Terence Bambridge wrote to exposure magazine to ask if anyone can remember Corporal O’Brien who served with him at Maralinga.
Dear Sir/ Madam,
I am writing in regards to my own personal experience of my time at Maralinga. I was stationed with the balloon unit as a mechanic, with the role of looking after all of the vehicles and machinery being used by our unit. This included the winch which raised the nuclear device to 800ft below a barrage balloon. We had previously rehearsed this procedure at Aldermaston in England.
My task was to make sure the winch was able to raise the nuclear device and that the balloon that suspended it was then anchored to a concrete block that had been installed in the ground. The winch was then driven away and our electrician Corporal O’Brien had to then connect the device to a cable that fed back to the headquarters where they would press a button to detonate the device. Corporal O’Brien and myself then had to drive away in a truck as fast as possible along a track that had speakers every quarter mile which the countdown played out over. When only a few minutes were left to go we were instructed to jump out of the truck and bury ourselves in the sand. Without a doubt we were the nearest that people had ever been to a pre-arranged atomic explosion.
The following day we were issued protective clothing but were instructed not to expose ourselves and if we wanted to go to the toilet we had to do it in our trousers. We then had to return to the site of the detonation in order to record the damage that had been caused to the surrounding equipment that had been set up around the site, when in fact we had been used as Guinea pigs. When we arrived back in camp we were ordered into a decontamination unit were we were showered continually for hours until our radiation exposure levels were reduced. This process took at least 24 hours.
Prior to detonation of the device we were responsible for caring for the device which was placed out in the bush and attached to a generator which was kept running 24 hours a day. Naturally this was in a very remote region and at night we used to sit round a log fire about 60ft from the generator. We were always surrounded by a ring of dingoes and the only way to check the generator was to pick up a burning stick and charge at the dingoes to scare them away.
The whole balloon unit was stationed miles from the main camp and lived under canvas with all the scorpions, funnel web spiders and dingoes who used to walk around our tents at night, often one side of the dingoes totally exposed to their rib cage, having had all the flesh burnt off of them by a previous detonation.
I would be extremely grateful if you would ask your readers if anyone had any knowledge of Corporal O’Brien’s whereabouts and I would like to contact any members of the balloon unit who were out there on the Antler mission.
Regards, Terence Bambridge
If anyone has any information on Corporal O’Brian please write or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass your details to Terence.