A FORMER RAF officer has been given a medal for the time he served during atomic bomb testing in the late 1950's. 

George Bayford, 86, was one of many in military service sent to Kiritimati - one of the Line Islands in the Pacific Ocean more than 1,000 miles south of Hawaii.

Mr Bayford, who now lives in West Grimstead, was just 21 when he was stationed on the island and worked as a policeman within the RAF.

He remained there for nine months while testing took place.

He said: "I was older than many of those who were there. There were hundreds of us out there. Some say we were treated as guinea pigs, but it was just a job to do."

The RAF, Army and Navy were all present on the island at the time. 

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Salisbury Journal: George and his family along with MP John GlenGeorge and his family along with MP John Glen (Image: Spencer Mulholland)

There were two atomic bombs and two hydrogen bombs being tested.

The bombs were hoisted 1500 ft in the air by four barrage balloons and then, a 20ft long generator on the ground was set off. It was blown up about 50 yards away.

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George recalled being in the forward area control where the bombs were being let off.

He said: "The noise was terrific."

 "There was a field of rhododendron bushes, and after the explosion, they were all gone. It looked like a ploughed field. Nothing there.

"There were so many sea birds, but you didn't see any on the day. They disappeared before the bomb went off. You saw one or two dead ones but the rest all came back. It was like they knew. "

George saw the cloud going up into the sky when the bomb was set off and felt the heat from the explosion but never found out the outcome of the tests. 

He said: "It does all seem a bit crazy, because it's all forgotten about now. We don't hear much about atomic bombs."

Salisbury Journal: George Bayford and MP John GlenGeorge Bayford and MP John Glen (Image: Spencer Mulholland)

George was glad to leave the island and when he returned to the UK, he was moved to different camps but was eventually demobbed in February 1960.

In contrast to his work on Kiritimati Island, he found work at Hi-Flex in Salisbury, graduating to becoming a buyer for the company and then, moved on, working as a buyer in Romsey. 

Salisbury Journal: Nuclear testing medalNuclear testing medal (Image: Spencer Mulholland)

George was presented with his medal by Salisbury MP John Glen on Friday (November 10) and was surrounded by his wife Lizzie and his family for the big moment. 

He admitted:  "The medal means a lot really."

Mr Glen said: "In the run up to Armistice Day this weekend, it was a privilege to meet George Bayford and present him with medals he has received for service on Christmas Island during atomic bomb testing. I am very grateful for his contribution and for the chance to congratulate him."