Nuclear test veterans are given official recognition at medal presentation ceremony in Chesterfield

Derbyshire veterans who witnessed nuclear bomb tests nearly 70 years ago have been officially honoured with the presentation of medals by the King’s representative in the county.

John Ward, who lives in Chesterfield, Anthony Judge of Hathersage, Roy Richardson of Glossop and Jim Thompson of Sandiacre each received the Nuclear Test Medal from the Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire at the Masonic Hall in Chesterfield. A medal was also presented to Shirley Cleal of Belper who accepted it on behalf of her late husband Michael.

During the Fifties the servicemen had been stationed on Christmas Island at a time when the British military were carrying out nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean. There was little, if any, protective clothing for the witnesses to the tests. John Ward is among those who attribute their subsequent ill health to the exposure.

Addressing the gathering at Friday’s medal presentation, Lee Rowley who is MP for North East Derbyshire said that he first met Mr Ward and his wife while door-knocking in his constituency. Mr Rowley said: “I was astounded by the story that Mr Ward told me that he had experienced in the Fifties and Sixties which I knew nothing about. To find out that there were so many thousands of people who had also experienced it and Mr Wood rightly told me that there was a need to make sure this was understood and signified and heard by so many more people. It’s taken a long time to get here but I was so pleased that the Government saw fit to award the medal last year and to recognise the service of everybody who had spent so much time and experienced so much challenge and had also been exposed to so much difficulty over in that part of the world.”

Denise Ward, who is John’s daughter, organised the ceremony. She said: “It was a wonderful day for the nuclear veterans. I was amazed at the beautiful food and decorated room provided by The Masonic Hall and extremely grateful to Mrs Elizabeth Fothergill CBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire and Lee Rowley MP and Mark Fletcher MP. Without any of these people I would not have been able to give the nuclear veterans their special day. My dad went home a very happy bunny; albeit a tired one.”

Denise, who lives in Whitwell, was determined to make a memorable day for the veterans after seeing how upset her father was when the medal was originally sent in a Jiffy bag to his house in New Whittington. She said: “I achieved what I wanted to do.”