On this day in 1966, a slag heap in the mining village of Aberfan, South Wales, became saturated and collapsed. It slid over the local school and smothered it, killing 116 children and 18 adults. The nation was shocked, but the response of the government was less than gracious. Demands by the local people to have the rest of the slag heaps made safe were resisted, and when public opinion obliged the government to act, they forcibly took part of the cost from the voluntarily-funded Aberfan Disaster Memorial Fund. The blame for the disaster was placed fairly and squarely at the feet of the national body which administered the coal industry. The National Coal Board and its Chairman were decisively deemed to have been grossly negligent in their attitude to health and safety.
On 21st October 1805, Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson was killed during the British naval victory over a combined French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar, and the nation mourned for the loss of its hero and darling. He was afforded a lavish funeral followed by interment at St Paul’s Cathedral, at which some members of the Royal Family insisted on being present despite the fact that it was against the protocol of the time. It should be said that Nelson displayed great courage, tactical brilliance and devotion to duty, but it might also be mentioned that he was soundly condemned during his career for being instrumental in the committing of atrocities at Naples. There was a dubious side to Horatio, whatever his value to the security of the nation.
So is it fair to compare and contrast these two events? I don’t suppose it is, not unless you happen to be musing on the relative significance apportioned to the matter of untimely death by a nation’s Establishment.