50 years ago, on Friday the 21st of October 1966, slurry from a colliery spoil tip was dislodged by rainfall and engulfed Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, killing 116 pupils and 28 adults at the school.
Among the first on the scene were members of the Salvation Army from churches across South Wales, along with the Emergency Mobile Unit from Merthyr Tydfil Corps. In the hours and days that followed, with the emergency services and other voluntary organisations, Salvation Army volunteers served alongside the community. They provided continuous service for five days and five nights during the recovery operation.
The Salvation Army volunteers assisted with the task of retrieving and identifying bodies, transporting the injured to hospital, helped to set up a makeshift mortuary, provided practical support in the way of food, drink and equipment, and provided emotional support to the community affected.
Archived coverage from the War Cry, the official newspaper of the Salvation Army, describes how Major Derrik Tribble and Brigadier Freda Eveleigh, along with other members, provided a continuous, around the clock presence at the makeshift mortuary set up at Bethany Chapel in Aberfan, to supervise the preparation of the children’s bodies for the parents’identification and accompany the bereaved parents, ensuring that they were supported at all times throughout.
Lieutenant Colonel Joao-Paulo Ramos, who currently leads the South & Mid Wales Division of the Salvation Army said: “The Salvation Army remains committed to supporting victims of tragedy and loss. We remain an unwavering source of support and continue to serve in many communities across Wales to bring hope and help in the name of Jesus. We pray that God's abundant love and peace will come to all who need comfort and strength at this time”.
At Salvation Army centres throughout the South & Mid Wales Division, members have been coming together to pray for the families and relatives of those who lost their lives.
For more than 150 years The Salvation Army has been transforming lives and continues to do so today in communities across the UK and throughout the world.