Peterborough honours region’s nuclear testing veterans with civic award ceremony

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Mayor presents former servicemen with Nuclear Test Medals - that government sent in the post

Former servicemen from our region who took part in Britain’s atomic testing programme during the 1950s and ‘60s were presented with medals at Peterborough Town Hall today (Monday, February 19).

Ten veterans who participated in atomic/nuclear bomb drops in Australia, Christmas Island and Malden Island between 1952 and 1967 took part in the civic ceremony in the Council Chamber.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The event was organised by Labour Councillor Alan Dowson, himself a nuclear veteran who served with the RAF on Christmas Island (also known as Kiritimati) as a 19-year-old in 1958.

Dr Alan Dowson with his Nuclear Test Medal.Dr Alan Dowson with his Nuclear Test Medal.
Dr Alan Dowson with his Nuclear Test Medal.

Dr Dowson said the manner in which atomic testing veterans have been acknowledged by the Government compelled him to organise the ceremony.

“After 60-odd years, we get a jiffy bag through the door… with our reward for those ten months watching hydrogen bombs go off,” he says, bitterly.

“A medal in a jiffy bag!

“I felt very angry about that.”

Nuclear Veteran Medal presentations at Peterborough Town Hall made by Mayor of Peterborough, Nick Sandford.Nuclear Veteran Medal presentations at Peterborough Town Hall made by Mayor of Peterborough, Nick Sandford.
Nuclear Veteran Medal presentations at Peterborough Town Hall made by Mayor of Peterborough, Nick Sandford.

Peterborough is the first city to hold a civic event of this kind.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Several other UK cities are looking to follow suit, with Manchester, Liverpool and Plymouth all discussing the idea of holding similar events.

Mayor Nick Sandford presented medals to six individual veterans and their families, who were warmly applauded by around 50 guests.

Among the councillors and family members were representatives of British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association, the Nuclear Community Charity Fund, and LABRATS, an organisation which represents people and their families who have been adversely affected by atomic/nuclear testing.

Ian Hall, chairman of the Nuclear Community Charity Fund, spoke passionately about the “massive health issues” which he and many veterans believe service personnel have suffered as a result of being exposed to atomic radiation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Many [veterans] believed they were used as guinea pigs,” he said.

Councillor Dowson, now 85, echoed that sentiment:.

“All we had, for the radiation, was a long-sleeved shirt,” he recalls.

A government representative was invited to attend the ceremony.

They declined.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While the UK government acknowledges it carried out nuclear weapons testing which affected tens of thousands of military personnel, it does not accept that this necessarily had an adverse impact on their health.

Though Councillor Dowson says the assembled veterans are “very proud” to receive their medals in a fitting ceremony, he is adamant that Britain needs to follow the example of other countries in fully acknowledging the role its former servicemen played in nuclear testing, and in recognising the adverse effects which so many nuclear veterans claim to have experienced.

“Other countries have resolved it: Australia, America, France, have all said ‘sorry… and here is compensation’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Dowson compared the nuclear veterans’ ongoing call for an investigation to the recent high profile Post Office scandal:

“Like the Post Office, we want an inquiry,” he said.

“The men who served their country 60 years ago; they’ve been ignored.”