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The Battle of the Beanfield

The Battle of the Beanfield

Sample from this book:

Police advancing at The Battle of the Beanfield

page:

Chapter Seven

This chapter has been split over several pages for reading online.

Interview with the Earl of Cardigan

Conducted by Neil Goodwin and Gareth Morris

How did you first hear about the proposed events of June 1st 1985?

I was telephoned late on Friday [May 31st] by a policeman who put a rather strange request to me. He said he was on the tail of a small number of people, who he thought were coming into Savernake Forest, and would I please issue an instruction, or an order, or some such, to the effect that the whole of the forest was shut? Would I declare it shut and close the whole thing down? Whereupon, if those people – about half a dozen in number, I understood – came into the forest they could then be arrested. I explained to him that that was virtually impossible. People can wander in and out of the forest where they will, and therefore I couldn’t physically do it, even if it made sense. And of course, given that on Bank Holiday Mondays and the like, the forest often holds thousands of people, I couldn’t for the life of me see how six people coming into the forest could be any kind of a threat to law and order. If they behaved badly when they got here, then the police could presumably deal with that – they are used to dealing with much bigger numbers. So I said, basically, ‘I don’t see the threat, but more importantly, if there is a threat, I can’t shut the forest. It hasn’t got a door on the outside, or a moat around it. I’m afraid I simply can’t help you with that.’ And that was the end of my first advance warning.

Did you act on this advance warning? What did you think?

I couldn’t act on it, because, as I said, it was an impossible thing. You can’t shut a forest.

Sorry, when I say ‘act’, how did you respond to the call? Did you seek more information?

After that phone call, I thought not much more about it, and went down to Marlborough that night, where I was going to be having a meeting with the mayor in Marlborough Town Hall. Six was such a tiny number that it was just of no consequence. I got on down to Marlborough, where I was shocked to see something like a hundred vehicles progressing in a convoy through the high street, and sitting on the tail of those vehicles was another large number – 40, 50, 60; I have no idea, really – of Ford Transits, each one with ten or 12 policemen in it. I had never seen this many policemen in one place at one time before, least of all Marlborough High Street. I briefly stopped, out of curiosity, as one does, to find out what on earth was going on. I didn’t learn much about it, because no one was very keen to discuss it, and I was a bit short of time anyway. So we parted, and I went on into my meeting. Then at about 11 o’clock at night, I came out of my meeting, went back to the forest, and discovered that, while I had been in my meeting, all of that convoy, with the police still on its tail, had forcibly entered the campsite on the edge of the forest, which was administered and run by the Forestry Commission, and were camping there for the night.

Did you go to Marlborough police station the next day?

The next day I certainly did go to Marlborough police station, and had a number of conversations with a number of officers, talking about what was happening, because later that night before, and all of that Saturday morning, I had, of course, made it my business to try very hard to discover what on earth was going on. And when I went down to the police station – on more than one occasion, from memory – in late morning, they were, of course, keen to know what the mood was in the camp, who was doing what, who was going where. And so, to the best of my knowledge, I told them.

In the court case, they have mentioned several times petrol being placed into containers in Savernake Forest. Can you tell us a little bit about what you might have seen in there?

I’m afraid my memory of that is very hazy. I don’t believe, five years on, that I actually saw it happening, but I’m fairly sure that I did hear one of the convoy members claiming that he was going to be doing it tomorrow. And I think, when the police later asked me what was happening up there, I may well indeed have said that some of them had been putting petrol into milk bottles, but I don’t think I actually saw it. It was just a reported threat.

The most significant conversation that I can remember now having that Saturday morning was with one particular policeman, who told me something very unusual. Basically, he told me that, regardless of what happened that day, every single one of the people – all 500-strong or whatever – was going to be arrested before the end of the day. He even went so far as to tell me where and how this was going to happen. He said he didn’t want it to happen in Savernake, but he wanted to arrest them all down in open country – in particular, by implication, near the Stones, where there was a lack of tree cover – because he didn’t want anybody to escape. He wanted every single person to be captured. He told me that he was going to be using a helicopter for this, in order to make sure that all the stragglers were bagged as well, and that again was another reason not to do it under the trees of Savernake, but somewhere out on the more open edge of Salisbury Plain, where they could all be captured. And he also told me that, by the end of the day, I could take it from him that every single person would be arrested, and so it proved.

continued on next page >

The Battle of the Beanfield The Battle of the Beanfield

Edited By Andy Worthington.

ISBN 0-9523316-6-7.

248 pages including over 100 photos and illustrations, and three maps.

£12.95 plus £2.00 p&p.