The Prince and Princess of Wales followed in the late Queen’s footsteps today as they visited the Aberfan Memorial Garden to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the disaster.
Kate Middleton, 41, and Prince William, 40, were somber as they arrived at the garden, which is located on the site where the Pantglas school which was tragically destroyed in a coal-tip landslide on 21st October 1966.
The incident led to the loss of 144 lives, including 116 children.
The couple were greeted by schoolchildren at the site, while one member of the public showed Kate a newspaper cutting about previous royal visits to the area.
The Prince and Princess due to be guided around the garden by one of the Aberfan survivors and Professor Peter Vaughan, Lord Lieutenant of Mid Glamorgan.
The Prince, 40, and Princess of Wales, 41, followed in the late Queen’s footsteps today as they visited the Aberfan Memorial Garden to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the disaster
Her Majesty visited the village Aberfan (pictured) on October 29 1966 – eight days after the horrific disaster in 1966
The couple were greeted by crowds of royal fans at the memorial garden, which is on the site of Pantglas school which was tragically destroyed in a coal-tip landslide on 21st October 1966
They’re also set to meet trustees from the Aberfan Memorial Trust who are involved in ensuring the maintenance of the garden, alongside some of the ‘Aberfan Wives’, relatives of the children who lost their lives during the disaster.
The Princess appeared to have dressed for the occasion, opting for a dark long line coat and a grey pleated skirt.
Opened in 1974 by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the garden commemorates the victims of the disaster, whilst also providing a place for bereaved parents, siblings, next of kin, survivors, and the whole community to pay their respects.
The Duchess wore her long brunette locks down for the occasion, sweeping them behind her ear.
Meanwhile she kept her makeup muted for the outing, pairing a sweep of eyeliner with a nude lipstick.
It comes after a former mountain rescuer told Prince William the late Queen Elizabeth II ‘did the right thing’ by waiting over a week before visiting Aberfan following the 1966 disaster.
Bob Thomas, who had helped with the disaster 57 years ago, assured Prince William that his grandmother – who was heavily criticised for the delay – would have been ‘a distraction’.
The couple met Aberfan rescuers on their visit to Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales, yesterday, to meet with the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
The Prince and Princess were introduced to Bob and Nick Richards, both of whom provided aid when a devastating avalanche of slurry in a Welsh village killed 144 people, including 116 children.
The Princess was shown a selection of cuttings by the woman, who also shared a photograph of herself with King Charles with the royal
While speaking with members of the public who had gathered at the site, Kate was shown a newspaper cutting about the Queen’s visit
The Prince waved to schoolchildren who had gathered to greet them, while Kate’s arms were quickly filled with floral posies
The couple are due to be guided around the garden by one of the Aberfan survivors and Professor Peter Vaughan, Lord Lieutenant of Mid Glamorgan
The couple were greeted by members of the public at the memorial garden, with Kate offering a wave as she and William walked in
‘It must have been terrifying,’ William said. ‘It’s a real pleasure to meet you both. My grandmother told me many times about Aberfan.’
Mr Thomas replied: ‘Your family did the right thing in not coming immediately, because it would have been a distraction.’
The tragedy in 1966 was one of the UK’s worst disasters, and left 116 children and 28 adults dead.
It was caused by a spoil-heap landslide following heavy rain, which engulfed Pantglas Primary School and surrounding houses on the morning of October 21.
The Duke of Edinburgh, Lord Snowdon and the then prime minister Harold Wilson visited the scene the following 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 in the aftermath of Aberfan and spent some time talking to William and Kate about the disaster.
Mr Thomas, who was then a 19-year-old bank clerk, showed William photos and explained how hard it was to clear the debris.
‘We were trying to shift what seemed like dry concrete,’ Mr Thomas said. ‘It was really heavy and it must have come down like a train, because it has taken out a row of houses and the school.
Olivia Colman, pictured left, as Queen Elizabeth II while visiting the Aberfan tragedy. The monarch, pictured right in 1966, seeing the devastating scenes in the Welsh village. The Crown claimed the Queen faked brushing a tear away, but in reality the monarch actually cried
‘There was a spring that tipped over, that no-one knew was there. We’d had four weeks of rain and it all just washed out. We were given a shovel and a pick to get the stuff away, but we just couldn’t move it.’
Mr Thomas said many of the rescuers were miners and had the knowledge and skills needed to clear the debris.
‘We ended up at about 2.30am and the miners had corrugated metal which they put into a trough, and they were using shovels to fill tipper lorries every 15 minutes with the slurry,’ he told William and Kate.
‘The miners did 16 hours straight on there. I managed four and I was 19 and fit. The last one out was about at 10.45am, and after that it was recovery – it wasn’t a rescue any more.
‘Fortunately we still had the pits then, so if we didn’t have a gang of men who knew what they were doing it would have been worse. There were some horrible stories.
‘My wife was a teacher and she told me about this chap who went to work at 8.30am, and by 9.30am he’d lost his wife, his two children, his house and all he had left was his sports jacket, trousers and Ford Anglia. That was it. It’s just unimaginable.’
Speaking after meeting William and Kate, Mr Thomas said: ‘It was very, very nice they have taken time.’ Mr Richards added: ‘I am really elated. I can’t wait to tell the family because it was a secret.’
Her Majesty visited Aberfan on October 29 1966 – eight days after the horrific disaster.
The Queen’s decision to not visit Aberfan immediately is said to be one of her biggest regrets. Pictured: The Queen walking around the Welsh mining village, with Prince Philip behind her
The mud and devastation caused when mining spoil from the hillside high above Aberfan came down and engulfed The Pantglas Junior School on 21st October 1966
She was criticised by some for not immediately heading to the national disaster and Netflix drama The Crown showed the monarch, played by Olivia Colman, apparently faking tears when meeting residents.
But British royal author Penny Junor suggested the Queen was far from apathetic towards the tragedy and ‘showed her humanity’ to the locals in a quiet manner.
Penny made the remarks on ITV’s Inside the Crown: Secrets of the Royals, in 2020.
She said: ‘When she actually arrived she spoke with families and there was one woman who’d lost seven members of her family. The Queen just sat with her, quietly, saying nothing, for half an hour. That was the Queen showing her humanity.’
It is unclear who the resident was that the Queen visited for half an hour.
In one episode of The Crown, it is claimed the monarch was forced to visit the disaster after a public backlash and showed little emotion towards the situation.
Queen Elizabeth II pictured visiting the neighbourhood in 1966 with her husband Prince Philip
During the outing, Olivia’s portrayal of the Queen dabs her eye as if wiping a tear away, after talking to the bereaved. She later says: ‘I dabbed a bone-dry eye and by some miracle no one noticed.’
But Her Majesty’s decision to not visit Aberfan immediately is said to be one of her biggest regrets and most royal experts say the decision was made out of practically.
Prince William and Kate’s visit comes as the pair took on their new titles of Prince and Princess of Wales last September.
Since then, they have made several visits to the region to learn about the issues that matter most to the Welsh people.
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