The Battle of the Beanfield
June 1 2020, marked the 35th anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield, the day in 1985 when the police and army brutally ambushed and attacked a convoy of travellers and
festival-goers who were on their way to the
11th People's Free Festival at Stonehenge.
This page, and virtual Stonehenge 2020 event, seeks to remember that day, to show what happened, and
to explore what went down in subsequent years. .
Click on the documentary 'Operation Solstice' below to see the full story..
This is an interview with Phil 'the Beer' Shakesby, who drove the lead vehicle that day as the convoy
moved down to Stonehenge.
'The next morning came along, and it was about half nine in the morning. I was listening to the local radio and it reported that there were 300 hippies actually at Stonehenge, and of course at that I was quite elated and I rushed off and told people. And it's, “Ali! Ali! Come on, let's go!”
We had this huge convoy with this carnival-cum-fairy-type atmosphere, you know - flags waving, Bob Marley on the ghetto blaster. It was wicked. And eventually we all set off and slowly meandered down the road towards what we now know as the Beanfield.
As we made our way down there, we were about ten miles or so away from Stonehenge, when these two old boys stopped us and told us of these large council lorries that were preparing to dump quite a few tons of grit on the road, along with this wodge of bobbies that were there.
Mick, who was my co-pilot, he had another look at the map and he worked out that we could by-pass this huge roadblock by doing a quick left and then a right and then carrying on down the main A303 to Stonehenge. Which is what we did. Well, as we got to that point, they'd already hacked off a large portion of the back end.
These hit squads of police had, you know, steamed in from out the junctions, blocked the road, and busily started setting about people and their homes, you know, smashing in their windows and knocking people about like they do.
And we were carrying on. I didn't know any of this was going on, myself. I was in the lead vehicle at the front, as Dale came along on his motorbike.
Dale was the outrider. He steamed along and told us, as we were going down the road, what had been happening at the back end.
Of course, we knew what to expect at the front end any minute. And sure enough, no more than ten seconds had gone by from Dale telling us, when these riot wagons came steaming up the road two abreast.
There was no way you could go round them. A quick negotiation started with the police, but they weren't prepared to let us go on any further, and in fact we were to hand ourselves in or there'd be bother.
Well, we told them there and then that there was no way that people were going to hand themselves in. Then the order was sent out by the high-ranking bobby to arrest all the drivers, and of course this line of riot bobbies had shot out along the side of us and started smashing in the windows.
Well, this chap came up from behind in a flat bed and, by the side of me, rammed into the hedge, and got stuck and reversed out, and then rammed through it again. I thought, 'What a brilliant idea! Let's pull into the field off the road.'
So I put my wagon into first gear, which was crawler gear, and made my own hole in the hedge and steamed off through.
I'd recently fitted a huge bumper - a really big, heavy-duty sort of fuck-off bumper, you know - and I went and punctured 'x' amount of holes in the hedgerow for people to get through, because they'd already heard what were going on at the back end, and what were going on at the front, as these bobbies had just stormed down, and they were just wrecking homes as they went, you know, smashing in the windows.
And people started quickly filtering in through the holes, and people had got chainsaws out and were cutting their own holes in the hedge. And what was the main bulk of us then moved into the Beanfield.
At first there were quite a lot of people driving around who weren't quite sure what was what, until we all got parked up and things seemed to settle down a bit.
I was hoping myself that we'd be allowed to leave that field and go to the alternative site. We kept waiting on this Chief Super Duper Grundy, who was the man of the time, and of course he did eventually turn up.
I asked him if we could go to the alternative site, and he said, 'No.' I said, 'Well, can we go back to Savernake?' He said, 'No, you will hand yourself in and be processed', and he gave us a deadline as to when we should be doing it.
And of course, all this time-wasting that had gone on was so they could build up the forces that they felt were necessary to comfortably outnumber us, and do the same business on us that they'd been doing on the miners.
I mean, the police say there were people throwing petrol bombs and stuff like this. I never actually saw any of our lot throwing petrol bombs.
What I did see was quite a few people that felt very intimidated, very frightened after having their homes smashed. And quite a few people had been beat up at this stage by the police and arrested and taken away, and some were still with us that had been beaten up.
And people were prepared to resist to a degree, as such. There were a few young ones that were actually having a bit of a running battle with the riot police, who kept coming into the field in full gear - with the batons and riot shields - having a dig at us. I suppose they wanted to know if they could just walk in and do as they pleased.
As I say, there was a lot of time-wasting so they could get their forces together.
There was ITN reporters and other such reporters there who had been talking with the police, and the police had informed them that they were going to come in and do the business.
These reporters were very concerned for our safety and welfare. You could see by the way they were shaking that things were going to take a very drastic turn for the worse.
And sure enough, they did.
When the time came, things were very quiet, and people were just resigned to hanging in the field and hoping that it would all go away.
The police came in and they were battering people where they stood, smashing homes up where they were, just going wild. Maybe about two-thirds of the vehicles actually started moving and took off, and they chased us into a field of beans.
By this time there were police everywhere, charging along the side of us, and wherever you went there was a strong police presence. Well, they came in with all kinds of things: fire extinguishers and one thing and another.
When they'd done throwing the fire extinguishers at us, they were stoning us with these lumps of flint and such.
And in fact, while things had been quiet that afternoon they had been considering whether to use these high-powered single-shot rifles to put a single shot into each engine lock to stop it, because they knew that we'd climb into the vehicles and try and drive off, like you do when somebody's coming at you with a manic set of eyes and a large lump of something. You want to run away from it.
We're charging around, and around and around, and of course as the minutes went by there were less and less of us. And as people were stopping, their homes were systematically broken, and the people were battered and taken away and flung into the riot wagons.
It came to the point where there's just Jed and myself left running in the field. Then there was all these bobbies left to deal with us. There didn't seem much point in going on, so I drove out of the Beanfield. I'd been in and out of the Beanfield several times already.
You just had to move away from where the main bulk were, and go for where there was less bobbies, you know, because you had less stuff being thrown at you at that point.
And just as they'd got me on to the brow of the field there, because that's where they were taking our particular lot that was left, these bobbies stopped me and forcibly spun me round and made me look. They said, 'See that', and I looked at my home, and there was smoke coming out the side doors.
They'd gone and set my home on fire, stopped me and turned me round, and made me look at the flames and the smoke coming out the sides.
Then they turned me back round and whisked me off and bumped me into the riot wagon, where there was a lot of other people that I knew.
We've all had the same treatment. I don't think there was anybody in the wagon that hadn't been thumped with a riot stick. And of course, from there it was down to the police cells in Amesbury.
They nicked over 400 of us. I heard of one poor kid who'd swallowed his entire stash before they steamed on, and of course the Old Bill sussed out pretty quickly that he's tripping, and they've got him in the back of a riot wagon.
They're sitting on his chest and digging him in the kidneys, and threatening how they're going to snuff him out down the cells, sort of thing, and this kid's screaming. Oh, my goodness!
They really went for it that day. I'd never seen the Old Bill lose it so much. And of course, the TV footage of them doing the business went walkies.
All Joe Public got to see of the Beanfield was shots of our kitchen knives and axes - so-called weapons - and various buses supposedly trying to run the Old Bill over.'
Phil the Beer RIP