It is with great sadness that CND announces the death of Pat Arrowsmith, one of the peace movement’s pre-eminent figures over many decades. Our thoughts are with Pat’s family as we join them in mourning the loss of an extraordinary woman. Pat died peacefully this week in North London, at the age of 93.
Pat was one of the organisers of the first Aldermaston March in 1958, the mass protest against nuclear weapons that helped establish CND – the organisation that she supported throughout her life, serving as its vice-president until her death. Always committed to non-violent direct action as well as more conventional methods of protest, Pat was also part of the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War, a precursor to CND, as well as of the Committee of 100 – the civil disobedience movement led by Bertrand Russell in the early 1960s.
She twice put her life on the line in war situations to try and deter indiscriminate bombing and killing: in 1968 with a team that went to the Vietnam-Cambodian border, and in 1991 to the Middle East, sitting down in the desert to try and prevent conflict in the First Gulf War.
Fearless and with no concern for her own comfort or advancement, Pat was imprisoned a dozen times and twice named a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International. Her political commitment went beyond nuclear disarmament into areas which at that time often led to harsh criticism and censure – she was active in the Troops Out movement campaigning for British military withdrawal from Northern Ireland, and was outspoken as part of the lesbian and gay community.
Educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Newnham College, Cambridge, Pat was the author of a number of books, including the autobiographical I should have been a Hornby Train.
Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, who worked with Pat for many years, describes her as an inspiring and courageous woman who approached the nuclear disarmament campaign ‘with absolute dogged determination and enthusiasm. Pat had a remarkable insight into what action would make a real difference and she would pursue that vigorously, with every fibre of her being. She was as different from an armchair philosopher as it is possible to be. We will miss her very much.’