Page last updated at 19:36 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Nuclear test veterans 'in shorts'

Nuclear tests
The tests took place at the height of the Cold War

A veteran has said servicemen wore only "shirts and shorts" during the 1950s nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

Charlie Price, 70, from Shropshire, is backing nearly 1,000 veterans who are claiming compensation from the Ministry of Defence in the High Court.

Mr Price said servicemen "sat on the ground with our backs facing the atom bomb" during tests on Christmas Island.

The claimants say their illnesses result from the tests. The MoD says it compensates when liability is proven.

Mr Price, of Leebotwood, was 17 when he volunteered for the Royal Air Force and was posted on Christmas Island for 12 months.

He claimed the servicemen were told to "face the bomb", a few seconds after it exploded.

He is not suing the MoD, but supports the families involved and is convinced of the ill-effects of the tests.

'Vital contribution'

Mr Price said he has suffered ill health which he links to being present at the nuclear tests.

He said: "I have never felt well ever since I came back from there. I have always suffered with stomach upsets and things like that."

He said many of his teeth became loose at the root and fell out shortly after the experience.

The three-week hearing in London will decide if a full hearing over the multi-million pound compensation claim will go ahead.

The ex-servicemen want compensation for illnesses, including cancer, skin defects and fertility problems, which they claim result from exposure to radiation.

But MoD lawyers are arguing the tests happened too long ago for compensation to be considered.

An MoD spokesman said the government recognised "the vital contribution service personnel played in the UK's nuclear tests during the 1950s" and understood its obligation to veterans.

He added: "Where there is a proven legal liability, compensation is paid."

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