Unexplored Berkshire: Greenham Common


Greenham Common in Berkshire is a piece of common land with a long history tied to the military. Common land is land that is typically owned by the council but used for the good for all. Unfortunately many argue that this has not always been the case for Greenham Common. It was first used to moving troops in the English Civil War. It is believed that the first aircraft that landed at Greenham was around 1930 when RAF Biplane bombers landed here for a few days.


The British Army had planned to requisition and use the site for training. However this never happened as Greenham Common was given to the Air Ministry. The plan was to build an airfield on the land to be used for flight training from 1941. An airfield complete with 3 runways was built in 1942 and the US sent their first units to the UK after the attack on Pearl Harbour. The airfield was given to the US Army airforce in late 1943 until it was closed in 1946.

Cold War

In April 1951, RAF Greenham Common was once again used by the US Air Force. The 3 runways that had been built during WWII were demolished to make way for one 10,000 foot runway. Fears increased dramatically in 1975 with the Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile. It had a longer range, greater accuracy, mobility and power. The fear now was that the Soviet Union could easily launch an attack on Western Europe. Europe’s response was to gather their own Ground Launched Cruise missiles. 96 were based on Greenham Common.

Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp

The Women’s Peace Camp set up on Greenham Common began as a protest against nuclear weapons being housed in Berkshire. The protest began in 1981 and lasted 19 years. On 5th September 1981, a Welsh group called Women for Life on Earth marched to the site and then vowed to stay until the missiles left Greenham Common.

Control Tower

The Control Tower was built between 1951-53 and replaced the original WWII tower. The tower laid empty after RAF Greenham Common closed in September 1992. In 2014 Greenham Parish Council bought the tower and has since transformed it. Today it is a community hub, cafe and heritage centre. It opened in 2018.

Last Updated on 9 February 2024 by Michael

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