Guest Post from Gordon Frederick Coggon – a Nuclear Test Veteran’s Experience

Gordon Frederick Coggon

· During 1957 and 1958 I was one of 20,000 British serviceman sent to the central Pacific testing ground of British Hydrogen bomb tests which in my own case involved being at Christmas Island.(now named Kiritimati). During my year there I was subjected to radiation contamination. I witnessed two hydrogen bombs, the first being Operation Grapple X with a 1.8 megaton yield on Nov 8th. 1957 and the second bomb being on 28th. April 1958. Which had a yield of 3 megatons.( Both these devices were dropped by a Valient ‘V’ bomber about 20 miles off the southern tip of the Island.)

After the Grapple X test I was sent to hand wash a Canberra Aircraft,s engine nacelles after it had flown through the cloud of the hydrogen bomb collecting samples. I was set to work using a small bore hosepipe and a scrubbing brush, (the Aircraft had been hosed down with high pressure jets of water before I was employed on a gantry cleaning where the jets of water were not directed at the intakes of the engines.) Initially, I was given a pair of denims, wellingtons, rubber gloves and a remote breathing apparatus (which consisted of a face mask attached to 38 feet of corrugated rubber hose and connected to a fresh air filter which was fastened down as far away as possible from the aircraft. The face mask head straps were broken so the man in the white suit and gas mask said it was useless for the job in hand so I was given a crude homemade mask made from cotton wool sandwiched between a silver paper foil.

Whilst working on the gantry the mask got wet through and I wasnt able to breathe, so I had to move it from my mouth and nose to enable myself to breathe. I continued to work for between 20 to 30 minutes before I was replaced by someone else and I was then sent to the decontamination tent where I showered several times until the man in the white suit and Geiger counter said I was ok to get dressed in the clean side of the tent and was given a new set of kd shorts and shirt. This showering and decontamination took at least one and a half hours, My contaminated clothing was put in a yellow barrel marked with radiation signs in the dirty side of the facility. I have to say also that some of us were given other dangerous tasks like picking up dead fish and birds after the tests and some guys had to dump contaminated equipment in the ocean or bulldoze contaminated earth. After the Grapple Y bomb on 28th.April 1958, there was a massive downpour of rain, which came from the bomb cloud, a lot of the young innocent troops stood outside bathing in it like one normally did during the rain showers, but unlike the normal rain this was said to be contaminated because there was no other clouds in the sky at the time.

At that time I was 18 years old (picture of me above whilst there) and most of us had no idea what radiation was. Nor was I told anything about it until later in my career when I remustered into the Fire, Crash and rescue trade, where I was trained up to an advanced stage about radiation and biological warfare and every Monday I was teaching an induction course to new arrivals on the station that I was posted too. That was when I began to worry about my own health. Had I been put at an high risk of radiation whilst on Christmas Island ??. The Aircraft that I had helped to decontaminate was still emitting Gamma radiation, to what extent?? Also, did I swallow, inhale Alpha particles.?? ( Alpha radiation cannot penetrate human skin but they can be swallowed in water droplets, eaten if on food, or more commonly inhaled.)

These Alpha particles may remain inside your body for your whole life, attacking cells of your body for decades and could take many years before irrepairable damage becomes apparent. Recently it has been associated with radiation caused diseases and malformities in new born descendants of nuclear test veterans. I have had Cancer and several other illnesses which most lightly have been caused by atomic radiation, so far, even after seventy years, the successive British Governments have continued to deny that their troops were subjected to radiation during their atomic and hydrogen tests in the fifties and sixties. And yet, many of the nuclear armed countries have acknowledged the troops that was sent to take part in their experiments with nuclear fission and have been recognised by being given a medal and/or compensation.

I have only mentioned my own experience at Christmas Island (Kiritimati) but during a period 1952 – 1968 there have been many such tests in Australia, other testing areas of the Pacific where a lot of fellow veterans were irradiated by atomic fallout and nuclear poisoning from various clean-up operations after the tests, many of these young men never got to grow old because of their contamination from the tests. Many test sites were carried out where local people lived, these same people have since lost their homes and way of life by the poisoning effects of radiation . Since; atomic radiation contamination illnesses have continually been killing test veterans and clean-up veterans nothing has been done so far to help the families of these brave innocent troops and civilians by the British Government, who were subjected to experiments during the trials.

It is now becoming more alarming by the number of offspring who have also inherited their veteran father’ s damaged cells genetically. * reference to these tests are also available in two books that I have published on Amazon. The first one is titled :- ‘ Christmas Island 1957-1958 ‘ an Ebook on Kindle. The other is a paperback, titled:-‘ The Life of a Yorkshire Lad’ on Amazon and an ebook on kindle.

All royalties for the (latter paperback/ebook have been donated to LABRATS INTERNATIONAL for their continued valuable work in helping test veterans and their descendants come together from all over the world in their fight for justice.

One thought on “Guest Post from Gordon Frederick Coggon – a Nuclear Test Veteran’s Experience

  1. Pingback: Guest Post from Gordon Frederick Coggon – a Nuclear Test Veteran’s Experience — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND « Antinuclear

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