Working under the Official Secrets Act - the perceptions of Orford Ness Veterans*
Orford Ness memorial located on Orford Quay
Many of those working on Orford Ness were in their thirties when AWRE ceased its activity in 1971. Thus, most Veterans (Vets) - those people who had worked on, or for, Orford Ness, were in their mid to late 70’s when, during the period 2013 - 2017, some 60 of them were located and interviewed by a National Trust volunteer ranger.
These interviews highlighted just how much valuable ‘hands on’ trials information these Vets possessed, and IRGON felt that greater effort should be applied as soon as possible to obtain more answers to military research as the number of these Vets remaining was rapidly reducing.
Their evidence provided new information about weapons trials about which little or nothing was known. Consequently our research is initially concentrated on the Cold War period.
Of the 60 Orford Ness Veterans who had been located and interviewed, only 44 were audio recorded. All people employed by Government agencies, such as RAE and AWRE, were required to achieve security clearance before their employment and to then work under the Official Secrets Act.
Because of their concerns, some of the 60 Veterans simply refused to be interviewed, while others declined to be recorded, but did allow verbatim notes to be taken of their comments. Even after 50 years, the existence of the Official Secrets Act and a team, or project based, ’need-to-know' practice has made information gathering about the military trials on Orford Ness more difficult.
Approval was given by the National Trust to Professor William Walters, of Carleton University, Ottawa, to use these audio recordings as part of his academic work into State and ‘Everyday Secrecy’.
* ‘Veterans': those who worked on, or for, the military testing of the UK’s weapons on Orford Ness.
For more information see Useful Links , Everyday Secrecy
** © National Trust