King Charles has told veterans of Britain’s nuclear tests how happy he is to be able to finally award them a medal. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced earlier this year that 22,000 veterans who were subjected to nuclear tests in the 1950s and 60s will receive a new medal to honor their service.
While honors are officially in the name of the monarch, in practice the head of state must wait to be asked by the Government if they wish to give out any medals.
Queen Elizabeth was not asked by the UK Government to honor the veterans, even though the first nuclear testing took place in 1952 during her reign.
Now, King Charles will give out the honor in what will be the first medal of his reign.
The Mirror has revealed that King Charles personally made sure the honor also went to thousands of veterans in the Commonwealth.
In November after Remembrance Day, Rishi Sunak announced that the soldiers would receive a medal 70 years after their service, as veterans and their loved ones have been campaigning for recognition for years.
In June, the debate around nuclear test veterans and their lack of medals began again after former prime minister Boris Johnson was told by one veteran: “Give me a medal, or tell me to sod off.”
Alan Owen is the founder of LABRATS (Legacy of the Atomic Bomb Recognition for Atomic Test Survivors) campaigns to “expose the injustices of the veterans who took part in the testing program”.
He is also the son of James Owen, who died aged 52 after witnessing 24 nuclear tests while deployed on Christmas Island.
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The Mirror has revealed that five days before the PM announced the new medal, a formal request was officially sent to Buckingham Palace.
A Government source told the newspaper: “[King Charles] didn’t sign it off straight away.
“He was asking lots of questions about how it affected the Commonwealth, and whether the other governments concerned had been told.
“Calls were flying between ministers. It went right to the wire and didn’t get signed off by the king until 7.30pm the night before, when he was assured all the boxes had been ticked.”