The fate of more than a thousand people’s legal battle against the Ministry of Defence was given a boost last week by the highest court in the land.

The Supreme Court said veterans poisoned by the 1958 hydrogen bomb explosion at Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean should be allowed to further argue their compensation case against the MoD.

The MoD had benefited from a previous High Court ruling which said the victims had applied too late for compensation under the terms of the Limitation Act, but on Thursday, July 28, the the Supreme Court gave permission for the campaigners to appeal that decision.

Campaigning widow Shirley Denson, who lives in Morden, was married to an RAF servicemen named Eric Denson who contracted radiation poisoning after being ordered to fly through the cloud of the blast.

Standing outside the court on Thursday, Mrs Denson said: “I think our QC [James Dingemans] did an excellent job of pointing out the practicalities and fairness.

“Of course it’s about compensation but the main thing is these people want to have justice and they want to know what happened.

“I’m alright because I know what he [Eric] did. But most of those men out were only 18 so they married and had children. They will want to know what happened too.”

Known as ‘Grapple Yankee’, the 1958 three megaton blast was Britain’s biggest-ever nuclear test and was so bright that soldiers said they could see through their hands even while wearing gloves.

Since then several veterans have complained of developing cancer, psychological problems and birth defects experienced by their children, but the MoD has consistently denied responsibility.

However, the Supreme Court justices accepted Mr Dingeman’s argument that many victims were not able to know radiation poisoning was to blame until the science existed to support that explanation many years after the statute of limitations had passed.

Peter Hallewell, a forces veteran station on Christmas Island, witnessed the blast and claimed his youngest son had suffered from infertility problems because of health problems passed on from nuclear radiation poisoning.

Mr Hallewell said: “I hope something comes out of all this, mainly for the poor widows who have had to suffer.

"I’m still here but I got Chrone’s disease which I still have to take tablets for.

Describing the terrifying moment the blast went off, he said: “When you’ve got gauntlets on your hands, and you’ve got knees up into your chest, your eyes closed but for five/six seconds you can see every bone in your fingers - that’s how strong the light from the radiation blast is.”

The case will be re-heard at the Supreme Court on November 14, in which nine test cases out of a total 1,011 claimants will be considered.

If the claimants are successful, the MoD could be liable for several billion pounds in compensation.

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