Papers of John Steel concerning the Gulf Peace Team

Scope and Content

The archive contains three main kinds of records:
1-2. John Steel's Daily Notes, a diary of his time in the Gulf in 1990 and 1991, plus a set of photocopies of the Notes.
3-12. Correspondence files organised by year, containing John Steel's correspondence with activists and supporters, circulars, press cuttings and other material relating to the GPT. The earlier files are mostly concerned with campaigning, the latter with financial matters.
13. Files concerning the finances of the GPT and Steel's management of its debts.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Steel was born in 1914. He served in the British Army from 1940-1946, including campaigns in North Africa and Italy, and imprisonment as a prisoner of war in Germany. From 1948 to 1974 he was a teacher. Steel was active in various peace campaigns, including the League of Nations, and later Ex Services CND and the Gulf Peace Team (GPT).
The GPT was an international group of activists which aimed to set up peace camps between the opposing forces in the Gulf, without taking sides in the conflict. Its first meeting was arranged by Pat Arrowsmith and David Polden on 1 October 1990. An advance party, including John Steel, was sent to establish a location for the camp with the Iraqi authorities, the Saudis not having responded to initial overtures. The chosen site was at Ar'ar, a border crossing on the Iraqi-Saudi border. The peace camp officially opened on 21 December, and activists gradually began to arrive. On 16 January, the date of the expiry of the UN Security Council deadline which was shortly followed by intense aerial bombardment, there were 73 activists present. They were evacuated to Baghdad ten days later, and then to Jordan. Steel was one of the group who chose to stay on, initially with the aim of setting up a camp in Jordan, then, following the end of active hostilities on 28 February, taking an interest in humanitarian causes in the region.
Following his return home in May 1991, Steel as treasurer undertook to manage the large debts incurred by the GPT (over £43,000). After great difficulties, he was eventually able to satisfy all creditors, with a small sum left over sent to Medical Aid for Iraq. John Steel died in 1997.


Items have been kept in files as received. The original order within files has been maintained wherever it could be ascertained.

Access Information

Available to researchers, by appointment. 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. This archive contains many files which include personal data and are therefore restricted under the Act.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Anne Worrall, daughter of John Steel, in 2016.


Information in this description is derived from documents in the archive and the published sources listed.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished catalogue.

Archivist's Note

Described by Alison Cullingford, using ISAD(G)2, July 2017.

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. Rights in the Daily Notes have been retained by the Donor (research reprography under the library/archive exceptions to UK copyright law is acceptable). Steel's other rights have been transferred to the University of Bradford to be managed by Special Collections. There are in addition many third-party copyrights in the archive. 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

The archive has been lightly appraised. Duplicates and published works have been weeded. It is likely that future appraisal will reveal further irrelevant material on detailed investigation.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

The Imperial War Museum's collection of sound recordings contains several interviews with Team members, including John Steel, recorded in 1991, reference 12327


The work of the Gulf Peace Team has been discussed in many books and journal articles. The following titles are particularly relevant to this archive:
Bhatia, B., Drèze, J. and Kelly, K. (2001) War and peace in the Gulf: testimonies of the Gulf Peace Team. Spokesman.
Burrowes, R.J. (1991) The Gulf War and the Gulf Peace Team. Social alternatives, 10 (2), 35-39.
Steel, John (1995) Bringing peace to the Gulf. In Stanleigh, R. (editor) On active service for peace: Ex-Services CND. Ex-Services CND.

Personal Names

Corporate Names