Over a year ago, Charles Nunn contacted me, offering help for my project, Aberfan.
Here is the story he wrote in 1987. TheDisasterOfAberfan_CharlesNunn_ThePoliceReview_
From one of our email exchanges, his words: “The team in the mortuary were composed entirely of Regional Crime Squad Officers drawn from all over Wales….We were tasked to set up a mortuary, and identify the 144 victims of the disaster. I was designated the Senior Identification Officer and worked with my team in the mortuary at Bethania Chapel in Moy Road, Aberfan for 15 days until the last body, and body piece, was identified.
Aberfan was a small village. No police station, no town hall, no gymnasium which was why we had to use the totally inadequate facilities of the Sunday school room at the rear of the chapel for receiving, washing the bodies etc. and the body of the chapel itself to place the bodies for viewing. Once a body had been identified and the cause of death recorded by a pathologist, without exception asphyxiation and multiple crush injuries, Death Certificates needed to be issued.
It now sounds very incongruous and bizarre but they were issued from a local land mark, the village fish and chip shop.
In my handwriting, a notice was placed on the door of the chapel directing families to that location.”
I am deeply grateful for all that he has passed on to me.
Wow Laura. And incredible and touching account and reported in such a straightforward manner. How kind of him to offer it to you.
Denise–Thanks so much for your comment — that was a great description, almost surreal.
Charles is a neighbour of mine as well as being a fellow colleague. Now into his 80’s there is not a day goes by that he does not remember Aberfan with sadness and sombre reflection. This Friday 21st October 2016 marks the 50th Anniversary of that terrible day. He brushes off the modern day methods of counselling for dealing with stressful situations with distain but there is no doubt the experience deeply scarred him.
Being a police officer is similar to being a member of a DVD library…when you least expect it those horror films you viewed come back into your mind whilst you sleep as clear a crystal despite the many years that have passed by.
After the tragedy the victims families of Aberfan were treated appallingly by the National Coal Board and our Government and only recently did they make reparations.
Rest in Peace the 144.
Hello Barry– thank you so much for this story –I have been in contact with Charles for over two years. He has been so generous to share information with me, including the story he wrote for the Police Review. He’s a wonderful writer. Truth be told.
Dear Barry–I thought you would like to see Charles’ comment left this morning. Sincerely, Laura
I very much appreciated the comments of my friend and neighbour Barry Jones.
A much younger police officer than me but who held high rank in his police force.
I ,was interviewed for television and the piece was broadcast on the 50th. anniversary.
Having not felt effected by the dreadful two weeks we spent in the mortuary of Bethania chapel I rather lost my composure during the interview.
I was describing the death of a 32 years old mother and her 3 months old baby in a house adjacent to the school and the death of her six years old son in the school.
When the baby was brought into the cold, bare and stark chapel we decided we could not put him down on a wooden chapel pew.
A small wooden box was scrounged, lined with blankets and the baby placed there with a little cuddly toy.
The mother and two children were laid to rest in the cemetery on the mountainside where, Dad, now joins them in eternal sleep.
Charles–I cannot tell you how much your stories mean to me, and this work I have been tasked to do myself. They are the enduring threads to Aberfan itself, the people, that day, what caused it and what happened afterwards. You have helped me from the start. Aberfan is lifelong, in all meanings. I am so glad you saw what Barry wrote for you, for yours is a connection woven into the core of those awful days — your very being affecting and forever touched.
Charles–I realize it is more than that–it is not just your stories, but your open spirit in having reached out to me in the first place because of
Aberfan. How deeply we are all connected, and how much we need to know this. Aberfan happens to be the way I am learning.