Letter: Dirty tricks by the busload

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN WARD'S report on recently released cabinet papers ('US to Supermac: we shoot', 9 January) shows how rattled the Macmillan government was by the strength of the nuclear disarmament movement of the early 1960s. However, it does not reveal the full extent of the dirty tricks the government employed to try to sabotage the Committee of 100's demonstration at Wethersfield USAF base on 9 December 1961.

On the day before the demonstration, the Eastern National Omnibus Company, as the report indicates, cancelled the arrangements to take supporters from London to Wethersfield. But there is more to the story than that. Originally the Committee of 100 had hired another coach firm. However, in the week before the demonstration, Eastern National insisted that it be the carrier because demonstrators using the coaches would be charged a small fee, and the operation therefore infringed its franchise for this route. I was secretary of the committee at the time and still have the correspondence with the company.

On 6 December I agreed terms with Eastern National and sent them our cheque, and received a letter of confirmation. Then, at 2.45pm on 8 December, came a telegram of cancellation. It seems that the authorities at the highest level prompted Eastern National to insist on being the carrier so that it could pull out at the last moment and cause maximum dislocation of our plans.

However, these shabby manoeuvres had no effect on the demonstration. British Rail agreed to put extra coaches on trains between Liverpool Street and Braintree, near Wethersfield, and guaranteed to take as many people as wished to travel there. In addition the committee arranged for private cars to go to the agreed pick-up point for the coaches at King's Cross. I left in the last car and can confirm that no one was left stranded.

Michael Randle

Bradford, West Yorks