I finished my Royal Air Force training during the summer of 1958 and awaited orders telling me where I was to be posted for the rest of my two years national service.
There were three or four possible destinations .. A ‘home’ posting, somewhere within the British Isles .. Germany. This was the height of the ‘Cold War’ .. Cyprus. A dangerous place to be at that time due to the fact that British troops were ‘caught in the crossfire’ between Greeks and Turks .. and .. Christmas Island where Britain was testing nuclear weapons.
I got a home posting to a radar station on the south coast of England, not too far from home and just a few miles along the coast from the seaside resort of Eastbourne. My mates called me a “lucky bastard” as this RAF station was known as “Fighter Command’s Holiday Camp”.
Yes, I was lucky, but I must admit that at the time, I rather fancied seeing the white beaches and palm trees of a Pacific island, rather than the pebbles and seaweed of Pevensey Bay.
Of course, I now know just how lucky I was not to have been sent to Christmas Island when those mushroom clouds were seen in the sky and unprotected young men stood and watched. I could easily have been one of them.
Now, more than 50 years later, hundreds of ex-servicemen exposed to radiation during the nuclear weapons tests have lost their Supreme Court bid to launch damages claims against the Ministry of Defence.
These veterans, who probably include some of my old mates, want compensation, saying they were made ill by their exposure to radiation.
To their shame, the British Government has spent a fortune defending this case through the courts for years, and The Ministry of Defence now acknowledges a “debt of gratitude”, …
… but still denies negligence !