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Bevin Boys Starting Their Coal Mine Training

Discussion in 'History of Britain during World War II' started by Jim, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Coal shortage prompted Mr. Ernest Bevin, Minister of labour, to adopt a revolutionary method of recruiting mineworkers when he introduced his ballot scheme in Parliament on Dec. 2, 1943, by which many youths ready for call-up would be diverted to the mines. The first trainees were “drawn from the hat” on Dec. 14, and by Jan. 18, 1944, some were in training.

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    (1) Youths line up for equipment at the Swinton, Manchester, training centre; others (3) descend the shaft at the Askern Colliery. Filled tubs (2) on their way to the surface in a mine whose workers believe in record output. A 14-year-old volunteer grins broadly (4), while a group of other lads (5) emerge from the pithead at Markham Main Colliery, near Doncaster.
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Down a Mine for a Night Shift with a Bevin Boy

    Serving the nation equally with those of their age who joined the Armed Forces, the boys who were called up for work in the pits had no aura of glamour. But they had the satisfaction of knowing that Britain could not get on without them. This contribution written specially for “The War Illustrated” was of interest for parents and others alike during the War years.

    I worked at a pit called Glapwell Colliery, at Glapwell in Nottinghamshire. To get there I had to travel five miles by bus. I entered the locker rooms, the pithead baths. We walked in at one side, took off our clean clothes, and walked leisurely through the showers to the dirty side where we would change into our working clothes. We each had a tin water-bottle which we called a "Dudley," and a snap tin which held lunch and kept out the dust and the rats that were seen down the pit.

    We would fill our "Dudley" with fresh water (it held four pints) and along we went to the pithead. We each had a numbered pay check, and as we passed through a kind of barrier we would shout out our numbers and a man then clocked us in. Then to the lamp cabin, where we would leave our lamp check and locker key and receive a hand-lamp, which was quite weighty to carry about. We walked to the pit-top where the cage (lift) was. It was roughly a thousand yards from pit-top to pit-bottom, and when we were in the cage water was dripping all over us. There were holes in the bottom of the cage, and when we reached the middle of the shafting we were travelling at about 60 m.p.h., with the draught through the holes blowing right up our legs, and it was cold! When we got out of the cage at the bottom we would report to the cabin where all the deputies were, and they told us where to go, every coal face was numbered. The nearest one to me was number 25, and it was quite a distance. For part of the way it was cold, but gradually it became warmer and you had to deposit your coat somewhere. It was roughly four miles from the pit-bottom to the point where I worked, which made it about nine miles from where I lived.

    Boy trainees for the pits, at Markham Colliery near Chesterfield, listen to an old hands advice, Conscription of boys of 18 to work in the mines was announced by Mr. Ernest Bevin Minster of Labour, on Dec 3rd 1943.

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    Even Standing Still We Would Sweat

    It was a steep downhill walk, and parts of the way we had to bend very low, I leave you to imagine what it was like when one was returning, tired out! When we got to our working place we undressed, keeping on only short pants, hat, and boots. My job was making a new roadway, which they called a heading, in temperatures of about 70 degrees, and believe me, even when standing still you would sweat. First we would see if there were any empty tubs handy. If none were at hand we had to walk 500 yards for them. We got four each time, and we would lower them down the slope by a cable running off a small haulage motor. I was working with two other miners, and when we started shovelling up the rock the sweat really began to roll. It got into your eyes, and it stung. Soon we were sweating from head to foot. Shovelling and picking at the rock all the time we filled eight tubs right off, and began to feel there was no more sweat left to come out. Half-way through a shift I had generally drunk my four pints of water, and then had to go thirsty. It made you value water! When the eight tubs were filled we then had our snap, which took twenty minutes to half an hour. Then we would lower another four tubs, and by the time we had filled them and hauled them to the top of the slope it was just about time to start walking back to the cage that would take us to the surface again. We filled between 12 and 16 tubs a night, each tub holding about one ton of rock. Twelve to 16 tubs a night wasn’t bad, was it?
     

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