Nuclear test veterans who made a unique contribution to the UK’s security and have received medals for their service have been praised at a dedicated reception.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps MP, and Veterans’ Minister Johnny Mercer MP, met around fifty veterans at Admiralty House in London. Amongst attendees were veterans who marched past the Cenotaph with their Nuclear Test Medal for the first time this year.
The medal was announced by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in November 2022, 70 years after the first British test of a nuclear weapon. It recognises military, civilian and overseas staff and personnel who participated in Britain’s nuclear testing programme during the 1950s and 1960s.
Many veterans of Britain’s nuclear tests will receive the new medal which will also recognise the contribution made by veterans and civilian staff from other nations and across the Commonwealth including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Kiribati.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am incredibly proud to have met veterans and heard their incredible stories, following on from the Government’s fulfilled commitment to award the Nuclear Test Medal.
“The service and dedication of our nuclear test veterans is vitally important to the continued safety and security of our nation. It is only right that we recognise and value their service through this medal, an enduring symbol of the Nation’s gratitude.”
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer said: “Today’s event has been a fantastic opportunity to mark the contributions of the veterans who worked on Britain’s nuclear programme over seventy years ago. The medal is a fitting tribute to those who worked to preserve our national security, and I am pleased that so many of our veterans now have their medal.
“This government is committed to commemorating the contribution of nuclear test veterans and has committed funding to ensure their stories are passed on for generations to come.”
As part of the government’s efforts to champion nuclear test veterans’ contributions, the Office for Veterans’ Affairs is also funding a £250,000 oral history project. Work by the University of South Wales and University of Liverpool is currently underway to identify and record the life stories of 40 nuclear veterans.
Education organisation Big Ideas, also a recipient of the OVA’s £200,000 Nuclear Test Community Fund, worked with four secondary schools in the Autumn term across the four nations. The students met with veterans from across the UK and Fiji to hear their stories and experiences.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer, recently met with nuclear test veterans in Fiji and joined Fijian nationals in celebrating their national day.