For decades the MoD has dismissed using unwitting servicemen as guinea pigs in radiation experiments during the race to develop a nuclear bomb. But the widow of one Cold War pilot has blown that claim apart following obtaining secret documents that reveal he was used in a deadly experiment as he was ordered to fly through the cloud of a thermonuclear explosion.
Shirley Denson’s husband Eric had such a huge dose of radiation to his head in the 1958 flight that it caused crippling headaches so bad that he later killed himself saying he couldn’t bear the torture and two of their four daughters were born with abnormalities as were some of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The documents reveal Eric, 24 at the time, had his head alone exposed to 65 years’ worth of normal background radiation, the same as 17,500 dental X-rays during six minutes spent flying through the cloud at Christmas Island in the South Pacific.
The documents which reveal that the Tory government of the day knew there was a danger to the men’s children and it’s utterly criminal to see it in black and white after all these years and it shows that the government used and exploited its own men and it should make people angry that it was done on purpose and that their men meant so little to them.
And this is the first time in all these years that evidence has been this strong and even though those soldiers always thought they were guinea pigs, it shows some of them were, at best, collateral damage in these horrifying experiments.
This is a shocking document the MoD cannot wiggle out of and we want answers about what experiments were carried out, and how many of the 22,000 nuke vets were involved in them.
The Defence Secretary should come to the Commons and announce an unqualified apology to Mrs Denson because these are genuinely disturbing discoveries which must be examined by the MoD.
This is a outright embarrassment.
Eric flew his converted Canberra B6 bomber into the mushroom cloud of a 2.8 megaton nuclear explosion on April 28, with X-ray badges on his seat to measure radiation. They were located behind the head, on both armrests, and in the seat pan for each member of the aircrew.
The bomb, codenamed Operation Grapple Y, was the most lethal weaponry Britain has ever discharged and care was taken to ensure as little shielding effect as possible was given to the badges and thus the crew.
Immediately after the experiments, Eric experienced vomiting and a rash, common manifestations of radiation poisoning but inside 48 hours he was ordered to pilot the aircraft again.
Veteran Joe Pasquini, who was a navigator in the same squadron, has a copy of Eric’s pilot logbook which reveals he returned to the air in the same aircraft on May 30 for a 75-minute radar calibration and formation flight.
The document recorded by scientists operating the experiments says those who received a dose of radiation between 10 Roentgen and 25 must not be exposed again for three years but Eric’s dose of 18.8R meant he should have been protected.
This was the worst of the three-man crew.
One of the badges was located near his groin. It registered a dose of 8.8R or around 30 years’ worth of normal background radiation. The document added that Testicular badges: The very significantly lower levels are of interest and cheer in relation to the likelihood of genetic damage.
Eric and Shirley had one healthy daughter before the nuclear experiments but birth defects or unexplained medal conditions in 37 per cent of their descendants, including skull deformities, missing and extra teeth, and spinal problems. Eric killed himself in 1976.
The document was an AWRE health physics paper looking at ways of testing the film badges to be sure they were accurate. But the MoD said: “It is not true to say these men were subject to an experiment to look at the effects of radiation.
And according to the MoD, the British nuclear testing programme contributed towards keeping the country safe throughout the Cold War and routine health checks were carried out and that the National Radiological Protection Board has carried out three studies of nuclear test veterans and found no credible proof to connect the programme to ill health.
The Mirror has fought for recognition for the vets since 2002, the 50th anniversary of the first British bomb test.
Every other nuclear power on Earth gives some acknowledgement or compensation to its nuke vets, including Russia, China and the USA and Britain is the only one refusing to accept harm was likely.
There were UK vets who got compensation from other countries, the families of scientists and servicemen who profess to have been harmed by radiation, and a string of court actions.
In 2007 DNA investigation revealed the New Zealand vets had the same degree of genetic damage as survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and a British investigation revealed the children had 10 times the usual rate of birth deformities.
A year later the Isle of Man Tynwald decided to give £6,000 to each of its veterans to help with their care needs and in 2009 France declared it was time to be true to its conscience and unveiled a £9 million compensation package for its nuke vets.
The same year, 10 British and Fijian vets and widows took the Ministry of Defence to the High Court and gained the right to take legal action for criminal neglect. The MoD appealed and in 2012 all but one case was thrown out. That one could not proceed for lack of funds.
In 2015 Fiji stated it would pay £3,000 to its survivors and asked Britain to do the same.
A group war pension appeal was started with assistance from the Royal British Legion but failed in the Appeal Court after judges ruled there was no evidence the men were irradiated.
In 2016, it was reported that the veterans intended to use a £1 million grant from the Aged Veterans’ Fund to pay for their own genetic research but it was we reported that researchers were struggling to obtain enough subjects to test.
Clearly, the MoD would dismiss this for its own protection against claims, so much is done under the National Security wording of tests, germ, gas and nuke experiments that have used UK service personnel as guinea pigs in every conceivable scenario of counterinsurgency.
Does one have to wonder as to what impact the chaotic above ground testing of over 500 nuclear devices by all nuclear nations have had upon the well-being of the global population?
But we’re all guinea pigs, some more than others.