South Shields MP urges nuclear veterans in the borough to come forward as part of campaign for justice
The MP for South Shields has urged borough residents to come forward as part of a long-running campaign for a neglected group of veterans.
Emma Lewell-Buck is appealing for South Tyneside residents who are survivors of or related to former personnel who witnessed post-war nuclear trials to contact her office.
Unlike regular servicemen and women, the defence efforts of many such volunteers were never formally recognised and a large number have been living for decades with the after-effects of high-level radiation exposure.
Of the 20,000 soldiers that witnessed nuclear tests in the 1950s, it is estimated that there are now just over a 1,000 survivors of the atomic weapon trials living in the UK today.
The Labour Party has vowed to secure compensation and other forms of redress for such ‘nuclear veterans’ in recent years, with current leader, Keir Starmer, this year restating his party’s commitment to the pledge.
Mrs Lewell-Buck told The Gazette that time is running out to recognise the sacrifices made by and health costs impacting this cohort.
"I am appealing to military veterans of the UK’s nuclear tests or descendants of those who served from the 1950s onwards,” she said.
“Since the early ‘80s the veterans began to report rare cancers, sterility, miscarriages for their wives and birth defects in their children.
"Since the early In recent years, the evidence of the long term impacts has become much clearer and yet, the UK remains the only nuclear power that refuses them recognition or compensation, unlike the US, France, Canada and Australia.
“Of those 20,000 nuclear veterans, less than 1,000 are believed to be alive now. Time for justice is running out for all of them.”
Whiteleas resident, John Taylor, is one such constituent who was involved in the Operation Antler nuclear tests near Maralinga, Australia.
This series of tests, carried out between 1955 and 1963, saw participants assist in various nuclear weapons trials that included development of the hydrogen bomb.
"For years and years, our struggles have not been recognised,” he said.
"People like me were there when they tested these bombs, which have in part kept the world safe for decades since the Second World War.
“The way we’ve been treated has been terrible. Successive governments have done absolutely nothing – it’s a disgrace.”