2 R IRISH guard Greenham Common

Tue, 01/10/1984 - Fri, 01/20/1984
2 R IRISH guard RAF Greenham Common US Cruise Missile site.
Rangers on patrol along the perimiter fence at RAF Greenham Common

In 1975, with the Cold War still at its height, the Soviet Union began deploying SS-20 Sabre intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe with the intent of providing a nuclear first strike capability against NATO tactical nuclear forces. Alarmed by this 'Euromissile Crisis,' which would neutralise NATO's capacity to respond to the overwhelming superiority of the Soviet Bloc's conventional military forces, the NATO powers determined upon their so-called Double-Track Decision. This combined an offer of mutual limitation of medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles with the threat, if the offer were not taken up, of deploying more US missiles in Europe. In 1980 it was announced that 160 BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missiles were to be based in the United Kingdom, 96 of them with the US Air Force's 501st Tactical Missile Wing based at RAF Greenham Common near Newbury in Berkshire.

In September 1981 women representing a group called Women for Life on Earth marched from Wales to Greenham Common to protest against the deployment of nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom. This developed into a series of protest camps and attempted blockades which lasted for 19 years. From 1982 the protest was almost exclusively mounted by women and became known as The Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp. At its peak on 1 April 1983 70,000 women formed a human chain around the 23km perimeter of the station. These activities coincided with the IRA's high-profile bombing campaign in England and it was determined that there was a significant risk that the peace camps might offer cover under which terrorists might infiltrate Greenham Common. In response to this threat, troops were deployed to guard the perimeter.

In January 1984, B & C Companies of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers deployed to RAF Greenham Common to assume these security duties. Although their short tour passed without significant incident, it was an interesting experience for the Rangers who witnessed the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp demonstrations at very close quarters.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, reached between NATO and the Soviet Bloc in 1987, made the Cruise missiles at Greenham Common redundant and in 1991 the 501st Tactical Missile Wing withdrew from RAF Greenham Common. The site was handed back to the Ministry of Defence a year later and offered for sale in 1993. The Women's Peace Camp would remain on the perimeter until 2000.