Radar exposure blamed for sailor's fatal tumour


War Hero
A young widow has launched landmark legal action against the Defence Force to prove her sailor husband's death from a brain tumour was caused by a ship's radar.

Leading Seaman Bosun's Mate Peter Beckwith served with the Royal Australian Navy for seven years – three spent on board the HMAS Newcastle – where he was positioned right in front of the radar.

He was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2001 at the age of 23 after suffering a series of "turns" and nose bleeds.

An MRI scan revealed an apple-sized tumour on his right temple lobe and just two days later he underwent surgery in Melbourne to remove the mass.

Neurologist Professor Jeffrey Rosenfeld told the Beckwiths the tumour could well have been caused by non-ionising radiation – the same as that emitted by mobile phones, microwaves and radars.

The prognosis was supported by renowned Sydney brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo.

After Mr Beckwith underwent intensive radiation therapy, the family moved to Brisbane to be closer to family only to have the tumour reappear in September 2006.

At the time, wife Rebecca was pregnant with their second child and news of the tragic turn of events hit hard.

"I didn't know if Peter would be there at the end of it," Mrs Beckwith said, her voice breaking with emotion.

"Ella was only seven months old when he passed away. She recognises him in photos but she never knew him."

Peter's death at the age of 29 devastated Mrs Beckwith, who was left alone to care for William, 6, and Ella, now 2.

"The navy never admitted fault. It's disgraceful. They don't look after you," she said.

Mrs Beckwith has since learned of a series of radiation leaks on the guided missile frigate from a former sailor who served with her husband.

The man, who did not want to be named, said he clearly recalled one such incident in January 1998.

"One of the wave bars that go up to the radar split and they had to reseal it. A section of the deck was roped off while this occurred," he said. "We were all told to get checked out."

Mrs Beckwith is now making a second claim under the military compensation scheme after her first was rejected.

Slater and Gordon solicitor Ben Mason said there was sufficient scientific and medical evidence to support the claim.

"We're asserting that (Mr Beckwith's brain tumour) arose out of his exposure to non-ionising radiation and, in particular, radar," Mr Mason said.

The only financial assistance Mrs Beckwith has received to date has been from volunteer organisation Legacy, which helped pay for her husband's funeral when the navy refused.

Although given 48 hours notice, the ADF was unable to answer The Courier-Mail's questions about Mr Beckwith.



War Hero
Well we've all got to die of something, just waiting for the second head to appear after 4 years of being a radar maintainer.
The CRS who taught us how to tune radios had his finger nails burned away by radiation, we reckoned he glowed in the dark.
Most of his naval life had been spent tuning radio valves by hand.
I wonder if he is still alive at what would be around 65 years old.


War Hero
IIRC one of the Phalanx maintainers on Illustrious discovered that his film had developed '84/'85. Never did find out what happened after that.
I also recall some civvies onboard London testing wip aerials. Said bloke had a device on his ankle measuring how much current was going through him. Boasted about having a whole amp through himself on one occasion. Didn't seem to find the funny side of my comment of "are you planning to have children?" ...

The amount of wigglies flying around a pussers grey always made me think...