OPEN LETTER FOR DISTRIBUTION

THE DEATH OF SHIRLEY DENSON , WIDOW OF SQN LDR ERIC DENSON.

An Open e-mail Letter for International Distribution on Behalf of the Combined History Archive of Nuclear Veterans to Ben Wallace MP, UK Secretary of State for Defence.


Ref : CHANV / O3 MAY 2021

Dennis Hayden

Nuclear Veteran

Founder of the Combined Veteran’s Forum International




Ben Wallace MP, Secretary of State for Defence.

This is sent regarding the death of Shirley Denson, widow of 1958 cold war nuclear test hero Squadron Leader Eric Denson who was a nuclear test cloud sampling pilot .

The tribute to nuclear campaign stalwart Shirley Denson, by the Daily Mirror’s freelance journalist Susie Boniface, was reported in Issue 2, May 2021 of ‘Atom’, the worldwide news for atomic families, published by www.labrats.international.

On behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence and Government Mr Wallace you issued, as Secretary of State for Defence, the following statement :


“ It was with great sadness we learnt of Mrs Denson’s death and send condolences to her family.”

“ We gave careful consideration to Mrs Denson’s application for the Elizabeth Cross but concluded the circumstances of her husband’s sad death did not meet the eligibility criteria.”

“ The department does not in any way undervalue Sqn Ldr Denson’s service and we are grateful to all those who participated in the British nuclear testing programme which contributed to keeping our country secure.”

Stop and think again Secretary of State. The above statement includes no empathy for the victims of nuclear weapon testing at all. It lacks sincerity. The circumstances of Sqn Ldr Eric Denson’s service death, Shirley Denson’s struggle for truth as a nuclear widow and their genetically damaged children and grandchildren's suffering are all deliberately ignored in your statement and by the Ministry of Defence.

This brave RAF officer flew twice, as ordered to do so, through nuclear test clouds and received enough radiation to damage a possibly a whole battalion of the Scots Guards in which you served. Gratitude is a word expressed but in real terms it has been ignored and not shown by the Ministry of Defence.

Where exactly in history will the legacy of your tenure as Secretary of State for Defence place you as an ill-advised spokesperson on veteran agency policy with regard to nuclear weapon test participants?

As a Scots Guards officer you would undoubtedly have fixed bayonets and, if ordered, advanced against enemy forces occupying a strategic or vital position. Yet, you have expressed no empathy at all for those who served at nuclear weapon test locations assailed daily by an invisible enemy with known legacy ill-health and death consequences for those exposed. These servicemen gave unique hazardous service to the nation suffering genetic damage not only for themselves but also for their children and grandchildren.

We surviving nuclear veterans have yet to find a single Guardsman or Officer who attended experiments at Porton Down resulting in ‘illegal killing’ or injury from experiments with chemical or biological weapons or any who attended the nuclear weapon test experiments for ‘indoctrination’ during the cold war.

Perhaps elite infantry regiments were deliberately excused from such hazardous and toxic service to the nation? The nuclear tests were however reliant on the service of many loyal Royal Engineers, Combined forces logistics, Airforce veterans and young conscripts etc for this essential and dangerous cold war duty. These men suffered a legacy of radiation induced illnesses, genetic damage and premature deaths as a result and have been ruthlessly abandoned.

From 2002 Shirley Denson was member of the Action Executive of the Combined Veteran’s Forum International. A Forum with the sole purpose of establishing the truth regarding the betrayal of nuclear veterans. The truth Shirley helped to uncover will not go away. There are far too many skeletons in too many MOD cupboards to be swept under the carpet or buried in an archive in the far northern tip of Scotland.

So, stop and think again Secretary of State about the following questions. They cannot be contritely ignored so, ask yourself:

Why am I taking advice from senior career civil servants who, like myself, were not even born during the nuclear weapon tests from 1952-67 and who have absolutely no knowledge of radiation hazard to health?

Why is my sole political function a continuation of Sir Anthony Eden’s Prime Ministerial edict (when warned nuclear testing would unleash genetic damage) that ‘it’s a pity but it cannot be helped’?

Why, in fact, am I just enabling a continuation of the MOD’s war of attrition against the truth which has no credibility with advances in the understanding of the science today?

You could perhaps do something positive if you have the integrity. Ensure the principle is adopted that all who serve the nation and are injured in service to the nation are treated equally. That is, a member of the armed forces shot by an enemy, having a leg blown off by a land mine or flying an aircraft through a nuclear weapon cloud or inhaling toxic fallout all should, in principle, be given equal recognition and entitlements.

But this of course relies on the freedom of independent thought. Something perhaps you’ve never been inclined to do, or indeed are ever been able to do, as a former Guards officer and now as Defence Minister?

History should be in your hands. It should not be dependent on obsolete advice of unelected career civil servants who inevitably continue to undermine all ethics and morality by a cold war doctrine of denial. Those who loyally serve the nation deserve better.

The recognition and entitlements of nuclear test service should be marked in your diary for ‘action this day’ as a sincere act of gratitude. History demands nothing less.

Dennis Hayden

Nuclear Veteran

Founder of the Combined Veteran’s Forum International


Under freedom of information any recipient, veteran, politician, historian, scientist or member of the public may pass copy of this open email letter to any other person with interest in the History of British and Commonwealth armed forces who served at UK nuclear weapon test locations in Australia and the Pacific between 1952 and 67.

CHANV 03052021

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