US nuclear weapons return to Suffolk soil

When, as a very young man, I walked out of Trafalgar Square on the first Aldermaston March in 1958 full of optimism and a feeling of collective power, I would never have believed that 64 years later I would still be living under the shadow of nuclear weapons and the very real threat of potential nuclear conflict.

At one time in my life I lived in Norfolk and worked in Norwich. My family and I often drove round the periphery of Lakenheath on our way home with the roar of F-111Fs taking off and viewing the sinister concrete bunkers which we assumed were where possible nuclear weapons were stored. 

And now, 20 years after they were removed from the United States Air Force base, US nuclear weapons are set to return to RAF Lakenheath. Extensive building works are evident there now and American stealth attack aircraft are already lined up on the tarmac. Nuclear weapons are due to be based there again with no parliamentary debate, no doubt with our government’s sabre-rattling willing acquiescence. 

When I heard that nuclear weapons will very likely be stored there again with the air power for delivery as well – all part of the UK’s contribution to NATO’s nuclear capability – my heart sank with despair. All that optimism of 1958 yet again crushed.

Many years ago doctors got together to inaugurate the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW), and later we joined with the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) to form Medact in 1992 with a broad concern for a global health agenda.

Medact’s mission is to support health professionals from all disciplines to work together towards a world in which everyone can truly achieve and exercise their human right to health. As health workers we see that prevention is preferred to investigation and treatment.

For decades, health workers around the world have argued that there is no treatment for the medical effects of a nuclear explosion. The only prevention is to rid the world of nuclear weapons forever.

So I urge Medact members to remember our MCANW origins and join me at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) demonstration at Lakenheath on Saturday 17 September.

We must stand together until the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons, which have no place in a peaceful world.