In the winter of 1963, a small group of British libertarian socialists set out to catalyse public awareness of the very real prospect of nuclear war. They were members of the Committee of 100, the radical wing of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and their mounting frustration with the apparent futility of conventional protest tactics led them to undertake an unprecedented direct action. Over two freezing afternoons in February, they traveled to the village of Warren Row in Berkshire, where they located, infiltrated, and documented the contents of Regional Seat of Government 6, one of a chain of secret bunkers intended to govern the country in the event of nuclear war. A few weeks later, in April, they publicized their findings in an anonymous pamphlet, Danger! Official Secrets, exposing the haphazard nature of government planning for nuclear conflict. On Saturday 13th April, several hundred protestors broke away from the annual Aldermaston peace march to surround the site of RSG6, feeding the flames of what had already become a firestorm of incendiary headlines.
That small group of activists called themselves the Spies for Peace. At the time, fearing lengthy jail sentences, they did not identify themselves and none were ever arrested or prosecuted. Over time, a few of the group did emerge publicly: Nicolas Walter, Ruth Walter, Ken Weller, and Mike Lesser, all of whom have now died.
Now, on the 60th anniversary of these events, one more Spy for Peace has come forward. Nic Ralph grew up in North London, joined the Socialist Labour League as a teenager, and eventually moved into the Committee of 100 and the libertarian socialist group Solidarity. He is joined in this conversation by History Workshop Journal‘s Andrew Whitehead and Marybeth Hamilton and by oral historian Sam Carroll, whose interviews with several anonymised Spies for Peace formed the heart of a revelatory article published in HWJ in 2010, and who Nic suggested could both provide an historian’s perspective and represent the voices who could not be there.
Sam Carroll’s 2010 article, “Danger Official Secrets: Discretion and Disclosure in the Committee of 100” in History Workshop Journal 69 will be freely available for the first three months after this podcast drops. You can access it here.