Personal Injury
Military Injury

‘There could be many other veterans out there like me who have these cancers and think our time at Camp Lejeune could be the cause’

british serviceman in the uk armed forces

Paul McClorry

Head of Travel Litigation & Serious Injury

9 min read time
14 Dec 2022

A British Army veteran who has undergone several operations in his fight against cancers is calling on the UK Government to contact former military personnel and explain the health risks they face after being exposed to toxic drinking water while stationed at a training camp in the US.

The 66-year-old former warrant officer has survived both bladder and prostate cancer in recent years and believes his time spent at the US Marine training facility at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina may have caused his illnesses.

“Really, the Ministry of Defence should be following this up with veterans. Somebody should be doing something.

“They must surely know who was there; there will be military records who went to the US and where and for how long,” says the former soldier who lived at the base for three months in 1985 as part of a British Army training team.

The US Government estimates as many as one million people may have been exposed to the contaminated drinking water at the base between 1953 and 1987.

On 10th August 2022 the US president, Joe Biden, signed the PACT Act allowing former servicemen and their families who became seriously ill after being exposed to the toxic tap water at Camp Lejeune to apply for awards.

“We should be officially contacted by the MoD and told about the risks that this poisoned water has had on our health and what the ailments are,” added the former veteran who served for 25 years and who contacted Hudgell Solicitors’ military injuries team after reading online about the effects of the toxic water he drank while at the camp.

“I won’t say it is a cover-up, but I think someone in the MoD is making light of this,” he added.

The exposures to chemicals such as trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, vinyl chloride and benzene is believed to be responsible for causing numerable cancers as well as Parkinson’s disease, renal failure and more.

Illnesses linked to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune include:

  • Adult leukaemia
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

Research conducted by Hudgell’s military claims experts suggests thousands of British servicemen were stationed at the camp on training exercises over the four decades.

In 1973 alone it was recorded that 800 members of the British Royal Marine 40 Commando Group were at the base.

Anyone “injured” is eligible for compensation if they spent at least 30 days living or working at the base

In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request Hudgell Solicitors asked the UK’s Ministry of Defence if it could confirm exactly how many servicemen and women were there over the affected 34 years.

It responded by saying that although the relevant information was held in service records, they “were created in a time before electronic recording… the only way to respond to is to manually retrieve and review each record to ascertain if relevant to your query.

“We hold over 2 million service records in the time window that you are interested in therefore the man hours required to issue a response exceeds the limit allowed for a FOI.”

British military servicemen exposed to the toxic drinking water at US Camp Lejeune are now being urged to seek independent legal advice as the new US law paves the way for compensation awards, but they must be made before August 10th 2024.

Anyone “injured” is eligible for compensation if they spent at least 30 days living or working at the base between 1953 and 1987; those 30 days do not have to be continuous.

Already in the US around 5,000 claims were filed in the first month since the new legislation removed roadblocks for the cases, setting up the potential for one of the largest mass litigations in U.S. history.

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‘There could be many others out there like me who have these cancers and our time at Camp Lejeune could be the cause’

The UK former veteran, who does not wish to be named, was diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancer in 2019 at the age of 61 and underwent five operations, including the removal of 14 lymph nodes.

“I believe we should be offered assistance and legal advice by the MoD because like me, there will be other people out there who think they’ve been affected by the poisons.

“The disappointing thing is that someone knew that things were not as they should be and nothing was done about it then, and nothing is being done about it here now.

“We served our country but there could be many others out there like me who have these cancers and our time at Camp Lejeune could be the cause.”

The officer, who also served in Northern Ireland, says he was told by his consultant that his cancers were unusual for a man who was healthy and had never smoked.

‘Here in the UK there is silence on the issue’

Paul McClorry of Hudgell Solicitors, who has many years of experience representing clients injured abroad while at work says, “In the US, thousands of former servicemen and women are pursuing claims because of the devastating effects the poisoned drinking water has had on their health.

“The reason they can now do this is because they are not only well informed but because the US Government has taken active and constructive steps to enable them to seek compensation. However, here in the UK there is silence on the issue and that can’t be right.

“A number of British veterans have now contacted us at Hudgell Solicitors and we have undertaken to do whatever we can to ensure that should their health and their lives have been put at risk by these poisons we will fight for their right to compensation through the US justice system, which we have done for so many other clients over the years.”

The drinking water was contaminated with chemicals at levels up to 280 times higher than permitted

Mr McClorry, who is also co-chair of the American Association for Justice’s International Practice Section (an association of personal injury lawyers acting for claimants in American courts), is working alongside US lawyer Mike Doyle whose practice includes the representation of plaintiffs in maritime personal injury, international and trans-national personal injury.

“I have already represented U.K. residents injured in the US as well as working with people from various countries who have been injured as a result of the actions of multinational companies.

“The PACT Act now allows anyone who was at Camp Lejeune and became unwell as a result of the toxic drinking water to claim damages, regardless of where they now live in the world,” he said.

Camp Lejeune was established in 1941 as a base for marines and sailors to train and it regularly hosts military personnel from other countries, including the UK.

It has been established that, over the course of four decades, between 1953 and 1987, the drinking water was contaminated with chemicals at levels up to 280 times higher than permitted by safety standards.

The UK former veteran, represented by Hudgell Solicitors, has now asked the Ministry of Defence to formally confirm that he was based at Camp Lejeune while serving.

“It should be straightforward, when you get discharged from the army you get your Red Book which will record what countries you went to. It might only say the US but there will be records that say which camps you were based at.

“Really, it should be the MoD following this up with veterans, not the other way around. Somebody should be doing something. We served our country and we deserve a bit more honesty.

“I want to pursue a claim because if that’s what caused my illnesses, anything that will improve my quality of life would be welcomed.”

The veteran, now a grandfather, says the cancers have restricted his life and his ability to travel, “My life changed completely after the operations, I’ve lived from day to day. We discussed this as a family, and we all agreed that I should have been told about this years ago.

“But neither the Ministry of Defence or the army has ever been in touch to explain things or tell us that we might be at risk.”

Another UK military veteran, a former Royal Marine of the 40 Commando, who was stationed at Camp Lejeune in 1973 and was later diagnosed with bladder cancer has also instructed Hudgell Solicitors after becoming aware of the connection between his illness and the poisoned drinking water supply.

In 2011, ‘Mac’ as he wishes to be known, had five tumours removed and is now actively raising awareness among former British servicemen and women about Camp Lejeune and the PACT Act.

He was told at the time of his diagnosis that the cancer may have been linked to smoking, a period when the effects of the toxic water supply were not publicly known about.

Currently a huge campaign is being run in the US to ensure all those affected and who endured undue suffering, severe illness, permanent disability, and loss are found and compensated.

Mr McClorry says, “The British Government has, so far, remained silent about the issue. But I want veterans to know the US law does allow former British servicemen and women to seek compensation.

“However, those affected are likely to be older generations, who may not be aware this is now happening, so we are urging veterans’ groups and other associations to help make their members aware of what support is available to them if they have been affected, or if someone has already passed away, what their spouse and families are entitled to.”

Timely Legal Advice

If you or a loved one were stationed, lived or worked at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 for 30 days or more, you may have a route to compensation. It is important to seek timely legal advice as, under the new US law, claims can only be brought within a two-year timeframe from 10th August 2022.

Read more: Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

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‘There could be many other veterans out there like me who have these cancers and think our time at Camp Lejeune could be the cause’

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