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Sunday 9 July 2023

Firebombers, a new two-part TV documentary series to air on BBC One Wales

BBC Cymru Wales has unveiled an upcoming TV documentary series and podcast that will delve into one of the most contentious periods in modern Welsh history.

Starting in 1979, a decade-long arson campaign ignited in Wales, resulting in over 200 firebomb attacks on holiday cottages, businesses, politicians, and even the UK Parliament. These attacks were attributed to Meibion Glyndŵr, a secretive organization.

Titled "Firebombers," the two-part TV documentary series will be broadcast on BBC One Wales and iPlayer, providing a comprehensive exploration of this divisive chapter from Wales' past. The program will feature interviews with police officers who investigated the case, victims whose properties were targeted, individuals who were apprehended, journalists who covered the fires, and others with firsthand accounts.

Kelvin Griffiths, a former North Wales Police Officer who worked on the case, recollects, "The devastation was unimaginable. Because these houses were so secluded, they burned down unnoticed. It was only when someone drove by and realized, 'Oh, the house has been burned down.' No one had witnessed it."

Journalist Alun Lenny states in "Firebombers," "Discovering the identity of Meibion Glyndŵr would have been the ultimate journalistic triumph in Wales. The perpetrators were so cautious and fortunate that it was nearly impossible to uncover a lead."

The documentary also highlights individuals who were arrested but either released without charges or found not guilty. One notable figure is Sion Aubrey Roberts, the sole person convicted of possessing explosives and sending incendiary devices through the mail. Roberts, who admits to being a member of Meibion Glyndŵr, shares previously undisclosed details about his involvement with the secretive organization and the firebombing campaign in an exclusive interview.

"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."  

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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