from the FPG Diaries / Molesworth

Updated on March 17, 2020
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Born without a clue. A lifetime later, situation largely unchanged. Nevertheless, one perseveres.....


We covered quite a few air bases in our time. Alconbury, Lakenheath, Brize Norton, Mildenhall, Greenham Common (when the women would let us), Wyton, Upper Heyford, as I vaguely recall. But Molesworth - reputedly the main home of the UK stock of American cruise missiles - stood out because it also had an occasional associated festival.

There was a constant presence up there outside the main gate. My good and sadly missed friend Tim and his family were regular attenders and even provided a dilapidated caravan to make life a little easier for the more permanent protesters. But besides this permanent presence, there was also the above mentioned festival and/or occasional mass blockade.

The blockades were usually orchestrated by CND and cleancut salaried organisers would periodically show up to finesse elements of the administration. Hundreds of buses would bring thousands of demonstrators from all over the UK. You could see all those patiently waiting buses parked along the country lanes in long lines atop a ridge to the east of the base.

On one occasion, though the police had given permission for the erection of several large marquees, they insisted that CND had to provide overnight “security” because the police didn’t want to pay night wages and wanted assurances that neither the marquees nor the kilometres of steel fence surrounding the base would be vandalised by unruly demonstrators. Shortage of time and funds meant that CND had to approach us - as a night patrol - to see if we would step up. I said, “Sure” and Nick and I were duly summoned by the rozzers to attend a briefing. After assuring them that, yes, we had the experience and wherewithal to provide such security over the entire circumference of the base and the several thousand people in attendance, we received a “letter of authority” signed by the Chief Inspector himself ! We proudly showed this letter to all and sundry to add to our gravitas as we wandered around, off our faces, playing to lonely groups along the steel-fenced periphery.

As it happens, that demo took place in deep mid-winter with crunchy snow on the ground. This was tough on the guitars, but also meant our fingers would freeze up and we were forever whipping gloves on and off.

One night, after a frozen patrol, I wandered into the largest marquee which was full of hundreds of sleepy protesters of all ages, shapes, and sizes quietly settling down into their sleeping bags on the ground. For some reason I was profoundly moved by this and wanted desperately to suit up again and serenade them with “Every Grain of Sand”. I lurched back to the van but found a frozen Nick already half-asleep and, to my eternal regret, discovered I hadn’t the energy to try to roust him.

The Molesworth festivals were much more suited to our M O than the blockades. For a start, they were not usually held in the deep mid-winter which meant our fingers could work as god intended. They were largely just like other festivals except they were effectively squatting on Ministry of Defence territory and the threat of armed military intervention was ever present. Most of the stallholders were campaigning groups of one kind or another with whom we had a lot in common, apart from our progressively darkening faceless sense of humour.

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    © 2020 Deacon Martin


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