‘Jill would be smiling now the battle is won’

Douglas Hern with his daughter Jill, aged two, and elder daughter Sue. ANL-150330-112843001
Douglas Hern with his daughter Jill, aged two, and elder daughter Sue. ANL-150330-112843001
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A nuclear test veteran from Moulton is hoping his teenage daughter is smiling down at him from heaven now the battle over support for families like his is won.

Members of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA) met the Prime Minister to No 10 on Wednesday to work out how a £25million charitable fund announced by the Chancellor in the Budget would work.

Douglas Hern (77), who was mainly involved in the research during the veterans’ long campaign for recognition and aid, did not go to the meeting.

He told the Free Press: “My work has come to an end because I was mainly involved with research to prove personnel who witnessed nuclear blasts Christmas Island in the South Pacific in the 1950s had died from illnesses such as cancer as a result – and second and third generations are being affected too.”

In spite of suffering a number of illnesses himself, Mr Hern said he would not be applying for fund aid. He said: “When my daughter, Jill, became sick, we did not know it was linked to the nuclear blasts I had witnessed.

“I don’t want you to print details of how she died, but for weeks I slept at night on the floor by her side.

“Only afterwards, when other veterans’ children became sick, did we see a pattern. She was my driving force and I’d like to think that now she is smiling down at me.”

Some 18,000 to 19,000 of the 25,500 home and overseas military personnel who witnessed nuclear tests died from illnesses like cancer as a result. Cancer – and other disorders like heart problems and Spina Bifida – continue to plague their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

However, in January MP John Hayes vowed to the Free Press that there would be justice for the families and descendants of the veterans.

Speaking from the House just after the Budget was delivered, Mr Hayes described the fund as “a promise made and campaign won”.

He said: “I have been so proud to work with Mr Hern and to have campaigned for the nuclear test veterans. I am in no doubt the final outcome was because of Mr Hern. I wouldn’t have known about what happened without him.”

Along with Mr Hayes, fellow campaigner John Baron MP was also present at the meeting at No 10.

Nigel Heaps, chairman of the BNTVA, said: “This was a 
positive meeting in achieving an undertaking that No 10 will work closely with us to satisfy the reasonable needs of our veterans and descendants 
suffering congenital deformities or serious medical conditions.”

A moving ‘must see’ documentary telling the story of the Tests and the lives blighted by them is currently on UK release – www.nobodytoldus.net