This past weekend saw the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association host their annual conference at Chateau Impney. The event was broadcast live via Facebook and I was one of the many who could not stop watching the impressive speakers from across the world.
The conference was hosted by the BNTVA Chairman (Alan Owen) who reminded the world that the Nuclear Veterans need recognition and help by the various governments across the world.
The conference was an emotional affair with some trustees breaking down during their speeches.
Once the BNTVA trustees had given their update on the Charity, the guest speakers were given 20 minutes to present.
Alison Phillips from the Daily Mirror gave her support to the Veterans and their campaign for recognition. Stating that she would do everything she could to ensure that the Daily Mirror promoted the Nuclear Veterans.
Susie Boniface presented her new work, a website dedicated to the Veterans and the work she has undertaken for the last 19 years on behalf of the Veterans. If you have not visited the website, visit http://damned.mirror.co.uk/ it is a must read for anyone who wants to find out information regarding the tests. But be warned, you will need a tissue!
Alan Owen then presented Susie Boniface with a 'Jesse' which is an outstanding contribution award, which was created in memory of his father. Susie was in tears as she received her award.
After lunch, Dr Becky Martin of Manchester University discussed her work and her new book 'Disarming Doomsday' which can be ordered from Amazon, using this link:
Disarming Doomsday explores the secret history of nuclear weapons by studying the places they build and tear apart, from Los Alamos to Hiroshima. It looks at the legacy of nuclear imperialism from weapons testing on Christmas Island and across the South Pacific, as well as the lasting harm this has caused to indigenous communities and the soldiers that conducted the tests. . For the first time, these complex geographies are tied together. Disarming Doomsday takes us forward, describing how geographers and geotechnology continue to shape nuclear war, and, perhaps, help to prevent it.
Dr Chris Hill was the next speaker, discussing his work. His interest in the nuclear community stems from an undergraduate class he took with Professor Gerard DeGroot, author of The Bomb: A Life. This inspired him to undertake a PhD thesis on the subject of anti-nuclear activism, democratic politics and mass media.
More recently, he has embarked on a project about ‘nuclear imperialism’, a phrase employed by Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of postcolonial Ghana, to denounce French testing in the Sahara. As part of this project he is planning to work more closely with the nuclear community, including campaigners, policy-makers, scholars and veterans.
Alan Owen then discussed Nuclear Veterans Worldwide and the need for worldwide collaboration.
Cordelia Walsh who is the president of the Kiribati Tungaru Association explained their association and the work they are doing within the UK. For full details, visit:
The National Commander of NAAV (The American Nuclear Veterans Association) Mr Keith Kiefer was next to talk and discussed the struggles facing the US Nuclear Veterans, many have been denied health care, some are not eligible for recognition and they are still fighting for a medal. The Enewetak clean up crews, who build Runit dome are still not recognised as Atomic Veterans by the US Government. They can be contact via their website:
Mr Patrick Subreville, president of AVEN (The French Nuclear Veterans Association) spoke next, detailing through an interpreter their organisation and that they have added two further cancers to the official classification list in France, allowing for more Veterans to be helped. They can be contacted via their website:
JD Mittmann from Burrinja spoke about his exhibition which has toured around Australia. Full details can be found at their website:
John Easton, a veteran of Maralinga - Operation Brumby, spoke to the conference about Maralinga and the reunion scheduled for 2020. His stories were very interesting, especially regarding the Maralinga tour you can now undertake.
James Mckeon finished the speakers list, discussing the current state of Nuclear Weapons and the amazing stockpile that the US has. Over 4,000 nuclear missiles are ready for deployment.
During his question and answer session, he was asked if it was true that American soldiers were asked to sit in trenches 2.5 miles from the explosion and then ordered to advance to ground zero. He confirmed it and Alan Owen introduced Mr Alex Partezana to the conference, who was one of the US soldiers who had been ordered to advance in Nevada. A round of applause from the audience for his service was appreciated by Mr Partezana.
The conference was finished by two new initiatives from the BNTVA.
Members and their families were invited to be added to a roll of honour called 'The Order of the Guinea Pig'. For a fee of £10, the member would receive a certificate, a unique pin badge and an entry on the roll of honour.
Certificates were presented to:
Denise Bristow, honouring Kenneth Taylor, who worked tirelessly for the BNTVA and uncovered numerous documents in the National Archives which have helped the BNTVA with their medal campaign.
David Taunt, who was at Operation Dominic and shared a tent with James Owen, the BNTVA chairman's late father.
Visit https://www.bntva.com/order-of-the-guinea-pig to be added to the roll of honour.
A new children's section called 'BNTVA Neutrinos' was also presented which allows children aged under 16 to join the Association. Later in the evening, Elinor McDade was presented with her certificate and membership card.
Visit https://www.bntvaneutrinos.com/ for full details.
The conference closed, and a gala dinner was held, with the Deputy Lord Lieutenant and his wife of Worcestershire as guests of honour. Before the dinner, Cordelia Walsh and Krista Dixon of Kiribati Tungaru Association performed a traditional dance.
This was followed by an auction, a raffle and dancing to music provided by Rio, who are a trio from Bristol who also preformed for the Veterans at the All Tests Reunion at Weston Super Mare.
On display from Wesley Perrimann who is a descendant were memorabilia from the testing program. which brought back memories for the Veterans.
The BNTVA Board should be congratulated for a great conference and the speakers from across the world should also be thanked for supporting Nuclear Veterans worldwide and travelling such great distances.
We need more collaboration to ensure that the Nuclear Veterans across the world are not forgotten, there is some much research and good work being performed across the world, the whole world needs to see the damage caused by the tests, both physical, mental and emotional.
If government officials are reading this blog, the Nuclear Veterans organisations across the world are stronger than ever, their voice is reaching more people and their descendants are now stepping forward to continue their fathers campaign.