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Nuclear Test Veterans’ Health Anguish

21st October 2014
Posted by Ros Connors
Photo bolsters recognition campaign says MP

MP says photograph bolsters recognition campaign

John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, is Patron of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA) and actively campaigning with them on behalf of those veterans who took part in our nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s in Australia and the South Pacific.

As part of the campaign, the BNTVA has very recently conducted a fresh study of its membership. This new survey has uncovered that:

 Amongst veterans, nearly 20% of conceptions ended in a miscarriage or stillbirth – 50% more than the national average.

 Over 60% of veterans’ children suffer from a health disability sufficiently grave to affect their everyday life.

 Nearly 40% of children suffer from congenital or serious health problems – over ten times the national average.

Having obtained official recognition from the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on 2nd July for the veterans’ unique service, the campaign continues to endeavour to secure the establishment of a £25m Charitable Fund for veterans and their descendants.

The BNTVA has also recently uncovered a photograph from the nuclear tests [above], which clearly shows the protection suits worn by civilian scientists, as well as the lack of protection for servicemen – veterans’ testimony confirms these facts.

John said,
“This new survey sheds new light on the health problems experienced by veterans and their children. The miscarriage and stillbirth rate and the numbers of children suffering severe health problems is significantly higher than the national average. Given the veterans’ unique service to their country, we owe them and their descendants a debt of gratitude.

“The photograph further bolsters the campaign. Whilst civilian scientists received protection, veterans were left potentially exposed to harmful radiation, blast and shock. It is not surprising if they suffered health problems as a result.

“The study and photograph add weight to our call for the establishment of an ex gratia £25m Charitable Fund, available to veterans and their descendants on the basis of need, not entitlement, in order to help them with the costs of care and other associated

Nigel Heaps, Chairman of the BNTVA said,
“These results illustrate the drastic effects of ionising radiation on the genetic heritage of veterans’ families. Sadly the thing they don’t show is the human heartache and anguish that our people have experienced dealing with these health problems.

“This is what makes us different, this is why we need a Charitable Fund to address the very real health and well-being issues. With a reasonable start-up of £25million the Fund could be managed to create an ongoing sustainable income that will increase the well-being of those suffering under the shadow of the bomb.”

 A number of veterans fathered healthy children before deployment at the tests, but those they fathered after the tests have suffered health problems. A significant number of veterans simply opted not to have children, lest they pass on health problems.
 There is evidence to suggest the sterility rate amongst veterans and descendants is also elevated, as is the incidence of mental health issues.
 Many report that health issues only became fully apparent at puberty, and female descendants seem to be worse affected than their male counterparts.
 20,000+ National Servicemen helped Britain develop its nuclear deterrent in the 1950s and 1960s. The science was unknown, and the precautions were rudimentary. Servicemen were often told simply to turn their backs and dust themselves down.

Some of those not suffering from incontinence or severe blisters were ordered to collect samples of flora and fauna for scientists who were themselves wearing protective clothing – please see photo above.
 British Nuclear Test Veterans have found the MoD’s war pension scheme to be unfair. It requires the applicant to prove a causal link between illness and presence at a nuclear test. With the passage of time, and a lack of rigorous research, this can prove almost impossible. It is therefore unsurprising that 90% of applications from nuclear test veterans are unsuccessful.
Note how badly Britain compares with other countries when considering the treatment of their nuclear test veterans:
* The United States offers its nuclear veterans free healthcare, and up to two payments of $75,000 should the individual suffer one of a list of prescribed illnesses (mostly cancers). No causal link between nuclear service and the illness is required.
* Canada, which has a healthcare system very similar to our NHS, has paid veterans C$24,000. No proof of illness was required. This is in addition to a war pensions scheme.
* The Isle of Man Government offers £8,000 to its nuclear test veterans. Again, no proof of illness is required. This runs alongside the MoD war pensions scheme.
 However, many veterans are more concerned about the possible effects of their service on their descendants. Earlier research suggested 1 in 3 were affected by health problems – this study increases this figure to slightly more than 2 in 5 (43%).

table 20132

The Campaign seeks an ex gratia payment (thereby circumventing any liability) of £25m into a Charitable Fund for veterans and their descendants, access to which would be on the basis of need, not entitlement – thus illustrating that this is a campaign of recognition, not compensation.