One of the UK's last surviving nuclear test veterans has spoken about his "absolute delight" at finally receiving a commemorative medal to wear before Remembrance Sunday following a decades-long campaign for recognition.

Brian 'Coggy' Davies, aged 85, was awarded the Nuclear Test Medal at a special gathering at The Institute in his hometown of Llanfair Caereinion which was attended by Powys County Council chair Cllr Beverley Baynham and Major Jon Badger on Saturday, November 4.

More than 65 years after he experienced as an 18-year-old the severe heat of a 1.8 megaton hydrogen bomb on Christmas Island, which blew down his bakery tent from 23 miles away, Coggy said: "It’s been a long time, too long. I’ve been fighting for years."

Holding back the tears, he said he "was thinking about my mates who had died" as he received the medal.

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“With our back to it, lined up on the beach with no protection whatsoever, our hands over our eyes and you could see the bomb through our hands with our eyes closed, like an X-ray.

"The heat on my back was unbelievable.”

Coggy added that he felt it was "disgusting" that fellow veterans received their medal during the lead-up to Remembrance Weekend without pomp or circumstance but simply dropped through the letterbox.

County Times: Major Jon Badger, Brian 'Coggy' Davies, and Powys County Council chair Cllr Beverley Baynham.Major Jon Badger, Brian 'Coggy' Davies, and Powys County Council chair Cllr Beverley Baynham. (Image: Anwen Parry/Powys County Times)

"I was thinking that the King would present it to us and have my family there," he said.

Coggy's wife Hazel, who has retired after 25 years of leading Llanfair Caereinion's Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, was beaming with pride that her husband of more than 60 years had finally been recognised.

"We’ve waited so long," Hazel said. "He was so concerned that he might not got it and he’s still here going strong.

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"It’s wonderful. The whole community are proud of him, I’m sure."

Marking the 70th anniversary of the UK’s first atomic test in November last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the medal as a “fitting tribute to the incredible contribution that you have made”.

County Times: Brian 'Coggy' Davies during his days in the Royal Army Service Corps.Brian 'Coggy' Davies during his days in the Royal Army Service Corps.

County Times: The design features an atom surrounded by olive branches and bears the words “Nuclear Test

Coggy joined the Royal Army Service Corp in 1956 at the age of 18. He carried out his basic training, then trained as a baker.

Soon afterwards he was deployed to Port London on Christmas Island, located in an external territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean.

Coggy’s role was to bake bread for serving troops and civilians living there.

Whilst on the island the UK conducted a series of nuclear tests in the South Pacific Ocean, known as Operation Grapple.

Coggy recalls seeing his bones in his hands as if he was looking at an X-ray. Around 22,000 people took part in this test, and it is believed that there are 1,100 veterans left.

Powys County Council chair Cllr Beverley Baynham said: "Coggy is one of the survivors who served and took part in the testing, he and is counterparts which involved British soldiers, airmen and seaman made an invaluable contribution to the safety and security of the UK, so that we can live in peace, for that Coggy we are eternally grateful to you."


She added: "It was a huge honour to present the award to him. It’s really important for Brian and the other servicemen to be recognised for their contribution."

The medal design features an atom surrounded by olive branches and bears the words “Nuclear Test Medal”. The obverse will bear an effigy of His Majesty the King.

The simple design was chosen to reflect the multitude of different roles that were carried out by the broad range of recipients. The ribbon design includes white, yellow, black and red, with the lighter blue for the sky and ocean, representative of the Pacific.

Coggy, who continues to suffer from medical complaints which he believes is a result of being exposed to the nuclear bomb, has joined calls by MPs for the Government to provide further support to veterans and civilians by compensating them just like those in the USA, Canada and France.