A British atomic nuclear weapon test during Operation Hurricane (Picture: Royal Australian Navy).
A British atomic nuclear weapon test during Operation Hurricane (Picture: Royal Australian Navy).
Nuclear

Johnson calls for medals for UK's nuclear testing veterans as Truss voted in at No 10

A British atomic nuclear weapon test during Operation Hurricane (Picture: Royal Australian Navy).
A British atomic nuclear weapon test during Operation Hurricane (Picture: Royal Australian Navy).

The outgoing prime minister plans to memorialise the veterans of the UK's nuclear testing programme – in one of his last acts before Liz Truss takes the reins at Number 10 on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson has also called for veterans of the testing programme 70 years ago to be given medals in recognition of their service.

He said he has asked the Government to look again at the case for medallic contribution for their efforts from 1952-1967, which he said helped "more than 67 million people in the UK and across NATO live in safety".

Mr Johnson also outlined how the government will "provide funds for other schemes" to remember their service and "offer support as necessary".

He is determined their achievements will not be forgotten, having met some of them in person, hearing their accounts "first hand" and offered his "profound thanks" for their sacrifice, and plans an oral history to memorialise the nuclear tests.

It comes after the independent Advisory Military Sub-Committee unanimously decided not to award a medal to the veterans for their service, in 2021.

About 22,000 servicemen took part in the UK's 1952-1967 atomic testing and radiation clean-ups in the Pacific and Australia, amid extremely dangerous circumstances, to secure the UK's hydrogen bomb.

The men endured blast yields detonated by Britain and the US of up to 7.7 megatons – far bigger than the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the time, the British Nuclear Test Veterans' Association (BNTVA) said the news was a "devastating blow to around 3-4,000 surviving nuclear test veterans with an average age of 85 years".

Ex-veterans minister Johnny Mercer MP led the support for the BNTVA's application.

According to the BNTVA, it showed detailed evidence of the "clear bravery" of those involved and a "severe lack of health and safety" at the tests.

This included case studies of the few remaining RAF cloud samplers, who flew directly through radioactive mushroom clouds.

It also contained excerpts from Second World War hero the late Captain John Gower, who, with his young crew, sailed through the radioactive plumes at Operation Mosaic numerous times.