Easter Marches, 1958 and 1965
The Easter marches (also known as the Aldermaston marches) were direct action demonstrations organised by the CND against the use and creation of nuclear weapons. They took place on Easter weekends between 1958 and 1965; they attracted tens of thousands of people at their height. The demonstrations took place between the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire and London, over a distance of fifty-two miles, or roughly 83 km.
The Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War (DAC) organised the first Easter march; people marched for four days from Trafalgar Square to Aldermaston. However from 1959 the march was organised by the CND and the direction of the march was reversed to distinguish their campaign from the DAC.
In 1963 the march was divided by a group calling themselves ‘Spies for Peace’ who tried to take protestors from the Easter march to demonstrate at RSG.6 (a secret government establishment). Later, in London there were disorderly demonstrations.
At Easter 1964, the march was only for one-day in London, partly due to the events of the previous year. However in 1965, there was a two day march from High Wycombe.
In 1972 and 2004 there were revivals of the original direction of the Aldermaston march. Demonstrators had come from all over the world, as far as India and South Africa and demonstrators from different religious and cultural backgrounds were united together for these marches. Although CND and marches such as these have gradually fallen from public eye since the end of the cold war, the Easter marches remain a landmark event in British peace history with some of the largest demonstrations that the country has ever seen.
CND is still committed to abolishing nuclear weapons and the marches were not entirely unsuccessful, having an international test ban treaty signed by the government in 1963 and raising public awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons from the 1960s and beyond.
Written by Zara Kabir, James McDonald and Mohammad Suhail, volunteers at The Peace Museum. They are students at the University of Bradford who have been volunteering at the Museum since February.