Boris Johnson urges next government to award nuclear test veterans war medals
Boris Johnson has called on the next government to award medals to nuclear test veterans for their “achievements in a crucial period of post-War history”.
In his final tweet before his successor Liz Truss was announced, the former PM thanked the veterans for their efforts in keeping 67 million people across the country, and throughout NATO, safe.
After years of campaigning for recognition, nuclear test veterans and their descendants were finally able to share their stories with a sitting prime minister in June this year.
In the meeting, campaigners also gave Mr Johnson a deadline to resolve the issue and requested a medal to mark the 'Plutonium Jubilee' - 70 years since the first British nuclear test in October 1952.
In his formal letter to the Veterans of the UK’s Nuclear Testing Programme he said: "I was privileged to be the first Prime Minister to meet some of you in person.
“Hearing your account first hand, I’m determined that your achievements will never be forgotten.
“So I am commissioning an oral history to memorialise your service. Later this year, we will mark the 70th anniversary of the first UK nuclear test.”
He added: The Government will provide funds for other schemes to remember your contribution to national security and offer support as necessary."
During the 1950s and 1960s, around 20,000 British personnel were involved in the testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs in the Pacific.
Many have opened up about developing health issues, including blood cancer and higher than usual rates of birth defects amongst their children - which many believe to be due to radiation exposure.
In his letter, Boris Johnson urged the new Government to look again at the case for medallic recognition, saying it was his firm belief "you all deserve such an honour, and this work is now in train."
Nuclear war veteran John Morris from Rochdale's baby son suffered a cot death, which he believes could have been as a result of damage caused by the nuclear testing.
John witnessed five nuclear explosions, recalling: "I sat there with a pair of shorts, a shirt, and my hands over my eyes.
"We were just following orders... We did not know we were going to be used as an experimental guinea pig team.
Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, who previously asked Mr Johnson to meet the group of British nuclear test veterans and their families, urged Ms Truss to recognise their “pain and suffering”.
Ms Long-Bailey said: “It is positive that as a last act of office Boris Johnson has chosen to write to nuclear testing veterans highlighting his support and the action he has taken so far to meet the promises he made to them.“It is now incumbent on the new PM to recognise the pain and suffering these veterans and their families have been through and urgently ensure that calls for medallic recognition, support and research are met.“These men gave their all to protect us. It is high time we honoured and supported these veterans and their families like other countries have already done.”
Mr Johnson tweeted: “Thanks to your efforts all those years ago, more than 67 million people in the UK and across NATO live in safety that you helped to provide.
“I would like to offer my profound thanks for your sacrifice.”
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