Thousands of veterans and civilians who took part in the UK’s nuclear testing program will receive medals recognizing their service after years of campaigning for the honour.
About 22,000 veterans and civilians will be eligible for the Nuclear Test Medal, which was introduced to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s first atomic test, Downing Street said.
Those who worked under British command during trials at Montebello Islands, Christmas Island, Malden Island and Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia between 1952 and 1967 will be eligible to apply for the medal.
This honor commemorates the contributions of veterans, scientists and local staff from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Kiribati.
Relatives of participants who have since died may also apply for the honor to be awarded posthumously.
It comes after several years of campaigning by groups including Labrats International – a charity which represents people around the world who have been affected by atomic and nuclear testing.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who attended a commemorative event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire today, described the decoration as ‘an enduring symbol of our country’s gratitude’ for those involved in the testing program.
He said: “I am incredibly proud that we are able to recognize the service and dedication of our nuclear test veterans with this new medal.
“Their commitment and service have preserved peace for the past 70 years, and it is fitting that their contribution to our security, our freedom and our way of life be duly recognized with this honor.”
Veterans Affairs Minister Johnny Mercer, who also attended the event alongside Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, said: “This medal honors those who served away from home at a crucial time in the war. history of our country.
“To this day, nuclear deterrence remains the cornerstone of our defense, and it is only because of the service and contribution of brilliant veterans and civilian personnel.”
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Downing Street said the first prizes would be awarded in 2023.
The government is also investing £450,000 in projects that will provide insight into the experiences of veterans who have been deployed to Australia and the Pacific.
It will include an oral history project to chronicle the experiences of those who supported the nation’s effort to develop a nuclear deterrent.
The project, which is due to start in April 2023, will last two years and aims to create an accessible digital archive of testimonies.