`Danny the Red' targeted Wilson Tip-off warned Wilson of `wreckers'

Public Records 1968: As unrest swept Europe, Tony Benn confronted CND and Harold Wilson put troops on stand-by

HAROLD WILSON'S government became obsessed with security when an international wave of student protest in 1968 saw students and agitators targeting government figures and buildings.

It was a year of intense student unrest throughout the world. In Paris, strikers joined students to man barricades in the streets in May. A huge, violent demonstration against the Vietnam War took place outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, London, in October.

The Prime Minister's security files for 1968, some of which are released today, reveal tip-offs from members of the public of disruption by students of events attended by the Prime Minister. In June, Mr Wilson received a confidential letter from a senior member of staff at an English language school in London, warning him of a plan, organised by the German student leader "Danny the Red" Cohn-Bendit, to "wreck" an appearance by the Prime Minister at a university award ceremony. The letter revealed: "Two French students attending this school - both from the Sorbonne university and of good family and prospects - inform me that you are to preside at some ceremony at Bradford University sometime next month. It would appear that the gangster `Danny the Red' has given instructions that the ceremony should be wrecked."

The letter was handed over to Special Branch and, amid special security precautions, Mr Wilson presented an honorary degree at Bradford to M Roche, reader at the Sorbonne.

Shortly before, Tony Benn found himself confronting the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) during 1968, ready to oppose it "with whatever force was necessary" to stop protesters penetrating Britain's nuclear weapons factory. But Mr Wilson doubted that he was up to the job. Mr Benn - who has supported the campaign for most of the years since then - was the Minister of Technology in a Labour Cabinet at the time. His department oversaw the development of nuclear energy for war and peace.

Between these two events, the Cabinet gave urgent consideration to what might happen during CND's traditional Good Friday march from London to the Royal Ordnance Factory at Burghfield, Berkshire, and the nearby Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) at Aldermaston.

Mr Benn told the Cabinet preparations had been made to resist any protest invasion at Burghfield, where Polaris nuclear missile warheads were manufactured. His permanent secretary had already sent a note to 10 Downing Street, saying all the conventional explosives and fissile (radioactive) materials used to make the weapons were being moved into the maximum-security magazines and bunkers in the factory's fortified core.

Any protesters who managed to penetrate the perimeter and outer defences would be blasted by firemen's hoses and have police dogs set on them.

But the Prime Minister was unconvinced, and urgent talks were held between ministers on the day before the 12 Aprilmarch, both within Cabinet and outside it. With three forces involved - the AWRE's, the Ministry of Defence's force and the civilian, Thames Valley force - he complained to Cabinet that the ultimate responsibility for controlling any attempted invasion by protesters was unclear. He ordered his Home Secretary, James Callaghan, to meet Mr Benn and the Defence Secretary, Denis Healey. He insisted military helicoptors should be put on stand-by to ferry in extra police and even troops if needed.

Mr Callaghan warned the Cabinet that extreme left-wing foreign students, especially West Germans, were likely to infiltrate the march, intent on provoking confrontation.

He blamed them for the "new and more violent tactics", seen at the Grosvenor Square demonstration. In the end, the march was more heavily policed than ever before and there was little disorder.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices