Former Suffolk serviceman says time is running out for nuclear tests veterans to be awarded medals

A former serviceman is calling on the government to award veterans with medals for their role in Britain’s first nuclear tests in the 1950s.

Ed McGrath, who was based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, was 18 when he was sent to Australia and then flown to Maralinga to witness the test explosion.

Thousands of British servicemen and women witnessed nuclear weapons tests in Australia and on surrounding islands in the 1950s, making the UK the third nuclear power.

Many of those involved in the tests are convinced they were left with long-term health problems, though numerous studies have failed to provide a clear conclusion.

Mr McGrath said: "We were guinea pigs. There was no reason for us to be there.

"There were enough civil servants there, there were enough people from high command of the army and the air force in New Zealand and Australia.

"Why did they need 30, 40, 50 men in shorts and shirts to witness the explosion? It really goes beyond belief that we were asked to do that."

Ed McGrath, left, speaking to other veterans seeking medals. Credit: ITV News Anglia

To mark the 70th anniversary of the tests, the government said it wanted to recognise the contribution of veterans of Britain’s nuclear tests. 

Funding of £250,000 will be made available for an oral history project and charities will also be able to bid for a portion of a £200,000 fund, to support activities for nuclear test veterans. 

The case for awarding medals is being "actively considered" and the Government said any decisions would be made public in due course.

Ceri McDade, of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, said more funding was required.

"I would like to see a medal awarded for the veterans immediately because they are so elderly. Their average age is 86 years old.

"I would like to see a proper welfare package for them and that the amount of money that the government is offering - the £200,000 to bid on - is increased vastly."

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