HALF a century since they were exposed to the fallout from nuclear weapons tests, a group of former servicemen and women in St Helens are waiting for the result of a Supreme Court hearing.

They are among around 1,000 others fighting a legal case, seeking recognition and compensation from the government. They should know the result of the hearing in March.

The veterans, many of who were conscripts, were told to simply hide their eyes and turn around as the vast mushroom cloud rose into the sky.

Trevor Ellis was stationed at Monte Bello island group, around 80 miles off the coast of Australia, when the first bomb was detonated in 1952.

A brickie by trade, he was a conscript with the Royal Engineers, when he witnessed the explosion.

The 79-year-old said: “I was about ten miles away when it happened. We were told to parade on deck, so we did, but all I was wearing was a pair of shorts, a hat and sand shoes. There was a count down and we were told to turn our backs, because if we faced it we would go blind. The explosion wasn’t that great. There was a low rumble, but a terrific light. We went across to the island close by and were given special suits. The beach had turned to glass through the heat.

“I was 21 at the time and at that age you’re not frightened of anything. We were there to build blockhouses. We constructed all sorts of things to test the explosions. There were even shelters with animals inside.

“But all I got was a skin rash. I had mates who have died painful deaths. To me, those in command were just incompetent.

“And many exposed to these bombs went on to have children who were deformed. I don’t trust politicians, but we have been let down by consecutive governments. When it went before the Supreme Court, we were accused of not complaining early enough, but we are still fighting.”

Mr Ellis served alongside Peter Fletcher, from Haydock, the former president and co-founder of the British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association, who he claimed unearthed evidence that those in command had legislated for 25 casualties during the blasts.

A spokesperson for the Atomic Veterans Association said they are confident that the decision not to compensate the victims will be overturned. The US, Canada and France have paid their former soldiers.

They added: “Irrespective of which party has been in power, the Ministry of Defence has been trying to avoid taking responsibility for suffering of these people.”

Was you or a member of your family affected by the nuclear blasts? Tell us at the St Helens Star. 01744 762766 or email news@sthelens star.co.uk