An RAF veteran who witnessed the first atomic bombs being tested on Christmas Island is trying to trace a fellow 'nuclear vet' from Oxfordshire.

Operation Grapple was a set of four series of British nuclear weapons tests of early atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs carried out in 1957 and 1958 on remote islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Paul Stevens-King, who now lives in New South Wales, Australia, was sent to Christmas Island in 1958 as an 18-year-old.

Oxford Mail: Paul Stevens King on Christmas Island

He recently read an article on Derek Harrison from Abingdon in the Oxford Mail.

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He said: “Derek’s story and mine run together,  we lived in the same tent - E15 - and while Derek looked after the airfield lighting, I serviced equipment used to supply electricity to the aircraft while they were on the ground."

Mr Stevens-King, now 85, said the memory of the explosions is still etched in his mind.

"When the H bomb was due to be dropped we were taken by lorry or bus to the port area, and assembled in roped-off pens waiting for the Valiant aircraft to take off.

"We were loaded on to landing craft until the aircraft was safely airborne then returned to our area.

"When the bomb was about to be dropped we were told to face away from ground zero, put our hands over our eyes and not to look at the fireball until we were told it was safe to do so. 

“A couple looked too early and were temporarily blinded.

"The light was so bright you could see the bones in your hands even though your eyes were shut. The heat and blast followed."

In the time since the nuclear tests, it has been alleged that veterans and civilians who took part and their children have suffered health conditions due to fallout.

There have been legal cases seeking compensation on this issue, and ongoing research.

Mr Stevens-King said: “Of course we had protective clothing - short-sleeved shirt and shorts. Some of us survived to tell the story, others did not. 

"No thanks, no compo,  just a medal in the post after 65 years. 

"I did read that the Labour Party if elected would give compensation... I wonder."

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After leaving Christmas Island - now Kiribati – Mr Stevens-King was posted to  Cyprus and Singapore and finally to RAF Wittering in Peterborough before leaving the RAF.

Oxford Mail: The classic shape of the mushroom cloud rises above Christmas Island, flowing the Grapple-Y test on

But he said: “I did not settle well and had a number of jobs before opening a repair shop in Grantham.

“However a holiday in Australia in 1987 saw my wife Jan and I making Australia our home, building an indoor swim centre and running that for 28 years."

He added: “I have a group photo taken on Christmas Island with Derek.

"If he or his wife Ivy, who live in Abingdon, or any of their children,  Robert, David or Julie, see this article I would love to be in contact."