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Horlicks bombs and kamikaze dogs: New book details plans to disrupt Prince Charles’ investiture in 1969

27 Mar 2023 6 minute read
An FWA march in Machynlleth.

The story of how a bomb was made out of a Horlicks tube as part of a protest against the investiture of Prince Charles will be detailed in a new book set to be published this month.

The homemade device made by a man dubbed ‘The Barnes Wallis of Wales’, was created in a bid to free the Welsh from the ‘English yoke’ and derail Prince Charles’ investiture in Caernarfon in 1969.

The bomb barely caused a ripple when it was tested, forcing Free Wales Army (FWA) and its leader, Cayo Evans back to the drawing board.

Charles and the Welsh Revolt – The Explosive Start to King Charles III’s Royal Career by Arwel Vittle, details bizarre plots which included kamikaze dogs and manure to disrupt the 1969 ceremony at Caernarfon Castle, which also saw four other bombs planted by the militant group, MAC (Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru).

Queen Elizabeth II crowns Charles as Prince of Wales during his Investiture ceremony on 1 July 1969.

Cover

The story of the Horlicks bomb is remembered in Vittle’s new book by journalist Lyn Ebenezer, who recalls travelling to a remote area with Cayo Evans in the run up to the royal proceedings.

Ebenezer said: “What was there was about 20 FWA lads testing a new bomb. The bomb had been made out of a Horlicks tube and the guy who made the bomb lived in Llangollen.

“Cayo introduced him as ‘The Barnes Wallis of Wales,’ whose bomb is going to release us from the English yoke.”

Barnes Wallis was an English engineer and inventor best known for inventing the bouncing bomb used by the Royal Air Force during World War II.

Recalling the bomb being tested, Ebenezer remembers taking cover behind a stone wall.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s rally outside the castle walls on Slate Quay, Caernarfon on St David’s Day 1969 – Photo: National Library of Wales

Smoke

“I saw the smoke rise from the bomb in the wall, and then after a few seconds came a noise: ‘Pffft.’ A cloud of smoke rose up but no stone was dislodged!

“Sheep were still quietly grazing and none raised their heads.

“And I remember Cayo’s words clearly: ‘F**k it, boys – back to the drawing board!”

The FWA first appeared in public at a 1965 protest against the construction of the Llyn Celyn reservoir near Bala.

On one occasion, an FWA member fitted a harness to a dog, which he said would be used to carry sticks of explosive gelignite.

He had dozens more dogs all trained to carry magnetic devices under Army vehicles.

Bomb damage at the Temple of Peace, Cardiff , November 1967 – Western Mail

Plot

The story of the ‘kamikaze dogs’ appeared in newspapers and prompted hundreds of angry letters from dog-lovers.

Another plot included hiring a helicopter to drop farmyard manure on the Prince of Wales’ investiture.

The exploits of the FWA diverted attention from the ‘real bombers’ the MAC, masterminded by John Jenkins who was radicalised by the drowning of the Tryweryn Valley above Bala in Gwynedd.

The Welsh nationalist and British Army soldier was jailed for 10 years for organising explosions in a campaign of sabotage against the investiture.

One device exploded unexpectedly killing two members of the MAC in Abergele and the following day, two more bombs were planted in Caernarfon.

One exploded in a police constable’s garden during a 21-gun salute.

Charles presented by the Queen to the people of Wales – Photo: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy

Fallout

Another was planted at Llandudno Pier where the Royal Yacht Britannia was expected to moor, but did not go off.

The second Caernarfon bomb was found by a 10-year-old Buckinghamshire boy playing football whilst on holiday, who lost part of his leg when it exploded.

The late Jenkins is quoted in Vittle’s book as saying: “How the hell do you expect people to celebrate their own defeat?

“To celebrate the fact in the last 700 years, we hadn’t moved forward an inch and had moved back a couple of yards.

“To commemorate it is one thing, but to celebrate it is another story.”

Jenkins adds: “The only way to be heard is to kick up a fuss. And you’ve got to kick up a fuss that really threatens.

“That’s why we had to make direct threats to Charles. They were never meant to be carried out, of course. What would be the point of the political fallout from killing him?”

Extremists

Author Vittle, who runs a translation company, said it was interesting to hear the first hand accounts of the activists and extremists at the heart of the protest movement.

He said: “It was a tense time not only with the bombing campaign, but also Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s non-violent protests and large rallies and Plaid Cymru getting its first electoral successes.

“I wanted to look at what caused this extreme reaction around Charles’ Investiture, whether it was worth it, and whether it could all happen again.”

The father-of-three and author of popular histories, including I’r Gad, a photographic history of Welsh language protests, and Valentine, a biography of Lewis Valentine, the first president of Plaid Cymru, said: “I thought it would be interesting to look at Charles’ formative years in public life as Prince, which started with a bang as it were, because of the political atmosphere in Wales, which at the time was pretty febrile.

“With Charles becoming King and his coronation yet to take place, I wanted to write a popular history book which was a good read as well as informing.

Author Arwel Vittle

“Speaking to many participants, it was good to hear first hand, what it was like to be part of that period – things that aren’t documented in many other history books.

“Many hadn’t spoken out about their experiences before – particularly around the secret police and surveillance – some people compared Gwynedd at the time to being like a police state like East Germany and Czechoslovakia – it was interesting to lift the lid on that.”

‘Charles and the Welsh Revolt – The explosive start to King Charles III’s royal career’ will be published March 31.


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hdavies15
hdavies15
10 months ago

Not much point raking up that episode unless it’s intended to profit from the Carlo 111 carnival in May. FWA was a publicity distraction while MAC was a real campaigning group but never got to anything like a critical mass. John Jenkins paid a huge personal price and those 2 lives lost were in vain.

Riki
Riki
10 months ago

I loved the part where they made the crown out of plastic! You know, because they don’t have the Crown of the British people as that was lost when Owain Glyndwr went into hiding. Which means they have no authority over Wales or the Welsh. Unfortunately, the people of Wales are in the dark about this simple historical fact. It also means that Wales don’t need to follow the same road to independence as Scotland does.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
10 months ago

This was an unhappy time for us all.However, I remember one plan that might have worked….. The late Dafydd Underhill, known by everyone as Dafydd Y Dug had a plan. Obtain as many tickets as possible and for those without get as close as possible to the ceremony and….start laughing. I remember he tried out the plan at the Plaid Cymru conference in Aberystwyth. Sitting in the middle of the hall he started a loud, deep throated laugh and within a very few minutes, half the hall were laughing loudly; the other half were wondering what the hell was going… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
10 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Daf was one of those who got jailed when the infamous FWA trial took place in the lead up to Carlo’s first panto/ carnival. Bit eccentric but a sound patriot. They don’t make’em like that any more.

Lord Montague Flange.
Lord Montague Flange.
10 months ago

And what will happen this time around.

Abolish the monarchy, bunch of parasites.

Brechdan Wncomunco
10 months ago

Twpsyn.

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