Everyone in London CND will be saddened by the loss of Helen John, who died on the evening of Monday 6 November 2018, aged 80. Helen was an exceptional figure. Her determined and imaginative actions inspired new generations of young peace campaigners for over 20 years. Many of us remember her ongoing involvement in London CND’s work for over a decade.
Helen is best known as a co-founder of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the early 1980s where she lived for many years, opposing US cruise missiles stationed in Britain. During that time she shared a flat in East London with her partner, regularly welcoming a stream of CND and other peace campaigners to the home they called ‘Grotsville’.
Helen’s nuclear disarmament journey began when she joined around 40 others, mainly women, on a100-mile walk from a nuclear warhead components factory in Cardiff to Greenham Common airbase near Newbury. The march didn’t attract much publicity, so a few of the women decided to stay until their actions got noticed. Thus began what was to become a 19-year long women’s peace camp.
From then on Helen became a dedicated direct actionist, challenging militarism and asserting her right to protest for more than 25 years, until ill health brought an end to her activities. After she left Greenham, in the 1990s she set up camp at Menwith Hill, a US spy base near Harrogate – a caravan at the side of the A59 in the beautiful West Yorkshire countryside. Her final campaign, in the early 2000s was directed at RAF Waddington in Lincoln, the main operating base for UK drones.
Helen was an unflagging international campaigner too. She is still known and remembered in peace movement circles across North America and Europe. Her activities included as a member of the Global Network against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space.
Her rich experiences of the peace movement were brought to bear on CND. Helen served first as a National Councillor of CND UK and then as a Vice-Chair in 2001-4. She was present, on behalf of CND, at the founding meeting of the Stop the War Coalition in October 2001.
Helen John will be remembered and missed by thousands of activists in London and beyond with whom she connected.
Carol Turner, Chair London CND