Brunel and military veterans to study genetic impact of nuclear testing Health Impact A new initiative exploring the health impact of radiological and chemical agents on military personnel and their families is set to be launched by Brunel University London and the Nuclear Community Charity Fund. The University’s Research Institute of Environment, Health and Societies and the Nuclear Community Charity Fund (NCCF) are investing in the region of £2m to establish the UK’s first Centre for Health Effects of Radiological and Chemical Agents (CHRC) devoted to supporting the needs of the aged nuclear community and their families. Core research will look for evidence of genetic damage as a consequence of possible exposure to ionising radiation at nuclear weapons test sites in the 1950s and 1960s. Effects of Exposure The Centre’s long-term vision is the improvement of health and well-being in service personnel and their families who believe their genetic composition may have been affected as a result of radiological or chemical exposure. The Centre will be led by Dr Rhona Anderson, an expert in radiation cytogenetics – the study of the effects of radiation on chromosomes. Dr Anderson will be joined by a multi-disciplinary team of social scientists, biologists and toxicologists from Brunel’s Research Institute of Environment, Health and Societies (directed by Professor Susan Jobling). Evidence Based Advice The team will work with the nuclear test veteran community and the NCCF to translate research outcomes into evidence-based advice, education and support for potentially affected people. They will also make evidence-based information about the health and wellbeing of the nuclear community accessible to medical, political and scientific communities, increasing public understanding of the nuclear community’s unique heritage. Central to the research carried out by the CHRC will be a genetic assessment of 50 British nuclear test veterans (BNTV) and their families (father, mother and one child) and 50 control family trios. Addressing Uncertainties This genome-wide DNA sequence analysis will add to the cytogenetic assessments of the same 50 BNTV family trios and control families which started in 2016. Dr Anderson will collaborate with Professor Julian Peto from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Professor Yuri Dubrova at the University of Leicester to identify if there is any genetic variation between BNTV and control groups. The findings of this genetic research will contribute to addressing ongoing uncertainties about the possibility of exposure to radiation experienced by NTVs. Participation in the genetic and cytogenetic study will be by invitation from the scientific team. Dr Anderson is encouraging all families who receive an invitation, particularly those in the control group, to respond and gain a deeper insight into the scope of the project. This research will run alongside a number of smaller projects, including studies exploring cognitive health and wellbeing. (l-r: Nigel Kevin Heaps MBE Esq, BH Associates; Sonia Howe, Aged Veterans Fund; Don James, BNTVA Trustee; Jeff Liddiatt, NCCF Chairman; Dr Rhona Anderson and Professor Susan Jobling, Brunel University London; Alan Owens, BNTVA Chairman) The Centre for Health Effects of Radiological and Chemical Agents will be formally launched at the end of 2017. The NCCF has been created by the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association to deliver projects and support to the community of British nuclear veterans and their families. It is financed by the Aged Veterans Fund which was created by the Chancellor using LIBOR funds. Other work of the NCCF includes providing essential equipment, support and therapies to reduce suffering, increase health and wellbeing across the nuclear community.
As part of our Gateway Strategy, the Legion is working to make it easier for those we support to understand and use our services by working in collaboration and partnership with other organisations. The Veterans’ Gateway is the first step in this journey. Veterans’ Gateway aims to be the first point of contact for veterans or their families seeking information, advice and support. Expert Partners As the gateway to a network of expert partners – both within and outside of the Armed Forces sector – Veterans’ Gateway will connect users with the right support organisation for their needs, quickly and easily. This simplification of the system has been brought about by a consortium of partners working collaboratively and led by the Legion. The consortium is made up of the Legion, SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity, Poppyscotland and Combat Stress, with funding from The Covenant Fund. Our connection with referral partners such as Shelter, Mind and other specialists allows us to be the gateway to a range of support that veterans and their families might need but struggle to find. Complex Array The website itself covers the complex array of topics that the community faces, providing a self-help functionality where users can search for the matters concerning them. It highlights the partners Veterans’ Gateway can connect users with and the main phone line users can call – 0808 802 1212. Although the service is up and running from today, the full public launch will be on 25 May 2017. This phase of ‘Go Live’ between now and then is important so we can test our functionality before the wider launch. In the meantime, please visit the site and follow our social media channels for further updates. twitter.com/VeteransGateway facebook.com/VeteransGateway
“Our Man” from St James’s received a “bucket list” gift from his family a few months ago, a flight in a Spitfire at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford on Armed Forces Day. This is his report on what was a very surprising day. Ed. Inspirational A drive eastwards into Cambridgeshire is now a very pleasant experience, especially early in the morning on a Saturday in mid-June. With memorials and remembrance being closer to the public consciousness than ever, a trip into the eastern UK offers some inspirational opportunities to embrace remembrance whilst acknowledging that no-one escapes its effect or has nothing to contribute in the support of our Armed Forces and Allies. Cambridgeshire has a long and proud history as a location for the Military and our Allies, including, their commemoration and remembrance. Non more so than my first surprise, coming across the magnificent Cambridge American Cemetery at Coton. Donated by Cambridge University, this site was dedicated on July 16th 1956 (60th Anniversary next month) to provide a burial ground for American personnel in perpetuity. My early arrival meant it was closed, nonetheless, worth the return journey in the near future. Warbird Heaven Arrival at IWM Duxford was a quiet affair, (it opens at 10.00 AM) only staff and student warbird pilots are allowed in early. I was given my orders by a very happy man at the gate. “Great day for it, turn left, go to the end of the hangar, turn right, drive to the control tower, park up, Nicky will meet you.” She did, and was as happily efficient as all our previous communications had suggested, when she laid out the schedule of the morning. My second surprise came during the briefings, when every new risk I was about take was explained and followed by Nicky saying, “you can of course opt out at any stage, right up to sitting in the aircraft!” I didn’t, and was fitted for my flightsuit, shown how to adjust it to my waist then ushered off to see “my kite” and pilot. In all honesty, I had already seen “my kite” along with other members of the Classic Wings fleet. A D.H. Chipmunk, Dragon Rapides, Tiger Moths, a T6 Harvard and, of course, the Spitfire; an aircraft that was first seen by the Great British public on 27th June 1936 at RAF Hendon (80 years ago on Monday). The T9 Spitfire ticked all my particular boxes, it had seen action, it had all the right elliptical curves, beautiful camouflage scheme, a Merlin engine and, most importantly, a rear seat for me. Time to meet the pilot. Legend Rarely, do you meet someone, who you can have complete confidence in from the start. My third surprise came in the inspirational form of Anna Walker who is somewhat of a legend in warbird circles, a pilot as a teenager, a certified display pilot, experienced in aerobatic and formation flying, film and TV work, the list is very long and distinguished. My fourth, came in the knowledge that she is an expert on The Air Transport Auxiliary and believed to be the only female Hawker Hurricane pilot since the 1940’s. Safe hands indeed. Anna did my pre-flight briefing at the Spitfire including, what not and what to touch, what we would be doing and what we wouldn’t and, my absolute favourite, it would be my choice as to whether the flight would include a victory roll. I decided it… Warbirds are go From closing the canopy, it was very powerful experience, the sound of a Merlin engine 20ft away and any view with a Spitfire wing in the foreground is enough to make anyone cheer loudly and drown out the engine. Once airborne, the exhilaration was interrupted by a list of questions, how did WW2 pilots cope, how did they manage to spot other aircraft and were they always in a state of such heightened senses? The answers came in a radio call from Anna asking me if I would like to take control? I took control (marginally), I coped (a sunny day over England for pure pleasure), I spotted a few (nowhere near as many as Anna) and I have never felt so chuffed with the world and life. High over the tree lined avenues leading to the Wimpole Estate, we completed two life affirming wingovers and then came the decision…. my victory roll, we did it, it felt glorious and despite wanting to shout and cheer, I was speechless. Anna explained calmly that it was time to return to Duxford and that we would be doing one final flypast and wing waggle over the airfield. My last, in a day of surprises, was perfect; as we joined the circuit I could see two Tiger Moths on the move and my warbird pilot told the air-traffic controller to keep them still or we would open fire! He chuckled and as we started our flypast I heard in my headset very quietly,“dakadakadakadaka” I think! A lot of what followed was a bit of a blur. I remember chatting to some of the Classic Wings team and seeing the passion, pride and love they have for these marvellous machines; reminding me, that is important to remember how the brave members of our services went into battle and the enormous character that was needed. My enormous thanks go to Nicky Jiggins and the Classic Wings Team, aviatrix extraordinaire Anna Walker and Cambridgeshire for getting on my “bucket list.” “Our Man” I have heard that “Our Man” will only believe this all happened when the DVD arrives. Ed.