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‘Life stories’ of British nuclear test veterans to be preserved through new study

£250,000 in government funding has been awarded to Universities and National Life Stories, the UK’s leading oral history fieldwork charity from the British Library, to chronicle and study the experiences of British nuclear test veterans.

  • £250,000 in government funding awarded to universities and the National Life Stories from the British Library, for a study into British nuclear test veterans.
  • University academics will also record the ‘life stories’ of nuclear test veterans across the UK.
  • Nuclear test veterans across the country urged to come forward to share their unique stories and have them archived in history

The British Library will work with academics to conduct and record around 40 ‘life stories’ with veterans around the UK, to investigate and recognise the complex role that test participation played in veterans’ lives.

The two-year project, funded by the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, is part of a package of recognition for nuclear test veterans, announced following the introduction of the Nuclear Test Medal in November last year. Applications are now open for veterans and their next of kin to receive their commemorative medals.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer recently said:

Our nuclear test veterans played a vital role in the creation of the British nuclear deterrent, which continues to keep us safe to this day.

Now we’re making sure their stories are never forgotten, and can be passed down from generation to generation, so that we can remember the sacrifices they made to protect us.

The project will produce a number of resources to commemorate and memorialise nuclear test veterans in this country, including a documentary hosted by the British Library and a national tour of events, promoting the resources made by the project. The University of  South Wales and the University of Liverpool will lead on the project, in partnership with the National Life stories with the British Library.

The project will also create a number of educational resources to be used in schools, to encourage the teaching of nuclear history to the next generation.

The cohort of veterans are ex-service personnel and civilians who contributed to Britain’s nuclear testing programme, including serving in Australia and the South Pacific between 1952 and 1967.

This project aims to engage veterans from across the United Kingdom, to represent the entire cohort of veterans that took part in the tests. Academics are looking to hear from a diverse range of nuclear test veterans, from those who have previously been vocal about their experiences, to those who have never spoken about it before.

Up to 22,000 veterans participated in Britain’s nuclear test programme, with latest estimates suggesting there are 1500 surviving nuclear test veterans to this day.

It is important to commemorate the contribution of our veterans, who to this day have played a vital role in our nation’s security. We urge anyone who was a part of these tests to share their story, regardless of the role they played in the testing.

This project will capture not only the events of the days of the nuclear tests, but will also reflect the long-term impacts that the UK’s nuclear deterrent programme had on the participants and their families.

The Office for Veterans’ Affairs were recently given £33 million in the Spring Budget, representing a step change in the Government’s ability to support and care for those who have served our country. This includes a £10 million investment to increase the capacity of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs as it continues to deliver the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan.

Mary Stewart, the British Library’s Lead Curator of Oral History and Director of National Life Stories recently said:

I am delighted that this important partnership will add forty in-depth life story interviews to the British Library oral history collection, providing researchers now and in the future unparalleled insights into how veterans’ test experiences affected them throughout their lives.


  • Those wishing to take part in the project can visit to learn more and contact the project team.
  • Applications for the nuclear test veteran medal are open, veterans and next of kin are able to apply through GOV.UK.


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