Thousands of veterans and civilians who took part in Britain’s nuclear testing program will receive a medal in recognition of their service after years of campaigning for the honour.
An estimated 22,000 veterans and civilians are eligible to receive the Nuclear Test Medal, which was introduced to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s first nuclear test, Downing Street said.
Those who worked under British command between 1952 and 1967 during tests on the Montebello Islands, Christmas Island, Malden Island and Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia are eligible for the medal.
The honor commemorates the contributions of veterans, scientists and local workers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Kiribati.
The next of kin of deceased participants can also submit an application to receive the honor posthumously.
It comes after several years of campaigning by groups including Labrats International – a charity representing people around the world affected by nuclear and nuclear tests.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, attending a memorial event today at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, described the award as “an enduring symbol of our country’s gratitude” to those involved in the testing programme.
He said: “I am incredibly proud to be able to mark the service and dedication of our nuclear test veterans with this new medal.
“Their commitment and service have kept the peace for the past 70 years, and it is only right that their contribution to our security, freedom and way of life be appropriately recognized with this honor.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary Johnny Mercer, who also attended the event with Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace, said: “This medal honors those who served far from home, at a pivotal time in our country’s history.
“To this day, nuclear deterrence remains the cornerstone of our defense, and it is only because of the service and contribution of the brilliant veterans and civilian personnel.”
Read more from Sky News:
England makes winning start to World Cup campaign in Qatar
NASA’s Orion space capsule reaches the moon – for the first time in 50 years
Downing Street has said the first awards will be presented in 2023.
The government is also investing £450,000 in projects that will provide insight into the experiences of veterans deployed to Australia and the Pacific.
It will include an oral history project to record the experiences of those who have supported the country’s efforts to develop a nuclear deterrent.
The project, which will start in April 2023, will last two years and aims to build an accessible digital archive of testimonials.