Shut your eyes and dig, dig ... that was the British military's advice for surviving an A-bomb


A TOP-secret military handbook has provided new evidence that servicemen were deliberately exposed to radiation during the British atomic tests.

The 240-page document was issued by the British military in 1957, the year after hundreds of officers were ordered to stand and watch several nuclear explosions at South Australia's Maralinga.

The Advertiser has obtained the handbook as special legislation is being drafted in Canberra to force authorities to hand over hundreds of files to a national inquiry into claims thousands of veterans have suffered serious illnesses.

The Nuclear Handbook for Instructors and Staff Officers used extensive data collected during the Operation Buffalo tests at Maralinga in 1956 to explain the:

EFFECTS of ground, air and underwater nuclear explosions.

PROTECTION from radioactivity, including decontamination procedures and uniforms.

MEASURING of fallout and how to monitor the progress of mushroom clouds.

MEDICAL side-effects such as blindness, burns and other injuries.

The document includes detailed drawings of nuclear devices, diagrams explaining the nuclear process, graphs showing radiation produced by various atomic bombs and maps depicting the impact on settled areas of England.

Veteran groups seeking compensation believe the handbook conclusively proves the Australian tests were used by the British military to gather information on men, clothing and their equipment.

Operation Buffalo involved four atomic explosions, during which men were sent into contaminated areas without protective clothing and ordered to stand within 1000 yards of Ground Zero.

Successive British and Australian governments have strenuously denied men were exposed to radiation during the test program, which involved the detonation of 12 atomic devices between 1952 and 1957.

The tests were the first opportunity Britain had to test nuclear weapons after the US dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to end World War II.

Researcher Ann Munslow-Davies said the only sources of information for the handbook were the tests at Montebello Islands off Western Australia, Emu Field and Maralinga.

"There was no other way the British could have got any of this information anywhere else as the Americans were not providing anything to them," she said.

"They came to Australia to conduct their first tests because they were frozen out by the Americans.

"This document is all about what they found out when they put men right near the explosions and ordered them to stand there and watch," Ms Munslow-Davies said.

"There is absolutely no other place they could have got all of this very detailed information from. It's as simple as that."

The handbook includes diagrams of British soldiers sheltering behind walls and in trenches, in similar positions to those used by servicemen at Maralinga.

It also has various maps and scientific drawings on predicted fallout from bombs and the distances at which soldiers will suffer adverse effects from radiation.


Troops must avoid looking at the flash and keep their eyes closed for about three seconds as soon as the flash of light is experienced


The radiation will pass through glass but is stopped by opaque substances and will not penetrate the walls of buildings, however thin. Even a leaf will give some protection


Head cover is a vital necessity, even if it is only a ground sheet or a sheet of corrugated iron


If there is sufficient warning of a nuclear attack, the obvious step is to make for the best shelter available as quickly

as possible. If none is available DIG! DIG! DIG!


Radioactive rain may continue to fall from the base surge cloud for some time. Shelter from the rain, to prevent the clothing becoming contaminated, can be the only precaution to be taken immediately


Contamination is removed from the exposed portions of the body by vigorous scrubbing with soap and water


Clothing can be decontaminated by laundering, dry cleaning, vacuum cleaning and natural decay


An appreciable amount of radioactivity may be detected in food and water from contaminated areas. This food and water may still be acceptable for consumption, particularly in an emergency

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