THE original action of the Peace Spies triggered off countless local initiatives. The idea caught on. And as nothing succeeds like success, 'Peace Spies' appeared everywhere, like mushrooms after the
A week after the March several papers announced with horror that 'spies' were still distributing official secrets. The Daily Express1 reported: 'detectives were told that copies of the document … were still being posted to prominent people throughout the country … The information reached the Yard a few hours after Commander Evan Jones, head of the Special Branch, had suspended operations for 24 hours to consider an interim report on six days' investigations by his men.'2
Further 'secrets' then began to seep out like juice from an over-ripe cheese. On April 26, several papers announced they had received details about RSG 4, in Brookland Avenue, Cambridge. According to the Daily Telegraph3 the 'Spies for Peace' had 'deliberately cocked a snook at the police and at the government …' 'The document contains telephone numbers and a list of more than 100 individual names. It specifies organizations which would use RSG 4'. The Express4 quoted the new pamphlet as saying 'If you are not among them, there will be no room in RSG 4 for you'. The text ended with an acknowledgment: 'adopted from an idea by "Spies for Peace".' An anonymous Ministry of Defence spokesman announced: 'This is another breach of the Official Secrets Act'. According to The Guardian5 'Scotland Yard had no comment to make'.
On May 2, yet another "Spies for Peace" document reached the Press. According to The Guardian it disclosed 'what it alleges to be the central office in London which joins the network of regional seats of government. It says that this central office has been established in Furnival Street, Holborn, opposite Gamages departmental store and in close proximity to the Daily Mirror building. It describes the surface structure as consisting of a block building, similar to an electricity sub-station. Inside the doors, it states, is a lift ample in size to house motor vehicles. Admission is by security pass only'. The Guardian comments that the building is officially a 'commercial cable terminal', that the GPO claimed the building to be for 'heavy goods', and that their reporter could obtain 'no admission at all, whether with or without security pass'.
On May 6, a more serious turn in the campaign of the "Spies for Peace" was discovered. According to the Daily Sketch, 'Officials learned that the undercover group had discovered top secret telephone numbers of certain government departments. The "Spies for Peace" were using the numbers to wage a war of nerves on vital government departments. Telephone numbers not even in the Post Office's most secret directories were being rung constantly day and night to hold up busy officials with meaningless conversations and hoax messages'.6 'Efforts by security men to trace callers had failed, as they were ringing from different public 'phone boxes'. 'Special branch detectives, already embarrassed and baffled by disclosures in four Regional Seats of Government pamphlets now face the task of discovering how these numbers were discovered by the "Spies for Peace". It seems that they must have been passed to the anti-H-bomb campaigners by a government official who is regarded as being above suspicion'. We personally think it is someone really high up in M.I.5 Perhaps that was why, according to the Daily Telegraph7 'the Yard last night declined to comment'.
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Secure in the knowledge of their numbers and in the sympathetic support of a large proportion of the population, local groups soon began to act on the basis of what they had learnt. In action, a new consciousness and a new confidence developed, themselves the harbingers of further action On Sunday, April 21, a demonstration was organized in Edinburgh by the Scottish Committee of 100. According to The Scotsman8 about 400 people marched from the Mound 'towards an Edinburgh suburb, identified by The Guardian9 as Corstorphine Hill. The Guardian described the visible part of the Scottish RSG as 'a fenced-off brick and concrete superstructure of what used to be an RAF radar station'.
In view of the short time in which this demonstration had to be organized it was a remarkable success. 'Before the marchers set out, a police inspector with a megaphone warned them that anyone forming an unauthorised procession would leave himself open to police action. Mr. Parker (Convenor of the Committee) urged the marchers to make their way along the road in ones and twos, but within a minute his admonition was forgotten and the marchers strayed out onto Princes Street headed by the Committee of 100 banner.
'The march, in spring sunshine, was uneventful. The demonstrators were shepherded every step of the way by police, and the site itself was thick with police long before the demonstrators showed up … When the marchers arrived they were advised by one of their leaders "to have an half-hour rest, look at the secret, then go home and tell your friends".
'Mr. Parker addressing the crowd at the site accused the British Press of "lacking the guts" to stand out against government security regulations on publication of certain items and claimed that only one publication, Peace News, had been courageous enough to do this.
'He said that places in government fall-out shelters had been reserved for various department officials, including those of the national assistance Board. "Somewhere 200 feet down, there are 60 or 70 large rooms where about 500 people are going to survive the next war", he said. "They are the same hypocrites who tell you and me that they would rather be dead than red" …
'The people of this country should take the Establishment apart at the seams' he said. He said later that the Scottish Committee of 100 was planning a march from Glasgow to London, leaving Glasgow on July 13 and arriving in London on September 7. We plan to expose three more sites on the way10 but there is a chance that one of the other committees will beat us to it. There is a considerable amount of competition.'11
'When the people are strong enough, he concluded, they will come along with ploughs and bulldozers and bury places like these."12
According to the Guardian13 'the marchers at Corstorphine Hill leant on the 8-foot high wire fence surrounding the suspect building and sang songs to a Glasgow man's guitar:-
I've got a shelter,
A nice official shelter,
But it isn'a for the likes o' you and me …'
George Williamson (Secretary of the Scottish Committee of 100) later made a speech outside the Scottish Academy. Holding the 'RSG 6' document he said: 'We want to get rid of this bloody State, this Warfare State. We are not against the British people, or the Russian people, or the American people. It is people against governments'. The police made no attempt to confiscate the document. A banner at the demonstration read: 'If the government need an 80-foot deep bunker, so do you. Order your RSG 6 do-it-yourself kit now'.14
No arrests were made. Alan Parker and George Williamson were charged with organising an illegal procession. It will be interesting to see if the destination of the said procession is mentioned in the 'official' proceedings. The accused should insist on a specific charge.
The following weekend on Saturday, April 27, the North West Committee of 100 organized a demonstration outside RSG 10 in Langley Lane, Goosnargh, Lancashire. This was done quite openly. Brian Manning, secretary of the North West Committee sent details of the proposed demonstration to the newspapers — and to the Chief Constable of Lancashire. He included some duplicated copies of the original "Spies for Peace" pamphlet for good measure.
The letter announced: 'There (at Langley Lane) we shall hold a public assembly at the gates of the establishment, demanding that the government give the people of this country the true facts about what would happen in a nuclear war and its plans to establish a military dictatorship. We will not be revealing any secrets', the letter added, 'that have not been known for a long time to every potential enemy of this country and to the readers of all newspapers except those published in Britain'.
Some 200 supporters took part in the demonstration. They set off from Broughton near Preston and marched 11-miles to Goosnargh. During the assembly speeches were made which referred to Fallex '62. Several hundred copies of the "Spies for Peace" pamphlet and of the Black Paper published by Peace News were distributed. Plain clothes police took films of the demonstrators (to show their children). 'One policeman standing inside an 8 ft. wire netting fence surmounted by barbed wire was asked by one of the demonstrators if he knew what he was guarding. He replied: "I have no idea".'15
This didn't prevent a senior police officer from saying that 'the demonstrators had got it wrong and that the establishment was not an RSG at all'.16 The official sign outside the gate was 'Royal Observer Corps, No. 21 Group, Preston'. It is of course well known that Observer Corps units are always surrounded by very high barbed wire fences, particularly in peace time, and that 'symmetrical grass topped mounds and ventilation towers'16 are essential to the operation of a modern observer corps units, where the 'observers', of course, live underground.
On May 5 a further demonstration took place, this time outside the Dover RSG. The Daily Mirror17 stated that 'visitors are normally allowed to look over most of Dover Castle, which has sometimes been used as an Army "barracks".'
Over 120 people took part in this demonstration, which was quite spontaneously organized by individual nuclear disarmers from various parts of Kent. It had been planned to hold a public meeting 'near the entrance to the RSG which is situated just inside the castle gates. As the demonstrators approached the narrow drawbridge the gates were immediately closed and a tight cordon of policemen appeared. The marchers went right up to the police cordon and stated their wish to hold a peaceful assembly inside the castle. When they were stopped, between 70 and 80 demonstrators (many of whom had not committed civil disobedience before) sat down in the road and completely blocked the approach and entrance to the castle. The sitdown lasted for two hours and during this time hundreds of would-be visitors to the castle were handed reprints of the "Spies for Peace" pamphlets'.18
'After the sitdown had been going on for some 1½ hours the police threatened action if the demonstrators did not disperse, but no one moved and the police did not take action.
'Reports of battles with the police were completely without foundation. The demonstration ended at 4 p.m. with a minute's silence as a reminder of the silent world which would exist after a nuclear war. This was the first civil disobedience demonstration of any significance to be held in Kent, and it will almost certainly lead to the formation of a Kent Committee of 100'.18
One demonstrator, a woman schoolteacher from a Medway town, said she had been arrested three times at similar demonstrations. 'We're not spies' she said. But we are not apathetic cowards who do nothing about something we all know to be wrong'.19
1. April 19.
2. Isn't it about time they had another recess? Perhaps to consider the result of ten weeks of investigation?
3. April 26. 4. April 26. 5. April 26.
6. Perhaps 'Please book me a seat in RSG 6', or 'Where should applications be sent?'.
7. May 6. 8. April 22. 9. April 22.
10. These were identified by The Guardian (April 22) as 'Catterick, York and Nottingham'.
11. The Scotsman, April 22. 12. The Times, April 22.
13. The Guardian, April 22. 14. The Scotsman, April 22.
15. Peace News, May 3. 16. Guardian, April 29. 17. May 6, 1963.
18. Peace News, May 10, 1963. 19. Daily Mirror, May 6, 1963.