Aldermaston March, 1st Day, Turnham Green
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
25.88 x 31.91 cms (10.17 x 12.54 ins)
Barry Singer Gallery, California
Signed, stamped, titled and dated on verso.
The subject of Roger Mayne's photograph is the first Aldemaston March, organised to protest against the use of nuclear weapons.
Formed in 1957, The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) sought unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1958 it staged a march from London to the nuclear base at Aldermaston. In subsequent years it realised that the reverse itinerary, with the march ending with a huge rally in London, was more effective.
The Aldermaston marches were anti-nuclear weapons demonstrations in the 1950s and 1960s, taking place on Easter weekend between the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire, and London, a distance of fifty-two miles, or roughly 83 km. At their height in the early 1960s they attracted tens of thousands of people and were the highlight of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) calendar.
Roger Mayne depicts the first major Aldermaston march at Easter (4-7 April), 1958. This was organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and supported by the recently formed CND. Several thousand people marched for four days from Trafalgar Square, London, to the Atomic Weapons Establishment to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons.
The Guardian newspaper of 5 April 1958 carried a lengthy article on the march, entitled "Early defections in march to Aldermaston. But 2,000 still in the running" by our London staff:
Some five hundred men, women, and children were spreading out sleeping-bags and thankfully washing their feet in various church halls in Hounslow last night after marching the eleven miles from Trafalgar Square on the first lap of their descent upon Aldermaston. About a thousand more had returned to their homes in London, perhaps to march again to-day. A lamplight meeting in the well-named Treaty Road, Hounslow, had evoked the first really lusty cheers of the day as Mr Michael Foot denounced the recent Defence White Paper as "the most shameful statement ever made by a British Government."
It was Mr Foot who had cried from the plinth on Nelson's Column in the morning, as a cold sun played on some four thousand faces: "This can be the greatest march in English history." Whatever the march may turn out to be, it had already by then called out a splendid array of English faces, most of them intent on making clear their conviction that nuclear weapons are evil and should be controlled or done away with.
It was a happy crowd, a London holiday crowd, in benign mood - as benign as the weather that favoured it until the afternoon grey chill came down, no more combative than the empty London streets through which the long procession made its way across Trafalgar Square to the Albert Memorial and then to Chiswick and Hounslow, the first stop in the four-day march to the Atomic Energy Authority's weapons establishment at Aldermaston. The nearest thing to an incident was the cheerful booing as a policeman stopped a troop of folk-dancers from entertaining the lunch-time picnickers with an eightsome reel in front of Albert's statue.
The march bore the signs of careful planning. The column with its banners [visible in Roger Mayne's photograph] - "Which is to be banned, the H-bomb or the human race?" - got off on time, and the long snake that slid down Piccadilly, Kensington High Street, and Chiswick High Road, managed with only discreet help from the police, not to obstruct what little traffic there was. Mothers wheeled children in prams, while Mr Kenneth Tynan, cigarette authoritatively held at the ready, towered above his neighbours. Behind came a troop of some fifty cars and coaches, one of them bearing that essential morale builder, the tea-urn. "We've got 500 mattresses behind there," said Miss Pat Arrowsmith, a pretty large-eyed girl in a white pea-jacket and carrying a rucksack, the organiser of the whole well-mannered outing."
British Photography / The Hyman Collection