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New documentary re-examines highly controversial period in Welsh history

07 Jul 2023 4 minute read
In 1979, an arson campaign that lasted over a decade began in Wales.

BBC Cymru Wales have announced a new TV documentary series and podcast that will re-examine one of the most controversial periods in modern Welsh history.

In 1979, an arson campaign that lasted over a decade began in Wales, with well over 200 firebomb attacks on holiday cottages and businesses.

Targets would also include politicians, and the UK Parliament, with Meibion Glyndŵr, a secret organisation, linked to the attacks.

Firebombers, a new two-part TV documentary series to air on BBC One Wales and iPlayer, is a comprehensive examination of this divisive story from Wales’ past.

Viewers will hear from the police who investigated the case, victims whose properties were attacked, people who were arrested, and journalists who were on the scene to report on the fires, as well as others who give first-hand witness accounts.

Kelvin Griffiths, a former North Wales Police Officer, who worked on the case, recalls in the programmes: “It was total devastation. Because they were so remote, these houses were burning down unbeknown. It was only when somebody drove past and realised, ‘Oh, the house has been burned down.’ Nobody had seen it.”

Gwreichion is a compelling Welsh-language podcast series.

Scoop

Journalist Alun Lenny says in Firebombers, “The greatest journalistic scoop in Wales would have been finding out who Meibion Glyndŵr were. Whoever was doing this were so careful, were so lucky, that it was impossible even to get a grasp on a lead.”

Also featured are several people who were arrested and either released without charge or found not guilty.

And Sion Aubrey Roberts, who was convicted of possessing explosives and sending incendiary devices through the post.

He is the only person to be convicted who has admitted to being a member of Meibion Glyndŵr – the secret organisation said to be behind the attacks.

In an exclusive interview, Roberts discloses previously unheard details regarding his involvement with Meibion Glyndŵr and the firebombing campaign.

“This is the first time that we have been able to tell this story in its entirety, from a range of perspectives”, said Commissioning Editor, Christina Macaulay.

“I think people will be surprised at the extent of the campaign – particularly the attacks in England. We include the historical context behind what started in 1979, but this story feels it still has a contemporary relevance.

“Whoever was masterminding the campaign has not been identified. And of course the issue behind the campaign – second homes – is still a very live issue in Wales.”

Impact

Produced by Zwwm Films, episode one of Firebombers will air on BBC One Wales on Thursday 20 July at 9pm, with the second episode a week later. Both episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from Thursday 20 July.

Gwreichion is a compelling Welsh-language podcast series that will also delve into the Meibion Glyndŵr firebombing campaign, exploring its profound impact on Welsh society.

Led by presenter Ioan Wyn Evans, the series aims to uncover hidden stories and voices surrounding this controversial period, with Evans inviting listeners on a journey through the political and social fallout of this tumultuous time.

The series features figures who witnessed the events first hand, including firefighters, journalists, and individuals who were directly targeted. It will combine historical analysis, in-depth interviews, and archive material to shed light on the complex motivations behind the campaign.

Ioan says, “What’s most surprising and fascinating is how vivid people’s memories are from the time, and the details they remember. The research was also interesting – for example, being able to find the firefighter who responded to the Pembrokeshire fires on the first night was very exciting.

“I felt very privileged to hear his comments as an eye witness, as he’d never spoken about it before.”

Thirty years after the only conviction linked to Meibion Glyndŵr, the identities of the others involved in that campaign remain a mystery.

Episodes one and two of Gwreichion will be available to download and listen to from Thursday 20 July on BBC Sounds, with weekly episodes following on Thursdays.


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Steve thomas
9 months ago

Heroes every one of them-oh for them to return

Gareth
Gareth
9 months ago

One mans freedom fighter,,,,,,,,,,,,

hdavies15
hdavies15
9 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

… another man’s terrorist ! Always the same old bleat. Recently watched a PBS history of the Irish Civil War. That showed how easy it was to shift from being a freedom fighter against British rule to criminals/terrorists etc when dissenting from the Irish Free State created by the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Bad men and women on both sides but they were acting on very strongly held beliefs and thankfully the episode only lasted a year or so. Today we are reduced to keyboard warriors, of which I am undeniably one. Maybe an occasional outburst of violence and real pain is… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I remember the borrowed line from the Coal Board’s ‘buy more coal’ slogan…

“Come home to a real fire”…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Obviously you are not advocating violence against the ‘person’, just in case impressionable people out there are swayed, as may have been the case with Farage and Fat Shanks, whose lies may have legitimised the act in the mind of the murderer of Jo Cox etc… One must assume care was taken to establish that no squatters, tramps or pets were on the premises at the time of the act being committed. There is of course the possibility that the cottage had been sold to ‘incomers’ by the parents of the arsonists eh hd… Unlike the actions of the French… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Mab Meirion
Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
9 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I strongly suspect that the word ‘violence’ is problematic, and it could be worth thinking in terms of the difference between trais and difrod. That no one has faced a court case for even one arson incident is quite likely down to the fact that bystander was hurt or killed in the whole campaign.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Do you mean ‘no bystander’? This was more than likely meticulous planning with an amount of pure good luck, how much of a deterrent it was is a matter of debate…

I think the green paint was a more effective campaign but even now it is still being fought…

We must fire up the Plaid election machinery to make sure it is as fit for purpose as possible ready to clear the north coast of Cymru including Wrecsam of these despicable Tory and Independent MPs…

hdavies15
hdavies15
9 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Your command of the language enables you to highlight a subtle but important difference. In the M G campaign “difrod” was the main feature, “trais” never happened. The closest we came to trais was the series of arrests that led to the outcry over Bryn Fon’s case, planting of evidence and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Own goal for the security service and local Plods.

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

One must assume care was taken to establish that no squatters, tramps or pets were on the premises at the time of the act being committed. There is of course the possibility that the cottage had been sold to ‘incomers’ by the parents of the arsonists
YOUR IGNORANCE IS APPALLING_ HAVE YOU NOT CONSIDERED THE RISKS TO LIFE THESE CRIMINALS PUT ON THE LOCAL FIRE BRIGADE OFFICERS WHO HAD TO FIGHT THE FIRES>


Erisian
Erisian
9 months ago

All those houses, yet not one Conservative Club.

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