Government pays tribute to nuclear test veterans as UK marks 70th anniversary of first weapons test

Veterans of Britain’s nuclear testing program have “played a crucial role in keeping Britain and our NATO allies safe”, Veterans Affairs Minister James Heappey said.

His comments come 70 years to the day since Britain first tested an atomic weapon. The veterans who took part in the UK’s nuclear testing programme, known as Op Hurricane, made the UK the third nuclear power and helped achieve the ultimate guarantee of British sovereignty, and continue to protect us today.

To better recognize the contribution of Britain’s nuclear test veterans, the government is investing £450,000 in projects that will commemorate and better understand the experiences of veterans who have been deployed to Australasia. The government will hold an event to recognize the contributions of nuclear test veterans later this year.

Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Minister James Heappey said:

The veterans who supported the creation of our nuclear deterrent played a crucial role in the security of Britain and our NATO allies.

Their sacrifice helped achieve the ultimate guarantee of UK sovereignty and they forever have this nation’s gratitude.

In this year of the seventieth anniversary of Op Hurricane, I look forward to commemorating the incredible service and efforts of our veterans.

As part of this year’s commemoration, the Veterans Affairs Office will launch a £250,000 oral history project to chronicle the voices and experiences of those who supported the UK’s efforts to develop a nuclear deterrent.

The goal will be to create a digitized oral record of nuclear test veterans’ experiences that can be preserved for posterity. The project will expand existing historical records to focus on the lived experience of nuclear test veterans and can be used for exhibits and educational resources in the future. Academic and cultural institutions will be able to apply for funding through an open competition to support the oral history project, with funding available from April 2023.

Charities will also be able to bid for part of a separate £200,000 fund, to support the activities of nuclear test veterans and educate the public about the UK’s nuclear deterrence efforts.

The government-sponsored event to mark the 70th anniversary will provide an opportunity to bring together veterans, their families, representative groups and parliamentarians to celebrate the unique and significant contributions of those who participated in the testing and development of our nuclear deterrence.

The Prime Minister has already spoken about the importance of recognizing the sacrifice made by veterans, in particular by examining the case of the recognition of medals. This case is being actively investigated and any decision will be made public in due course.

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