Fields of Thunder

3 x 1 hour Drama

Sammy Ringer

A Physicist, a soldier and an elder with just one thing in common – they were there when the big one went off.



Survivors of Maralinga.


It was, without doubt, the most dramatic thing to happen on Australian soil – and the least talked about.

This program tells the story of four people with one thing in common – the atomic tests at Maralinga in the 50’s.

In the years following the blasts, their lives cross and re-cross as the true results of the tests and the ‘clean up’ slowly come out.

Marty Fencher was an RAF mechanic posted to Maralinga for Operation Buffalo. He was one of the ‘human guinea pigs’. He developed myelofibrosis in the sixties and was one of the many who pushed for compensation – and recognition of what had happened.

Dr Michael Lang was part of the team of scientists Britain sent out to monitor the tests. He was aware of what was really going on but felt that the ends justified the means. Thirty years later, he returns to Australia to assist in the ‘clean up’. Once again, he seems content to keep his mouth shut – until he meets:

Woopa Banjeta, an elder of the Maralinga Tjarutja. He and his family were nomads in the fifties and were not removed from the test sight. Woopa is the only member of his family still living. The old man is  determined to have the damage done to his family and his land acknowledged - his great understanding and graciousness in the proceedings finally begin to change Lang’s mind.

Jon Rasmussan, heads up the team which begins the second ‘clean up’ in the 90’s. Jon is also able to overlook the cover-ups, the short cuts and the lies the government and his firm are involved in – yet ironically, his own son died of cancer after returning from Vietnam.

There is little need to create drama to place within this structure. History has done this for us:

The full knowledge of the British and Australians of the real danger of the tests

The thousands of naïve servicemen who believed what they were told

The disabled people flown from Britain to Maralinga – and never taken back

The bodies of still-born and aborted babies sent to Britain for testing

The whistle blowers who couldn’t stop the tests going on

The ‘clean ups’ – at the time, the British simply dug holes on the site and buried contaminated machinery. The second clean up in the 80’s was such a farce that a third clean-up was undertaken in the nineties. However, when the government discovered just how large the task would be, high tech methods were scrapped in favour of digging more holes and putting contaminated material in them with a concrete covering.

The controversy – the radiation, the cover-ups, death, lies and the fight for compensation and restoration continue to this day.

The Stories

Ep 1 – Just a Boy

We meet our three protagonists just before the tests are to begin. Woopa has taken his family bush and is not evacuated with the others.

Marty is young and keen and totally innocent

Dr Lang can’t find anything right with Maralinga.

In this first ep. we cross between the high level meetings between the British and the Australians regarding the protocol for the tests and the simpler stories of Marty and Woopa.