Newsletter Number 15, Winter 2002


Incursions, a blockade, and a ’burglary’ for peace… Aldermaston Disarmament Camp
Serco shareholders campaign
“One of the most state of the art nuclear weapons plants” …. “a massive nuclear bomb – making factory”
Not Vigilant, but Vile: re-naming the submarine
Hiroshima Day at Devonport Docks
Maximum Disarmament Bid at Plymouth
Widen the network of support
Join The Third Age Throng
Spirit Wheel – Starting a new Affinity Group
US nuclear bombs blockaded in Suffolk
The Scottish High Court ’Got it wrong’
Licensed to Kill?
Law Lords say Tommy Sheridan’s Aquittal is Valid

Incursions, a blockade, and a ’burglary’ for peace… Aldermaston Disarmament Camp

On the last day of the international disarmament camp at AWE Aldermaston news was breaking that the British government is covertly developing the next generation of illegal weapons of mass destruction in direct contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Geneva Convention and international law.

Taking immediate action, TP campers entered the base, cutting down swathes of security fencing, and entering and searching buildings on the site.

Two women gained entry to the base through the perimeter fence before being arrested in what was both a practical act of disarmament and a protest against Britain’s nuclear policies.

On the morning after news of the proposals to develop the base, around 40 people blockaded both entrances to the west gate, disrupting work at the base.

At dusk on Sunday evening, Juliet McBride interrupted a police briefing by scaling three fences and entering the MoD offices by the main door completely undetected. She joined the meeting briefly before being carried out by a policeman. She said “The base is porous both for toxins to get out and people to get in.”

In the early hours of the morning two activists, Dave Heller and Koen Oggen, gained entry to the base and remained undetected for an hour as they searched rooms and offices for information. Later in the day two more activists entered the base as part of a citizens’ inspection of an illegal nuclear facility.

Dave Heller said “Our message is clear, we will not allow the British government to act illegally and immorally by threatening to kill millions of innocent people and ruining the environment with weapons of mass destruction. Only the truly deluded could think that this is the way to make peace.”

Messages of support to the camp

“I wish you well in your attempts to disarm the British Trident system, and fully support your campaign of non-violent direct action against such weapons of mass destruction.” – Simon Thomas, MP

Best wishes for focusing people’s attention on the fact that we still make and research nuclear weapons in the heart of the English countryside. I remember joining the 1959 Aldermaston march – 43 years is not a long time in the great scheme of things – we must win eventually!” – Robin Harper, Member of the Scottish Parliament

“I send my best wishes in your efforts to secure peace and freedom out from beneath the diabolical shadow of nuclear weapons.” – Hywel Williams, MP

“Can I congratulate all of those who continue to remind the world of the madness of nuclear weapons. Recent tensions between India and Pakistan have highlighted how humanity has brought into the world a potential destroyer of nations and people. But humanity can banish this spectre if it chooses.” – Michael Russell, Member of the Scottish Parliament

“I wish you well. Considering the fragile position of world peace, such actions are particularly important at this time.” – Dafyd Wigley, Welsh Assembly Member

Serco shareholders campaign

Serco is part of the consortium which is contracted by the government to manage AWE Aldermaston. As part of a group of campaigners, I own a share in the company. Although I’ve only made about 5p in dividends(!), I do receive an annual report, extracts of which speak for itself:

“In all our regions, defence and security activity has increased since September 11. The UK will increase defence spending by £3.5 billion…

Serco is a major provider of services to the UK Ministry of Defence; we expect spending in this area to reach £6.5 billion by 2010.

The UK’s most powerful computer was installed at the AWE, as part of our joint venture contract.

We currently hold over £1.5 billion worth of defence contracts and see no shortage of future opportunities”.

“One of the most state of the art nuclear weapons plants” …. “a massive nuclear bomb – making factory”

These are not quotes from the latest speech urging us to support war on Iraq, but a description of plans for the future of AWE Aldermaston.

On Sunday 16 June The Observer reported that the government – without any public debate – intends to spend hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers money on new facilities at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston.

It also reported the proposed closure of AWE Burghfield – the site used for packing high explosives into nuclear warheads – and the transfer of its work to AWE Aldermaston. Two of the more significant details to emerge were the government’s intention to provide funding for a tritium facility on the site, and the fact that the AWE is obliged to at least pay lipservice to the planning process and thus will be submitting a substantial planning application to the West Berkshire council.

So why are the proposed developments important? Firstly, tritium is a nuclear material which nuclear warheads need in order to make a bigger bang. It has a relatively short half life and needs to be replaced regularly as part of the warhead’s maintenance schedule. In the past the Ministry of Defence used a nuclear reactor at Chapelcross in South West Scotland to generate tritium, but this will be shut down in 2005.

While a tritium plant will help AWE maintain the current Trident system, it will also set Britain up for the longer term production of a vital material for nuclear warheads. Paul Rogers, from the Peace Studies Department of Bradford University, said the government “want to build the infrastructure to create a new generation of weapons”.

Indeed, the announcement of this substantial investment, together with the details of what materials production and research facilities will be built, combined with ongoing sub-critical testing, suggests that Britain’s nuclear future is considered certain, at least in some quarters.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty may soon formally join the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Kyoto, and the majority of the so-called ’rules of war’ on the slagheap of international law.

Campaign information Trident Ploughshares is joining with other peace groups to oppose the new developments at Aldermaston. Contact us for details of future demonstrations at Aldermaston (contact details on front page).

More information and a model letter opposing the planning application:

An online petition opposing the planning application is at or ring 0845 45 88 362

Not Vigilant, but Vile: re-naming the submarine

Vile: adj. 1. Abominably wicked; shameful or evil. 2. Morally despicable; ignoble.

Our intention was not to do serious damage to the submarine; ours was a symbolic action. We were letting the world know how we feel about Trident and providing it with a far more apt name. We were also letting the MOD know that we will not go away. Although there were only two of us who swam into the base, there were dozens more at the camp who were supporting us, and who helped to make this action possible. Beyond that, there are countless people who support us from their homes.

I am still astonished that on one of my first actions I was able, so easily, to swim right into the high security area and reach a Trident submarine. It’s not supposed to be that easy! It was a clear night around midnight, but the water was choppy – more effort to swim but less chance of being seen or heard due to the movement and noise of the water.

As we got closer to the boom the water became calmer; it would be very easy to be seen or heard now. A patrol boat came very close to us. We turned our faces away and waited, silently. It seemed that we would be seen as the boat’s light swept over the water around us. I hardly dared to breathe. Soon, however, the boat moved off, and we swam easily inside the boom.

We reached the bow of the submarine and saw three people chatting on top, two armed marines and a white-suited sailor. They were far from vigilant. We loosened our tins of spray paint from our belts. I swam into a small opening between the jetty and HMS Vigilant. A few strokes brought me right up to the sub. I took hold of my can of spray paint, pushed the nozzle and made a rather shaky diagonal line. One of the marines saw me and came running over, shouting and pointing his gun at me. I held up my hands and said, “I’m a peace protester”. I explained that I had a can of spray paint, holding it up for him to see. I went back to work, spraying the four letters, going over them twice so that the word was clearly legible. I heard the marine call to his colleagues, a note of dismay in his voice, “she’s painting the boat”. I moved away from the sub to admire my work, returned to wipe a drip of paint which was running down.

There was a great din going on behind me. People were running around, some calling to me to stop and move away, others to stay where I was.

The bandit alarm went off. There was something farcical about it all. Here I was, an ordinary, law-abiding human being, re-naming one of the government’s ’finest with a can of spray paint. I laughed to myself as I sprayed a CND symbol – if I chose not to co-operate, they would have to get wet suits on to get me! However, I swam to the inflatable boat.

Meanwhile, Dave had been at work, unseen, on the other side of the submarine. He also spray painted ’vile’ and then, still unnoticed, he got up onto the submarine, walked to the conning tower and rang the ship’s bell.

Mischievous…yes, but definitely not malicious.

Gillian Sloane

 Early morning drive As day lights The way becomes clear Direct to the heart Of the hate of the state Cold and bright in its Fear and loading

Hiroshima Day Died in the wool activists Sprawl on the road Soft bodies on hard ground Chalk outlines the future Of military madness Iron fist in velvet glove As fluffy cops unquestioningly Do their duty Stuffing vans and cells With embarrassments to the New World’s Orders

Mellow smoky heat Hanging hazy in sunshine Tea and smiles Talk of traces and bases And previous acts of quiet heroism As water seeps into hard rock Penetrating into every devious corner Its gradual force building To split foundations with the Inexorable calm intensity Of respect and reason

Base thoughts of Coulport Cruel hard barbed wire Concrete Lines and squares

Moving to the slow pulse of life As night follows day Bright thoughts gather round The communal hearth Smoky laughter & vegan beans Life lived to its highest Moral denominator

Madness calculated to perfection Its cold dullness honed to steely grey Creeps into daily acceptance The train of unclear thought running On screeching head-lines of ignorance The truth is in there somewhere

Nuclear peninsula Juts into seas of beauty Razor wire surrounds Cold steel logic With Peace camped permanently At its heart



Hiroshima Day at Devonport Docks

Our group had a busy 2 weeks of action around the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

On the 6th Sandra Leslie and Matt Bury hung a “Scrap Trident” banner from the so-called “Shaky Bridge”, which crosses over all the traffic entering Devonport Base through the Camel’s Head Gate. The banner was there from 7-10 am and Sandra and Matt enjoyed good support from locals passing on their way to work.

On the 9th Sandra Leslie dyed a fountain in the centre of Plymouth blood red with food dye and displayed banners reading, “Nagasaki August 1945, 72000 die in weapon of mass destruction horror” and “Scrap Trident”.

On the 10th 100 locals attended a festival for peace and hope, looking forward to a future without Trident after commemorating the suffering from nuclear weapons in the past. The festival ended with a march to Albert Gate where CND’s inflatable Trident was symbolically decommissioned by campaigners squashing it.

The following week we engaged in a public consultation process for the peace Camp in November, we held several private meetings with community groups and clergy as well as a public consultation meeting and surgery. Many fruitful contacts were made and very little opposition was raised by local people.

The two weeks of action generated a lot of media interest, with coverage of Trident Ploughshares in the local papers for six days over the 2 weeks, and numerous TV and Radio interviews.

We had a hectic time because the trial of the “Devonport Seven” started on the 12th too. the seven activists were all arrested for sitting in front of the gates at Devonport on the day Trident arrived in February. The judge refused to allow expert witnesses or for international law to be applied but the defendants wove international law arguments into their questions and arguments. Nevertheless they were all found guilty and fined. We look forward to many more trials in Plymouth so get down here for the November peace camp!

Richard Byrne

Maximum Disarmament Bid at Plymouth

In the early hours of September 2, Ray Davies, a Councillor from south Wales, and Margaret Jones from Bristol, rowed up the River Tamar in a small dinghy, and entered Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth.

They intended to use hammers and boltcutters to damage equipment on board the nuclear submarine Tireless. They carried maps of the dockyard, diagrams of a submarine from the Trident Ploughshares handboook, and a banner reading END TERRORIST NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

Unfortunately they were arrested before they were able to reach the submarine. The two said that ’We undertook to disable part of the support system of this terrible weapon becasue our government refuses to disarm it for us. There is a real fear that our government could use nuclear wepaons to attack Iraq.’

Both have been charged with going equipped to cause damage.

Thanks is only a poor word,but I say it from my heart

Thanks for not giving up protests

Thanks for not losing hope

Thanks for blockading Faslane, Coulport, Aldermaston

Thanks for being there when most needed

Thanks for writing letters

Thanks for giving your time when most busy

Thanks for contacting authorities, press

Thanks for sitting in firesmoke, rain & midges, campaigning

Thanks for taking actions to stop Star Wars, and to ban wars in the world

Thanks for e-mailing, phoning, faxes

Thanks for all practical support, fundraising transport

Thanks for endless meetings, leafleting, filming

Thanks for training

Thanks for standing firm on nuclear disarmament

Thanks for having strong faith and compassion

Thanks for being understanding in times of crisis

Thanks for flowers and encouraging letters

Thanks for going to Palestine and everywhere help is needed

Thanks for keeping my spirit high and peaceful

Thanks for a guardian angel in court

Thanks for breaking the waves

Thanks for creating peace and for being my friends

I am happy to know that, “with a little help from my friends”, we can all celebrate hope and disarm Trident.


Ulla Roder


The network of support

There are many ways of supporting Trident Ploughshares’ campaign without becoming an expert climber of razor wire fences or being introduced to the delights of catering at Her Majesty’s Prison Service.

Everyone’s contribution is of value – here are just some ideas of how you can become more involved in TP.


  • Ask religious leaders, academics, performers and celebrities to sign the petition of support.
  • Show the Big Blockade video in your local area.
  • Send extra copies of STP to libraries, universities and other public places, or hand them out at public meetings.
  • Come to a TP camp or action It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been to a peace camp or a demonstration before. For lots of people, TP has been the first time they have joined a protest camp or march. New people are always welcome, and always needed to help. There is no pressure to be arrested.
  • Form a Trident Ploughshares Affinity Group Affinity groups support each other in disarmament actions, or work together to raise awareness of Trident Ploughsares camps and actions. Some groups take on specific tasks, from cooking at camps, to organising publicity.

Join The Third Age Throng

If you are fit enough to look after yourself and do your own shopping then you are fit enough to join us in TP and help us get rid of nuclear weapons!

This is an appeal to sixty and seventy year olds to come and join our blockades at Faslane. There are many advantages to being arrested when you are older – in years, if not in spirit.

Here are a few tips. Get someone to bring you along to the next demo at Faslane or Aldermaston. Wear warm clothes and beg or borrow waterproof trousers to keep out the wind and rain. Having decided to be arrested do not sit down in the road immediately you arrive or you could be sitting for hours and get cold – have a walk about and chat to everyone. When you notice that the police have started arresting, sit down with a group – you will be made very welcome – and when the police ask you politely to move and you refuse, they will carefully lift you up and, taking your arms on either side, will walk you to the police van and obtain particulars. You will then get into the police van where you will make lots of new friends, but don’t be too busy talking to notice the scenic landscape. The van will take you by the top road from where you can see the base spread out before you and the loch and the hills beyond.

At the police station when your belongings have been listed you will be taken to a cell and this is where you will be glad you put on all those woolly jumpers and warm socks because your jackets and footwear will be left outside the door and some police cells are quite cool. If you are in a cell alone you will be glad you remembered to bring a paperback book with you. There is a mattress, a blanket and a lavatory.

You will probably be there about seven hours so you should get a meal and an outing to the office to get your fingerprints taken.

Court you will enjoy. Be honest – you have been talking all your lives. District courts are really quite informal. You can defend yourself so need not waste money on a lawyer. You just have to say what you did and why you did it and that you are not guilty and in your summing up say what you think about nuclear weapons. You may be let off, but the chances are that you will be fined – and 28 days to pay. Don’t worry, the police will not bang on your door when the 28 days are up. You’ll receive a letter to either return to the court where you were tried or to your local court for a means court. Actually, they won’t ask much about your means as they will soon realize that you could pay but will not pay.

Some TPers have to go to work and so have to pay fines, but we retired people have time and can go to prison if need be. My experience is that the staff and other inmates treat “oldies” well. You will not be in for more than four days. However, the courts do not like putting older people into prison so your case may just be dismissed. It has happened.

Peace people used often to be dismissed as ’student types’. That isn’t true of Trident Ploughshares – we include, and need, all age groups. You have probably been law-abiding citizens all your lives but how long can you keep pretending that nothing is wrong when governments go on acting immorally and illegally? How long will you go on supporting them or wringing your hands and saying there is nothing we can do? Join us -we need you.

Joy Mitchell

Spirit Wheel – Starting a new Affinity Group

A quick look at the names of some of the more than 30 Trident Ploughshares affinity groups gives some idea of the variety of approaches. From the no-frills approach of ’Midlands Affinity Group’ through ’Venus Birds’ and ’Adonman of Iona’, to the humour of the ’Peace Police’ and ’Telesubbies’, each group has its own style. There are women’s groups, Quakers and Druids groups, Swedish groups. Some have existed long before Trident Ploughshares, while others last for a single camp.

When a friend and I came across leaflets advertising the February 2001 Big Blockade we both had experience of community and environmental initiatives, but other than one march and a few campaigning letters, neither of us had been involved in taking direct action. It was something we felt it was time to participate in.

We soon had about a dozen people keen on forming an affinity group, and so ’Spirit Wheel’ was born. We didn’t have much time to prepare for the Feb blockade, but some of us went to the one day training event that TP encourages all first-timers to attend. One exercise involved half the group being a line of police, and the other half being protestors trying to get through so they could sit on the ’road’. Though in some ways superficial, this role play was a surprisingly effective insight into what it could feel like for both parties.

After the blockade us Spirit Wheelers met again to celebrate and exchange stories and experiences. We decided to continue as a group, and to do the two day training course all pledgers are required to undergo. To be honest, the thought of spending my weekend in workshops was not very appealing, but little did I know what a treat was in store! The 2 days flew by. There was a healthy mix of activities, with plenty of time for discussion and feedback, with interesting talks about TP’s list of core values and people’s feelings about signing a declaration in order to become a fully fledged TP members.

Being given the opportunity to whack our friends with batons (of rolled up newspaper), and to shout nasty things at them was great fun – so much for non-violence! Such role-playing provided us with the opportunity to find out how we might respond to, and feel about, negative/aggressive behaviour being directed at us. All in all, a worthwhile and fun way to spend a couple of days, as an investment in our long term future as an active and secure TP affinity group.

Jennifer Leiper

US nuclear bombs blockaded in Suffolk

Over 150 people gathered on Sunday 6th October at U.S. Air Force Base Lakenheath, in Suffolk, to protest against the 30-plus nuclear bombs stored there and against an attack on Iraq. It was the largest number of demonstrators at Lakenheath for many years.

There were several arrests for direct action, including three Trident Ploughshares activists. A blockade had been planned, but we found on arrival at the main gate that the police and the military had done this for us – the entrance was blocked off with heavy duty fencing. (Nevertheless, a few people did get over and were escorted out.) A number of base facilities were closed during the period of our presence.

Demonstrators in this peaceful, nonviolent action came from as far afield as Germany. We were inspired to hear about a protest at the Kleine Brogel US base in Belgium only the day before, at which 1800 people held a picnic inside the base. This was the first event organised by the recently formed Lakenheath Action Group (LAG), who were tremendously heartened by the turnout, the media coverage, and the warm, lively spirit of the occasion.

For further details of LAG contact Colin or Davida Higgin (contacts available via Trident Ploughshares.)

Davida Higgin

The Scottish High Court ’Got it wrong’

After the landmark acquittal at Greenock Sheriff Court in 1999 of the ’Trident Three’ for damage to the floating radar testing station Maytime, the prosection asked the Scottish High Court for an interpretation of the legal issues arising from the case. The subsequent ’Opinion’ delivered by the panel of judges has been used by prosecutors in Trident Ploughshares cases to dismiss both the importance of the acquittal, and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Opinion on the Legality of Nuclear Weapons.

However, the legal debate is far from over. Initial criticisms of the High Court’s judgement have now been given added weight by the publication of an expert analysis on a recent issue of The Juridical Review (part 6, 2001), by New York attorney Charles Moxley. The title says it all: “The Unlawfulness of the UK’s Policy of Nuclear Deterrence: The Invalidity of the Scots High Court Decision in Zelter” (one of the Trident Three).

Moxley demonstrates that the High Court’s conclusions on the lawfulness of the threat generated by the deployment of Trident in pursuit of a policy of deterrence “are insupportable under international law.

He points out that the High Court overlooked the conclusion of the ICJ that deterrence would be unlawful if it threatened a use of force which would violate the principles of necessity and proportionality.

Licensed to Kill?

The trial of Councillor Ray Davies and Dr Margaret Jones, charged with criminal damage at AWE Aldermaston, was postponed when the prosecution failed to produce evidence that the nuclear bomb factory has ever been licensed to produce nuclear weapons.

The pair’s barrister, Hugo Charlton, argued that under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001, anyone ’possessing or producing’ a nuclear weapon is guilty of an offence unless, under Section 48 of the Act, such possession and production has been authorised by the Secretary of State.

Despite having had weeks to search through their filing cabinets for a licence, the Ministry of Defence was unable to produce the authorisation – another case of the guiding principle that ’if the government is doing it, it must be lawful’?

In Helensburgh District Court in an earlier trial, the JP simply ignored Irish peace activist Eoin Dubsky’s request that Faslane Naval Base produce its licence to possess nuclear weapons. He was found guilty of breach of the peace, but sentencing was suspended for six months.

However, there might be another opportunity for us to see the Minstry of Defence produce its licence to kill, when Margaret Jones and Ray Davies return to Reading Magistrates Court in October for a further pre-trial review.

Law Lords say Tommy Sheridan’s Aquittal is Valid

Tommy Sheridan, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, is one of over 1,000 people to havebeenarrested for ’breach of the peace’ while blockading Faslane over the last two years.

Unlike most other demonstrators, Tommy Sheridan was acquitted last February by JP Stirling. The Crown appealed against the Not Guilty verdict, but failed to persuade the Scottish High Court to overturn the verdict when the case was heard in October.

Tommy Sheridan successfully argued at his original trial that he was not causing the ’fear and alarm’ necessary for a breach of the peace to be committed. In finding him not guilty, JP Stirling commented that “The key issue appears to me to be how far people can protest peacefully in a democratic society.” He also pointed to European human rights laws guaranteeing right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

When the case was brought before the High Court in Edinburgh, the Crown’s Advocate Depute made two attempts to adjourn the case, firstly in order to bring it before a panel of five judges, and secondly claiming that it would take the Crown over an hour to present its argument – which they feared would take Tommy Sheridan away from his duties at the Scottish Parliament!

When the bench refused to adjourn the case however, it became clear that the Crown had no substantial case to make. The Advocate Depute conceded that JP Stirling had applied the law as it stood. At this stage the bench pointed out that an appeal by the Crown could not be argued when the law had been applied in the original case. The whole Crown case had taken less than ten minutes.

The High Court decision could affect the outcome of over 80 trials still pending from Faslane blockades. On 15 October, Mark Leech from Edinburgh was acquitted by a different JP after basing his defence on he peaceful nature of the protest and consequent lack of evidence of alarm or serious disturbance.

Mark said he was delighted, having come to court expecting the usual ’automatic verdict’. The implications of the case for future trials, and the policy of mass arrests at blockades, are intriguing.