Number 11 - Letter From Commodore R. T. Hale O.B.E. RNZN Rtd

This is number 1 of a 15 part blog series, created by Mr Roy Sefton, Chair of the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association.

HMNZS Pukaki's Skipper, the late Richard Hale, was the senior officer of the two RNZN frigates at Operation Grapple. He was honoured by the British Government with an OBE for his services at the testing site.

Richard attend the first NZNTVA conference in 1996. He was initially sceptical of our concerns. In prior discussions with him his memory of radiation and related safety procedures of the testing programme had faded. He had no knowledge of any scientific advances since. Later, official and scientific information, plus NZNTVA's research on the veterans and their childrens health, and especially the personally presented tragic accounts of mortality and morbidity amongst the veterans offspring, had him concerned that our concerns were valid.

Eventually Richard became NZNTVA's Patron. At the time RNZN officers who served at the nuclear tests, out of loyalty to the service, condemned the NZNTVA, claiming that the safety procedures employed prevented any health damage from radiation. The NZNTVA executive had meetings with Richard. I also had meetings with him at his or my home. Richard stated that he would not give press interviews, but he would approach all surviving RNZN Grapple officers, and their widows, to make them aware of radiation induced health problems and their right to make a claim for a War Disability Pension or a Surviving Spouses Pension. The result was regular telephone calls from the officers or their widows, asking for further information and instructions on how to make a pension claim.

I have to say that in the main, the officers showed some awkwardness approaching me and having to ask for instructions. I always called them Sir unless advised otherwise. Their widows were all charming and discussion between us was easy. Sadly I also spoke with some officers who were suffering terminal cancers. They were desperate to get a pension that would qualify their wife for a Surviving Spouses Pension after the veteran had passed.

I came across page one of this letter from Richard Hale to Mark Burton the Minister for Veterans. I do not remember it all and what the eventually purpose of the letter was. I believe it was sent to provide support for NZNTVA for a most important NZNTVA executive and our lawyer, meeting with Minister Burton.

It was a final meeting with Government to obtain the Government grant of $200,000, promised by D/PM Winston Peters a decade before, and which Governments since would not honour. Government did on this occasion honour the grant of $200,000. $100,000 was to be used for scientific research of our choosing on the Operation Grapple veterans.

Roy Sefton QSM Chair New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association.

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