Soldier’s fight for
Ray Whitby. FOR Ray Whitby, the legacy of signing up to serve as a wide-eyed teenager has been a 20-year legal battle for recognition from his own government.
Mr Whitby is the last survivor of eight servicemen sent to the Montebello Islands in 1958 to help scientists collect samples from the area Britain had used as an atomic weapons testing site.
Three sites were used for testing: Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia, and the remote Montebello Islands off WA’s North-West coast.
Testing in the Montebellos was done on two islands – Trimouille and Alpha – which in 1956 became the site of the largest atomic bomb ever tested in Australia.
“The one in ’56 was known as ‘the dirty bomb’; 10 times more powerful than the one dropped on Nagasaki, Japan,” he said.
“We were the first ones to go in 1958 and were not told about the danger from radiation. When we arrived on the island, the scientist told me the Geiger counter was at the maximum reading for radiation levels.
“The island was deadly and there we were in short sleeves and sandals. There was no vegetation, no birdlife. We should have not been there; they knew