Scots veteran has won a legal triumph against the Ministry of Defence


A SCOTS veteran of 1950s nuclear tests has won a landmark legal victory against the Ministry of Defence.

David Whyte witnessed five nuclear blasts in the Pacific and says the radiation robbed him of the chance of ever starting a family.

As well as being made sterile, the 75-year-old from Kirkcaldy, Fife, has been plagued by other health problems.

David wants to help the widows and children that have been affected by radiation


But he was told for years by the MoD that they did not have information on the radiation levels he was exposed to when he served in the army on Christmas Island.

Now a ruling by the information tribunal court in London has forced the MoD to release radiation exposure records to a “delighted” Mr Whyte.

And that opens the door for him and up to 1000 other veterans to win substantial sums in compensation.

Lawyers acting for the former Royal Engineers soldier have now sent the records to experts to asses his exposure.

Mr Whyte was part of “Operation Grapple Z”, one of the MoD’s early tests on nuclear weapons during the cold war.

The former soldier says he was given protective clothing for only one of the five blasts, which started in August 1958.

The nuclear blast caused David's hands to look like an x-ray


Mr Whyte was never further than 10 to 15 miles from the blasts.

He said: “You felt the blast coming up. You could feel the heat going straight through you and then a blinding flash. You could see palms trees bending, it was rushing towards you.

Asked if he was scared at the time, he said: “We were trained in explosives so it was fascinating.

“When the blast went off you could see the bones in your hands. It was just a red glow.”

He added: “I have been rendered sterile. I have also had stomach problems due to the ingestion of radioactive particles.

“I get aches and pains, which at my age now is understandable, but not from 22.

“I’ve just learned to deal with it and accept it.”

The legal decision means Mr Whyte and his team now have a “dose rate graph” which reveals levels of Gamma radiation at ground zero.

He said:  “I am delighted it’s been proven that they were lying all along. We always knew.

“Some of the guys died there on Christmas Island. I just think everyone tried to cover it up.

“I think they are more afraid now that it’s been proven.”

Mr Whyte declined to put a figure on the amount of compensation he is seeking but added: “It should be punitive compensation.

“It has caused all sorts of anxiety for no reason at all. It was our job and we thought we had solved the nuclear war, we were doing so much good.

“Civilians all got protective wear, even to enter the area where we were living with no protection.”

He continued: “I am hoping a legal team can help the widows and children of veterans. They are radioactively damaged and will be for the next 300 years of families.”

Spectators had to shield their eyes from the bright blast so they would not go blind (Picture United States Department of Energy)


Mr Whyte’s medical records from the time have been lost by the MoD – all too conveniently, in his opinion. Also missing is his personal “film badge” which recorded precisely how much radiation he absorbed at the time.

The US government has paid $100,000 (£64,000) compensation to nuclear test veterans.

But the MoD continues to resist cases, winning a ruling at the Supreme Court in March against Mr Whyte’s compensation bid. That decision is being appealed.

His local MP, Lindsay Roy, said: “It really has been a case of David against Goliath and it has been a pleasure to help him.

“There’s no doubt that there has been a grave injustice. He believed that there has been a cover-up and we worked with him to expose the shortcomings of the MoD.

“David is a man of great integrity and from the start he was very open and honest with us: that’s why we gave him our unqualified support.

“I also appreciate fully that David has not just done this for himself but for others who were exposed to radiation without proper protective clothing.

“David and the others fully deserve any compensation or pension they receive.

“I have been informed that some have medical conditions that require intensive support and any money will be a real boon and hopefully make a big difference to their quality of life.”

At the information tribunal, the MoD opened its submission by saying: “The Ministry of Defence would not allow any information that is incorrect to be made public.”

But they admitted under cross examination that data on radiation levels did exist and was held at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston.


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