A former mountain rescuer told the Prince of Wales today that the late Queen Elizabeth II “did the right thing” by waiting more than a week before visiting Aberfan in the aftermath of the 1966 disaster.
Bob Thomas, who assisted in the disaster 57 years ago, assured Prince William that his grandmother – who has come under fire for being late – would have been a “distraction”.
The 40-year-old monarch and his wife, the Princess of Wales, 41, met rescuers from Aberfan as they visited Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales, today, to meet the Central Beacons rescue team, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
The couple are introduced to Bob and Nick Richards, both of whom offer assistance when a devastating mudslide in a Welsh village kills 144 people, including 116 children.
“It must have been terrifying,” said William. It is my pleasure to meet you both. My grandmother told me many times about Aberfan.
A former mountain rescuer of the Prince of Wales (pictured with the Princess of Wales) said the late Queen Elizabeth II ‘did the right thing’ by waiting more than a week before visiting Aberfan in the aftermath of the 1966 disaster.
Mr. Thomas replied, “Your family did the right thing in not coming at once, as it would have been a distraction.”
The tragedy of 1966 was one of the worst in the United Kingdom, and left 116 children and 28 adults dead.
It was caused by a landslide that caused a landslide after heavy rains swept away Pantglas Elementary School and surrounding homes on the morning of 21 October.
The Duke of Edinburgh, Lord Snowdon and then Prime Minister Harold Wilson visited the scene the next day. The Queen waited eight days before going to the village near Merthyr Tydfil.
She visited the mining village several times and formed a strong bond with the community.
Mr. Thomas and Mr. Richards had helped with the aftermath of Aberfan and spent some time talking to William and Kate about the disaster.
Mr. Thomas, then a 19-year-old bank employee, showed William pictures and explained how difficult it was to clear the rubble.
“We were trying to move what looked like dry concrete,” Mr. Thomas said. It was really heavy and must have gone down like a train, for it destroyed a row of houses and the school.
Her Majesty the Queen visited the village of Aberfan (pictured) on October 29, 1966 – eight days after the horrific disaster in 1966.
Olivia Colman, pictured left, as Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Tragedy Aberfan. A picture of the King in 1966 as he watches the ruined scenes in the Welsh village. The crown claimed the queen was fake wiping away a tear, but in reality, the king actually wept
There was a spring that turned over, and no one knew it existed. We had four weeks of rain and we just washed everything away. We were given a shovel and pick to get things out, but we couldn’t move them.
Mr Thomas said many of the rescuers were miners with the knowledge and skills to clear the wreckage.
“We ended up at about 2.30am and the miners had corrugated metal that they put in a trough, and they were using shovels to fill dump trucks every 15 minutes with mud,” said William and Kate.
The miners worked 16 hours straight there. I managed four years and I was 19 years old and physically fit. Last out was around 10.45am, after which he was recovering – not a rescue anymore.
Luckily we still had the pits at that time so if we didn’t have a gang of guys who knew what they were doing it would have been worse. There have been some horrific stories.
My wife was a teacher and she told me about this young man who went to work at 8:30 in the morning, and by 9:30 in the morning he had lost his wife, two children, and his house and all that was left were his sports jacket and his Ford Anglia pants. That was it. It is unimaginable.
Speaking after meeting William and Kate, Mr Thomas said: “It was very nice that they took some time off.” Mr Richards added: ‘I’m really happy. I can’t wait to tell the family as it’s been a secret.
Her Majesty the Queen visited Aberfan on 29 October 1966 – eight days after the terrible disaster.
The Queen’s decision not to visit Aberfan immediately is said to be one of her greatest regrets. Pictured: The Queen strolls through a Welsh mining village with Prince Philip behind her
Mud and destruction arose when mining fell from the hills high above Aberfan and engulfed Pantglas Junior School on 21 October 1966.
She was criticized by some for not immediately addressing the national disaster, and Netflix drama The Crown showed the Queen, played by Olivia Colman, apparently crying when meeting residents.
But British royal writer Penny Junor noted that the Queen was far from indifferent to the tragedy and “showed her humanity” to the local population in a quiet manner.
Penny made the remarks on ITV’s Inside the Crown: Secrets of the Royals, in 2020.
She said: ‘When I did arrive I spoke to the families and there was a woman who had lost seven members of her family. The Queen sat quietly with her and said nothing for half an hour. This queen was showing her humanity.
It was not clear who was the resident who was visited by the Queen for half an hour.
In one episode of The Crown, it was alleged that the King was forced to visit the disaster after a public backlash and showed little emotion towards the situation.
Queen Elizabeth II was photographed visiting the neighborhood in 1966 with her husband, Prince Philip
While strolling, Olivia’s depiction of the Queen dims her eye as if she’s wiping a tear away, after speaking to the bereaved. “I dried an eye so dry and by some miracle no one noticed,” she later said.
But Her Majesty’s decision not to visit Aberfan immediately is said to be one of her greatest regrets and most royal experts say the decision was made in practice.
Prince William and Kate’s visit comes as the duo were named Prince and Princess of Wales last September.
Since then, they have made many visits to the area to learn about issues of concern to the Welsh people.