Because of the events of the last couple of years, this is the first BNTVA conference that the NCCF roadshow has attended since 2018, and we can say that it was good to see some old and now new members of the community for what seems a very long time.
This year’s conference took place at the Telford Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort situated in Shropshire, close to the historic Ironbridge Gorge.
Checking into the conference began on August the 9th where attendees were able to view the BNTVA collections and archives, curated by the BNTVAs Wesley Perriman.
On the following day, the BNTVA arranged a visit to RAF Cosford with a guided tour around the Cold War hangar. The tour was conducted by Pete Sharp who restored the Vickers Valiant XD818 which dropped the first H-Bomb at the Grapple tests. After lunch and a welcome from Wing Commander Mason, there was a talk by Sqn Ldr John Robinson (Ret), AFC, pilot and cloud sampler at Buffalo, Maralinga, and Grapple. Further talks were presented by Ian Sanders – Cold War Conversations Podcast, Squeaky Pedal, Pete Ashcroft – RAF Benevolent Fund, Dr. Christoph Laucht – Swansea University, and Michelle Harding BNTVA Secretary and Oral Historian.
Visiting charities to the conference set up their stands to the back and side of the main conference to enable anyone to visit and speak to us without causing interference to the speakers. Alongside the NCCF were the RAF Benevolent Fund and Deafblind UK.
The 11th of August saw that day of the conference itself which started just slightly later than scheduled, due to people really enjoying the very nice breakfast served by the hotel.
The conference opened with David Taunt addressing the attendees followed by a service by the Very Reverend Nicholas Frayling.
The first conference speaker via zoom was Dr. Elizabeth Tynan of James Cook University, live from Australia, whose subject was ‘The secret of Emu Field’. She was followed by Professor Robert (Bo) Jacobs of Hiroshima University, live from Japan via Zoom. Dr. Rhona Anderson of Brunel University gave us an update on the CHRC and NCCF Project ‘Genetic and Cytogenetic Assessment of British Veterans and their families’.
Ceri McDade, BNTVA Chair, addressed the conference explaining the challenges they have faced over the last 18 months. She went on to explain changes that have happened within the organisation, and the aims and goals of the BNTVA going forwards. The conference showed real enthusiasm for the initiatives and aims Ceri presented. The trustees of the charity were introduced to the conference and their individual roles within the charity were explained. After this, we all broke off for lunch.
The next speakers to address conference were, Dr Matthew Wiseman of the University of Ottawa, who’s subject was ‘Indoctrinee Force at Maralinga’. He was followed by Major Ian Razzell from the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance who are leading the way in improving veterans’ care within the NHS.
An afternoon refreshment break was then followed by Dr Chris Hill of the University of South Wales who spoke on ‘The Nuclear Imperialists: Britain and the End of Empire’.
Amy Prescott, a Doctoral Researcher at Brunel University, read from her Non-Fiction Stories of Nuclear Veterans, which was a very moving and fascinating account of the work she has done interviewing test veterans. The conference appreciated the way she presented the work via a short story format.
Amy was followed by Michael Wycherley of Deafblind UK, a Charity that helps those who have both sight and hearing loss with practical as well as emotional support. Michael gave an insight into the issues that blind and deaf have to cope with and advice on how to get help for those who need it.
The last speaker of the day was Dr. Christoph Lautch of Swansea University who spoke on ‘Christmas Island within the Broader context of the test ban debate’.
At the end of the conference, John Lax made a closing statement to all who attended, and Ceri was presented with a bouquet of flowers for the work she has done for the BNTVA. The BNTVA Collections and Archives session started and we broke off before
the start of the dinner.
That evening a Gala Dinner was held with the guest of honor being the Major of Telford Amrik Jhawar and his wife. Dinner was followed by a raffle and entertainment by the Gershwin Gang followed by a disco.
The NCCF would like to thank the BNTVA for the invitation to attend their conference.
It was good to be able to see so many familiar faces of which the majority came over to speak to us to ask how we were and how pleased they were to see us again.
For those who were new to the conference, we were able to chat about what the NCCF does and how we could help them.
Many asked after former BNTVA Chairman Jeff Liddiatt and Nigel Heaps and those messages of hello and well wishes were passed onto them. I can also add that even I as editor of exposure was recognised and greeted by many.
During the conference, we spoke to people who we could potentially help. One particular beneficiary who spoke to us during the conference took delivery of a new folding mobility scooter, a couple of weeks ago.
We look forward to the next conference with the knowledge that if it goes as well as this one we will have helped more people.
Look out for a more in-depth report on the conference in the BNTVA campaign magazine or online.