MORE THAN 80 nuns from the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, many of them in habits, joined a crowd of two hundred Christian peace protesters outside Molesworth and Alconbury military bases in Cambridgeshire on Monday to mark the 39th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
The nuns led a service at "peace corner", a field outside the Molesworth base where peace campaigners are building a chapel. About 60 cruise missiles are to be stationed at the base in December 1986.
The protesters then travelled six miles to Alconbury, a support base which houses spy planes and surveillance equipment. Soldiers at the base were engaged in a simulated nuclear attack alert, and many were wearing gas masks and sheltering in dug-outs inside the wire fence.
Franciscans and Dominicans led a procession, using a specially adapted form of the Stations of the Cross.
During the procession a group of protesters entered the base through the main gate and started to pray. They were ejected by military police, but no arrests were made. Members of Christian CND then blockaded the gate for several hours.
Sr Patricia Lynch of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace said: "We believe it is wrong to spend billions on nuclear weapons when we should be feeding the poor and providing them with health care and education. We have enough weapons to destroy the world, why do we need more?" In London members of Fax Christi, the international Catholic peace organisation, held a week-long vigil and fast in the piazza of Westminster Cathedral in Victoria. The fasters erected a stand and handed out leaflets and badges explaining their views on nuclear disarmament.
Anti-nuclear demonstrators staged a three-hour protest at London's Whitehall Theatre where they daubed slogans on the walls.
About 100 small boats carrying lights were launched from several points on the Thames in ceremonies mirroring the traditional Japanese style of remembering the dead.
On a national level, more than 100 people started a 200-mile walking tour of United States nuclear bases in Britain on Monday.
Their tour, which will take in nine bases over a two-week period, began at the Alconbury base and will finish in London.
The marchers emphasised links between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the build-up of American nuclear bases in Britain.
Wailing sirens, a tolling bell and impassioned speeches about the threat of nuclear war marked the massive rally in Peace Park in Hiroshima itself.
More than 40,000 turned out for the customary ceremony at the memorial park laid out at the spot that bore the full brunt of the bomb which killed an estimated 140,000 people.