Mothers of the Revolution: Who were the women of Greenham Common?

ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar went to the site of the famous peace camp with one of the original women of Greenham Common (clips courtesy of Universal Pictures Content Group)

A feature-length documentary film called Mothers of the Revolution will be released this month in the UK to mark the 40th anniversary of the Greenham Common Women’s March and Peace Camp.

It tells the story of how in 1981, a group of women stood up to world leaders, arguably altered the course of history and inspired millions as one of the world’s first and biggest female-only demonstrations, following on from the legacy of the Suffragettes.

The movement started when 36 women walked 120 miles from Cardiff to RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire to protest against the storing of US nuclear cruise missiles on British soil.

The protesters formed a human chain around the RAF base that was storing the nuclear weapons. Credit: PA

Karmen Thomas was one of the four friends from West Wales whose idea the march was.

Speaking to ITV News as she recalled the march, she told how they "had small children with us, we had older women who were in their sixties and older, but we had a purpose.

“There was a goal at the end of it”.

Their goal was no simple feat. The world was in the midst of a nuclear arms race, but the women decided to take matters into their own hands and demand the removal of the destructive weapons from Berkshire.

Once the women had reached Greenham Common, what was a handful of protesters became 35,000 women.

They formed a human chain and circled the base, setting up camp, some getting arrested and jailed, others who hadn’t chained themselves to the fence, forcibly-removed.

This ring around the Common was one of the largest demonstrations of its kind since the 1960s.

Police had attempted to forcibly remove the anti-nuclear demonstrators from the Greenham Common airbase. Credit: PA

"If they don't get rid of cruise missiles, I'll go back and I'll go back and I'll go back," a young Rebecca Johnson had told cameras after their action had grabbed worldwide attention.

Four decades later, ITV News’ Nina Nannar took Ms Johnson back to the four-mile runway on which the activist had spent five years living at the protest camp.

“Big heavy planes (were) carrying the nuclear weapons in”, Ms Johnson recalled, remembering the standoff when the US missiles arrived.

“We didn't feel brave. I was terrified, but nuclear war was much more terrifying”, she said.

A group of women had jumped over the fence and infiltrated the camp.

The protesters would end up having a presence on the site for more than a decade, with the women acting in political resistance to the nuclear arms race for 19 years.

But it was in 1987 that the breakthrough had come. The political climate had changed and the US and Russian leaders signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as a result of the Reykjavik Summit, held a year earlier between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Two years later, the missile started leaving Greenham.

The women of Greenham Common had undoubtedly played a role in bringing about this historic moment.

“We changed ourselves and in changing ourselves, we inspired so many women to change the world, let me put it like that”, Ms Johnson said.

Mothers of the Revolution is available on digital download from October 18