Veteran calls for medals for all nuclear weapons test personnel

A veteran who took part in British nuclear weapons tests 70 years ago has called for all personnel involved to be awarded medals.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the first British nuclear bomb test off the northwest coast of Australia, which was known as "Operation Hurricane".

John Morris was one of roughly 20,000 British soldiers who witnessed hundreds of atomic tests and were exposed to radiation between 1952 and 1967.

He told Forces News, personnel were ordered to sit with their backs to the bomb.

"I would never wish an atomic bomb on anybody," he said. "I felt it, smelt it, heard it and it terrified me."

Mr Morris said he would never want "anybody to go through" what he went through.

"I've had pernicious anaemia since I was 24, I've had cancer and as I grew up I started to make enquiries to some of my friends who were on Christmas Island and they're all dead.

"They've all passed on and nearly all of them died with cancer."

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The Ministry of Defence (MOD) says several studies found no link between the tests and ill health.

Now 70 years on, the Government has announced it will mark the anniversary by spending almost £500,000 commemorating the "incredible service" of the veterans of Britain's nuclear testing programme.

From April next year, academic and cultural institutions can receive funding from a £250,000 pot, which has been earmarked for an oral history project marking veterans' contributions.

Earlier this year, Mr Morris met with the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss the case for veterans receiving medals.

"He did say that he would recommend that we got recognition with a medal and it would be taught in schools," he said.

"I would also like a service to represent the people that did this country a great service and are now no longer with us."

While running for the Tory leadership, Prime Minister Liz Truss suggested awarding medals to those who participated in the nuclear programme.

According to the Cabinet Office, the issue is being considered and a decision is expected soon.