Star's father's new battle

FORMER Ipswich Town footballer James Scowcroft's father has told how he was one of 180 people suing the Ministry of Defence over atomic bomb testing during the 1950s.

FORMER Ipswich Town footballer James Scowcroft's father has told how he was one of 180 people suing the Ministry of Defence over atomic bomb testing during the 1950s.

Robert Scowcroft is currently being treated at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge for prostate cancer which he believes could have been caused by radiation exposure while he was in the RAF at Christmas Island during the late 1950s.

Mr Scowcroft, 70, of Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds, was one of thousands of men posted to the remote Pacific island as part of the UK's nuclear testing programme known as Operation Grapple. He spent nine months stationed there and experienced two atomic explosions first hand.

Mr Scowcroft, a former RAF ground electrician, told how, during the first atomic explosion, he and his colleagues were made to sit beneath coconut trees covering their eyes with their hands and their backs to the blast which was 14 or 15 miles away.


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“You could feel the heat on the back of your neck and we saw the big mushroom going up. The mushroom pushed the clouds away. All the buildings were wooden and the blast had blown the sides off. We had to get up and run away because of all the falling coconuts.”

He said the aircraft that dropped the bomb was immediately taken back and meticulously scrubbed down.

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Preparations were very different, he said, for the second atomic test. The servicemen were given white suits and other protective clothing for their eyes and hands.

“At the time we didn't think anything of it. There was no protection whatsoever the first time.

“I believe we were the guinea pigs - if you join the military you have to expect this type of thing from time to time. We did not have a choice in going or not. You have to go where you are posted.

“If anything we were looking forward to going to a paradise island, a strange and exotic place. At the time you weren't 'anti' about it.

“I am a little bit annoyed that I was sent into an area with no protection.

“The explosion was considerably bigger than they said it would be.

“We were given white overalls and there's no doubt there's a protection in that, but if you're too close you're too close and there's no protection at all. It might take 40 or 50 years to get you, but in the end it will get you.”

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