Gulf War veteran says he was a guinea pig

Standard & Guardian 29/10/1998

by Debbie Mead

Andrew Black uses an inhaler now and says he is fit only to nurse himself. He used to be a nurse

A GULF War veteran claims that the MOD experimented on him before they subjected pilots and the SAS to a cocktail of vaccinations.

Now, Andrew Black, of Croscombe Gardens, Frome, says he is too sick to work.

The 38-year-old bachelor had hopes of a successful nursing career but now he is fit only to nurse himself.

He is angry the MOD is refusing to pay him an army pension and is planning to claim compensation.

The MOD has denied the guinea pig claims.

Andrew, from Scotland, was a full time soldier in the infantry with the Green Howards between 1979 and 1984.

He left the forces to start a career in nursing.

When the Gulf War broke out, he volunteered his services as a nurse and on January 15, 1991, he flew out to Riyadh where he was attached to the 205 General Hospital which had been set up in an old terminal at the airport.

Andrew tells his horrific story.

He said: The first morning I was there we were attacked by a Scud missile.

I was asleep and the siren went off. I was running around trying to find my chemical warfare suit and keep calm.

I managed to get kitted up but there was no shelter. I could hear the impact as the missiles landed one was just 20 metres away and the shrapnel hit the roof of the accommodation block I was in.

I was told that there was a Scud fuel tank near the block. I had a burning sensation in my nose a week after the first attack.

On one occasion I was on duty in the sick bay when we were inundated with semi-conscious guys from the unit who had reacted to the whooping cough and anthrax injections.

In all Andrew was forced to have about 20 vaccines.

He said: A major told us we had to have them.

He said we were being used as guinea pigs before the vaccines were given to the Tornado pilots and the SAS.

If we were ill they would know to stand these personnel down for a number of days. We tried to refuse but were threatened with court martial.

The way they were given was wrong.

We were given experimental drugs and doses which were not recommended by the manufacturers.

Andrew has never recovered from his second anthrax jab.

He said: I was weak and had flu-like symptoms and a chest infection for 12 weeks.

He returned home after three months and nursed at hospitals in the south of England and the Midlands before he joined the Royal United Hospital in Bath in 1995 where he worked on a ward with high dependency patients.

Andrew said: I was becoming very weak and couldnt keep up.

In August 1996 I went to work in theatre recovery because it was not so physically strenuous.

I have had to give up altogether now.

I suffer from asthma and a neurological condition which causes a lack of co-ordination and short-term memory loss it is not treatable.

Some of the cells in my brain have been damaged.

Andrews condition is so serious that he sometimes forgets his way home.

He said: I hate going anywhere, I am always getting lost I used to be in the orienteering team.

I feel bitter and twisted and extremely annoyed.

The MoD knows there is a problem and is ignoring it.

It is refusing to reveal the results of the medical assessment programme which all Gulf veterans have to attend their findings are being kept secret.

There is nothing we can do about it.

Andrew went on: Everybody I knew in my unit was ill and some are a lot worse than me.

He said 1,700 Gulf veterans are registered sick and 200 have died.

We went to war knowing there was a chance that we would not come back.

We went for Queen and Country and expected, if anything happened, to get the best medical treatment available we have been denied that. The MOD is no better than Saddam Hussains regime.

They would rather us die than spend money on us. The longer they hold out, the more of us die and the less they have to pay out.

The partners of some of the soldiers who have the same symptoms as me have had miscarriages or stillborn or deformed children I couldnt think of having any children.

Andrew has been in touch with MP David Heath. Andrew said: He was shocked when I told him what was happening and was very supportive and sympathetic.

Mr Heath said: I have been dealing with Andrews case for over a year. The MoD is refusing to pay him an army pension.

Frome Royal British Legion has been helping Andrew fight his battle. Andrew said: The welfare officer, Robin White, is a great guy. He has really been looking after me.

Andrew is now waiting for the outcome of the 40 test cases before he starts his battle for compensation.

The Ministry of Defence has said that it is holding a fact-finding mission into how the vaccines were administered.

Lt Cdr Martin Flanagan said he could not confirm or deny the manner in which the vaccinations were given to Mr Black.

He said: Different units may have applied the policy in different ways.

I cannot guarantee how every medical major organised the vaccinations. On-going fact finding work is investigating this.

He said 6.5m in research is being spent on getting to the bottom of it.

But I can confirm that there were no secret vaccines given or guinea pigs used.

The matter of the army pension is not the responsibility of the MoD. It is down to the War Pensions Agency and out of our hands.