Labour will pledge to give £50,000 each to nuclear test veterans who experienced the devastating long term effects of radiation, as part of their manifesto ahead of an expected snap election.
Under a Corbyn-led government, the party would set aside £75 million for an estimated 1,500 veterans still alive who suffered from cancers, rare blood disorders and higher rates of infertility in the wake of the nuclear tests.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry is expected to tell delegates at the Labour conference on Monday of their duty ‘to correct the injustices of the past,’ the Mirror reported.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, pictured at the Brighton conference on Saturday, is expected to tell delegates at the Labour conference on Monday of their duty ‘to correct the injustices of the past.’
Veterans, who were ordered to observe the nuclear blasts, began to realise the extent of the effects in later life when their children were born with severe deformities including spinal deformities, heart defects and sterility.
Servicemen were ordered to sail or crawl through the radioactive fallout to test the effects of radiation, as well as fly through mushroom clouds on sampling missions.
Many lived on testing sites for a year or more and when they returned began developing rare blood disorders and cancers, often proving fatal.
Their wives had three times the normal rate of miscarriages and their children suffered 10 times the normal rate of birth defects.
The British government carried out hundreds of explosions of atom bombs, fissile material, trigger devices and thermonuclear weapons in the US, Australia and South Pacific following the Second World War.
The biggest of which was Operation Grapple Y in 1958 which was 112 times more powerful than those that levelled Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan.
Mrs Thornberry will tell Labour’s conference that the servicemen are ‘men to whom we owe a huge debt’, adding: ‘It is not just our role to fight against the injustices we see today, but also to correct the injustices of the past.’
The pledge has been signed off by leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith.
The crew of the HMS Narvik watch the smoke rise after a British atomic test, which took place on the Monte Bello Islands off the west coast of Australia. The after effects devastated the lives of many servicemen involved in the operation
‘This provides a long overdue recognition. It’s now time for the other major parties to follow Labour’s lead. It’s the least we can do to repay the vets’ service to our country,’ said Deputy leader Tom Watson, who has campaigned for the veterans to get a medal.
Alan Owen, chairman of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, told the Mirror: ‘This is the first time someone who might form a government has stood up and acknowledged us. It is now on the agenda for everyone else.’
Derek Hickman’s marriage was ruined by Operation Hurricane, Britain’s first atomic bomb.
Then an 18-year-old Royal Engineer, Mr Hickman witnessed the explosion from a guardship at the Monte Bello islands off the north west tip of Australia. A few years after his return Derek was warned by a doctor never to have children.
‘This provides a long overdue recognition. It’s now time for the other major parties to follow Labour’s lead. It’s the least we can do to repay the vets’ service to our country,’ said Deputy leader Tom Watson, who has campaigned for the veterans to get a medal
The 86-year-old and living in Devon, he said: ‘My wife wanted children and in the end I walked away from the marriage. She never blamed me but I’ve regretted it ever since. It’s always there at the back of my mind.
‘The money would be useful and it would give us some peace. It will never go away for us – and there’s not many left now – but it helps to know we’ve been recognised.’
Eric Denson was a 24-year-old RAF pilot ordered to fly through the mushroom cloud of Operation Grapple Y.
He spent six minutes in the toxic cloud and began vomiting as soon as he landed. He was sent back to the UK, where his wife Shirley noticed a burn covering his chest.
The pledge has been signed off by leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (pictured) and Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith
Mr Denson soon began suffering from crippling headaches and tried to kill himself twice. The third time, in 1976, he succeeded.
John Ward was an RAF corporal doing admin work in headquarters and witnessed six nuclear tests during a year stationed on Christmas Island in the South Pacific.
Mr Ward, now 82 and living in Chesterfield, is recovering from cancer while his son Mark, 55, has had a tumour removed from a kidney.
Tragically, his wife Margarette suffered a miscarriage and has described their daughter Denise as “a medical mess”.
She says the girl has lost most of her teeth, suffers from calcium growths on her shoulders, and a dysfunctional pancreas which makes it impossible to digest food.