Glenn Beckerton Memories

What you read here may seem very strange and lacking in truth and voracity. This is entirely due to a fifty year cone of secrecy set by the British Government during its Atomic and Hydrogen bomb tests carried out in the mid Nineteen Fifties on what was then named Christmas Island. Now re-named Kiribati in the Tropic of Capricorn. Pacific Ocean.

Hold your right arm up, level with your eyes. From finger tips to your elbow, with fist lightly clenched you are looking at a model of Christmas Island. At the West end of the Island (your hand) in between the index finger and thumb is a large Lagoon. This is where the Royal Navy docked ships at the Port of London. On the Knuckle is a large village which the Gilbert and Ellis Islanders called home. Thirty Miles to the East along a reasonably straight road the Royal Air Force with the Royal Army Service Corps constructed an Airfield which housed Canberra Bombers. Valiant and Vulcan Bombers.

The Airfield on the North (water) side of the Island. Below that was the RAF Headquarters building built from mainly wood. Below that again was the Mechanical Transport Section. To the East side of the M.T.S were the Royal Army Service Corps Tent lines. West of the M.T.S the N.A.A.F.I. (Navy Army Airforce Institute). Further West the RAF Tent Lines. Looking at the island today, nothing exists. Even the church built of coral my the Army has been demolished.

On the day when a bomb was detonated, the RAF members were taken twenty miles to the West. Close to Coconut plantations where the islanders farmed the Copra and Coconuts. The Valiant took off and climbed on an elliptical course east to West. Twenty miles from the Eastern end of the island and at a height of forty thousand feed the bomb attached to a parachute was deployed. At twenty thousand feet an automatic device detonated the bomb. In this phase the troops were forty miles away from the blast. White ant-flash suits were worn. Everyone on the ground sat beyond a wall of eighty gallon drums filled with seawater. Everyone had hands on knees, eyes shut and pressed onto the backs of their hands.

When the bomb detonated and with the x-ray effect many could see the bones in their hands and knees. It was also possible to see the grass on the ground. I reported this to our RAF Doctor, as did others, and told him I had pains in my back after the big bang. He said it was impossible. He told me that he had done the course on tropical medicine. He should have done a course on Nuclear medicine. Not one person in our ‘team’ was wearing a radiation detector When the flash had died away we were invited to stand and view. The enormous expanding cloud filled with red fire grew rapidly as the shock wave and heat approached. Many men were blown over. The Royal Army Service Corps were pelted with falling coconuts, many men were injured. Our Warrant officer with WW2 experience fell to the ground and filled his pants and cried. The World’s largest Atomic and Hydrogen bombs were just a few months apart. Both detonated in the same manner.

When the shock wave had passed a Canberra Bomber took off and took samples of the atomic cloud. They did return safely but the crew passed away from radiation poisoning seventeen days later. I blame my damaged kidneys to nuclear radiation. I passed on my damage to my wife, who years later passed away from kidney failure. I believe that she in turn passed on kidney failure to our No 2 daughter. Her husband also died from kidney failure. I have been told many times that this could not be, particularly after the fifty year secrecy ban imposed by the government. Of course who is going to believe me after all that time? The British Daily Mail recently published a news item describing everything I have told you here.

Finally, I have since read that the 158,000 men who took part in this fiasco were there just to see what would happen to them. We were just used as Guinea pigs. It was the lack of action by the British government that led to me becoming an Australian. Even here there are many doubts about the tests carried out in Maralinga. I would imagine that after all this time has gone by no one in government circles really cares anyway. If anyone wishes to verify my statements it is only necessary to check with the British Daily Mail and the Atomic Veterans Association, via Susan Musselwhite. Note: I have been told that the many thousands of men taking part in these nuclear exercises there are now less than fourteen of us alive today.

You may not be able to imagine the stench of rotting bird carcases or the stink of the thousands of Land Crabs after each bomb detonation. The millions of fish remnants stinking up the beaches. Can you remember the crabs creaking out of their conical shells just to gobble up the remnants of slaughtered fish? Who remembers those long waits until the sea water for the showers cooled to a temperature the human body could tolerate? The showers were fed from steel pipes laid on the hot sand and exposed to the daily, hot sun? Such a shame that the ‘us workers’ were not allowed to drink spirits. We had to smuggle drinks in and hide them in the Radar Domes of the aircraft that visited the American Air Transport Service in Honolulu, we had to hand.

My Tent ‘G19’ had an ammunition box buried in the sand under a bed, as did other Tents. Full of illicit spirits. Those were the good old days. We lived on John Collins for months and unknown to our Officers. One of the men in my Tent learned how to make Coconut Whiskey. His teacher? One of our native workers. Sadly many of our friends became alcoholics for their period of service on the island. There were good times. I and two of my staff had spell of rest and Recuperation the United States Military Transport Service Base in Honolulu. We were the only three people in the Billet. The Officer I/c told us that we had to clean the Billet every day. Disaster! Thirty two bed spaces, thirty two small lockers and thirty two large lockers. Sixteen windows to be cleaned as well. When we were left alone to settle in the door to the Non-com in charge’s room opened and a figure we all knew stepped out.

He said. “Don’t worry about it boys, my lads will fix that”. This was a quite a famous man indeed. He had been a well-known entertainer, a singer and a Film Star. Normally he would have been living in the sergeants Mess but it was a place that would have been surrounded by his many female admirers. So he was kept out of sight. He had just bought the latest Ford car, an Edsel, (a car that eventually became unpopular). We hopped into this mighty machine and were taken on many sightseeing tours of Honolulu and its many eating places and hot-spots. We had a truly great time during our stay. I should have told you his name. I know you have heard of him. In fact he and I were the same age. And were born in the same year and month. Have you ever heard of Sergeant Aaron Elvis Presley? He was at the base awaiting transport to Germany to continue what was his National Service.

Then back to Christmas Island. Virtually as we had left it after the Big Bang. The wooden Headquarters building. Only one wall left standing. It was the wall that faced the blast. Even the window with unbroken glass and a vase containing a flower looking a mite peculiar. I do recall an oddity in Honolulu. My friends and I were walking abreast when we spotted an American Officer. A group of young American Servicemen in front of us offered him a gesture of despair. What we supposed was called an American Salute. We decide to sling up a real cracker of an RAF Salute. You know, longest way up, shortest way down. The man had no recognition at all. We were all attired in our RAF Tropical gear. “Hey you Guys?” “Yes Sir?” “Are you boy scouts or something?” “No Sir”. I replied, “We are the Royal Air Force. The Guys who won the War”. Not popular but very funny.

Back, continue as before, clean this, fix that, maintenance procedures, all the usual guff needed to carry on working. A new inmate joined our tented trio. An Irish man. This bloke was great! He had friends in the Native community who had taught him how to make coconut whisky. Unbeknown to the Commissioned Officers he was a God. Not surprising really. The NAAFI compound, with its high wire fence was home to hundreds of cases of BEER. It was declared as unfit to drink as labels on the cans told us it was out of date. Sadly, a few thousand Servicemen were a little sad. In no time flat, the RAF Police found holes bored under the fence.

Many people were caught in the act and faced charges of breaking and entering a secure establishment. Each wrongdoer sentenced to spend time in the RAF Police cell. Yes, cell, there was only one cell for wrongdoers. I admit it was peculiar to have people waiting to do ‘Time’ in a prison cell. Our Commanding Officer had a great idea. How to get rid of it? The Army was called in to help, each man sworn to secrecy. A large hole was excavated somewhere on the island. RAF Transport carted the beer from the NAAFI compound and dumped it into the hole. Next day when the Army went back to fill in the hole, it was already filled, with drunken Servicemen. So much for sworn secrecy.

It does sound like a strange story. A story that when wives and girlfriends read what their menfolk had been up to, spread round the UK like rockets. But then, look at it this way. Not allowed to drink Spirits, Beer out of date. What is a bloke to do, accept all the worries associated with atomic Energy? Nah! Forget it all and end up like hundreds of our mates permanently Brahms and Lizt.

I was lucky, I had been writing to a Nurse in Hammersmith Hospital as a penfriend. She was the first girl I spoke to when I finally re-entered the Country of my birth. We had shared many of our secrets over the past time. It was no wonder that when we met, fell hopelessly in love. My Mother. “Why do you want to marry a girl from Essex? What’s wrong with a Yorkshire girl?” Her Mother. “Why do you want to marry a boy from Yorkshire?” What’s wrong with a boy from Essex?” Even in our own country we had to contend with a racist attitude. Five children and forty seven years of marriage, absolutely fantastic until the kidney damage struck her down. Fortunately our respective parents were already with our Lord and Saviour when she went to join them.

Now in my mid-eighties I am once again hitched. This time to a marvellous woman from Macedonia. Racist? Me? I firmly believe that race and colour should be freely mixed if it is based on love. After all. I have learned that it is Love that makes the world go round.


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