Sarah Hipperson moved to Greenham Common in Berkshire to confront the threat posed by American nuclear missions there. Inspired by her faith, she felt it was not right for UK to hold nuclear weapons stronger than the Hiroshima Bomb as self defence. Today she still works on peace issues, continuing activism despite now being in her 80′s.

Until 1983 Sarah Hipperson was a nurse and midwife living in a London suburb with her five children. She was a member of the local justice and peace group at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, as well as sitting on the bench as a Justice of the Peace.

All of this changed in March 1983 when Sarah turned her back on suburban Wanstead and moved to Greenham Common in Berkshire, to confront the threat posed by the nuclear missiles stationed there by the Americans.

During the early 1980s Sarah became increasingly frustrated with trying to raise awareness of nuclear weapons in Wanstead.

She showed Helen Caldacott’s film “Critical Mass” about the dangers of nuclear weapons. “There would be a numbing effect but it went no further than that,” said Sarah, who became a member of CND in the 1970s.

Moving to Greenham Common, a part of a life’s journey for her, proved a liberating experience. The catalogue of events that followed over the next couple of decades, with a series of peaceful actions, court cases and imprisonments, all formed part of the work.

“The work is to achieve complete nuclear disarmament,”said Sarah. “We have all been involved in the crime that presents itself and nuclear deterrent.The bottom line is that we will use weapons that are 80 per cent more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, in the case of Trident, as part of the defence policy of this country. As a Christian I have never been able to live with that.”

For Sarah, the whole concept of nuclear weapons runs contrary to the word of God. “Nuclear weapons will finish off the planet through which God’s creation finds a way to live out the life given to it,”she said.

Sarah found Greenham Common a highly spiritual place, where she was able to channel her anger by getting involved. When the missiles were removed from Greenham Common, Sarah continued her protest against Trident. Sarah was repeatedly arrested for peaceful direct action, like blocking vehicles at Greenham Common and cutting fences. She has served more than 20 sentences, the longest being 28 days in Holloway for criminal damage.

Appearing in court gave the opportunity to openly question the legality of nuclear weapons. There have been successes, such as when the Law Lords declared that the bye-laws that the Ministry Defence had been using to remove women from Greenham Common were invalid. The women also saw the fence around the common declared illegal.

The Greenham Common airbase is now long gone but Sarah and some of the women established a garden there to mark the action. Sarah has now returned to her home in Wanstead and Our Lady of Lourdes parish. She is now over 80 but continues to get involved in justice campaigns such as that mounted by the civll liberties group Peace and Justice in east London to stop the government detaining people without trial. For Sarah, the struggle goes on.

Paul Donovan


Back to: Catholic Social Teaching

Back to: Peace