The Aftermath

The response of the authorities after the disaster was nothing short of appalling. The Government, the NCB and the Charity Commission behaved reprehensibly and their actions, coupled with media insensitivity made the grief of the survivors, their families and the wider Aberfan community even more difficult to bear.

The National Coal Board

lord_robensThe chairman of the National Coal Board (NCB), Lord Robens, did not immediately go to the scene; he instead went ahead with his investiture as chancellor of the University of Surrey and did not arrive at the village until the following evening, more than 30 hours later. NCB officers covered up for Robens when contacted by the Secretary of State for Wales, falsely claiming that Robens was personally directing relief work when in fact he was not present.

When he eventually reached Aberfan, Robens told a TV reporter that nothing could have been done to prevent the slide, attributing it to ‘natural unknown springs’ beneath the tip, a statement which the locals knew to be false — the NCB had in fact been tipping on top of springs that were clearly marked on maps of the neighbourhood, and where villagers had played as children. Robens refused to allow Coal Board funds to be used for the removal the remaining tips above Aberfan, instead appropriating a substantial sum from the public disaster relief fund to pay for the work.

The Inquiry

The inquiry, which reported in August 1967, was the longest of its type in British history up to that time — interviewing 136 witnesses, examining 300 exhibits and hearing 2,500,000 words of evidence, which ranged from the history of mining in the area to the region’s geological conditions. The inquiry report was unsparing, passionate, and strangely poetic. The disaster was entirely the fault of the National Coal Board (NCB). Tip no. 7 had been located on top of springs which were shown on the Ordnance Survey map. The Aberfan tip complex had slid in 1944 and 1963. The physical evidence of these slides was clear to the naked eye, although the NCB spent many days at the inquiry denying that the 1963 slide had occurred. It had no tipping policy, and its engineering experts had given no guidance to local workers. The Area Civil and Mechanical Engineers were at war. Neither of them had inspected the tip, although the Mechanical Engineer claimed to have done so after Merthyr Council complained about the ‘Danger from Coal Slurry being tipped at the rear of the Pantglas Schools’. The disaster was a ‘terrifying tale of bungling ineptitude’. Nevertheless, the top management of the NCB tried to give the impression at the inquiry that they had ‘no more blameworthy connection than the Gas Board’. Lord Robens made a dramatic appearance the final days of the Tribunal to give evidence, at which point he conceded that the National Coal Board had been at fault; had this admission been made at the outset, much of the Tribunal’s inquiry would have been unnecessary. The NCB wasted up to 76 days of inquiry time by refusing to admit the liability that they had privately accepted before the inquiry had started. The tribunal called this ‘nothing short of audacious’. This may be the strongest language ever used in a tribunal report about a UK public body. It found that the blame for the disaster rested entirely with the National Coal Board, and that the basic cause was the NCB’s “total absence of tipping policy”.

” …the Aberfan Disaster is a terrifying tale of bungling ineptitude by many men charged with tasks for which they were totally unfitted, of failure to heed clear warnings, and of total lack of direction from above. Not villains but decent men, led astray by foolishness or by ignorance or by both in combination, are responsible for what happened at Aberfan”.

“Blame for the disaster rests upon the National Coal Board. This is shared, though in varying degrees, among the NCB headquarters, the South Western Divisional Board, and certain individuals … The legal liability of the NCB to pay compensation of the personal injuries, fatal or otherwise, and damage to property, is incontestable and uncontested.”

The Tribunal found that repeated warnings about the dangerous condition of the tip had been ignored, and that colliery engineers at all levels had concentrated only on conditions underground. In one of its most memorable passages, the Report noted:

“We found that many witnesses … had been oblivious of what lay before their eyes. It did not enter their consciousness. They were like moles being asked about the habits of birds.”

The Tribunal also found that the tips had never been surveyed, and right up to the time of the landslide they were continuously being added to in a chaotic and unplanned manner. The disregard of the NCB and the colliery staff for the unstable geological conditions and its failure to act after previous smaller slides were found to have been major factors that contributed to the catastrophe.

The NCB was ordered to pay compensation to the families at the rate of £500 per child. Nine senior NCB staff were named as having some degree of responsibility for the accident but no NCB staff were ever demoted, sacked or prosecuted, and Lord Robens and the entire Board of the NCB retained their positions.

Following the publication of the Report, Lord Robens wrote to the then Minister of Power, Richard Marsh, offering his resignation. Although Robens had a combative relationship with the government and several cabinet ministers argued strongly that he should go, in September 1967 Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Marsh rejected Robens’s resignation offer.

The community

The traumatic effects of the disaster on the town of Aberfan were wide-ranging and profound. During the rescue operation, the shock and grief of parents and townspeople was exacerbated by the insensitive behaviour of the media — one unnamed rescue worker recalled hearing a press photographer tell a child to cry for her dead friends because it would make a good picture.

Anger at the National Coal Board erupted during the inquest into the death of 30 of the children. The Merthyr Express reported that that there were shouts of “murderers” as children’s names were read out. When one child’s name was read out and the cause of death was given as asphyxia and multiple injuries, the father said “No, sir, buried alive by the National Coal Board”. The coroner replied:

“I know your grief is much that you may not be realising what you are saying”

but the father repeated,

“I want it recorded – ‘Buried alive by the National Coal Board’. That is what I want to see on the record. That is the feeling of those present. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate.”

Aberfan’s social worker later noted that many people in the village were on sedatives but did not take them when it was raining because they were afraid to go to sleep, and that surviving children did not close their bedroom doors for fear of being trapped. An Aberfan doctor reported that the trauma of the disaster manifested itself in many ways — the birth rate went up, alcohol-related problems increased, as did health problems for those with pre-existing illnesses, and many parents suffered breakdowns over the next few years.

Many suffered from the effects of guilt, such as parents who had sent children to school who did not want to go. Tensions arose between families who had lost children and those who had not. One of the surviving school children recalled that they didn’t go out to play for a long time because families who had lost children could not bear to see them, and they themselves felt guilty about the fact that they had survived.

A study into the long-term psychological effects of the disaster was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2003. It found that half the survivors of the Aberfan disaster suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some time in their lives, that they were over three times more likely to have developed lifetime PTSD than a comparison group of individuals who had experienced other life-threatening traumas, and that 34% of survivors who took part in the study reported that they still experienced bad dreams or difficulty sleeping due to intrusive thoughts about the disaster.

The Disaster Fund

The public demonstrated their sympathy by donating money, with little idea of how it would be spent. Donations flooded in to the appeal and within a few months, nearly 90,000 contributions had been received, totalling £1,606,929 worth £27.1m at 2015 prices.

The management of this fund caused considerable controversy over the years. Many aspects of the aftermath of the Aberfan Disaster remained hidden until 1997, when the British Public Records Office released previously embargoed documents under the 30-year rule. These documents revealed new information about the machinations of Lord Robens, the NCB and the Charity Commission in the wake of the Aberfan Disaster.

At one point The Charity Commission planned to insist that before any payment was made to bereaved parents, each case should be reviewed to ascertain if the parents had been close to their children and were thus likely to be suffering mentally. At another meeting, the Commission threatened to remove the Trustees of the Disaster Fund or make a financial order against them if they went ahead with making grants to parents of children who had not been physically injured that day, and the Trustees were forced to abandon these payments.

Although the Davies Report had found that the NCB’s liability was “incontestable and uncontested” and it was widely felt that the NCB should have to bear the entire cost of removing the dangerous tips above Aberfan, Robens refused to pay the full cost, thereby putting the Trustees of the Disaster Fund under “intolerable pressure”. In a further display of contempt for the victims and their families, Robens then “raided” £150,000 from the Fund to cover the cost of removing the tips — an action which was “unquestionably unlawful” under charity law — and the Charity Commission took no action to protect the Fund from Robens’ dubious appropriation of funds.

As a historical footnote, in 1997 the incoming Blair Labour government paid back the £150,000 to the Disaster Fund — although taking account of inflation the amount repaid should have been nearly £2 million.


10,678 comments on “The Aftermath

  1. Thanks so much for providing individuals with an extraordinarily special possiblity to read from this web site. It is always so sweet plus packed with a good time for me and my office co-workers to search your web site more than thrice in a week to see the latest secrets you will have. And lastly, I’m just at all times astounded with all the unbelievable guidelines you give. Selected 4 facts in this posting are ultimately the most suitable I’ve ever had.

  2. Thanks for all your valuable work on this web site. My mother take interest in participating in internet research and it’s simple to grasp why. My spouse and i notice all regarding the powerful medium you give helpful strategies on your blog and as well welcome contribution from website visitors on the theme so our favorite daughter is now understanding so much. Take advantage of the remaining portion of the year. You have been doing a powerful job.

  3. Aw, this was a really nice post. In thought I wish to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make an excellent article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and not at all appear to get one thing done.

  4. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who has been doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this issue here on your web site.

  5. Howdy, I think your website could be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in Internet Explorer, it’s got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Other than that, excellent site!

  6. Thank you a lot for providing individuals with an extraordinarily special chance to read in detail from this website. It is often very brilliant and as well , packed with amusement for me and my office mates to visit your website particularly 3 times in 7 days to read the new tips you will have. And lastly, I am just usually fascinated for the cool things you give. Selected 1 points in this posting are honestly the simplest we’ve had.

  7. I wish to show my appreciation to the writer for bailing me out of this trouble. Right after looking throughout the search engines and meeting methods which are not powerful, I believed my life was well over. Existing without the approaches to the issues you have sorted out as a result of the posting is a crucial case, as well as ones which could have in a wrong way affected my career if I hadn’t encountered your web page. Your own personal understanding and kindness in playing with every part was priceless. I’m not sure what I would have done if I had not discovered such a stuff like this. I can also at this moment look forward to my future. Thank you very much for this skilled and effective guide. I will not hesitate to suggest your web sites to anybody who needs and wants guide on this topic.

  8. Thank you a lot for giving everyone an exceptionally breathtaking opportunity to read in detail from this website. It’s usually so pleasant and jam-packed with fun for me and my office friends to search your website the equivalent of 3 times in one week to find out the newest stuff you will have. And of course, I am just usually contented with your staggering solutions served by you. Some 2 tips in this post are honestly the most suitable we have ever had.

  9. I’m commenting to let you know of the fine experience my cousin’s princess developed going through your site. She discovered too many issues, which include what it is like to possess an incredible giving style to get many more with ease fully understand chosen very confusing issues. You undoubtedly did more than her expected results. Many thanks for giving these precious, trustworthy, edifying and fun guidance on the topic to Ethel.

  10. Thanks a lot for giving everyone remarkably terrific chance to read articles and blog posts from this website. It is often so terrific and also packed with a great time for me personally and my office fellow workers to search your blog not less than 3 times every week to read through the new guides you have. And indeed, we are always astounded with your fantastic hints served by you. Some 1 ideas in this article are absolutely the simplest I’ve ever had.

  11. I’m writing to make you understand what a outstanding experience my wife’s daughter encountered visiting your webblog. She came to find a wide variety of things, which included how it is like to possess a wonderful teaching mindset to let most people without difficulty learn a variety of tricky subject areas. You undoubtedly did more than readers’ expected results. I appreciate you for giving those priceless, trusted, explanatory and also easy thoughts on the topic to Emily.

  12. Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I to find It truly helpful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to provide one thing again and aid others such as you aided me.

  13. I definitely wanted to write a comment to appreciate you for the unique points you are sharing at this website. My extensive internet investigation has at the end been honored with high-quality know-how to exchange with my two friends. I ‘d declare that we site visitors actually are unequivocally fortunate to exist in a very good network with so many outstanding professionals with valuable advice. I feel truly grateful to have used your entire web pages and look forward to really more entertaining moments reading here. Thanks once again for a lot of things.

  14. Thanks a lot for providing individuals with remarkably brilliant chance to check tips from this web site. It is always so pleasant and jam-packed with a good time for me personally and my office friends to visit your website at minimum three times every week to find out the fresh stuff you will have. Not to mention, I am also actually pleased with the cool information you give. Some 3 facts in this post are particularly the best we have all had.

  15. I would like to express appreciation to you for rescuing me from this type of setting. After looking through the internet and seeing concepts that were not productive, I assumed my life was well over. Living without the presence of approaches to the difficulties you have fixed by means of your guide is a crucial case, and the kind that could have negatively damaged my career if I hadn’t noticed the website. Your good expertise and kindness in controlling every part was excellent. I am not sure what I would’ve done if I hadn’t discovered such a stuff like this. It’s possible to at this moment relish my future. Thanks for your time so much for the professional and result oriented guide. I will not be reluctant to propose your web site to any person who requires counselling about this situation.

  16. A lot of thanks for all of the hard work on this website. My mother delights in getting into research and it’s easy to understand why. We notice all of the dynamic means you make good tips and tricks through the blog and as well invigorate response from website visitors on the theme and our own simple princess is now studying so much. Take pleasure in the rest of the new year. You’re the one doing a fabulous job.

  17. Hello my loved one! I want to say that this post is awesome, great written and come with approximately all important infos. I’d like to look more posts like this.

  18. I precisely desired to appreciate you yet again. I do not know the things I could possibly have made to happen without the entire methods shared by you directly on my theme. It truly was a very frightening setting for me personally, however , being able to view the professional mode you resolved that made me to leap for happiness. Now i am happier for the assistance and thus wish you recognize what a great job that you’re putting in training people today by way of your webpage. I am sure you haven’t encountered any of us.

  19. I and also my buddies ended up checking out the great pointers on your website while immediately I had a horrible suspicion I never thanked the web site owner for those strategies. Those guys had been as a consequence thrilled to read all of them and already have actually been taking advantage of those things. Many thanks for truly being really helpful and for making a decision on these kinds of quality information most people are really wanting to understand about. Our own honest regret for not expressing gratitude to you sooner.

  20. I precisely needed to thank you so much all over again. I am not sure the things that I could possibly have created without the actual smart ideas contributed by you concerning that theme. Previously it was the scary problem in my view, however , seeing the specialised avenue you treated it forced me to cry over contentment. Now i am happy for this information as well as wish you are aware of a powerful job you were accomplishing training most people all through your site. I know that you have never got to know any of us.

  21. This kind of comment reminds my family that at this point could possibly any great opportunity to even more one’s collage education and learning. MY SPOUSE AND I wonder if WHEN I may possibly receive classes on the web. Now there are present a variety of fund programs currently which were as soon as and so quite imprecise to discover a very few typical.

  22. I not to mention my buddies were reading the nice recommendations located on your site while immediately I had a horrible feeling I never expressed respect to the blog owner for those tips. All the people became so joyful to study them and now have unquestionably been tapping into these things. Many thanks for turning out to be so kind and also for picking these kinds of great resources most people are really desperate to understand about. My very own sincere regret for not expressing gratitude to earlier.

  23. I and also my pals ended up reading the best techniques found on your website while instantly I had a terrible suspicion I never expressed respect to the web blog owner for them. Most of the young men became as a consequence glad to see all of them and already have certainly been making the most of them. We appreciate you really being quite kind and then for pick out such extraordinary tips most people are really eager to learn about. My personal honest apologies for not saying thanks to earlier.

  24. My husband and i ended up being so happy Emmanuel managed to finish up his research via the ideas he gained out of the site. It’s not at all simplistic just to be giving for free strategies which other folks have been making money from. And we remember we have the writer to give thanks to for that. The illustrations you have made, the straightforward site menu, the friendships you aid to foster – it’s got mostly superb, and it’s really leading our son and us consider that the situation is awesome, and that’s extraordinarily indispensable. Thank you for the whole lot!

  25. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want?HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  26. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want?HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  27. After study a few of the blog posts on your website now, and I truly like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Pls check out my web site as well and let me know what you think.

  28. This is the right site for anyone who would like to find out about this topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want toÖHaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject which has been discussed for decades. Excellent stuff, just excellent!

  29. I precisely wanted to say thanks once again. I’m not certain the things I might have sorted out in the absence of those recommendations revealed by you over my area. It had been an absolute daunting circumstance in my opinion, nevertheless observing the well-written technique you treated it forced me to leap over fulfillment. Extremely thankful for your support and even have high hopes you realize what a great job you are carrying out instructing other individuals by way of your blog. Probably you’ve never met any of us.

  30. Thank you a lot for providing individuals with remarkably wonderful possiblity to read in detail from this blog. It can be so kind and as well , full of a lot of fun for me personally and my office friends to search your site really three times in one week to read the fresh stuff you have got. Of course, we are certainly motivated for the attractive concepts you serve. Certain two points on this page are in reality the finest I have had.

  31. You have made some decent points there. I checked on the internet for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *