A commemoration will be held on Monday for veterans of the UK’s nuclear testing programme, whose “invaluable contribution” to the country is expected to be marked.
The service, held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, will mark the 70th anniversary of the UK’s first atomic test – which took place on October 3, 1952.
Nuclear test veterans and their families hope the government will announce a medal recognizing their service.
Veterans Affairs Minister Johnny Mercer is due to attend, and many veterans are expected to wear a “missing medal” badge to show they are still being denied official honor for their service to their country.
Mr. Mercer said, “To this day, nuclear deterrence remains the cornerstone of our defense and it is only because of the service and contribution of brilliant veterans and civilian personnel.
“It is fitting that we mark this contribution today.”
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who will also join the event, said the veterans had made “an invaluable contribution to the safety and security of the UK and we deeply recognize and appreciate their enduring service. to our nation”.
Alan Owen, founder of the charity Labrats International for atomic test survivors, said he hoped the event would be used to announce a medal recognizing test veterans for which the group has campaigned for several years.
Last week he told the PA news agency: ‘We are very grateful to the Veterans Affairs Office for all their work, we hope there will be a medal announcement at this event, although it is not has not been confirmed.
“We hope this event will mark the beginning of a new engagement with the OVA and the Ministers and that they will work to achieve this recognition.
“It’s a good start and for the ministers to be present and give us this recognition, it’s great, even if we want more.
“There has never been a memorial organized before by the government, we have done our own little memorials and services but there has never been any organization by the government.
“We were getting standard letters, ‘We appreciate your service, we can’t meet at the moment’, now we have meetings and they negotiate with us.”
The memorial service follows an open letter from former Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing £450,000 funding for an oral history and education program about Britain’s nuclear testing programme.
He also called for the issuance of a medal to be reassessed and wrote, “Many of us have spent our entire lives under the fearsome shield you helped build. On behalf of all those millions, allow me to thank you deeply for your contribution to our security.
Mr Owen, whose father, James Owen, from Cheltenham, was present during the nuclear tests on Christmas Island in 1962 aged 21, said: ‘It is great that the government is starting to recognize the Veterans.
“For me it will be an emotional day as I will be representing him and my sister will be there and we will be laying flowers in his memory.”
His sister was born blind in one eye, his older brother died aged 31 and Mr Owen recently suffered cardiac arrest.
James Owen died of heart disease aged 52 in 1994.
The first test of a British atomic device, a plutonium implosion device, took place at Main Bay on Trimouille Island in the Montebello Islands, Western Australia.
The success of Operation Hurricane secured Britain’s place as the third nuclear power after the United States and the Soviet Union.