'We were unprotected from the radiation'
IT IS unlikely Roy Aiton's skin will ever recover from radiation he suffered when he saw three atomic bombs explode.
But the Gladstone resident considers himself lucky.
The former member of the Royal Australian Air Force was posted to the rural town of Maralinga in South Australia, about 1100km northwest of Adelaide, in 1957 as a part of Operation Antler.
The operation was designed to test components of thermonuclear weapons.
But with very little known of nuclear radiation in the 1950s, Mr Aiton is the last surviving member of his crew.
"We were unprotected by radiation. No one knew much about it in those days," Mr Aiton said.
"I was pretty lucky though, most of my friends were dead from cancer.
"I had four operations on my face and 30 radium treatments."
Mr Aiton enlisted in 1955 and started his military career at the Richmond Airbase in New South Wales.
Following his time at Maralinga he was posted to the Butterworth airbase where he served in the Malayan emergency.
Mr Aiton was eventually flown back to Australia on the Hercules aircraft due to health issues and was discharged in 1961.
Mr Aiton said he was inspired to join the RAAF by his family.
"I had two brothers in the air force, I followed suit," he said.
"The idea (was) to represent your country."
Mr Aiton now serves as the vice-president for the Gladstone RSL-Sub Branch and will be presenting a speech at the Gladstone Anzac Day ceremony.
"I take it very seriously," he said.
"It's a remembrance day. I get emotional reading the addresses and so forth."
Since becoming a member of the RSL Sub Branch Mr Aiton has managed to find that same sense of camaraderie the defence force is known for.
"We have a very good group there," he said.
"We've got about 21 active members. They're all friends like brothers and sisters, they're wonderful people."