Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 14:56 UK

Nuclear test veteran to sue MoD

Nuclear explosion
Hundreds of veterans involved in nuclear explosions want compensation

A Royal Navy veteran from Dundee is suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the radiation he was exposed to during atomic bomb testing.

John Gilchrist, 72, was involved in two tests at the Montebello Islands off north western Australia in 1956.

Although he has no obvious illness, he is worried about health problems he may have passed on to his family.

The MoD said that if a court decided it was liable in such cases it would pay compensation.

Hundreds of former military personnel are involved in the multi-million pound compensation claim against the MoD.

Mr Gilchrist told the BBC Scotland News website about the tests he took part in on HMS Diana.

He said: "Part of our test was to go under the radiation cloud, the fall-out, and see what effects it would have on the ship and the crew.

"You had a little disc round your neck that showed what radiation was on you and you also had a little - I can't remember the name - but just like a fountain pen for size which you looked into which let you know if you were at a high risk or not."

You had to brush your nails and your hair to try to get rid of the radiation and then they gave us the okay
John Gilchrist

After the bomb test the crew had to go to the decontamination area for showers.

Mr Gilchrist said: "You were tested with the Geiger counter, it wasn't clear, so we had to go in the shower again. We came out, got another test, the radiation was still high.

"We went back in the shower again, you had to brush your nails and your hair to try to get rid of the radiation and then they gave us the okay.

"That was basically it as far as the testing went."

Mr Gilchrist also believes that the radiation exposure may have had an effect on his family's health.

He said: "I've lost three grandchildren. Whether that was to do with that or not no-one has said one way or the other."

One of Mr Gilchrist's grandchildren was stillborn, another died halfway through pregnancy and another only lived for seven weeks.

The MoD said that the government recognised its obligations to veterans of the nuclear tests and that since 1983 it had commissioned three reports on any possible adverse health effects.

It said the outcome of the studies was reflected in the MoD's handling of claims under the War Pension and the Armed Forces Compensation Schemes.

A spokesman added: "When compensation claims are received they are considered on the basis of whether or not the Ministry of Defence has a legal liability to pay compensation.

"Where there is a proven legal liability compensation is paid."

Veterans speak over compensation
21 Feb 08 |  Isle of Man

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