Nuclear Fallout

Nuclear Fallout Hundreds of Fijian servicemen may have been deliberately exposed to radiation by the British government to test the potency of their nuclear weapons.
Paul Ah Poy was just 19 when he was sent to Christmas Island in the Pacific and ordered to help monitor nuclear tests. He bitterly regrets his service to the British crown. After the tests, he began to suffer chronic health problems. His hair and fingernails fell out, 59 tumours were removed from his body and his only child failed to develop properly and died suddenly when she was three. Other servicemen from the Island have also been plagued by potentially fatal health problems. They are angry that they were not warned of the dangers. “They used us,” complains fellow veteran Pita Rokorata. The British government has always denied this, but secret documents reveal the truth. A memo from 1953 states: “The army must discover the effects of various types of explosions on men, with and without various types of protection.” Some servicemen were denied protective clothing and asked to roll in the radioactive dust. The documents also reveal that personnel stationed on the island were deliberately not given health checks before beginning their posting in order to avoid liability if they later became ill. Britain has ignored all calls for compensation and refuses to release crucial data detailing how much radiation soldiers may have been exposed to. With their prospect of justice slim, veterans now just hope that their plight will not be forgotten.

Produced by SBS Australia.

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