Gandia resident Dennis Padget has been awarded a medal for his military service in the Central Pacific, as part of Britain’s nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s.

Dennis has been awarded the new Nuclear Test Medal for time spent as a young serviceman on Christmas Island, where 3,000 service personnel witnessed the detonation of four nuclear bombs.

Denis, an SAC in the Royal Air force, served on Christmas Island during the Op Grapple tests, Y and Z, which yielded some 3 mega tonnes of TNT.

He recalls that the scientists wanted those on the island to be issued with protective clothing, but the Commander at the time declined the offer, suggesting there would be no danger.

“On the day of the tests we only wore our standard shorts, shirts and bush hat,” he said. “Once the test got underway, we sat on the ground with our backs to the drop zone, while Tannoy announcements kept us aware of what was going on.  We were told to cover our eyes with our hands, close our eyes and wait for the bomb to explode.”

“We then felt a horrendous burning sensation throughout our entire body, similar to putting your head in a very hot oven.”

Denis remembers that following the fading of the heat, he and his fellow servicemen were invited to turn around and watch the mushroom cloud form, and the bomb explode.

“Then the blast came,” he explained, “we were told to cover our ears to mitigate the sound. Even so, the explosion rattled our eardrums, some of the lads said they had ringing in their ears.”

He remembers that following the test he went for lunch, took the afternoon off, and went for a swim in the local lagoon, which must have been covered in atomic dust.

“There was no safety precautions and no medical tests carried out on any of the servicemen. We just got on with our duties as though nothing had happened.”

Although Dennis says that his hearing took a big hit, and his daughter, born 10 years later, suffered with a kidney complaint, he came through the experience well, with neither ailment considered a result of the nuclear tests.

With less than 1,500 survivors from those days, Dennis has said that he will now wear the medal in respect to all the servicemen who are no longer with us, and for those who have suffered through ill health in the aftermath of the bomb tests.

Meanwhile Gandia Branch of the Royal British Legion, of which Dennis is a member, is inviting Christmas Island veterans in receipt of the Nuclear Test Medal, to contact the Branch, with a view to organising a reunion. Further details by email from Don Cubbon at: