MoD meddlers block medals for nuke veterans as emails make false claims over testing


The Mirror can reveal the head of a medal committee agreed to follow ‘lines to take’ from ‘our compensation colleagues’ and accepted bogus information about nuclear test veterans

False claims were made about Britain’s nuclear tests

British heroes have been denied medals after meddling from officials at the Ministry of Defence, the Mirror can reveal.

Internal emails show the head of a medal committee agreeing to follow “lines to take” from “our compensation colleagues” and accepting bogus information about nuclear test veterans.

He wrongly linked medals to the issue of whether servicemen were injured – in clear breach of the rules – and went on to refuse gongs for five different groups of ex-servicemen.

Now there are calls for the committee to be scrapped, and medals to be awarded to all those it has rejected since it was formed four years ago.

Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer, who as Veterans Minister repeatedly told Parliament the committee was independent, said it was time for politicians to intervene.

Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer



Labor MP Rebecca Long-Bailey



He said: “I think ministers should interrogate that committee, and perhaps try to understand why they’re not getting medals. I don’t think there’s evidence I was misled, but I do not think that decision about nuclear veterans was right.”

The emails were uncovered after a six-month Freedom of Information battle about the Advisory Military Sub Committee which considers medal claims. It was set up, following a Mirror campaign in 2018, to consider a gong for nuclear veterans.

The emails show an unnamed civil servant telling committee chairman Charles Winstanley: “I thought you might be interested to see the lines to take that our compensation colleagues use in response to the nuclear test veterans’ claims.”

An internal email showing the medal committee chairman accepting false information about nuclear test veterans

Some of the communications are redacted in their entirety – and are subject to further FOI requests

It is understood “compensation colleagues” refers to either government lawyers, or officials in Veterans UK, part of the MoD which administers war pensions. Neither are supposed to have any influence on medal decisions.

The email makes false claims about Britain’s nuclear tests, including that no men were used in experiments, they were well-monitored, and there is no “evidence of excess illness or mortality”. The government’s own studies show the opposite is true.

Within minutes, Winstanley replies calling this “succinct and relevant”, adding it “may be useful in any response to PQs [parliamentary questions].” He went on to refuse a medal, on the grounds there was insufficient “risk and rigour” to the nuclear tests.

In February, the Mirror revealed how the committee was formed of Establishment figures who had been given medals for tasks including running Whitehall budgets, organizing the Invictus Games, and reintegrating the Taliban into Afghan society.

Since the committee was formed, it has rejected calls for a medal for nuclear veterans three times. On the latest occasion, in December last year, Dr Winstanley told the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association that it did not even consider half of a 90-page appeal, because it contained no new information.

He added – in a claim directly contradicted by his personal emails – that “the issue of health” was not linked to the award of medals, and “there was no reason to justify any change to that position”.

Laura Jackson, 56, of Cheltenham, was born blind in one eye, had a heart attack at 42, suffered repeated miscarriages, lost her teeth, and had three malignant cancers removed from her face.

She only found out her father Ron Owen had taken part in nuclear tests after he and her brother both died young of a heart condition linked to radiation.

“Saying these men were only at risk if there is proof they were exposed, is like saying soldiers are only at risk of being shot if they have a bullet wound,” she said.

“This committee never spoke to a veteran, never asked one of the men who’d served whether they felt there was risk or rigor to it. It was just a front for the lawyers, and has been corrupted by the MoD. It should be scrapped and never allowed to meet again.”

Labor MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, who campaigns on behalf of nuclear test veterans, said: “It is undeniable that radiation presents a risk, and regardless of injury, the veterans’ service was of vital importance to this country.

“Officials have spent 70 years denying the truth to these men and their families, and will clearly carry on doing so until the Prime Minister takes charge of the situation, looks these veterans in the eye, and makes amends for this national scandal.”

The committee also denied a medal to ground crew who took part in the 1948 Berlin airlift, a star for Bomber Command, and clasps for the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in 1939, and those who gathered intelligence behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War .

A spokesman for the MoD said: “We provide secretariat support to the chairman of the independent Advisory Military Sub Committee so he can effectively fulfill his duties, under the instruction of the Cabinet Office. The email correspondence demonstrates this.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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