Nuclear test veteran told he can't claim damages

Reporter:

Matt Jones

AN ATOMIC bomb test veteran’s three-year battle for compensation was all but ended yesterday.

Harold Walmsley, 74, of Naid y March near Holywell, was among 1,000 ex-servicemen involved in Britain’s nuclear tests in the 1950s on Christmas Island in the South Pacific.

But they have lost their Supreme Court bid to launch damages claims against the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Walmsley, who has been diagnosed with cancer twice, said veterans were denied previous attempts to claim because of the Official Secrets Act.

He said: “We are extremely disappointed in the Government and the Ministry of Defence.

“I was 18 and got sent out there. I did not even know where I was going. I was sent there to watch two H-bombs go off.

“We were only 25 and 30 miles away. There is a lot of anger.”

Veterans say they were exposed to fallout radiation from the nuclear tests and it caused illness, disability or death.

Both exposure and causation are denied by the MoD.

The veterans took their fight to the Supreme Court – the highest in the UK – in November.

In 2009, 10 “lead” claimants won the first round of the veterans’ battle when a High Court judge said claims could go ahead.

But the MoD appealed and, in 2010, a Court of Appeal ruling blocked nine of the 10 lead claims when judges said they were “statute-barred” because they had been made too late.

The challenge by the veterans against that decision was rejected yesterday by a four-to-three majority.

Mr Walmsley said the blasts were to blame for all three of his children developing pyloric stenosis – a little-known condition normally affecting about one in 4,000 babies.

They all recovered but all still suffer from eczema and asthma.

Although the judgment blocks most claims, a certain number can proceed because of an earlier ruling.

Lawyers said they were calculating how many would still be able to launch damages claims and estimated it could still be in the hundreds.

See full story in the Leader

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