When researching peace organisations in the archives, I came across a photograph with this written on the back of it:
On the front was a picture of a man walking down some steps holding a banner with a message written in what looked like Greek, with the CND symbol (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).
I was curious to find out more so did some more reading in this file, which ended up being a collection of reminiscences, transcripts and articles about the man pictured above, Grigoris Lambrakis.
There was also this copy of the front cover of Private Eye, published on 12 July 1963, which depicts a carton involving the CND / peace symbols and various references to Greece in the background. So what happened on that day, and what does it have to do with the man in the photograph?
Grigoris Lambrakis was an independent left-wing MP in Greece and a prominent peace activist. He was a member of the Greek resistance during WWII, a successful athlete and studied medicine.
As an anti-war activist, he joined one of the famous Easter Aldermaston marches in the UK in 1963. These marches eventually become associated with the CND, and involved a march from Aldermaston (where an Atomic Weapons Establishment is in Berkshire) to London. These marches attracted huge numbers, with thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square at the march’s end.
Betrand Russell, who was part of the Committee of 100 (an anti-war group that was related to the CND but not of it) proposed a march in Greece from Marathon to Athens. This was banned by the Greek government and hundreds of people were arrested during it.
“This was a controversial endeavour under what was then an oppressive Greek regime. Mass arrests at the beginning of the march prevented it from taking place, but Lambrakis, protected by parliamentary immunity, marched the route alone” from CND “60 faces” webpage
The picture that starts this post is of Grigoris on that march, marching alone, and holding a banner that reads “Greece”
The archive includes transcripts of reminiscences of various people, including how they found out about his murder in 1963, along with a certain amount of confusion over how he died. Grigoris was murdered at a peace demonstration in Thessalonki on May 22nd.
“His ultra-right wing murderers were subsequently revealed to have links with the gendarmerie in the city. While no one suggested that Karamanlis [the Prime Minister] was directly implicated in the affair, opposition allegations of the existence of an illegal “para-state”, prepared to engage in the violent suppression of any kind of left-wing disset, acquired a new credence” from Richard Cogg’s Parties and Elections in Greece, p43
That Private Eye cover refers to the Queen of Greece’s visit to London a few months after Grigoris’ death. The state visit was accompanied by various activists campaigning against the visit, and the Greek government’s suppression of the Left.
Here’s a video showing some of the protesters in action, including one holding up a “Lambrakis R.I.P” sign:
The events surrounding Grigoris Lambraksis inspired the 1969 film “Z” and the Marathon Peace March continues to happen to this day.