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Asbestos Fibres Close Up

Former dockyard worker successfully sues the Ministry of Defence

A former dockyard worker has secured a substantial settlement from the Ministry of Defence following his diagnosis with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Posted on 05 June 2024

Peter Walsh worked at the Chatham Dockyard between 1962 and 1970, initially as an apprentice boiler maker and subsequently as a qualified boiler maker.

For the first three years of his training, he was based in the training centre at the dockyard. The training centre was a large, old and open-plan building divided into various sections such as a smithery, boiler section, metal work section and welding section.

There was a large onsite three drum boiler which was used for training. Peter was required to saw asbestos millboard with a handsaw in order to create gaskets or seals for the boiler registers. Cutting the millboard created a cloud of dust that could clearly be seen on the work surfaces, his hands and overalls.

The training centre itself had numerous asbestos lagged pipes that ran along the walls and ceilings, some of which was broken leaving chunks of the material on the ground. Peter also undertook training in the boiler and engine rooms of ships in the dockyard, which  contained numerous asbestos lagged pipes as well.


Photo of Peter and his wife Julia
Photo of Peter and his wife, Julia


Peter was further exposed to asbestos during his training while working in the Yard Service Maintenance section, which entailed cleaning and repairing boilers and pipework used to supply services to the buildings. The boilers and pipework were both lagged with asbestos.

He continued to be exposed to asbestos in the boiler shop after he qualified. Components from the ships were brought in, most of which were badly cleaned and had asbestos lagging remaining on them. Peter was also exposed to asbestos whilst undertaking repairs to the components, with asbestos clearly visible on surfaces and on the ground of the boiler shop.

After receiving his diagnosis with mesothelioma in 2023, Peter instructed Harminder Bains, partner at Leigh Day, whose own father was exposed to asbestos whilst working at the Chatham Dockyard as a slinger. In her father’s case 26 years ago, Harminder began court proceedings against the Ministry of Defence in the High Court, London, and her father successfully received substantial compensation.

Similarly in Peter’s case, Harminder began court proceedings against the Ministry of Defence and judgment was entered against the Ministry of Defence. As a consequence of this, Peter successfully recovered substantial damages within six months of instructing Harminder.

Peter said:

“From my first discussions with my solicitor at Leigh Day, with reference to my mesothelioma cancer diagnosis, I was supported and received a positive approach to my case, especially with all of my history of my career in HM Dockyard Chatham Kent. My case has progressed since then and is now drawing to a very successful outcome and result. My law firm presented and fought extremely hard to conclude my case. They have a vast amount of experience and knowledge in such cases which gave me total reassurance.”

Harminder said:

“I deal with every client’s case as if I am dealing with my father’s case. Men and women who are exposed to asbestos through no fault of their own deserve compensation quickly. Compensation these days can include money for vital life-extending treatment which is not available on the NHS and the cost of care and equipment. In addition, many of my clients sadly suffer a loss of income as a result of their illness and compensation can alleviate financial difficulties, providing peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones.”

Harminder Bains
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Harminder Bains

Joint head of the asbestos and industrial diseases, internationally renowned for her role fighting for victims of asbestos

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