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MoD’s decades-long cover-up of radiation experiments on British Troops exposed

Recently declassified documents have uncovered a long-standing cover-up by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) involving Cold War-era radiation experiments on British servicemen. These experiments, conducted on soldiers, sailors, and airmen, included blood and urine tests after deliberate exposure to toxic fallout, which the MoD consistently denied for decades. The expose, brought to light by an exclusive report in the Daily Mirror by Susie Boniface, has reignited calls for justice and transparency.

A 2001 fax, among thousands of declassified pages, shows that MoD officials were fully aware of the tests and their potential health impacts. Yet, they misled the press and public, asserting that no such tests were necessary or conducted. This deception has only recently been brought to light, thanks to the persistent efforts of investigative journalism and veteran advocacy groups.

Veterans like Terry Quinlan, who served at Christmas Island during the H-bomb tests of 1958, have long suffered from health issues likely linked to radiation exposure. Quinlan, who endured nightmares, bed-wetting, and severe illnesses post-exposure, was denied a war pension until his appeal succeeded last year—65 years after his injury. His story is just one of many illustrating the tragic consequences of these covert experiments.

The Mirror’s investigation revealed that hidden documents from the Cold War showed the MoD knew hundreds of servicemen had blood tests while being deliberately exposed to fallout, with implications for their health and future compensation claims. When rumors about the blood tests surfaced, officials wrote a “press brief” with “lines to take” which claimed “no blood tests were necessary” and were of no scientific value. It would be another two decades before anyone found out the truth: that thousands of blood tests were ordered, taken, and recorded, with results hidden from the ‘lab rats’ for decades.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham condemned the MoD’s actions, stating, “The Mirror has got the MoD bang to rights: this is proof that it has been lying to our servicemen and to the country for decades.” He demanded that Labour and the Conservatives unite to expose the truth by backing the veterans’ call for a fast-track public inquiry as soon as the election is over. Burnham said, “These ‘lines to take’ could more accurately be described as ‘lies to take.’ They were given to ministers and the media when the MoD was sat on a mountain of evidence to the contrary.”

Dr. Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) highlights the severity of the situation: “This cover-up is a gross betrayal of trust. Our servicemen were used as unwitting subjects in dangerous experiments, and the subsequent concealment of their suffering is indefensible. It is crucial that a thorough investigation is conducted, and those responsible are held accountable.”

The documents indicate that the MoD knew about the harmful effects of radiation exposure, which included lowered white blood cell counts and anemia—potential indicators of internal radiation damage. Despite this knowledge, they provided misleading information to the media and public, asserting that “no blood tests were necessary.”

The call for justice is growing louder. Veterans, their families, and advocates are demanding a swift public inquiry and comprehensive compensation for those affected. The urgency is underscored by the aging population of nuclear test veterans, who may not have much time left to see justice served.

Alan Owen, founder of the campaign group LABRATS, highlighted the extent of the deceit: “The minister said there were no medical records in here, yet there are. He said no-one was identifiable, but there’s hundreds of names. He has misled Parliament and the record must be corrected. The cover-up is there in black and white. I always knew this existed, I just never imagined we’d get it as a result of a minister not reading things properly.”

Lawyer Jason McCue, who is leading a fresh legal case against the MoD, stated: “They can no longer pretend this didn’t happen. The last government failed to act when this scandal erupted, and now the veterans demand the next one make reparations while there is still time to deliver justice.”

The Mirror first revealed the Nuked Blood Scandal in November 2022, with a top secret memo about “gross irregularity” in the blood tests of Squadron Leader Terry Gledhill, who repeatedly flew through mushroom clouds in 1958 and died without answers about reasons for his lifetime of ill-health. The files also show medical tests on indigenous people in Australia, blaming their alleged radiation injuries on venereal disease, even though any possible link between STDs and the symptoms reported had been discredited 20 years earlier.

The uncovering of these documents has laid bare the extent of the MoD’s deceit. The truth, long buried under claims of national security, is now emerging, revealing a tragic and troubling chapter in the history of British military operations. It is a clarion call for accountability, transparency, and, above all, justice for those who unknowingly sacrificed their health in service to their country.

The urgent need for a public inquiry is clear. As Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said, “Time is not on the side of our nuclear test veterans. They deserve nothing less than a full, transparent inquiry to finally uncover the truth and provide the respect and compensation they are owed.”

The veterans and their supporters are calling for a one-year, fast-track special tribunal to review official documentation and establish the truth. With cross-party support, they hope to see this commitment reflected in the manifestos of the main political parties, ensuring that the new Parliament takes swift action to right this historical wrong.

Dr. Iain Overton says of this this scandal: “It, like the infected blood inquiry before it, shows a pattern of systemic cover-up and neglect. The MoD’s betrayal of its servicemen must be addressed with the urgency and seriousness it deserves.”

The call for justice is not just about compensation—it’s about acknowledging the truth and ensuring that such a grievous abuse of trust never happens again.