Records of Operation Namibia

Scope and Content

Files from the London office of Operation Namibia, including newsletters, press cuttings, press releases, publicity, meeting minutes and photographs of the voyages. There is extensive correspondence between ON and PNAG and with the crews of the two ships.

Administrative / Biographical History

Operation Namibia (ON) was initiated in 1975 by the Philadelphia Namibia Action Group. ON was an international non-violent direct action campaign to draw attention to South Africa’s illegal control of Namibia. The major project the campaign developed was “Books for a free Namibia”: to send a sailing ship with an international crew to Namibia. The boat would deliver useful books as practical aid, and thereby defy South African authority in the region, putting pressure on South Africa to withdraw.

Support groups formed worldwide and an office was set up in London to to raise funds and organise the project. The first boat purchased, Antelope, proved to be unsuitable. Another was acquired: the Golden Harvest left Portsmouth in October 1976 with over 4000 books on board, sailing via Portugal, Tenerife, and Dakar. The “peace ship” Fri set out later from Singapore with books donated by supporters in the Far East.

Those working on the project in England included Roger Moody, Sue King, Glyn Carter, and Lewis Peake. Golden Harvest crew included Roy Purvis, Maggie Wellings, Pete Ellis, Ian Harbour, Elise Gaeddaert, Hans Paret, Barry Considine, Jude Smith, and Kris Wood.

Golden Harvest encountered many problems on her journey, compounded by lack of funds. In particular, she foundered off the coast of Gambia in March 1977, requiring lengthy repairs, and the crew were arrested in Nigeria and later in Togo. The project eventually ended with Golden Harvest having reached Gabon, because of mounting financial difficulties, major rifts among the crew, and the death of Elise Gaeddert from cerebral malaria. Fri reached Namibia but was refused access to Walvis Bay, and returned to Britain.

At a crisis meeting in September 1979, supporters decided to end the project, to give the books to the United Nations for shipment to Namibians in refugee camps, and to sell Golden Harvest.


The original filing system has been retained.

Access Information

Access to archive material is subject to preservation requirements and must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation. Most sections of this archive contain personal data on individuals and access is therefore restricted under the Act. More detailed cataloguing may make it possible to refine this restriction. Researchers should contact the Special Collections Librarian for information about the status of the material they wish to view.

Acquisition Information

Donated to Commonweal in 1983.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished boxlist.

Archivist's Note

Described by Alison Cullingford.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of Special Collections staff, subject to copyright law and the condition of the originals. Applications for permission to make published use of any material should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian in the first instance. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

Duplicates have been weeded.

Personal Names