The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 12 October 2023.
UK Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Rt Hon. Johnny Mercer MP, met British Army veterans across Fiji during his trip and met senior Fijian ministers.
A senior UK government minister has joined Fijian nationals in celebrating their national day (Tuesday, 10 October).
The Rt Hon. Johnny Mercer MP, the UK Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, met British Army veterans across Fiji during his trip and met senior Fijian Government Ministers.
Mr Mercer is the first UK Minister to attend Fiji Day celebrations in recent history. The celebrations are the culmination of a week-long programme of religious and cultural events.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Rt Hon. Johnny Mercer MP, said:
It was an honour to attend Fiji Day and celebrate with the people of Fiji this significant day in your calendar.
Fijian soldiers continue to play a vital role in the British Armed Forces. I’m here to recognise that, and their service, and learn something about their country. It was a pleasure meeting Fijian veteran during this trip, and personally express my gratitude for their service.
There remains a terrible stigma around mental health. On my trip I met a range of Fijian mental health professionals to discuss the landscape here, particularly around providing support to those who have experienced stress and trauma in combat. I am keen that the UK and Fiji share experience and expertise in this area, to ensure better support to those who need it the most.
It was an honour for me to meet veterans of the 1950s nuclear tests. I was able to listen to their experience and discuss the Nuclear Test Medal which will recognise their service.
During his time in Fiji, the Minister will also visit Momi Bay Battery Historical Park, which was tasked with defending the Navula passage in World War II from a Japanese coastal invasion.
The Nuclear Test medal was announced by the Prime Minister in November 2022, 70 years after the first British test of a nuclear weapon, and recognises military, civilian, and overseas staff and personnel who participated in Britain’s nuclear testing programme. The medal will recognise the contribution made by veterans and civilian staff from across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Kiribati and includes scientists and local employees.
The Ministry of Defence Medal Office has begun to dispatch medals to Commonwealth veterans, where their applications have already been received and approved. The British High Commissioner will arrange for medals to be passed to Commonwealth recipients.
The medal will also be awarded posthumously. Veterans, civilian staff and next of kin from across the UK and Commonwealth can apply for the commemorative medal through the MOD’s Medal Office, which will be free of charge.
Sharing best practice and working with like-minded international counterparts are part of the UK Government’s wider efforts to make the UK the best country in the world to be a veteran. The UK now has a dedicated Office for Veterans’ Affairs sitting outside of the Ministry of Defence and under the direction of a Minister who attends Cabinet, following in the footsteps of other Five Eyes allies.
Eligible veterans, civilians and their next of kin can now submit an application to the MOD Medal Office.
The qualifying period for the medal is defined as “service of any length”. Priority will be given to issuing medals to veterans and civilians involved in the nuclear tests before those sent to next of kin.
A copy of the eligibility criteria for the medal has been deposited in the Libraries of the Houses of Parliament.
The Nuclear Test Medal was first announced by the Prime Minister in November 2022.