November 4, 2005
Ex-major finds chilling reading on
52 years after the atomic tests at Maralinga it is still chilling to read an
official top-secret Defence Department document which says, “the Army must
discover the detailed affect of various types of explosion on equipment, stores
and men without various types of protection.”
at his home in the Canberra
suburb of Fisher, one of the men who experienced the reality of the Maralinga
tests, former Major Alan Batchelor, leafs through documents he has dug up in
76, Major Batchelor was a lieutenant and second in charge of the Australian
Army’s engineering troop responsible for the engineering works in the forward area
at Maralinga in 1957.
documents gave him much food for thought.
under his command installed the instrument shelters that were built from about
50m from the weapons towers, back to 300m.
60cm of concrete above them and 1000 sandbags protecting them, the shelters
were designed to ensure the instruments survived the blast.
someone had to go in to recover, or read, the instruments.
the removal and replacement of the protective sandbags was left to Lieutenant
Batchelor and his men.
minutes after the blast they were on their way to recover instruments with
readings that would have deteriorated had they been left a long time.
an hour of the blast they were at the closest shelter.
Batchelor said this operation meant they had to go into highly contaminated
areas and they went back in without protective clothing.
just couldn’t work in that heat in protective dress,” he said.
Batchelor has had limited opportunity to tell his story.
a new film, Australian Atomic Confessions,
to be screened tonight at the National
Museum, has provided him
with one chance to air his views. The film (Australian
Atomic Confessions by Kathy Aigner – ed) features a number of ex-servicemen
and Maralinga Aborigines recounting their experiences of the tests.
Kathy Aigner said the long-suppressed voices of Army, Navy and Air Force
personnel and traditional Aboriginal elders got a hearing in the documentary
film (Australian Atomic Confessions-ed).
Batchelor said he became fired up about the issue about five years ago when he
read the court case on a compensation claim by one of the members of his troop.
Batchelor said the serviceman got no compensation.
the time I read it, he was dead – multiple cancers.”