Friday, January 29, 2010

Attitudes to nukes

My February copy of "Nuclear-free Scotland" came yesterday, and two items caught my attention in such a way to remind me of my ongoing paranoia about the place in relation to the peace movement of the church to which I belong. The first was the poster replicated above. It's three years, I think, since last I attended a demo, and I feel the urge to do so again. This one looks as if it could be combined with a pleasurable family visit - though I don't know if her parents would allow my granddaughter to come with me. But the best bit of all came when I saw that tiny, red badge at the right of the list of supporters, just beside the nasty Trident sub. If you don't recognise it, it's the badge of the Scottish Episcopal Church. My church. And I think: yes, things have changed. I don't think I'd be chucked out of the Brownies quite so readily nowadays for being too vocal against nukes.

The second item of interest was chilling. In 1958, Prime Minister Harold MacMillan sent a memo to a member of his Cabinet, Dr Charles Hill. It read:
"It is most important that we should find some way of organising and directing an effective campaign to counter the current agitation against this country's possession of nuclear weapons. This is a question on which the natural emotions of ordinary people would lead them to be critical of the Government's policy, and to accept without question or reason the arguments which our opponents use. ....

...Can we persuade some influential publicists to write articles? Are there any reliable scientists? Or Church of England Bishops?"

Apparently MacMillan "considered whether (he) might write to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to warn local clergy not to help the (Aldermaston) demonstrators"

A week later, in a memo of April 2nd, he reported:
"Active steps are being taken to identify the intellectuals, Churchmen, scientist and others who support the Government in the controversy over this country's possession of nuclear bombs."

By the following year, Hill reported that "a modest beginning" had been made towards mobilising church support for the H-bomb programme. The folder which produced most of this information (PREM 11/2778) is followed by four others marked 'Closed for the next 100 years'.

Fascinating stuff. But not really so long ago - at a time when our churches were full on Sundays and clergy held in respect by most of society. Makes you wonder, really. I think we're a lot healthier nowadays - as long as senior clergy feel able to resist the temptation to climb onto fences.


  1. Anonymous10:04 AM

    I don't look forward having to explain to my young sons that the UK has poured billions of pounds into constructing weapons that have the sole purpose of wiping out life on earth.

    When "call me Dave" is voted in, you can be sure that we will be told by him and his cronies that the NHS is too expensive, that providing the state pension is too expensive and so on and so forth ..... But Trident won't be touched.

  2. My young sons spent their early years attending demos, cringing when their mum got onto the back of a lorry to speak. Made for a varied childhood!