RAF veteran Bob Fleming

A RAF veteran has said that three generations of his family have suffered health defects since he worked on a nuclear test site 60 years ago.

Bob Fleming was one of 22,000 men stationed in Australia and Christmas Island to test atomic and hydrogen bombs between 1952 and 1958.

At 24 years old, Bob was stationed at Christmas Island, where it was his job to witness the testing.

During that time, he would shower in and drink contaminated water.

Now 83, the great-grandfather believes that decades of deformities in his family have been caused by his prolonged exposure to radiation.

His three children, eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren have suffered varying levels of health defects from extra knuckles to deformed pelvises.

Bob, who was a leading aircraftman attached to the Royal Engineers before being sent to Christmas Island, said:

"We have been told that it won't leave my family for 500 years by professors."

"When you sign up for the forces it's like my will and testament and you accept that you might not live or go back but my family didn't sign up.

"These illnesses have just kept creeping up on us. It either hits my family when they are born or later in life but there always seems to be something.

"My great-granddaughter was as fit as a fiddle but one night she was crying in pain of a stomach ache and they found one of her ovaries was enlarged and they had to remove it."

"She was only 11 years old and they had to take something out of her."

All three generations of his family have been affected.

The majority of the men in Bob’s family have had circumcisions due to genital defects, and the women have had issues during their pregnancies due to deformed pelvises.

His wife Jean, 76, said: "It's just never-ending.

Bob Flemming

"Every time the phone rings, I think 'oh no, what's gone wrong now'.

"When one of my granddaughters or great-granddaughters are pregnant, I just hope that they are all right but they never are.

"I want to be happy with the news but I just worry so much."

"But I try not to think about it too much because it is so depressing."

Their eldest daughter Karen, 54, has thyroid problems, difficulties with breathing and her teeth have fallen out.

Suzanne Ward, 53, the youngest of their three children, was born with extra knuckles and bones in her elbows.

Her teeth have also fallen out and she has severe breathing problems.

Among the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, there are cases of severe asthma, heart defects, hypermobility and blocked or missing tear ducts. Jean added:

"We can't do anything. We do get a lot of financial support but money doesn't help that much."

"We try to help as much as we can but physically we can't take away their illness.

"But we keep going and help out where and when we can through babysitting or lifts to hospital appointments."

The British Nuclear Test Veterans Association provide financial support to the families of the veterans for treatments and further research into the long-term effects.

Yet Bob and other veterans have accused the Ministry of Defence of "fobbing them off"; the organisation has continually said there is “no evidence to link these tests to ill health".

Bob said: "We just did our job but we had no protection or medical checks and some veterans have even not had Christmas Island added to their records.

"When I was there my only protection was flip-flops, cargo shorts and a t-shirt."

"I never had a single medical when I was there or afterwards.

"I was stationed in Egypt before and every single injury was notified on my record.

"At Christmas Island, there was nothing on my record and I was in hospital for a week when I was there.

"It is just ridiculous and we keep being fobbed off by the Government who say we had no health problems but we had no medical checks the whole time.

"Now it's up to the next generation to keep the pressure going."

Families of the veterans have set up a support group for families like Bob's called Fallout, which provides financial aid and help with medical records.

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