RAF veteran, 86, receives nuclear testing medal

Frank Dinsdale is presented with the medal for his services
Frank Dinsdale is presented with the medal for his services

A man from Lancashire has been decorated with a medal from King Charles for his service during the nuclear testing on Christmas Island in the 1950s.

Frank Dinsdale, from Nelson, began his Royal Air Force (RAF) career at the age of 14, before becoming an aircraft mechanic at 18.

He was involved in the famous Operation Grapple bomb tests, loading and unloading aircraft.

In 1957, he saw a nuclear explosion for the first time from the shelter of a coconut plantation on the island, with only goggles, a short-sleeved shirt and trousers for protection.

Frank Dinsdale in Christmas Island
Frank Dinsdale started his career as a teenager

Yorkshire-born Frank said despite having his eyes closed, the first thing he saw was what he thought was an X-ray of his fingers.

The shockwave knocked coconuts off the trees, and he witnessed the mushroom cloud glowing from the inside.

"When I went there, I had no idea what was going to happen, until I actually arrived on the island," Frank said.

Asked whether he was frightened he said: "I think I was, to a degree, but there were people there who were certainly much more frightened than me.

"They were scared stiff, to be honest."

Frank, now 86, went to Christmas Island twice. On his second tour of duty he was injured and had to be flown back to the UK for treatment - although the RAF medics weren’t sure at the time whether he was suffering from radiation poisoning or not.

Frank, who has beaten both bowel and prostate cancer, received his medal by post but his family felt the occasion needed celebrating properly.

It came after the government announced a medal for veterans and civilians who were involved in nuclear testing programmes.

The silver medal features an atom surrounded by olive branches and bears the words "Nuclear Test Medal" on one side, as well as an effigy of King Charles III.

Frank was honoured at a surprise presentation organised by his family at Wheatley Lane Primary School, Burnley, where Frank’s daughter Tracy is headteacher.

The veteran said he thought he was going to the school to attend a talk about World War One and was shocked to learn that he was the star guest.

He received a huge round of applause followed by a talk about his life, given by his son, Andrew.

Frank was formally presented the medal by Retired Air Commodore Stu Stirrat.

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