Just Testing - Derek Robinson - Witnesses


Originally published in 1985 by Collins Harvill.


Witness Statements from Nuclear Veterans (in their own words).


"We just weren’t told anything. We didn’t know anything at all, we were just told that we had to parade at four o-clock in the morning, and we just marched a mile down the road from main camp towards the port camp, and we just sat beside the road. They didn’t tell us anything that was going to happen. You know, we just sort of sat there and hoped it wouldn’t be too bad. But the first test, you know, was a complete shock to all of us."


________






"Just had your ordinary shirt on, bush hat, and we put a sweat-rag tied around our eyes and put our dark glasses on, and just put our hands over our eyes, sat down on the side of the road and just sort of gazed into the distance, I suppose, with your back to where the explosion’s going to be. And then when the Canberras came over the third time the commentator said, ‘This is a real live run’."

________


"And then they said: ‘Bombs gone.’ And then of course you had a 30-to-1 countdown, thinking about this thing coming down towards you."

________


"You could see the plane, and you could see this thing drop, and everybody had to turn around and hold the heels of their hands into their eyes; well I remember then, thinking that was it, the time had come, because when that thing went off …"

________


"With our eyes closed in accordance with instructions, we were told we’d be blind if we didn’t; with our sunglasses on; with our hands over our eyes."

___________________________________________________________________________


"And when he said three, two, one, zero, there was this blinding flash and we could see straight through our hands, and you could see all the veins and all the bones and everything in your hands."

________


"After the flash the most frightening part, in my estimation, was the heat. Because the heat built up to a crescendo."

________


"Hot. Really warm. I’m a blacksmith. I was a blacksmith on the island. I was used to working up in the 80s… That didn’t bother me one little bit, I work in the 80s,90s! Shit, when that bomb went off – it was murder there. It was murder! That hurt me. It really hurt me."

________


"I saw the flash, like a flashbulb set off right before my eyes. In the same instant I felt the heat through my shirt just as though someone had passed a blowlamp over my back."

________


"Then there was a further count-up of 20 seconds. They said, ‘Right, you can turn round, and you can face the bomb.’ We turned round and we faced the bomb. It was as though the word had suddenly developed two suns."

________


"It was like a red sun, and it was just racing up, rather like a firework, these red fireworks that come out, and they explode into stars, well this didn’t explode, it just raced upwards, and then the sea started to rise, to meet it. And then it all cascaded out into a big mushroom cloud."

________


"I was in the REs myself and I knew what a blast was like, say from a TNT slab, you see. And it’s similar to one of them going off about ten yards away. Just, didn’t hurt you. Just pushed you forward. Like a blast. And that was the effect I had."

________


"Stood there looking up, all of us, and amazed by it. And I remember the island was always surrounded by cloud but there was no cloud on the island itself. And I remember the clouds moving away from the centre. I can remember saying, ‘That must be the shock wave.’ And I’d hardly uttered the words and it hit us."

________





"And there were blokes being thrown everywhere."

________


"It was a gi-normous, I can only describe it as a metallic clang, I don’t know, a million times bigger than you ever hear in a thunderstorm. And then there were several other minor clangs. And then a lot of rumblings."

________


"That first mushroom cloud, watching it rise and watching these strange interlacing … like lampshades, one on top of the other, as the cloud went up, the column grew and the cloud went higher and higher."

________


"There was two atomic bombs, but we just continued to work while they went off – we just got told they was goin’ off and … What was an atomic bomb, it was only 20,000 tons, and comparing it with a hydrogen bomb, it was like a squib, somebody exploding a squib, that was all."

________


Next blog – Monte Bello Witnesses

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