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From the archives: Upper Heyford and the (1986) bombing of Libya

Reagan's 1986 attack on Libya and the UK peace movement's response.

On the night of Monday/Tuesday 14/15 April 1986, US aircraft bombed Libya as a response to alleged Libyan support for terrorism. The 18 April issue of (the then fortnightly) PN was already on its way to the printers when news came through; but a Stop Press supplement written on the Tuesday carried news as it came in – of the attack, and of some reactions in just the first few hours.

Peace groups respond to attack on Libya

At Upper Heyford airbase, one of the bases where the F1-11s [used in the bombing] took off from, a vigil organised by Campaign Atom [an anti-nuclear group in nearby Oxford] at noon on Tuesday attracted people from all over the south.

A group of vigilers at Alconbury [a US base in Cambridgeshire] found the guards extremely tense and aggressive ... there was a battery of “Rapier” anti-aircraft missiles at the ready, in a field outside the base, being manned by RAF troops.

Women from all gates [at Greenham cruise missile base] hung banners all along the fence – the local Oxfam shop in Newbury sold out of all sheets and blankets ... One read “Terrorists” with a big arrow pointing into the base.

A 7000-strong demonstration in Berlin was the biggest of over thirty demonstrations in West Germany on Tuesday. Up to 200 people were arrested at demonstrations in London on the night of Tuesday 15. A torchlit vigil in Westminster became a sit-down blockade.

Five people were arrested at Mildenhall [a US air base in Suffolk], and around 15 at Upper Heyford, on Tuesday for causing damage to perimeter fencing. The first national action - a mass sit-down in Grosvenor Square [site of the US Embassy in London] – is set for Saturday 19 April.

Archive excerpts compiled by Albert Beale, author of Against all war: fifty years of Peace News, published by PN, 1986