The Queen's lasting bond with the people of Aberfan following the 1966 tragedy

Jonathan Hill reports on the Valleys village with a special association with the Queen

There is a Valleys village that is known the world over and has a very special association with Queen Elizabeth II. It is Aberfan.

In 1966, 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a coal tip which loomed above the village came crashing down on the local school.

At first the Queen sent the Duke of Edinburgh, but when the scale of the disaster became apparent there was criticism from some quarters that she should have come sooner to be with the grieving families.

The Queen did of course visit Aberfan in the days after the disaster and so began a long association with the people of the village.

Queen Elizabeth II talking to Detective Constable Regan during her visit to Aberfan in 1966. Mr Regan lost a daughter in the disaster. Credit: PA

The Queen never forgot the people of Aberfan and returned numerous times over the decades.

In 2016, I had one of the great privileges of my career when I filmed with the extraordinary women of the Aberfan Wives Group as part of a documentary for the fiftieth anniversary.

The group was formed in the months after the disaster by a group of young women, including mothers who had lost children.

They are some of the most remarkable people I have ever met and their meetings were full of fun, sisterhood and friendship. They would meet every week for the next half a century.  

Never once did I detect any of that reported criticism of the Queen that she should have come earlier to Aberfan.

Queen Elizabeth II talks to parents who lost their children in the Aberfan disaster of 1966, Marjorie Collins, Elaine Morgan and Jean Gough. Credit: PA

In fact the opposite was true and they appreciated, deeply, the support Queen Elizabeth had shown to them over the years.

In 2007, the Queen invited the Wives Group to her home and a garden party at Buckingham Palace. She spoke to them individually and we were given special permission to film the moment. 

Aberfan was one of the defining moment's of the Queen's long reign and that community will forever cherish their memories of the Queen's long association with their village. 

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know