H-bomb woman's compensation battle

A DISABLED woman whose father was a serviceman on a remote island in the Pacific during atomic bomb tests is fighting for compensation for her medical problems.

A DISABLED woman whose father was a serviceman on a remote island in the Pacific during atomic bomb tests is fighting for compensation for her medical problems.

Art student Amanda Coates was born without part of her left leg or a kneecap, her thigh twisted the wrong way round, and with the tops of her fingers missing after her father Brian Coates spent time on Christmas Island.

Mr Coates, who later suffered skin cancer on his leg, was an engineer in the RAF during the British nuclear bomb tests - responsible for cleaning up the engines of aircraft after they returned from flying through the mushroom cloud after the explosion.

A major court action has been launched against the Ministry of Defence on behalf of more than 1,000 former servicemen, who claim they were exposed to radiation, and their families.

The campaigners this month won a significant victory when the High Court agreed to allow a test case.

It could still be three years or more before they find out if they win and how much compensation they might receive.

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Mr Coates, now 73 and who lives in Waldringfield, served with 217 Squadron on Christmas Island in 1959 for 12 months. He told his family servicemen were ordered to turn round and cover their eyes when the atomic bombs were detonated offshore.

His daughter, Miss Coates, 46, of Brightwell Close, Felixstowe, has had to wear a prosthetic limb since she was ten months old.

Although she can do most things, infections in her stump cause her serious problems, and have occasionally left her confined to a wheelchair, and she is worried about the future and looking after herself as she gets older.

“The council is putting in a stairlift for me soon and making changes to the bathroom to help me,” said Miss Coates, who has a daughter Briley, 16.

“I didn't ask to be born like this - it's not something I would have chosen but I have to deal with it.”

Her mum, Shirley Coates, 73, who was divorced from Mr Coates 18 years ago, said: “No-one of knew very much about the effects of the bombs back in 1959 - not like we do today. Those servicemen should never have been near those bombs.”

The MoD said it was disappointed with the court ruling and was now reviewing the judgement before deciding how to proceed.

Should the government pay compensation to the servicemen and their families? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

AMANDA Coates is using her family's experience of the weapons tests as one of the themes in her art work.

She has just put up her exhibition including pieces featuring the bombs and bone structures for her foundation course at college in Ipswich, and hopes this autumn to embark on a three-year degree in fine art at University Campus Suffolk.

Miss Coates hopes to eventually work with disabled youngsters.

“I don't want to be a burden on society - I believe the compensation could give me independence and take me off benefits and help me adapt my home,” she said.

FASTFACTS: Christmas Island

Today known as Kiritimati, the atoll is today part of the Republic of Kiribati.

It is 124 square miles and sits 144 miles north of the equator and 3,300 miles from San Francisco.

During the Cold War, Britain used the island as a base for testing nuclear weapons as part of Operation Grapple.

The hydrogen bombs which were detonated were either set off above or near the island - and no-one was evacuated.

The bombs exploded near the island were five megatons and those above it were 1.8 megatons.

The island was also used for similar tests by the USA.