CHRISTMAS Island veteran Rae Johnson is hoping he and 1,000 other ex-servicemen might finally get a chance to sue the Government for compensation.

The 74-year-old, from Beeching Way, Littleworth, believes he suffered breathing difficulties and Bowen’s disease, a growth of cancerous cells that is confined to the outer layer of the skin, after being exposed to radiation during nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and ’60s.

The veterans have been at the Supreme Court trying to get clearance to sue the Ministry of Defence for compensation in the latest round of a decades-long dispute.

Mr Johnson said: “It makes me feel angry for the simple fact that successive governments have completely ignored it.”

The MoD has said it is “grateful” to the ex-servicemen, but says their claims are “extremely weak”.

Mr Johnson, who joined the Army when he was 16, was posted to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean twice – between 1956-57 and 1962-63.

He worked as an electrician and recalls vividly what would happen each time a nuclear test took place.

He said: “We stood with our backs to where the blast was going to be and we were told to put our hands over our eyes. We could see the bones in our hands.

“We then turned around to look at the mushroom cloud.

“We were told nothing about the dangers and we weren’t given any protective clothing.”

Ten years ago Mr Johnson began experiencing health problems.

His grandson Anthony, whose mother Lynne was born after Mr Johnson returned from Christmas Island, was diagnosed with cancer aged four.

Mr Johnson said: “They didn’t know what they were doing. We were guinea pigs. Every veteran will tell you the same story.”

The case of the ex-servicemen hoping to take action against the MoD, of whom Mr Johnson is one, is currently being heard by the Supreme Court.

They are trying to get permission to take the MoD to court because in 2010 the Court of Appeal ruled the claims had been made too late.

But in July, they were given permission to go to the Supreme Court this week. They are now waiting on a decision.

A spokesman for the MOD said: “We recognise the invaluable contribution of all service personnel who took part in the nuclear testing programme.

“In arriving at its judgment last year, the Court of Appeal also considered to some extent the merit of the claims in terms of causation and concluded that the general merits of the claims were extremely weak.”