Kent Veterans Fight for Justice at 10 Downing Street

Kent Veterans Fight for Justice at 10 Downing Street

Kent Veterans Advocate for Justice for Nuclear Test Survivors at 10 Downing Street

Two former servicemen from Kent have taken their fight for justice to the steps of 10 Downing Street. Terry Quinlan, from Leybourne, and Brian Unthank, from Erith, led a protest organized by the nuclear test veterans’ organization LABRATS.

The two men were just teenagers when they were sent to Christmas Island in the South Pacific to participate in Britain’s nuclear test program in the 1950s. Decades later, they are still suffering from the effects of radiation exposure, along with other health issues.

Mr. Quinlan, who served as a driver with the Royal Army Service Corps, was injured by shrapnel from one of the H-bombs, despite the detonation being 20 miles away. He has since battled cancerous lumps, hearing loss, and heart disease, all of which he attributes to the radiation exposure.

Similarly, Mr. Unthank, who was a cook with the RAF, has undergone over 90 operations to remove skin cancers and has lost all of his teeth by the age of 20. His family has also been affected, with his first wife suffering numerous miscarriages and four of his children being born with birth defects.

Now in their mid-80s, the two men led a delegation to the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Whitehall before heading to 10 Downing Street. Their goal is to obtain access to their medical service records, which have been kept secret by the government.

The veterans served a “letter before action” to the MoD, threatening legal action if their records are not released. They also presented a petition to Downing Street, calling for compensation for their poor health and a special tribunal to investigate the effects of the nuclear test program.

According to Mr. Quinlan, they were “just used as guinea pigs” during the tests, with no protective clothing or proper safety measures in place. The test program lasted from 1952 to 1967, with over 120,000 service personnel participating. However, only an estimated one in 10 are still alive, many having died at a young age.

Despite the veterans’ efforts, it may be too late for many of them to receive justice. However, they did finally receive campaign medals in January of this year, 65 years after the tests took place.

Shortly after the Kent veterans’ protest, the government announced that it would declassify 150 documents relating to blood and urine samples taken from veterans during the test program. Defence Minister Andrew Murrison also stated that he would make a statement to the House of Commons regarding the release of these documents.

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