By Neil Prior
A call has been made for a memorial to honour the bravery of three boys lost on a camping trip more than 60 years ago in which one died.
The trio, aged 16 and 17, were separated from their group while in the Elan Valley in Powys in 1961.
One made it to a farm, but rescuers could not save one of his friends.
A scout leader now wants a memorial for the boys, who were from Birmingham on an expedition for their Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award.
On 25 February 1961, the 20 schoolboys arrived in mid Wales for what should have been the adventure of a lifetime.
They were on the hills above the Elan Valley but, two days later, three of them failed to make their train home.
One of the boys died, and another would be in a coma for several months.
They were members of the Birmingham Stonehouse Gang, a youth organisation which survives to this day.
Lisa Stead, who runs an Explorer Scout group in Llanidloes, Powys, is determined to establish a permanent memorial to them.
"I first heard about the Birmingham boys when a group of my own teenagers, Explorer Scouts, were camping on Elan Valley farmer Tony Davies's land a few years ago," she said.
She explained that one of her group developed sunstroke and was taken in by Mr Davies to ensure that he was safe.
She added: "He went on to tell me about a previous time there had been a Duke of Edinburgh expedition on their land."
On the snowy morning of 27 February 1961, the alarm was raised by the Rhayader train station master.
Three of the boys had failed to return, and soon afterwards the entire community set out to look for them.
Michael Grindod, one of the missing boys, stumbled into the yard of Henfron Farm, where Richard Davies, grandfather of Tony Davies – the current farmer – was tending his livestock,
Michael asked for directions to Rhayader and told Richard Davies that his two companions, Brian Harris and Ray Guyatt, were further up the valley and needed urgent help.
Although it was four years before Tony Davies was born, from the stories his family told him, the rescue was all-encompassing.
"Local farmers and the staff of the water company went out, and there were even those who got on 250cc motorbikes to search," he said.
"My father, Beynon Davies, walked up the hill with Sgt Brooks from the local police."
Michael and Brian survived the ordeal, but Ray did not. Brian later fell into a coma and Michael was relatively unharmed.
"They found Brian in a tent adjacent to a small shed on the hill.
"Sgt Brooks and my father followed footsteps in the snow and found Ray's body further up the mountain."
Ray had been walking around in circles, Tony Davies explained. His father Beynon took a tractor to the boy.
"A gate was removed from Blaen Methan shed and used as a stretcher to carry the body down to the tractor and trailer.
"The body was taken down on the trailer to the road to meet the undertaker."
At the subsequent inquest, Radnorshire coroner HF Ludford said: "There is no light on why this party and this one only was attacked by fatigue. The boys should have kept together."
Mr Ludford said the boys were "dogged by misfortune and calamity throughout that day".
The coroner continued: "He knew that Brian Harris and Michael Grindod were left alone in the hills with the night coming on.
"He did what he thought was his duty. He was a keen boy and he went on and he failed."
But Tony Davies disagrees with the coroner's opinion: "From what my father told me, the boys were very brave.
"It is hard to believe that they were left to camp on the exposed areas of the Elan Valley in February.
"When the three boys failed to return back to Rhayader on the Sunday night, the leaders took the rest of the group back to Birmingham on the train, leaving instructions with the station master to tell the three boys to catch the next train when they turned up."
Mr Davies said the "group leaders failed in their duty, the search should have started the previous evening".
Ms Stead said there should be "a tribute to the bravery of the boys, and to honour their efforts to help each other at a perilous time".
She hopes the Elan Valley Estate and Duke of Edinburgh's Award programme will support her efforts.
She added: "Young people on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions today would have better support systems in place to avoid such tragedy.
"The friendship, courage and efforts of Ray, Brian and Michael to support each other needs recognition."
Lisa is hoping to establish a standing stone in their memory, or perhaps a tree whose "enduring survival" in such harsh conditions will "serve as a fitting memorial to their bravery".
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and the Stonehouse Gang said they did not want to comment.
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By Neil Prior