No H-bomb link to death of former East Lancs soldier, inquest told

A mushroom cloud over Christmas Island after a H-bomb test in the 1950s

A mushroom cloud over Christmas Island after a H-bomb test in the 1950s

First published in News

A FORMER soldier believed that his cancer was the result of witnessing H-bomb tests on Christmas Island in the 1950s, an inquest heard.

But East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor said there had been no conclusive link established between the atomic testing regimes and later deaths, a hearing in Burnley was told.

Raymond Speak had told his wife Beryl how he was in the South Pacific in 1958 when at least six hydrogen bombs were exploded.

His commanding officers had instructed troops to look away to avoid the 'flash' of the detonations, the court heard.

But the soldiers, who were given no protective equipment, were told they could witness the huge mushroom cloud which enveloped the sky, the inquest was told.

Mr Speak, of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, died aged 74 at Pendleside Hospice. A post-mortem examination by Dr Richard Prescott at the Royal Blackburn gave the cause of death as broncho-pneumonia, linked to a large tumour in his bladder.

The inquest heard that Mr Speak also worked at Smith & Nephew, at Brierfield Mill, as an engineer responsible for maintaining factory machinery.

But Mrs Speak said his exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and dyes at the site would probably have been minimal.

The hearing was also told that although Mr Speak had also smoked roll-ups, he gave up after a heart attack 20 years ago.

Referring to the Christmas Island tests, coroner Mr Taylor said: “There will always be questions about that.

“But there is not sufficient evidence to link this with your husband's cancer. It may well have been cigarettes and it could have been an environmental cause, which is apparent in so many cancers."

Mr Taylor recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.

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