Memories of a guinea pig

PUBLISHED: 12:53 01 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:10 28 May 2010

A COUPLE of small news items on TV brought some old memories flooding back. First - the demise of the RAF Vulcan bomber and second that CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) is still active. Why the interest? Well, I am a veteran of the 1958 nuclear wea

A COUPLE of small news items on TV brought some old memories flooding back.

First - the demise of the RAF Vulcan bomber and second that CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) is still active.

Why the interest? Well, I am a veteran of the 1958 nuclear weapons tests on Christmas Island in the Pacific. One of the thousands of Army, Navy, RAF mainly national servicemen exposed to the H-bomb tests.

Briefly I witnessed two tests known as Grapple X and Y -horrendous experiences.

For the first, all we wore was our usual working dress, olive green shorts, no top, floppy hat, boots and socks.

We faced the directions of the explosion. There was a countdown over speakers from 10 to zero. On zero came the explosion and we turned our backs. Then came a count up and on 10 we turned and faced the bomb.

We could see the mushroom and I can remember feeling the heat, the roar and rush, and watching the palm trees bending.

For the second test we were issued with white suits and goggles. The procedure was the same.

God only knows what the exposure to these H-bombs has done to us and those exposed before and after us.

In its usual way the MoD has claimed no damage was done. The Australian and British Nuclear Veterans Associations are still fighting their corner.

Of course at the time it was a great adventure and we had been told we were doing a great service for world peace. CND were the villains. They had no right to protest or march to the then Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. They were a threat to peace.

Now, though, the majority of veterans in their older years of wisdom realise they were guinea pigs on Christmas Island and Woomera Ranges in Australia as were the American troops on Bikini and the Nevada Desert.

ROBERT HARVEY

Ex L/Cpl Royal Engineers

Nene Parade

March

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