‘Utter silence’: Veteran describes apocalyptic moment nuclear bomb detonated
by: Hani Kamal El-Din
A veteran honoured by King Charles III has described the moment he watched a hydrogen bomb detonate just a few miles away from him.
Gordon Craggs, 82, was among serving soldiers present during a succession of detonations from the shores of Christmas Island, a tiny island in the Pacific, in the 1960s.
Christmas Island was one of several staging grounds for Operation Dominic, a joint UK-US operation whereby soldiers helped coordinate 36 Cold War-era weapons tests.
Mr Craggs was one of the approximately 25,000 personnel enlisted to assist in controversial tests exploring the effects of nuclear fallout, and he has now been honoured for his work by the King.
While receiving his medal, he spoke of how it felt to sit in the shadow of a “city killer” bomb.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Craggs said he was serving with the Royal Engineers when he was sent to the Pacific and said he was initially excited about his trip.
He helped run the diesel generators and electrical control rooms set up to monitor the bombs as they detonated approximately 12 to 20 miles away from observing personnel.
He watched 24 bombs detonate off the southeast tip of Christmas Island, but the first one made “the biggest impression”.
Describing the detonation, he said: “We were issued with very heavy, black-plated goggles so you couldn’t see a thing. There was a countdown, then there was utter silence.”
In the years since witnessing the bombs, he has thought about the “hundreds and hundreds of weapons that are stockpiled across the world”, and earlier this month, he received the Nuclear Test Medal.
He said receiving the honour made him “prouder than I thought I could be” after participating in the Cenotaph parade.
He also described the experience as “humbling” as he had “a few sad thoughts for those who have passed and have not experienced the recognition they deserved”.