Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 14:07 UK

Atomic tests ruling is 'too late'

Peter Gilbody
Peter Gilbody said the ruling had come to late

An atomic test veteran from Manchester said a ruling by the High Court to give ex-servicemen the right to sue the British government has come too late.

Peter Gilbody, 70, of Withington, was involved in clearing up nuclear bomb debris in Australia in 1958. He has since been diagnosed with skin cancer.

About 1,000 servicemen blame their ill health on Britain's involvement in nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

Judges have given veterans permission to sue the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

In the 1950s and 60s, the MoD conducted dozens of nuclear explosions in the South Pacific and in the Australian outback, deploying hundreds of British soldiers at the test sites.

Some were so close to the blast, they said they saw an X-ray of their own fingers as they covered their faces with their hands.

Many have suffered from cancer, skin conditions and fertility problems.

Compensation is a bit late now, it won't do me any good now will it?
Peter Gilbody

Mr Gilbody, then 19, was a Royal Engineer stationed at Maralinga in central Australia.

He witnessed several "trigger" nuclear tests - small atomic bombs which detonated much larger bombs thought to have involved the use of the highly toxic polonium 210.

He said: "I used to bury radioactive material... I had a mate who washed down our vehicles and planes and he got it terrible.

"Widows have lost husbands very early in life, children have got leukaemia.

"Compensation is a bit late now, it won't do me any good now will it?"

In January the MoD tried to halt compensation claims, arguing that they had been made far too late to go ahead.

Many atomic veterans are terminally ill and since the original hearing seven claimants have died.

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