DEREK Connelly, who has died aged 82, served in the RAF before embarking on a long career as a prison officer.

As an RAF policeman, he never forgot the intense heat he felt as Britain exploded hydrogen and atomic bombs just 30 miles from where he stood.

He was serving on Christmas Island in the South Pacific in the 1950s when the tests were carried out.

He once recalled: "The bombs were exploded at one end of the island and we were taken to the other end, 30 miles away.

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"We wore khaki shorts and boots, but nothing on top. We were told to face away from the bombs, clench our fists and put them over our eyes to stop blindness.

"When the bombs went off, the heat was like an electric fire coming close to your body."

Mr Connelly, of Churchill Road, Kidlington, was on Christmas Island for nine months, during which time British forces exploded two hydrogen and two atomic bombs.

Recently, he had been supporting a campaign led by the Daily and Sunday Mirror newspapers to get compensation from the Government or, at least, a medal to mark the troops’ bravery.

Although he suffered no obvious ill-effects, other servicemen and their offspring have reported various ailments, which some claim could be attributed to the bombing.

The Oxford Times:

Mr Connelly was born near Newcastle and, after passing the 11-plus and studying at Blaydon Grammar School, was called up for his two years' National Service.

He was so keen to become an RAF policeman that he immediately signed up for a third year.

He trained and served at various bases before being despatched to Christmas Island, where his job was to guard the airfield.

He spent five years in the RAF and after he left started his career as a prison officer, serving initially at Bedford, Wakefield, Reading, Maidstone and Coldingley, Surrey.

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At Reading, one of his colleagues was the brother-in-law of Jill Blackstock, who became Mr Connelly's wife.

He was promoted to senior officer and transferred to Oxford Prison in New Road, where he served for 22 years until its closure in the 1990s.

One of the proudest moments for him and his wife was to be invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party in 1996 to mark his long public service.

Mr Connelly leaves his widow Jill, son Daryl and daughter-in-law Donna, daughter Donna and son-in-law Chris, grandsons Ellis and Mason and grand-daughters Ciera, Freya and Anya.

His funeral will be at Oxford Crematorium on Monday, July 15, at 3pm.