‘People in Norfolk have deformities because of it’ - Nuclear test veterans asked to attend anniversary event to discuss health impact

An RAF veteran who witnessed two of Britain’s first thermonuclear bomb tests wants to hear from others who took part.

Gordon Wilcox, 79, witnessed two nuke tests on Christmas Island in the 1950’s. Picture: Ian Burt

Gordon Wilcox, 79, witnessed two nuke tests on Christmas Island in the 1950s. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Gordon Wilcox was aged just 20 when he sent to a remote Pacific island to watch the country’s first true hydrogen bomb test, codenamed Grapple X.

He said the flash of the blast was so powerful that he could see the bones in his fingers as he covered his eyes.

Now aged 80 and living in Attleborough, Mr Wilcox wants to meet other test veterans to mark the 60th anniversary of the event.

There will be a get together in Thorpe St Andrew on November 8 for people to share their experiences from any of Britain’s 21 nuclear tests.

Mr Wilcox hopes it will raise awareness of the lasting damage radiation has on the human body - something he claims affected many people.

“If it was only the veterans that suffered, and it finished when they died, you could almost accept that,” Mr Wilcox said.

Most Read

“But these health problems are passed on to their children and grandchildren.

“I know there are people around in Norfolk who have deformities in their families because of it and that is the biggest problem.”

Despite being present for Grapple X on November 8, 1957 and the more powerful Grapple Y test on April 28, 1958, Mr Wilcox said he was “lucky” to have avoided any major health issues.

Speaking about the Grapple X test, he said servicemen were told to sit with their backs to the detonation, and close their eyes.

Despite being just 23 miles from where the bomb went off, he said they were given no protective clothing.

“When the flash of the detonation occurred, the bones in your fingers could be seen through your closed eyes, like an X-Ray,” he said.

Mr Wilcox, who is the chairman of the Anglia branch of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, said test veterans who cannot make the anniversary event, but wish to be involved, can contact him at 14 Constable Close, Attleborough, NR17 2RR.

They are asked to provide information of their experiences, health issues, as well as provide their contact details and signature.

The anniversary event takes place at 2pm on November 8 at 35 Birkbeck Way, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, NR7 OXY.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter