Nuclear bomb test veteran from Thorpe St Andrew hopes to meet others ahead of 60th anniversary
PUBLISHED: 15:41 04 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:09 04 October 2017
Archant Norfolk 2017
Sixty years ago David Freeman sat on a beach waiting for one of Britain’s most powerful nuclear weapons to be dropped from the sky.
Aged 18 at the time, little did he know that the blast - some five miles off Christmas Island - would have a lasting impact on his life.
The test, codenamed Grapple X, was one of several carried out by the British Government in between 1957 and 1959.
And Mr Freeman, who now lives in Thorpe St Andrew, was one of hundreds of servicemen who witnessed its destructive power.
Now, with the event’s 60th anniversary coming up on November 8, he is wanting to meet with other test veterans from Norfolk.
The 78-year-old said: “We were told to wear long trousers, a long shirt, a bush hat and sunglasses and that was it.
“They said if anything went wrong [with the aircraft carrying the bomb] on take-off, we would have three minutes to travel seven miles to the port to escape.
“But that was impossible.”
Mr Freeman, who was in the RAF at the time, was one of around 2,000 servicemen taking part in the test that morning.
As they waited for the nuclear weapon to be dropped from a Valiant bomber, they were instructed to sit with their backs facing the blast. It detonated at around 5.57pm (GMT) after a 52 second free fall.
“The first thing you got was the flash,” Mr Freeman said. “It was just like standing up against a massive electrical fire. It burned right through.”
“After the light, you got the heat, which was tremendous. Then there was a slight delay, followed by an enormous wind and blast.”
Mr Freeman said he turned to see a “massive” ball of fire and smoke rising thousands of feet into the sky.
The detonation was Britain’s first megaton-class explosion and said to be 1,000 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima.
While the test was regarded as a success, Mr Freeman believes his health suffered from it.
“Within six months my gums were bleeding and I started to lose my teeth,” he said.
“I’ve had heart attacks, seizures, bowel and blood cancer since then.”
He wants to meet other test veterans from Norfolk ahead of the anniversary.
Mr Freeman can be contacted on 01603 432090.