We had endured the agony of Christmas Island for ten months now, and still had another two to go before the full year was up when we would be posted elsewhere, Me to Malaya, and Paddy back to UK.
The picture was taken after the C.O.’s inspection of the new wooden billets 1959, we had lived in tents prior to this. Problem, full of bed bugs! The tents were not as bad.
It would have been in October 1959, exactly one year since the last H Bomb Tests had been carried out at South East Point* that the information declaring this Bomb Site to be an Open Area and safe to visit was contained in Part Two Orders and displayed for all to read. It was compulsory to read “Orders” daily, and God help any man who didn’t!
So, one evening soon after, Paddy and me took a truck up to this safe area to have a look at what H Bombs could do. Arriving at South East Point and looking around there wasn’t much TO see really, except some rusting twisted scaffolding poles, the remains of what had been some sort of platform and a burnt out generator or two and Army vehicles in a similar condition.
I did notice however that the whole area was slightly “dished” with low ridges running out from the centre of the dish. Rather like as if a giant’s hands had scraped out a shallow depression and leaving small ridges where his fingers had scraped outwards from the centre point Strange. Also, any small bushes left were stunted and blackened as if from fire. More interesting to us as we walked around dressed in boots, socks, shorts and floppy hats, was the variety of strangely misshapen pieces of rock with unusual colours of metallic greens, blues, yellows etc. which we in our innocence picked up and studied closely, saying things like “Look at this one, see what a funny colour it’s gone”. “Cor, yes, so it has”. And so on.
There were no notices to warn the unwary. There was no concrete covering of the area, and the site was not fenced off. It was an Open Area and safe to walk on. Part Two Orders had said so hadn’t they? Who were we to question Orders? Of course we knew that “Radiation” was bad and could make a man sterile – there were plenty of jokes about that on the Island. But we were told that the doses were so small as to be “quite harmless” and we believed it. So much so that it wasn’t until the late 1970’s whilst talking to an experienced senior member of The Royal Observer Corps, whose main task would be to measure radiation and nuclear fallout in the event of a nuclear war, that I began to realise the enormity of what Paddy and I had done. Many others too, no doubt. I then related these events to the solemn-faced ROC officer who listened carefully and replied, “You must have had a massive dose of radiation, Richard”.
What does this Bomb Site look like now? Is it fenced off? Are there warning notices erected to keep people away? Is the whole area under several feet of concrete as it should be? I for one would be very interested to know!
Sorry, but I cannot now recall Paddy’s surname, but I do recall he was an Ulsterman and about my age of 21.
Richard Bonus, ex REME.
If anybody can identify Paddy, please let us know and we will pass the information onto Richard.
or write to:
PO Box 8244