishable from the other birds, so continued to live free but in plain sight.
Action at the camp continued and I was pleased that ‘we have had a very good run with convoys recently, for painting them, covering them in custard/porridge, etc., except for Sarah H and Heike being arrested yesterday for painting convoy vehicles.’
17th December 1985
I grabbed a tin of red paint, prised the lid off and threw it over the last vehicle. Every drop went onto it – beautiful! I dashed off with about five or six policemen in hot pursuit, ran around Gladys, the fire, then I thought that some of us would probably go flying or that they’d try to rugby-tackle me so I stopped dead! Arrested and charged with criminal damage. I have to plead on 6th Jan for that. I had intended not getting arrested for a few months – but there wasn’t any time – and I could hardly have asked round and handed the tin to somebody else!!!’
I had been offered places at both Cardiff and Nottingham on the basis of getting just one ‘C’ in either A level. I had provisionally accepted both. I had been offered interviews during the week of the bus action at the other three universities, which I had to miss. I was hoping to get to the rearranged one at Birmingham in February 1986. I wrote that the only reason I wasn’t in gaol was that the bus action was a legal success as everyone was found not guilty. We had selected an all women jury in Aylesbury who, despite the judge’s directions, had returned a not guilty verdict.
Thursday 19th December 1985
Annajoy David ‘and some young men came round. Later I found out that I had been talking to Billy Bragg for about half an hour without realising it!!!’ Christmas came and went pretty much unrecorded but January was busy:
Tuesday started with snow and an eviction, then another eviction and another, a short break for lunch, and two more evictions. I was getting very irate with the community policeman who was trying to arrest me for obstruction. Sharples pushed Joan so that she almost fell and Ducat was his usual nasty self. Convoy vehicles had been going in and out all day so I went down to report to Eileen. The snow didn’t let up at all, it changed to icy rain.
It was a terrible shock when following on from Dee's murder the year before another Greenham Woman was killed just before Christmas. Jess, the resident caretaker at the Friends' Meeting House in Newbury had been killed by a hit and run driver on Pylle Hill. Eventually he was caught and ultimately fined £20. She had been bringing an urgent message up to one of the Blue Gate women.
I wrote in my diary that I had made a written complaint about the eviction on the day of Jess’ funeral and followed it up with a complaint that my fire grid was munched. ‘Reeves actually said that ‘Sharples obviously wasn’t that sort of man’ and was only trying to help Joan!!! Pleaded ignorance to the funeral. Sarah had made quite extensive complaints about various things the day before.’
I often wrote about my bad dreams during this period and at this time I dreamt about ‘mad black ‘super-snakes’ that kept wrapping themselves around women and just maintaining some sort of horrible presence. They were really fast moving, agile and incredibly powerful although they didn’t kill anyone. I was really frightened when I woke and didn’t care to leave my tent.’ I was writing this entry from the house of an ‘old lady’ who had done the food run (one day after weeks at the camp with no break from the evictions I had asked one of the women from a local peace group if I could stay with her for a few nights. She had been slightly taken aback but said yes and took me home with her). ‘She’s got an amazingly luxurious flat – actually I’m really overcome by it – I don’t know if I’ll survive three nights here!’
In March 1986, I was in Holloway after a court case.
I shared a cell with a young woman called Sarah, who was in for breaking a parole order. I just want to scream when I think of her. She might get a walk out in March when she comes up to court, she might get bail in the meantime when she finishes her sentence – I doubt it! She had been going in and out of Holloway since she was 16 – and approved homes, etc. before that. The last night that I was there she must have been having a nightmare – calling out ‘convicted and sentenced’ over and over. She had just done 18 months, been out 2 and a half months, then picked up for breaking her parole – only 18 too. Age doesn’t matter much though, does it? You’re never too young to suffer. I’m not supporting ‘theft’ as a legitimate form of earning your living, but it’s so pointless, they aren’t going to stop, she’s only going to change when she wants, when she feels the need to settle down or tie herself down. Her boyfriend was on remand at the same time and she wanted to send him a St Valentine’s Day card. But she couldn’t afford to buy one and a quarter ounce of tobacco so she bought a letter instead and drew him a picture. I just want to cry for her, scream for her. She is tall – about 5’10” I should think, blonde hair and very pale – from lack of exercise and a prison diet and looks ill. She hardly ever spoke on association, but locked up talked about her boyfriend – how they were going to get married the week they were locked up. She talked about her fears – of the dark, for the future – about having a baby in a few years and going straight - the excitement of life outside, contrasting with the utter boredom inside. One story she was telling me sticks particularly in my mind: ‘How she met her boyfriend’. She was running away from the police, down side streets, not wanting to get arrested. She saw a gang of young men and threw herself at one, started kissing him – much to his surprise, and the police ran past! The beginning of their romance!’
When I was transferred to Bullwood Hall I complained about the lack of exercise. ‘I went outside three times – each for half an hour – in almost three weeks in Bullwood. But my God did I enjoy the last half hour, after being shut up for 10 days on the trot! It was so beautiful outside. Warm and sunny, with snow on the ground and no wind at all. The birds were enjoying the weather as much as I was – amazing!
‘I had one minor brush with ‘authority’ (‘at Bullwood). One day the governor came round. I refused to stand up so was locked in during meals as well as the rest of the day until I apologised. I didn’t apologise as I was going in a few days!’
Tuesday 11th March 1986. Yellow Gate, Greenham
The convoy came out last night. 5 launchers, two control, one launcher cab. I decided to stick with Sally as I trust her implicitly! I couldn’t scream or anything, it is so horrific, but something snapped when the police started trotting back into the vans, and we both turned around and started to scream and shout at them until they went. Lyn came and lots of others managed to get here in time. Blue Gate had gone to Armagh, so women went around, too. After the convoy we had a repeat performance of the press argument. Wherever you start, it always gets distorted into the same thing. I went to bed shaking with anger and rage, but Rebecca apologised in the morning – to me anyway – so that’s fine now, or okay at least.’
‘We heard that support vehicles were being taken out at Indigo and had cheered when they saw only Evelyn at Blue. Very angry women were sitting at Yellow, fuming. Me and Michelle decided to just throw porridge, mud etc at every military vehicle that came out which we did throughout the day. We did today as well – getting it down to a fine art with flour and water and red food dye! This afternoon they threatened us with Breach of the Peace and myself and ‘Frances’ got arrested. I refused to co-operate, started to ‘paint’ inside the MoD HQ, screwed up my charge sheet, etc. They let Frances go, eventually we reached a compromise and I agreed not to throw anything else today – I had no intention of doing so anyway. I felt really good about that action, must keep it up tomorrow too.’
I wrote in my diary on the same day that an invitation for two Greenham women to go to an ‘International Terrorist Conference in Libya’ had arrived the day before and I thought I was going to go with Lorna from Blue Gate. I did go, but wrote little about it in my diary, except that ‘Gadaffi opened the Conference with a three hour speech – glad it was a three hour one too, at least that gave me a chance to cool down otherwise I’d have been throwing chairs!’ I also wrote ‘we went to the Palestine exhibition too – and were each presented with a PLO scarf(!!)’ I still have it.
After returning from Libya I ‘Got back to camp to a row about whether men should be ‘allowed’ to take action at the Swan. Dangerous ground! I feel really dissatisfied with camp at the moment. Sarah Hipperson’s fault! No it isn’t. She has just said what I’ve thought for a long time about ‘double standards’, and when challenged says what she thinks to women’s faces. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get back to Greenham. I don’t know if I can bear to stay for more than a few days. I’ll be at camp over Easter, then perhaps go down to Charlotte’s house in Torquay for a few days. I feel really disillusioned with everybody at the moment, discounting about 2 or 3 exceptional women.’
I was considering getting a flat so I didn’t have to live at the camp. ‘Life is very complicated at the moment. I’ve got to fit in what I want to do now around turning up for my probation (only two months to go!) as well as the evening class and signing on. I’m signing on in Newbury at the present – it’s a lot much easier than traipsing over to Reading.’
Monday 5th May 1986
‘The US bombed Libya at last using F111s from Lakenheath and Upper Heyford. I went off to Naomi’s for a week while loads of actions went on. I got a phone call Sunday night, so got up and miraculously hitched down for 11 o’clock court. Women had been held over the weekend for going into Welford. I spent the day in court, amongst other things being a witness to Dee’s innocence – she still got found guilty – justice my eye!
‘We got a tip off that the US would bomb Libya again, and anyway that a huge exercise would start that night. Me, Lorna, Katrina, Gaelle and Carol went to Upper Heyford, cut a hole, walked across the runway together, went into a hangar. Lorna and Katrina sat in the cockpit. We others wrote on the F111s and bombs – I wrote Murder, Murderers and once Pathetic. We were arrested, charged, taken into court the next day. Remanded for 8 days. Worst time ever in prison. I went on hunger strike as I was deliberately separated. Delayed going to Holloway by our magic for 48 hours after the court case – v. good indeed. We got bail last Wednesday – after such a fight – all my soul went into it I so wanted to get out. Bail conditions – 1. To reside at Greenham. 2. Not to go into any bases. 3. Surety of £300 put up by Jean Kay. We have to appear next on 14th May – to plead if we get the papers by then. They have set the damage at £343.01 – which is ridiculous – millions or nothing. Since then I ‘ve been back at camp, working on my allotment (gone into partnership with Jude) and A levels.
After we got out, and while we were in, the weather has been wonderful. I wept, the birches were so beautiful when I got back. I’ve got a lot out of that action: immense satisfaction, sense of achievement (they were all wild) and tremendous solidarity with women on the action and supporting us, especially Katrina.
I knitted (and smuggled out!) a pullover from Holloway with a spiral on the front and ‘power to women’ on the back! Cosmic stuff!’ The prisoners had cheered when they saw it in the exercise yard.
Friday 15th May 1986, Yellow Gate
As we were forced to live here by our bail conditions I challenged the bailiffs on that point – must have kept their lawyers busy for an afternoon, but I still managed to get my tent evicted. Miserly sods – when I got home, to put it up, I found out that they’d snapped the spikes off the ends of the poles! Hmph!’
I later wrote that the residence condition was dropped – ‘just as well, perhaps.’
But ‘we got the prosecution papers for the F111s yesterday – priceless! Not a single proper identification. Eleven statements, so they’ve given us two days – 8th and 9th of July - splendid as far as I’m concerned. That gives me three weeks off after my exams and time before going to Taize in August. I’m expecting a maximum of 28 days – and we’ve already done eight days on remand, as they’ve set the ‘damage’ at £343.01.’
On Friday 6th June my diary entry was mainly about plans to travel and my first two ‘okay’ exams. ‘I’m so looking forward to when I can go back to being just a full-time peace camper, rather than a full-time peace camper and part-time student. … They are knocking down the bit of the base next to my tent – very noisy indeed!!! (i.e. pneumatic drills going from 7.30 until 5 ish) but I tend to wake up with the day anyhow. It just makes work at camp ten times more impossible than usual.’
Friday 4th July 1986, Yellow Gate
As soon as my exams ended and I had signed on I set off for Scotland – and got there! On my bicycle. … (I wrote a separate diary)
Today we went over the top a bit and had an all-American picnic at the gate, and then blockaded whilst singing the Star-Spangled Banner. I’m writing it out – the words say it all! There was even a sale at Woolworth’s in Newbury with 10% off in honour of Independence Day.
 Annajoy David was an active worker for the Labour Party and later the vice-chairman of CND. She worked with Red Wedge, an organization founded by Billy Bragg.
 On 21 November 1985 Billy Bragg launched Red Wedge – a collective of anti-Thatcher musicians who were attempting to engage young people in politics leading up to the next election - so this was early on his tour to give support to the Labour Party.
 The muncher was a vehicle like a small refuse lorry used to destroy the property of the women during evictions.
 Taize is an international ecumenical centre of pilgrimage for Christian young people of all traditions, offering prayer, Bible study and Christian teaching.