Veterans’ battle for compensation goes on as more comrades die

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Ailing nuclear test veterans in Spalding have been gathering support in their continued fight for compensation.

Douglas Hern (76) is one of the members of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA) charity who were at Sainsburys at the weekend seeking the public’s help.

The charity aims to raise £12,000 so it can convert a 1950s double-decker bus into a campaign vehicle to ride in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London later this year to raise awareness of their plight.

Mr Hern, of Bell Lane, Moulton, and fellow veterans claim they have been left with varying health problems, including rare cancers and skin defects, after being exposed to nuclear bomb testing on Christmas Island in the 1950s.

More than 18,000 of the 22,500 servicemen who were made to watch the nuclear bombs explode have already died of cancer thought to be linked to radiation exposure.

While serving with the Navy, Mr Hern witnessed five nuclear explosions. He said: “The first one scared us to death but we had no idea there were three or four more to go.

“Within 20 minutes it was raining a black contaminated substance on us – it was a horrifying experience.”

A master of the archives and trustee of the BNTVA, Mr Hern has played an active part in the charity’s fight for compensation.

Last year, veterans lost their Supreme Court bid to be able to launch damages claims against the Ministry of Defence.

More than 1,000 veterans want compensation and have been battling for permission to launch damages claims for some two years.

Mr Hern said: “Once we have exhausted the British legal system we can go to the Court of Human Rights which is why we are looking to raise awareness by joining the Lord Mayor’s Show parade.”

Recently, Mr Hern and other BNTVA members have been helping the BBC film a documentary about their fight, which will be shown later in the year.

He said: “Every day someone rings to let me know another veteran has died. We did not die under a hail of bullets but many died before they were even 40.”