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NUCLEAR BLAST FROM PAST HAUNTS ME STILL; Veteran recalls seeing H-bomb go up as test island is back in news.

Byline: MIKE LOCKLEY Staff Reporter mike.lockley@trinitymirror.com

REFUGEES corralled on a remote island are risking radiation poisoning, warns a former soldier who witnessed atomic bomb tests there.

Geoff Partridge, who has battled for a better deal for those caught up in the explosions 58 years ago, spoke out following news a group of Iranians had recently been involved in a major disturbance at the Indian Ocean outpost's detention centre.

The 76-year-old, from Rubery, Birmingham, believes not enough environmental tests were carried out before Christmas Island was earmarked as a processing centre for 203 asylum seekers.

Geoff, who witnessed five atomic bomb tests on the island between 1957 and 1958, said: "I feel the base still holds contamination and these poor souls could be wandering around with future health problems.

"I pray that they will get better treatment than the servicemen did."

One of a band of nuclear vets demanding today's government admits to the mistakes made on Christmas Island, Geoff has thankfully suffered no health problems from the tests.

Neither have his two sons or three grandchildren.

Geoff, a member of the Royal Engineers, was only a teenager when he took part in the H-Bomb tests.

But he vividly recalls the hellish scenes and the aftermath.

"The H-Bomb had the power of a million tons of high explosive, so that knocks last week's firework displays into touch," Geoff said.

"Our lords and masters assured us at the time that protective clothing, goggles and gloves were a luxury that we need not concern our selves with.

"After the bomb had exploded above us we were showered with dirty black rain, unusual for a spot thousands of miles away from industry. It felt as if we had upset someone upstairs, it certainly upset us on the ground."

He vividly remembers each test but Geoff has tried and failed to erase from his memory the terrible impact of the megaton bomb, unleashed by a Vulcan bomber on November 8, 1957.

He recalled: "After looking up into the fireball and seeing bones in our hands like some kind of hellish X-ray and feeling the heat and the thunder of this man-made monster, words just did not come out. We returned to our tent-lines and no one spoke about the bomb. That says it all. Our protective clothing was general issue jungle green and poor quality sunglasses - you could buy better at the Pound Shop.

"The order was 'close your eyes, look away'. The only way to face away from a fireball that was immediately overhead would be to look at the ground."

He vividly remembers the heat on the back of his neck, like a flame licking the bare flesh, and that fireball: the blast parting clouds like a theatre curtain to reveal the hellish, spitting orb.

Geoff, who left the Army in 1959 to carve out a career as a sheetmetal worker, is adamant no tests for radiation levels were carried out on soldiers.

He believes they were as much a part of the test as the bombs detonated. "We were used as guinea pigs," he said.

"All we were told was to keep quiet about it... the Official Secrets Act and all that gizmo.

"Looking back it was a shoestring and chewing gum operation. It was the same old story, keep quiet and do what had to be done."

CAPTION(S):

Geoff Partridge (second left) as a young man stationed on the island with his comrades. and, right, Geoff today

One of the |enromous H-Bomb test blasts on Christmas Island in the 1950s
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 15, 2015
Words:593
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