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Recognition bid for nuclear test veterans backed by Moulton campaigner




Doug Hern, journalist Susie Boniface, Sandie Hern, nuclear test veteran's widow Sheila Denson and comedian Al Murray. Photo supplied by BNTVA. (2457161)
Doug Hern, journalist Susie Boniface, Sandie Hern, nuclear test veteran's widow Sheila Denson and comedian Al Murray. Photo supplied by BNTVA. (2457161)

A British nuclear test veteran from Moulton has backed a national campaign for him and other servicemen to be officially recognised by the Government.

Doug Hern (81) has backed an online petition calling for himself and about 22,000 other veterans who served as part of Britain's nuclear testing programme between 1952 and 1967 to be awarded a medal.

Mr Hern, who witnessed five nuclear weapons detonations while stationed on Christmas Island, south of Indonesia, from November 1957 to November 1958, has campaigned with his wife Sandie (72) for veterans to be formally acknowledged by the Ministry of Defence through the British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association (BNTVA).

The campaign also has the support of comedian Al Murray, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings.

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG150716-115TW. (2457164)
John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG150716-115TW. (2457164)

Mr Hern said: "The campaign for medal recognition didn't gather pace until the early 2000s, nearly 20 years after the BNTVA was fully established as an association in 1984.

"With the help of journalist Susie Boniface, who has worked behind the scenes in taking statements from nuclear test veterans, we've been trying to the emotional support there is for our campaign into wider awareness of it.

"There have been BNTVA awareness marches in London, meetings with MPs and response from three different Defence Ministers.

"But it's been an uphill struggle and I'd like to thank all of the people who have helped us."

An extract from the online petition, which can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/220170, said: "The British Nuclear Testing Programme, which ran between 1952 and 1967, was the largest tri-service operation since the D-Day landings of 1944.

"These men bore witness to the most devastating weapon this country has ever produced, yet have laboured ever since under an oppressive cloud of official denial.

"It is time that this nation repaid the debt of honour it owes to all British Nuclear Test Veterans who participated and their families.

"Every other nuclear power has recognised its nuclear veterans and Britain must, in all good conscience, do the same."

Mr Hern said: "I feel that we were put in an impossible position where we were the only military personnel in this country who have ever been that close to a nuclear detonation.

British nuclear test veteran Doug Hern with a DVD about his and other servicemen's experiences in the South Pacific during the 1950s and 1960s. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG190616-105TW. (2457167)
British nuclear test veteran Doug Hern with a DVD about his and other servicemen's experiences in the South Pacific during the 1950s and 1960s. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG190616-105TW. (2457167)

"None of use feel that medal recognition will be of any emotional benefit to our families, nor will it give us any financial gain.

"But at least our families will have the knowledge that we're a recognised part of the British Armed Forces who, during the Cold War, gave our lives for our country.

"That's why both myself and Sandie, who has supported me and fought alongside me as BNTVA vice chairman, are behind anything that benefits our veterans and our families."

Speaking in support of the campaign at the House of Commons on Thursday, Mr Hayes said: "Yesterday, along with Members from across the House, I had the pleasure of meeting veterans from the BNTVA of which I am their patron.

"There are just 1,500 survivors of the 22,000 who were sent to far-off places for those nuclear tests.

"One wrote: 'We are doomed to spend our time in a land that time forgot.'

"We are the only country that does not recognise them formally and they are now asking for a medal.

"I wonder if the Leader of the House will ask a Defence Minister to come to this House and confirm that the Government will award that medal so we can give to those who gave so much for us?"

Mr Hayes was due to have raised the issue again with Defence Ministers in the House of Commons yesterday (Monday).



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