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Home | SchNEWS OF THE WORLD - Faslane Peace Camp

Partick Crane Action - 7th October 2001 - occupied against the war in Afghanistan

FASLANE PEACE CAMP a beginner's guide

WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHEN, and WHERE???

WHAT:

F.P.C. is a collection of 11 caravans, a bus, a tipi, a bender, a tree house, and various sheds and self-built structures.

WHY:

The camp's purpose is to oppose nuclear weapons and live in an alternative way to the society that produced them.

Britain's nuclear weapons system is four 'Trident' submarines, with nuclear warhead missiles, which are based at Faslane Naval Base.

WHEN:

NOW!!!! The camp has been here permanently since 12th of June 1982. Protests and a temporary peace camp existed before that but there has been a solid presence since '82.

Hopefully we will be here 'til the nukes are got rid of.

WHERE:

F.P.C. is on the east verge of the A814 road, which leads to HMNB Clyde and beyond. The Camp is therefore visible to all traffic coming towards the base from the direction of Helensburgh.

We are about 30 miles west of Glasgow, by the Gareloch, a river Clyde estuary sea loch. Faslane Naval Base is on the Gareloch.

DAILY LIFE AT FASLANE PEACE CAMP

I meant to write this article two years ago, under the title "What it's like for a newcomer at Faslane Peace Camp" but I never got round to it. I still thought it would be interesting to write it because people always ask "what do you do all day?" as if we are stuck for things to do (My arse! It is quite the opposite my friends.).

The camp is under surveillance 24 hours a day by the MoD (Ministry of Defence) police. They drive past the camp to the bus stop at the south end of the camp where they turn around and go back towards the base again. Often they wait in the bus stop for a bit if they've got nothing better to do or if we go to talk to them. They are usually quite friendly, you get to know some of their faces after a while and I think they know that we are keeping them in their jobs somewhat by being occasionally mischievous. One day I had a really good chat with one of them, quite a young chap although he'd been in the job for ten years, and he asked why I was at the camp. "Because I think nuclear weapons are bloody silly," I replied. He agreed with me and admitted that if he had known what he knew now before he had taken his job he wouldn't have taken it - but now he's got it, it's good pay, stable, and he has wife, kid and mortgage to pay. I think this is the case for a lot of workers at the base - they don't morally agree with nuclear weapons, but they need jobs to pay mortgages and support families, and what else is there in the area?

So the Mod Plod, as we affectionately call them, drive by every 15 - 20 minutes and usually radio through "No change at the peace camp." Sometimes they radio "Vehicle number six at the peace camp" - all cars that park at the camp get given a number, depending on how often they visit - but to be boastful, my van was vehicle number one because it lived here. When it was alive, boo hoo. Or they might radio through "Six people at the fire pit" (the fire pit is very visible from the road) or anything else untoward they might notice.

The MoD police can only arrest you for things to do with the base. The 'real' police we have here are the Strathclyde Constabulary, who the MoD might call for non-MoD related offences, but this is rare and it takes a long time for them to come. The Gareloch is also patrolled by the Mod Plod, but different chaps in boats - they have Ribs (Rubber Inflatable Boats) which go dead fast and look really fun, and Police Launches which are bigger, have cosy looking cabins (I always imagine them playing cards and drinking whisky in there), and chug along very slowly. A very bright flashlight from either of these boats often greets one when taking an evening stroll on the beach, which can be most unpleasant but is good for puppet shows, but also a friendly wave will be reciprocated.

Enough about them - what about us? Well the peace campers rise at different times. Frankly I always get up quite late, or later than I'd like to on these short winter days - there is really only full light from about 8am to 4pm. Sometimes we have 'jobs meetings' where we discuss what needs to be done that day and who's going to do it.

Every day lots of wood needs to be chopped. Wood is our only fuel for cooking and heating - we have a Rayburn stove which has a hotplate for cooking on the top, the fire compartment on the left, and an oven on the right. It also has a back boiler that heats water. The back boiler is plumbed into a normal boiler the same as you might have in a house, which supplies scalding water (if you're lucky) to the kitchen hot tap and the hot tap in the bath. Sometimes the boiler actually boils and then you can make cups of tea straight from the hot tap! The Rayburn is quite a temperamental creature, sometimes you start cooking at noon to make lunch and it's just about done by suppertime. So we have an outside fire too sometimes. It's quicker for boiling the kettle and on a nice day it's good to sit around enjoying the view of the busy A814. Then one can also wave at all the passers-by that stare from cars, take photos out of the window, shout "get a JOB", and other such pleasantries, or lob half finished bottles or Irn Bru from the window. We have a sign that says, "Toot to Trash Trident", so we get the odd friendly honk. The funniest is the tour coaches full of grannies and granddads that drive slowly past the camp one way, as we wave enthusiastically (well, I do), then turn in the bus stop at the end of camp and drive slowly back the other way so everyone on the coach gets a good look. Once one of these coaches stopped, the driver shouted, "can we stop for a cuppa?". I hollered "Yes, of course," and motioned them over but they weren't really up for it. At the time we had a sign that said "Faslane Peace Camp, intrigued? Pop in for a cuppa", but it was stolen one night by some drunken sailors and is being held as evidence.

Anyway. Wood. Fires. All the caravans and other dwellings are heated with wood too so everyday we have to get some more wood from the forests up the back, the log fields (a field where trees had been felled, chopped, left in the rain for a few years, just nicely seasoned for burning - unfortunately a limited resource), the beach, or if we're lucky enough to have a van to fill, we can go further afield and get a van full of wood which will last a few days. My first winter at the camp was spent continuously trudging trough wet forests, getting wet firewood for the outside fire and wet feet that never dried. This was the year the communal caravan burnt down and there was no indoor kitchen (plaintive violin music.). So. We get wood. Then burn it, thereby staying warm and being able to cook. Then we get more wood. Then burn it.

There is always cooking, tidying, washing up, sweeping, cleaning etc. to be done. There is also always mud everywhere, it being Scotland and winter and all that rain. Shopping, for 20 people, usually needs doing every day. We get bulk whole foods from 'GreenCity' in Glasgow, they deliver our order to the camp, but fruit, veg, bread, and hardware etc. we buy locally in Helensburgh. The Camp bank account is held in Helensburgh too, so any cheques lovely people send us have to be taken in, and if we need to withdraw cash we have to get two signaturees to sign and one to take it in. Then the account book has to be written up, a tedious job that always takes longer then you think, and only sometimes adds up first time!

I'm quite into hitching in and out of town. The A814 road is usually very busy - good for hitchhiking, (usually with a supportive local, or even supportive submariner), not so good for hearing each other talk in the camp. Hitching is a really good way of getting to know the locals and telling them about the camp. If I hitch out of Helensburgh (not to be done with all 60 tonnes of shopping- it's worth paying the extortionate 1.20 bus fare for the 6 mile journey back) it's a good opportunity to invite my driver in for tea and show him/her the camp - something I wish more people would pop in for but I think they are usually too intimidated by preconception and local myth.

On a "normal" day, people just get on with what needs doing; fixing roofs, gardening, making shelves for the kitchen, painting caravans inside and out, making burners to fend off the encroaching winter, plumbing, making livings spaces (treehouses, benders), raking leaves for the compost loo, changing the barrel in the compost loo (a most fragrant affair), making banners, planning actions, canoeing the Gareloch to see which subs are in the base and keeping the sublog up to date, canoeing the Loch to pester in/outgoing subs, babysitting one of two nine-month old babies currently living on site, fixing the fence around the camp, writing letters to the local newspaper, reading people's right wing Tory replies in that same newspaper, sorting out stalls, keeping the mailing list up to date, replying to letters people send us, keeping the food kitty (we all pay 2 a day and some poor sod has to keep track of it all), and much much more..

Then every once in a while we get wind that a nuclear warhead carrying convoy is coming our way, usually the next day. We rush around phoning people on our convoystop list, arrange a time and place to meet to drive off, hide in some bushes, and ambush the poor unsuspecting convoy. Crawl under it, climb on to it, and tell the big tale back of civvie cars what the hold-up is about: nuclear weapons on our roads. Often someone tracks the convoy to see which route and how long its taking and can then also let the ambushers know when to expect it. In fact, that is exactly what happened today and why I've actually got into writing this whole piece, except I was actually in the tracking car intending just to take photo's and not to get nicked. Due to another convoystop (the legendary Summer Solstice one) where all 11 of us got arrested near Stirling, held over for court the next day and given bail conditions not to come back to Stirling I have ended up in the police cells for breaking bail. The car was pulled over for a routine check (aye, right), just as we were in front of the convoy and the Central Scotland (that's Stirling area) police said to Marjan: "You've got bail conditions, haven't you?", just as she tried to tell them her name was Emma. They continued to me, "and you've definitely got bail conditions". Oh bollocks! We were about 50 yards inside Stirling council boundaries (not that there are any signs to tell you this). If I'd known I would end up in a police cell for hours on end, I would have jumped on the convoy further up the road with everyone else!

Another part of peace camp life is endless time-consuming court appearances and supporting other people on theirs. Most cases for offences at Faslane or Coulport are at Helensburgh District or Dumbarton Sheriff Court. The latter is usually for more severe acts. Often cases are postponed and postponed and postponed, but when you finally come to trial, there's not much persuading the JP or Sheriff that what you did was actually for the greater good because nukes are actually really evil. They still insist that YOU breached the peace of someone (usually that someone isn't even there) then give you a hefty fine. If you refuse to pay it you end up in jail. Then at least you get clean top and a trophy (an SPS Corn ton Vale t-shirt).

I've not been to jail yet, but I guess I will soon cause I do not intend to give the state more money to pour into army's, war, nukes, etc. and shall tell the judge character so immediately. Unless I defend myself so well that they find me NOT GUILTY, and start campaigning against nukes themselves.

Anna.

www.faslanepeacecamp.org