CND: The Story of a Peace Movement

Sue Donnelly introduces the archives of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and a project to make them accessible to a wider audience.

We shall seek to persuade British People that Britain must:
a) Renounce unconditionally the use or production of nuclear weapons and refuse to allow their use by others in her defence.
b) Use her utmost endeavour to bring about negotiations at all levels for agreement to end the armaments race and to lead to a general disarmament convention.
c) Invite the co-operation of other nations, particularly non-nuclear powers, in her renunciation of nuclear weapons.
CND policy statement, February 1958
On February 17th, 1958, some 5,000 people packed into Central Hall, Westminster, filling the main hall along with four overflow rooms. The scale of the meeting indicated the high level of public interest in nuclear issues and as the evening proceeded it was clear that the audience was determined to be radical in its anti-nuclear stance, demanding that Britain act unilaterally in renouncing nuclear weapons as well as encouraging other nations to disarm. Shortly after, CND’s first policy statement was issued.

However it was the first Aldermaston march of Easter 1958 that put CND firmly in the public eye. The Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire was the main location for British development and production of nuclear war heads. The initial impetus for the march came from the Direct Action Committee who had begun preparations in December 1957. The Committee included Labour MPs Hugh Jenkins (a later CND chair), and Frank Allaun and the march organizer, Pat Arrowsmith. The leadership of the newly formed CND gave the march its support, but had little involvement in the planning. Despite this many  members joined the march enthusiastically and its regular appearance in the campaigning calendar made the Aldermaston march a defining part of CND’s image.

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