RAF HONOURS LOCAL MAN’S SERVICE DURING NUCLEAR TESTS

A FORMER Groomsport man has been presented with a medal marking his involvement in Britain’s nuclear testing in the 50s and 60s.

Bernard (‘Barney’) Jenkins, a former RAF wing commander, has been presented with the distinguished King’s Nuclear Test Medal by a senior officer in the Service.

Squadron leader Steve Hamilton, from RAF Aldergrove, travelled to Barrhall residential home in Portaferry on Friday, where 97 year-old Mr Jenkins lives, to make a formal presentation of the newly created award.

Mr Jenkins received the medal in honour of his special contribution to the UK’s nuclear test trials in the late fifties and early 1960s.

It is not the first time Mr Jenkins has been recognised by Royalty for he also received a commendation from King George VI, the present King’s grandfather, for services in the air, and he was given an OBE for special services to the RAF by Queen Elizabeth.

Though born in Mumbles, Wales, Mr Jenkins has lived in Dundonald, Groomsport and most recently Portaferry since being posted here when he joined the RAF in 1944 as an officer, serving at RAF Aldergrove and then Ballykelly.

Working as a navigator in the RAF, Mr Jenkins was posted in 1957 to Maralinga in Australia where he was put in charge of the operations of all the jets which did the testing and bombing runs when the UK started nuclear testing in Australia.

These tests ultimately led to the UK becoming a nuclear force.

Mr Jenkins’s son David says evidence has also recently come to light to support his father’s story that on October 4, 1957 he became the first human to sight with the naked eye the first man-made satellite, Sputnik One, in orbit.

David explains: “I have uncovered his logbook confirming the sighting entry at Maralinga, South Australia.

“With the assistance of The Armagh Planetarium this little piece of history is being investigated and verified by The Smithsonian Museum in the USA and is taking on a momentum all of its own.”