A MAN who witnessed 24 nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific is set to march as a part of the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in London.

Throughout the Cold War, the world lived in fear of the huge mushroom clouds from weapons that could level cities. 

A flash of bright light, followed by a fireball, a burst of heat and a huge pressure wave immediately follow the detonation of such a weapon.

Gordon Craggs, 82, was one of a select few who witnessed not just one or two nuclear tests, but 24. 

He served in the Royal Engineers on Christmas Island in 1962, forming part of the international task force testing nuclear weapons in Operation Dominic.

Bournemouth Echo: Gordon with pictures from his time on Christmas Island.

Aged just 20 at the time, Gordon has described the first weapons test on the island in April 1962.

“Some are running, some are actually trying to run away right from the bomb,” he said.

“Some are crying, quite a few calling for mum, totally disorientated.

“I often wonder why I wasn't. I was worried about the power factor and number three engine keeping up its revs so that the voltage would remain where it was.

“I was itching to get back and I've thought about what were my feelings. My feelings were of bewilderment.

“I think that sums it up. I was bewildered by what was going on and what was happening next.”

Gordon was on the island operating the Joint Operations Centre power station at the main American camp on the island.

Bournemouth Echo: Gordon recently received the Nuclear Test Medal.

All British veterans who served on the island have recently received the Nuclear Test Medal from the King, for their service, in time for Remembrance Sunday.

Gordon, now living in Ferndown, joined the army aged just 15.

He was born in India while his father was serving in the military in the country, before its independence.

He was sent to Christmas Island in February 1962, after training as a combat engineer.

Gordon said the tests quickly became normal on the island, before he left in August of the same year.

He said he enjoyed his time there, enjoying the Tennent’s lager, cans of cigarettes, sleeping on the beach, and getting crayfish to barbecue.

“I felt that I was lucky and privileged to be part of that era and part of that operation at my age, it certainly gave me propelled me in my career, in my life, boosted my everything,” he said.

“I grew up very fast.

“That's the reality of it. It was good.”

Bournemouth Echo: Gordon Craggs with the Nuclear Test Medal.

Gordon went on to serve in Cyprus and Thailand and was head of the electrical engineering, electronic and nuclear engineering laboratories at the Royal School of Military Engineering.

He moved to Bournemouth after he left the military and later worked as an engineer across the region.

He now lives in Ferndown, with his three children and two grandchildren living nearby.

Speaking on the recognition of receiving the medal, Gordon said: “It is nice to get recognition and I'm prouder now than what I ever was before.”

He read the message that was sent with his decoration, which is the first military medal issued by King Charles III.

“This Nuclear Test Medal is presented to you in recognition of your significant contribution to Britain's nuclear test. Simple but meaningful," Gordon said. 

“I quite like that.”