AN ex-serviceman exposed to radiation in British nuclear weapons tests today spoke of his devastation after losing the latest stage of his long-running compensation battle.
Frail pensioner George Davies, from Pennywell, witnessed three explosions when he was posted to Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, in 1957.
The 75-year-old is one of about 1,000 soldiers who believe they suffered health problems because of the blasts they were exposed to, and are suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Last year, the veterans were given permission by the Supreme Court to appeal against a previous Court of Appeal decision, which had backed the Government’s bid to block attempts to claim damages.
But at a hearing yesterday, judges rejected their latest appeal, saying their actions had “no real prospect of success”.
George, who has had two hernias, a quadruple heart bypass, major gastric problems and developed Parkinson’s disease, was only 21 when he witnessed the bomb tests.
They were carried out by the British and American governments in an attempt to match Soviet technology during the Cold War.
Speaking after the new development, he said: “The decision is a big disappointment.
“It’s a disgrace that it has gone on this long. The money was supposed to be used for my care, to make life easier, but it looks as if that is never going to happen.
“It looks as if the only people to benefit from this are the lawyers.”
Although the judgment blocks most of the claims, a certain number can still proceed after an earlier legal ruling.
A group of 1,011 ex-servicemen has battled for two years through the High Court and Court of Appeal, for permission to launch damages claims against the MoD.
Their challenge, involving nine “lead claims”, was heard by seven Supreme Court justices who rejected the case by a majority of four to three.
After reading out a summary of the court’s decision, Lord Wilson said: “Putting aside the law for one moment, all seven members of the court would wish to record their personal sympathy for the veterans.”
He added: “It must be bad enough for the nine veterans, and the other claimants, to learn that they have lost this final round, but to learn that they have lost by the narrowest possible margin must make it even worse.”
The veterans blame ill-health, including cancer, skin defects and fertility problems, on their involvement in the 21 atmospheric nuclear tests carried out by the British government in Australia and on Christmas Island in the Pacific between 1952 and 1958.
The MoD acknowledges a “debt of gratitude” but denies negligence
BRITAIN exploded its first hydrogen bomb – code-named Grapple X – at Christmas Island in 1957 as part of a series of tests in the Pacific.
The test took place at about 18,000ft to minimise nuclear fall-out.
The first H-bomb was dropped by a Valiant jet from Number 49 Squadron RAF Bomber Command, usually based at RAF Wittering, near Peterborough.
The tests led to a major debate about the dangers of nuclear weapons and led to the founding of CND in 1958.