As the Korean nuclear crisis continues to alert the world to the dangers of a nuclear weapon attack, this week is the 65th anniversary of the first British nuclear weapon test in Australia.
NFLA remains highly concerned over the prospects for a nuclear attack around the North Korea diplomatic crisis, and calls rather on all states to engage with the process of supporting and ratifying the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty at the United Nations.
Throughout its 37 year history, NFLA has given its backing and support to those who have been affected by nuclear weapons, either the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or those military veterans, merchant navy workers or local communities affected by the testing of nuclear weapons by the likes of the UK, US, Russia (as the Soviet Union), France or China.
Starting the first week of October 1952, and throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the UK Government conducted nuclear weapon atmospheric and underground tests at Maralinga in Australia, the Monte Bello Islands and Christmas Island. Thousands of military servicemen and members of the merchant navy were involved in these tests and directly witnessed many of them.
The British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA) was established due to concerns many veterans have had over illnesses incurred to them and recognition that these could be related to exposure to the radiation from the nuclear weapon tests. A long-running campaign for full compensation and justice by the BNTVA has been frustrated time and time again by successive UK governments. A £25 million benevolent fund was provided to veterans in 2015, including nuclear test veterans, but the government still does not admit liability for the illnesses many veterans and their children and grandchildren have incurred.
Many NFLA member councils have supported the BNTVA’s campaigns and have laid memorial stones in remembrance of those veterans who have been involved in the nuclear test programme and in their wider campaign for justice. Good examples can be found in the likes of Paisley and Leeds.
This Thursday, Manchester City Council will be re-dedicating its memorial stone to the nuclear test veterans to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the first weapon test. At a special multi-faith service led by the BNTVA Chaplain in the presence of many veterans, the Lord Mayor of Manchester, senior councillors, MPs and other veteran groups will also be in attendance. (1) The ceremony follows a previous unanimously supported Council resolution in full support of the BNTVA and its campaign for recognition, justice and full compensation for illnesses incurred. (2)
The UK is the only one of the nuclear weapon states who has not given full compensation to their nuclear test veterans organisation for illnesses incurred. Even other Commonwealth states like Australia, Canada and New Zealand have compensated servicemen involved in the tests for illnesses they have incurred. NFLA calls on the UK Government to reconsider its stance towards the veterans and compensate them for illnesses incurred from exposure to the tests.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
“I welcome Manchester City Council re-dedicating their memorial stone to the British Nuclear Test Veterans close to its Cenotaph. It remains a real tragedy that the BNTVA have not been given full compensation and above all justice from the British Government for the illnesses they believe have occurred from exposure to the atomic weapon tests. NFLA will continue to call for justice and fully supports the BNTVA in its campaigning work. On the 65th anniversary of the first British nuclear weapon test NFLA calls on a complete change of policy from the UK Government to engage with the other 120 plus states that support a Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty. A nuclear weapons free world is the only sensible way forward for world peace.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) The BNTVA ceremony of remembrance and dedication of a memorial stone will be held on Thursday October 6th 2017 from 12.30pm – 1pm by the Cenotaph, St Peter’s Square, Manchester.
(2) Manchester City Council resolution in support of the British Nuclear Test Veterans, January 2014:
“Manchester City Council calls for the recognition of the unique contribution made by our nuclear test veterans to the nation and defence of the realm, during the British Nuclear Testing Programme in the 1950s and 1960s.
“We note that, in contrast to many other nuclear powers, Britain has never fully acknowledged it’s debt of gratitude. Furthermore, we rank towards the bottom of the ‘decency’ league table when it comes to how we treat our test veterans.
“Manchester City Council believes that official recognition from the UK Prime Minister, written or oral, would go a long way to honouring the service these veterans gave, together with an ex-gratia donation from the Government of £25 million to help with the establishment of a Benevolent Fund to help assist those veterans and their descendants in need.”