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Disabled son of nuclear test veteran seeks answers in MoD medical records

21 Sep 2023 3 minute read
Steve Purse. Photo via YouTube

A disabled man whose father was a nuclear test veteran has said the disclosure of medical records could provide answers he needs for his son.

Steve Purse, 49, was born with short stature about a decade after his father, Flight Lieutenant David Purse, served with the RAF in Maralinga, Australia, where British nuclear tests were carried out.

The father of one, who lives in Prestatyn in Denbighshire, North Wales, told the PA news agency that medical records which he believes are held by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) could provide information which would help his two-year-old son Sascha.

He said: “When I was born it was obvious there was an issue, there was a problem.

“I was taken away from my mum for a few days and the doctors told my dad, basically, that I was disabled.

“He broke the news to mum, but he said to her ‘I think it’s all my fault, I think it’s linked to my service at Maralinga’.

“Obviously disability can be a chance thing, an act of God, but when you start putting the things together and you’re adding one thing to another you think this is not an act of God, it’s an act of government.”

Ground Zero

Flt Lt Purse, who died in 2015, was in charge of the airfield at Maralinga from 1962 to 1963 and told his family he had seen ground zero where nuclear weapons were detonated and that a single strand wire fence separated the area of the desert classed as contaminated.

The condition which Mr Purse was born with is a genetic mutation which is probably unique in the world, he said.

He believes medical records, which could show what his father was exposed to, are needed to start research into conditions which affected veterans and may impact on generations to come.

But despite making a number of applications to different bodies for information from the monitoring programme of servicemen at Maralinga, who had blood and urine samples taken regularly, Mr Purse has not been able to access any information.

“It’s as if the MoD are withholding these records because they’re a bit frightened of what might come out,” he said.

The actor, originally from Wirral, Merseyside, said son Sascha was born without disabilities but he worried he may be affected by health problems later on in life.

He said: “You do wonder whether you have played genetic Russian roulette with his life.

“Every headache, every cough, every sneeze from him I’m wondering is this the start of something, is it going to get worse?

“As time goes by I’m going to constantly be thinking what’s his future got and if something awful does happen I’m responsible for that.”

Mr Purse said he hoped launching legal action against the MoD could provide answers.

He added: “If they have withheld information that, a, could have saved lives but, certainly, would have lessened the trauma and would have lessened all the anguish all these families have gone through, then they need to be held accountable for that because they have done that knowingly and willingly.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

A friend of mine’s father was awarded an AFC (Air Force Cross) for flying his Canberra aircraft through the edge of the Mushroom Cloud to collect samples. There are several books on the subject, ‘Operation Grapple’ is one, others are written about the contribution of the other services and the science community. After breakfast I will compile the short list on my shelves. The money, materiel and effort put into this by the British Government is mind boggling, if the same effort were applied to fighting climate change the result could be equally remarkable. I will be back…

Last edited 4 months ago by Mab Meirion
Richard 1
Richard 1
4 months ago

Only Britain holds out against compensating victims of the nuclear test era.

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