Thorpe St Andrew nuclear test veteran speaks of defect fears, after PM gives hope to families

David Freeman next to the war memorial on the River Green at Thorpe St Andrew in 2011. David Freeman next to the war memorial on the River Green at Thorpe St Andrew in 2011.

David Bale david.bale2@archant.co.uk
Thursday, April 17, 2014
8:45 AM

A nuclear test veteran has spoken of his fear that each new member of his family will have some defect because of his exposure to radiation in the 1950s.

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David Freeman, 75, was speaking after David Cameron gave hope to families of nuclear test veterans.

The prime minister has promised to investigate setting up a £25m health fund for descendants suffering genetic defects passed down by ­servicemen exposed to 1950s blasts.

He will also look at offering personal thanks to the veterans and recognising their sacrifice with a medal.

Mr Freeman, from Birkbeck Close, Thorpe St Andrew, was one of about 23,000 servicemen to take part in the tests on Christmas Island in the South Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s.

Veterans say they were made ill as a result of being exposed to radiation during the tests, and have been battling for recognition and compensation for years.

Fewer than 3,000 veterans survive and while welcoming Mr Cameron’s pledge, Mr Freeman said: “We are concerned it’s just an election ploy. Tony Blair said something similar in opposition, then did nothing when he was elected.”

Mr Freeman, a father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight, said his ninth grandchild was expected next month, but added: “I’ve got grandchildren who suffer from deafness and one was born with one kidney. With another grandchild due, we are all worried that everything is going to be OK, as you can never tell.”

Nuclear test campaigners say Mr Cameron’s pledge is the closest they have been to formal recognition of the suffering caused by the South Pacific explosions. The meeting between Mr Cameron and Tory MP John Baron last week was the first time the veterans had their case put forward to any prime minister.

Mr Baron, patron of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association, told the PM descendants had 10 times the normal rate of birth defects, their wives had elevated rates of ­miscarriage, and no other veterans’ group had suffered harm which spread down the generations. France, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, China and even the Isle of Man ­recognise and compensate test veterans. The MoD has always insisted no harm befell the men.

Are you a veteran of nuclear testing living in the Norwich area? Email reporter David Bale at david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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