The third episode of the new series of The Crown deals with the Aberfan disaster of 1966, including the Queen’s response. She has since said that not visiting the site of the mining tragedy immediately was “the biggest regret” of her reign.
John Humphrys, then a young reporter and the first to arrive at the scene of the disaster, recalled his memories of Aberfan. He writes that he has never seen “such utter despair as I witnessed in that little Welsh village”, throughout the whole of his career.
Telegraph readers were moved by Mr Humphrys’ account and shared their own recollections of Aberfan, including where they were at the time of the disaster and how the events of that day have shaped their lives since in the comments section.
What follows is Telegraph readers’ remembrance of Aberfan. We invite you to share your own memories and reflections in the comments below.
‘The enormity of the tragedy was felt everywhere’
“I was eight years old when it happened. The enormity of the tragedy was felt everywhere, including Ireland. Our national broadcaster (TV & Radio) and print press were almost emotionally unable to talk or write about Aberfan. Every day for a week, our teachers held a prayer session. I have a faint recollection of the seismic shock of Kennedy's assassination in our daily life – that is the nearest thing I can compare to this.”
‘Aberfan has had the biggest influence on the way I do my job today’
“As a mining engineering student 20-plus years later, Aberfan was still a major case study and probably the one that made the most impression on me. It's certainly had the biggest influence on the way I do my job today.”
‘I prayed that night for all of those poor children’
“I was a student at Swansea Secondary Technical School for Girls. We were marshalled into the hall where the television had been set up.
“We were all very quiet as we sat and watched. Imagining the horror of those innocents in the context of having two younger sisters was alarming and I prayed that night for all of those poor children losing their lives like that.”
‘My Dad was a miner so it felt as if those children were our children too’
“I was only six years old, and despite being so very young, I remember it vividly.
“I’ll always remember looking at the pictures of the children in the papers at the time and feeling so desperately sad, even at six.
“Maybe because they were my age it struck something within me. I remember my parents and brothers being really upset.
“My Dad was a Yorkshire miner so it felt as if those children, in some way, were our children too.
“As it happens, we also had a slag heap right across from the house that we lived in.
“It was truly, truly terrible and it will always haunt those who were alive at the time it happened, including me.”
‘That day you could’ve heard a pin drop outside’
“When I was a youngster, we heard about this in our school’s assembly, where all of us listened to the radio. We left for play outside, normally a playground full of laughter. But, that day, you could've heard a pin drop outside.”
‘Anyone of a certain age will have this tragedy imprinted on their minds forever’
“How they reproduced the horrific scene, [in The Crown] in such reality was over-awing. Anyone of a certain age will have this tragedy imprinted on their minds forever.”
‘We drove back home in silence’
“We were four young men who had been to the motor show at Earls Court and were returning home via The Isle of Wight when we heard the news. We drove back to the North West in silence only punctuated by news bulletins. It’s so sad even over 50 years later.”
‘I still remember the dim black and white images’
“I remember it as my first trauma and shock as a five-year-old boy attending an architecturally identical primary school 50 miles away in Llanelli (Old Road School). In fact when I wandered into the living room to see what had upset the grown-ups, my first thought was that it was my school.
“It was an awful realisation that I could so easily have been one of the kids who died, or so it seemed to me at the time. We were all just Welsh kids going to school.
“I still remember the dim black and white TV images.”
‘It was absolutely heartbreaking’
“I was driving my car when the news of the tragedy started coming over the radio. As I listened in horror, my eyes started filling with tears and I had to pull off the road. It was absolutely heartbreaking.”
‘A whole generation had been wiped out in one morning’
“I remember quite vividly coming home from school to find all the women in the street sat in front of our television in tears. When I asked what was wrong they explained to me what had happened at Aberfan.
“What made the tragedy even worse was that the children who lost their lives were of the same age as us. It meant that a whole generation had been wiped out in Aberfan in one morning.”
‘I don’t know how the parents coped with such loss’
“A terrible disaster that cost the lives of so many lives. Now as an adult looking back, I don’t know how the parents coped with such loss and emotional pain.”
‘It was an honour to be part of the remembrance of a tragedy that decimated a community’
“I had the privilege to play in a memorial rugby match against Aberfan with my old school, Christ College Brecon. It was a sobering experience, and an honour to be part of the remembrance of the tragedy that decimated a community.”
‘John Humphrys, your original reporting on the disaster was incredibly moving’
“John Humphrys, thank you for sharing this. I thought your original reporting on the disaster was incredibly moving. The indescribable heartache of the parents, you conveyed with great empathy and dignity and captured perfectly the shock to the national psyche at the time.
“Much has changed since 1966 and the life of a working man is not counted as cheap as it was then. However there was a pretty universal respect and dignity shown in the face of tragedy and death, which sadly now seems absent.
“I hope we will hear more of these memories from you here.”