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The Aldermaston marches were anti-nuclear weapons demonstrations in the 1950s and 1960s, taking place on Easter weekend between the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire, England, and London, over a distance of fifty-two miles, or roughly 83 km. At their height in the early 1960s they attracted tens of thousands of people and were the highlight of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) calendar.

The first major Aldermaston march at Easter (4–7 April), 1958, was organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and supported by the recently formed CND. Several thousand people marched for four days from Trafalgar Square, London, to the Atomic Weapons Establishment to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons.[1][2] Hugh Brock, one of the organisers, records that he was one of thirty-five people to have marched to Aldermaston six years before in 1952 as part of Operation Gandhi.[3]

From 1959 an annual Easter march from Aldermaston to London[4] was organised by CND. By reversing the direction form the march they distinguished their campaign, directed at the seat of power, from the DAC's direct action campaign, directed at local nuclear bases.

On the 1963 Aldermaston march, a group calling itself Spies for Peace distributed leaflets as the march passed a secret government establishment, RSG 6. A large group, led by Peter Cadogan (an activist in the direct-action Committee of 100), left the march, against the wishes of the CND leadership, to demonstrate at RSG 6. Later, when the march reached London, there were disorderly demonstrations in which anarchists were prominent.

At Easter 1964 there was only a one-day march in London, partly because of the events of 1963 and partly because the logistics of the march, which, grown beyond all expectation, had exhausted the organisers.[5] In 1965 there was a two-day march from High Wycombe. In 1972 and 2004 there were revivals of the Aldermaston march in the original direction.[6][7]


The Aldermaston March Committee for the first march comprised Hugh Brock, Pat Arrowsmith and Michael Randle from DAC plus Frank Allaun MP and Walter Wolfgang from the Labour H-Bomb Campaign. The committee was assisted by nonviolent theorist Gene Sharp though he never became a member of the committee itself.[citation needed]


Music was a significant part of the march, at first symbolising the difference in attitude between the CND leaders, who wanted to march in silence, and the youth on the march led by Pat Carty, the first "Youth" Secretary for the CND, who wanted to sing and play guitars. John Brunner's song, The H-bomb's Thunder became the unofficial anthem of CND, .[10] Songs associated with CND and the Aldermaston march were released on an EP record, Songs from Aldermaston (1960)[11] and an LP album, Songs Against the Bomb (Topic 12001) released at about the same time. It contained: "Brother Won't you Join the Line?" (McColl and Keir, 1958); "The Crooked Cross" (McColl and Seeger, 1960); "Strontium 90" (Dallas, 1959); "Hey, Little Man" (Dallas, 1959); "Doomsday Blues" (Dallas, 1958); "The Ballad of the Five Fingers" (McColl, 1959); "There are Better Things to Do" (Seeger, 1958); "The H-Bomb's Thunder" (Brunner, 1958); "Song of Hiroshima" (Kinoshita); "Hoist the Window" (trad. arr. Hasted, 1952); "That Bomb Has Got to Go" (McColl and Seeeger, 1959); "The Dove" (trad. arr. Rosselson); and "The Family of Man" (Dallas, 1957). A new arrangement of H-bomb's Thunder was issued on a CD, Songs To Change The World (Peaksoft PEA012) in 2011.

Ewan MacColl's English text of Song of Hiroshima was sung on the Aldermaston Marches by the London Youth Choir.[12] An unofficial peace version of the National Anthem of the United Kingdom was written in 1958 by Henry Young for the first Aldermaston March and is taken from Young's collection of poems From Talk to Action: The fight for peace.

The marches inspired work from a number of other musicians, notably Matt McGinn's "On the Road to Aldermaston".


  1. ^ A brief history of CND
  2. ^ "Early defections in march to Aldermaston". Guardian Unlimited. 5 April 1958. Retrieved 10 April 2007. 
  3. ^ Brock, Hugh, "Marching to Aldermaston – ten years ago!", Sanity, Good Friday, 1962
  4. ^ "1960: Thousands protest against H-bomb". BBC News. 18 April 1960. Retrieved 10 April 2007. 
  5. ^ John Minnion and Philip Bolsover (eds.) The CND Story, Alison and Busby, 1983, ISBN 0-85031-487-9
  6. ^ "1972: CND begins march to Aldermaston". BBC News. 31 March 1972. Retrieved 10 April 2007. 
  7. ^ "Marchers protest at nuclear base". BBC News. 12 April 2004. Retrieved 10 April 2007. 
  8. ^ French, Philip (5 December 2004) "O difficult man!" Guardian.co.uk (Retrieved: 22 February 2010)
  9. ^ "Eric "The Greedy One" Idle". Pythonland. Archived from the original on 3 April 2007. Retrieved 12 April 2007. 
  10. ^ Colin Irwin, "Power to the People", Observer Music Magazine, October 2008
  11. ^ Songs From Aldermaston
  12. ^ "Ewan MacColl: 1915–1989, A Political Journey". Working Class Movement Library. Retrieved 12 April 2007. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldermaston_Marches — Please support Wikipedia.
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Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Wed, 05 Aug 2015 07:17:05 -0700

Eight years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at exactly 8.15am on August 6, 1945, Australia's first contribution to the nuclear arms race, the Rum Jungle mine south of Darwin, started producing uranium. The mineral was for British bombs ...


Wed, 22 Apr 2015 10:26:15 -0700

They were both members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and familiar faces at the Aldermaston marches of the 1950s and 1960s, carrying placards on the 52-mile trek from Berkshire to London. In 1961 Margaret Harrison's involvement in the ...
BBC News
Tue, 06 Apr 2004 17:00:00 -0700

On Good Friday 1958 a popular peace movement was born - thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate against Britain's first hydrogen bomb tests. Nearly half a century later this Easter weekend, the Aldermaston march is being revived ...

Irish Times

Irish Times
Wed, 13 May 2015 08:31:49 -0700

Bruce Kent, the vice-president of CND and Pax, fondly recalls Eddie, then famous for his red hair and an incomprehensible Glasgow accent, on the Aldermaston marches and selling the Catholic Worker to surprised congregations on their way into ...

New Statesman

New Statesman
Tue, 03 Mar 2015 01:03:25 -0800

My father joined the Aldermaston marches in the early 1960s and he introduced me to CND as a child. I grew up understanding the danger of nuclear weapons. The end of the cold war and the nature of modern conflicts confirm both their danger and ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Sat, 13 Dec 2014 00:00:30 -0800

Of course, the anti-Polaris protest and the Aldermaston marches fed from the same anxiety about nuclear conflagration, but it would be wrong to see the first as simply an extension of the second. It was more anti-American in flavour, understandably ...

Open Democracy

Open Democracy
Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:34:39 -0800

It too stood on the shoulders of what went before: the Aldermaston Marches, CND; the Suffragettes and Chartists; the Quakers in whose building the Stop the War Coalition first met. More broadly: where does the 2011 Libyan intervention fit in? And again ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 08 Sep 2014 03:34:32 -0700

That was probably taking it a bit far, but was a statement of the impact it had on people attending event at least. It was also compared to the Aldermaston Marches by an opinion piece in New Scientist, an article the then New Scientist editor, Bernard ...

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