Sussex's atomic test veterans have won their High Court bid for the right to sue for compensation.

About 1,000 servicemen who blame their ill-health on involvement in Britain's 1950s nuclear tests want to sue the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The veterans, who took part in the programme on the Australian mainland, Monte Bello islands and Christmas Island between 1952 and 1958, say that new scientific evidence has shown links between exposure to ionising radiation and their conditions, which include cancer, skin defects and fertility problems.

Claimant Ronald Coleby, 74, of Elm Court, Brighton, was ordered to stand on the deck of the HMS Warrior in the South Pacific as Briatin's first hydrogen bomb was detonated He has suffered from throat cancer while one of his daughters died aged two and his remaining children are said to have serious health problems.

He said: “It's great news. I did not think the day would ever come.

“It's not until that professor in New Zealand came up with the conclusive proof that we got the result.

"It's just a first important step. We will have to wait and see what happens now.”

Veteran Dennis Ward, 75, of Compton Place Road, Eastbourne, said he felt justice had finally been done.

He said: “It has been so long that people have been fighting for it. We were guinea pigs, there is no doubt about it.

“I am certainly glad for all those others that have won this frustrating right to claim. I have been fighting since 1992 but some of the others, you can see that they are really suffering.

“Not all illnesses are cancers. People have had problems with their eyes and also internal problems.”

Christopher Noone, 70, of Upper St James Street, Brighton, said the flash of the blast was so powerful that he could sea a clear image of the bone structure in his hands and knees and he was almost blown over by the shockwave.

Other veterans demanding compensation include Frederick Paine, from Hastings, Ernest Hughes, from Bognor, and Lawrence Richards, from Haywards Heath.

Many of veterans are terminally ill and seven have died since the hearing at London's High Court in January.

The Ministry of Defence has acknowledged the 'debt of gratitude' owed to the men but is fighting the multimillion-pound group action on the preliminary issue that it cannot proceed because it was launched outside the legal time limit.

Mr Justice Foskett rejected a submission by the MoD, which denies negligence, that all the cases were 'doomed to fail' on the issue of causation, and refused to strike them out.

He said: “All things being equal, a veteran who believes that he has an illness, injury or disability attributable to his presence at the tests whose case is supported by apparently reputable scientific and medical evidence, should be entitled to his 'day in court'.”