A hard rain’s a gonna fall

During the past three weeks I have republished five of my newspaper articles written while I was working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. The first looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 another at the secrecy of the Bilderberg organisation, a third was a piece about the top secret Aurora aircraft, the fourth looked at big cats at large in the UK and the last was an investigation into the mysterious death of Scottish Nationalist leader Willie McRae.
Today I reload a piece I wrote in early 1995 about the extent of 40-year cover-up on exposure of British servicemen to A-bomb tests

THE extent of a 40-year cover-up of the radiation exposure suffered by 22,000 servicemen who witnessed Britain’s atom bomb tests in the 1950s has been revealed in a file of de-classified and secret Government documents.
They demonstrate a willingness to ignore or conceal the impact of 21 British nuclear tests between 1952 and 1958 on the part of then Prime Minister Anthony Eden.
When asked to consider the genetic effects of nuclear radiation, Mr Eden says, in a memo dated November 16, 1955: ”A pity, but we cannot help it.”
The documents were passed to The Herald just two days after an English nuclear test victim won his 25-year battle with defence chiefs for a pension following intervention by the High Court, two months after three Scottish victims won a legal breakthrough in the European courts.
Last Friday, the Rev Laurence Deverall, 60 — who was exposed to radiation in the 1956 Maralinga tests in South Australia — won his case for a disability war pension.
Mr Deverall developed cancer in his right leg as a result of the radiation exposure. His leg was amputated in 1970.
Mr Ken McGinley, chairman of the Johnstone-based British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association, said the case was the first major breakthrough on Government liability.
On January 27, Scots-born US advocate, Mr Ian Anderson, won the first stage regarding admissibility of evidence in a test case before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of two nuclear test veterans and the 27-year-old daughter of a third Glaswegian victim — all members of the veterans’ association.
Now the file of more than 40 secret and de-classified memorandums passed to The Herald could add weight to hundreds of compensation cases being fought by the veterans’ association on behalf of its 3500 members.

CONSPIRACY theories are easy to wrap around any secret Government activity, and easier for those adversely affected to accept.
But for a Government to conspire knowingly to cause physical harm to 22,000 of its own citizens in the name of science is a more difficult scenario to believe.

The extent of a 40-year cover-up of the radiation exposure suffered by 22,000 servicemen who witnessed Britain’s atom bomb tests between 1952 and 1958, is now being revealed.
A file of secret and declassified official documents has been passed to me just two days after an English nuclear test victim won a 25-year pension battle with defence chiefs, and two months since three Scottish victims won a legal breakthrough in the European courts.
Mr Ken McGinley, the chairman of Johnstone-based British Nuclear Tests Veterans’ Association is damning: ”There has been a cover-up on a massive scale — it is more to do with personal sensitivity than anything else, as many of the Government scientists involved in the tests are still alive, while many of our members who served their country loyally have died or are dying from incurable cancers and other life-threatening diseases.”
The documents speak for themselves:
”We think it likely that the Australians will ask us for filters which have been flown at Mosaic and Buffalo,” said British Government scientist Sir William Penney in a secret memo to Sir Frederick Brundrett at the MoD on December 22, 1955 — five months before the first of the code-named A-Bomb tests took place in the Monte Bello Islands and Maralinga Desert.
”While I am not very keen on giving them samples, I do not see how we can refuse,” continued Sir William. ”I am recommending that, if they ask us, we give them a little piece of the filters, but we wait a few days so that some of the short-lived isotopes have decayed a good deal.”
The extent of the cover-up becomes more apparent in a wired memo from Admiral Brooking at the British Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston to the Australian Government in May 1957.
”May we please have your authority to include the following sentence about Buffalo in the openly published report 1956/57 of the UKAEA: The Australian Safety Committee made a careful check of conditions before and after the firing of every round, and was satisfied that no hazard to the people or stock of Australia was caused by any of the explosions at Monte Bello or Maralinga.”
In 1993, the British Government finally agreed to pay the Australian Government #20m as the first instalment to clean up the radioactive pollution at Maralinga.
A letter from Sir William Penney to Sir Edwin Plowden, of October 1, 1955, refers to the planned tests at Monte Bello the following summer, and says health and safety precautions were fixed for a 25 kiloton blast for ”the first shot” and 80 kilotons at the second.
He adds: ”We do not know exactly what the yield is going to be because the assembly is very different from anything we have tried before.”
As it turned out, the ”first shot” on May 16, 1956, gave a yield of just 15 kilotons, but the second a massive 98 kilotons and, with the winds drifting the fall-out cloud, it was virtually uncontrolled.
Another top-secret memo to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, dated May 20 — seven months after the first atom bomb test at Monte Bello and five months before the second at Emu Field, South Australia — gives evidence of the official intention.
It says: ”The Army must discover the detailed effects of the various types of explosion on equipment, stores, and men with and without various types of protection.”
The complicity is pivotal in one memo dated November 16, 1955, from British Prime Minister Anthony Eden.
Asked to consider the genetic effects of nuclear radiation, Mr Eden says: ”A pity, but we cannot help it.”
Yet the risks to health from radiation exposure were known at the highest level.
In minutes from the Government’s Advisory Council in 1947 on Scientific Policy, Sir Ernest Rock Carling said that resulting injuries from exposure to radiation ”were frequently not traced to radiation since there might be a lag of months or years before the effects were manifest.
”Carelessness might also have serious genetic effects on the population, resulting in sterility or mutations.”
In 1951, the Government warned that: ”Casualties may not become apparent at once. There are at present only two forms of protection against radiation, viz distance and/or some form of shielding.”
The first British nuclear test at Monte Bello took place a year later. For that and 20 further tests, British service personnel stood part-naked or wearing flimsy cotton overalls on beaches and ship decks between five and 11 miles from each blast.

I touched the place where your secrets are hid

During the past fortnight I have republished four of my newspaper articles written while I was working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. The first looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 another at the secrecy of the Bilderberg organisation, a third was a piece about the top secret Aurora aircraft and the last one looked at big cats at large in the UK.
Today I reload an exclusive I wrote in 1995 on the tenth anniversary of the mysterious death of Scottish Nationalist leader Willie McRae.

A CATALOGUE of bungling by authorities at all levels may have helped maintain a huge cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the death of the prominent Scottish Nationalist, Willie McRae.
We can also reveal that:
* the young policeman who was the first officer on the scene has confirmed he discovered the gun which killed Mr McRae yards from where the body was found 24 hours earlier, despite official claims that he committed suicide.
* witnesses confirmed vital evidence was removed from the scene of the incident before a police investigation took place.
* Mr McRae was probably carrying secret documents which threatened the success of a nuclear inquiry at the time of his death.
* the procurator-fiscal who examined his case has been told not to talk about it to anyone.
The procurator-fiscal says he is bound by the Official Secrets Act.
Close friends of Mr McRae claim he was carrying secret documents relating to the nuclear industry when he died mysteriously on a bleak Highland road 10 years ago next week, and may have been the victim of Government secret services.
Mr McRae, 61, a lawyer and leading figure in the SNP set off from Glasgow on Friday, April 5, 1985, to spend the weekend at his cottage in Kintail.
At 10am the next day he was found in his crashed Volvo by an Australian tourist about 35 yards off the A87 near Loch Loyne.
The car was upright across a small burn and believed to have been there since midnight.
The Australian waved down a car in which Dundee SNP councillor, Mr David Coutts, was travelling to Skye with his wife Alison and two friends.
Mr Coutts, who recognised Mr McRae, summoned an ambulance and the police. He also discovered that Mr McRae’s cheque cards and papers were some way from the car, the papers meticulously torn up.
PC Kenny Crawford, a young constable on relief duty from Inverness, quickly gathered personal items from the scene of the crash and placed them in a holdall.
Mr Coutts told The Herald last night it seemed to him that the young policeman was keen to get off the hillside quickly. ”He didn’t even ask for my name, but just bundled everything up,” he said.
Mr Crawford has now talked freely about the incident for the first time.
The injured Mr McRae was taken first to Raigmore Hospital Inverness and later to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where he died at 3am on Sunday.
However, it was only when a nurse washed his head on his arrival at Aberdeen that a gunshot wound in his right temple was discovered and the police informed.
Officers from the Northern Constabulary revisited the scene of the crash, but by then it was impossible to conduct the level of rigorous, on-site investigation which might have produced crucial answers.
During the search PC Crawford found a Smith and Wesson .22 pistol beyond where the car was found. It had been fired twice.
Mr Crawford, who has now left the force and is living in Inverness, told The Herald that the gun was ”some yards” downstream but he believed it had been knocked from a ledge in the car when they had retrieved Mr McCrae’s body.
He also believes the gun had fallen into a small waterfall and the fast running burn had transported the weapon from the site of the vehicle.
However, Mr Coutts says that while removing Mr McCrae’s body from the car, PC Crawford’s cap had fallen into the burn. He said he bent down and retrieved it yet saw no sign of a gun.
The evidence contradicts statements made by former Solicitor-General Peter Fraser that the gun was found directly under the door of the car.
The case was closed formally by Mr Thomas Aitchison, the procurator-fiscal in Inverness, who decided the death was not suspicious. Mr Fraser made the personal decision not to order a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death.
Last night Mr Aitchison said the case came under the Official Secrets Act and he had been reminded at his retirement four years ago that he was still bound by the Act.
”I was told not to talk about this case to anyone,” he added.
A Crown Office spokesman told The Herald that all fiscals sign the Official Secrets Act ”as a matter of course” and there was nothing suspicious in Mr Aitchison’s comments.
Some aspects of Mr McRae’s lifestyle have been used by the Crown over the years to indicate he was potentially suicidal.
Yet on Friday April 5, 1985 he showed little sign of being a man about to take his own life. His diary was full and he remarked to a number of people that he was close to completing some important project. ”I’ve got them, I’ve got them!” he told friends excitedly, but expressed fears that Special Branch was closing in on him.
They now say they believe he was carrying secret documents relating to Dounreay at the time of his death.
Mr McRae had won a notable victory against the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 1980 when he presented the principal legal opposition to plans to dump nuclear waste in the Mullwharcher hills, Ayrshire.
He was planning to repeat the performance at the inquiry to reprocess nuclear waste at Dounreay: his legal firm was named on the list of objectors.
Last night a colleague of Mr McRae claimed that on the night of his death he was carrying vital and confidential reports which showed glaring holes in Dounreay’s health and safety record.
The Herald was shown copies of these reports, which reveal problems with various parts of the nuclear facility including areas of weakness in Highly Active Analytical Cells and the discovery of a radiation field from gamma particles hidden within a reprocessing plant.
Mr Peter Roche is a former activist for the Scottish Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menace (Scram) who now works for Greenpeace. He said it had been long-believed that Dounreay was being used as an unlicensed emergency store for high quality plutonium, and Mr McRae may also have had evidence of this.
In either case he was seen as a liability to Britain’s controversial nuclear industry.
A copy of the Mullwharcher report he is also said to have been carrying was nowhere to be found after the incident. His other copy went missing after a break-in and fire three years earlier at the Edinburgh headquarters of Scram.
A year before his death, an elderly rose-grower and nuclear protester, Hilda Murrell, was found murdered after important files had been stolen from her home in Shrewsbury.
Mr McRae’s home had often been broken into, he believed by British secret services.
Mr John Conway, a retired police officer with the Northern Constabulary has said: ”Because of who and what he was, William McRae for years had been a ‘known person’ not only to the security service MI5, but also to Special Branch officers of Strathclyde police and the Northern Constabulary.”
Last night Mr Coutts added: ”Until the powers that be can prove Willie’s death was a suicide I am convinced there has been a massive cover-up.
”I hope that as a result of The Herald’s article we now get the inquiry we have waited 10 years for.”
Michael Strathern, a co-founder of the Willie McRae Society, said: ”It was only in 1990 that Peter Fraser said the gun had dropped from the car. Earlier he said it was ‘a mystery’ how the gun was found so far from the vehicle.”
A spokesman for the Celtic League said the new evidence had made the case for an open inquiry into Willie McCrae’s death ”irresistible”.
”He was certainly the most knowledgeable and capable anti-nuclear campaigner in Scotland and had been a thorn in the flesh of the British State for many years.”