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Bevin Boys - Ernest Bevin 1881 - 1951
Bevin Boy's Emails, Page 11
Contact Bevin Boys Association

Taken from the BBC's Archive of WW2 memories 
Written by the public, gathered by the BBC - See Copyright

Contributed by:

Elizabeth Lister
26 November 2005
How I became a Bevin Boy

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Stan Tate. This user did not write any autobiographical information about him/herself while the site was active. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

Contributed by Elizabeth Lister
People in story: Morris Pearce
Location of story: Sherborne, Berks and Askern Colliery, Doncaster
Background to story: Civilian Force
Article ID: A7319261

In December 1943 the British Government realized that there was only three weeks supply of coal left in the country. Many of the miners had been called up for national service. The Government had not had the foresight to make mining a reserved occupation. (A reserved occupation was one which was considered so essential that those involved could not be spared for military service). The Minister for Labour, Ernest Bevin, realized that 50,000 men would be needed to work the coalfields and he devised a plan whereby some conscripts would be sent to the mines instead of military service. These ‘Bevin Boys’ were selected by the final digit of their national service registration; those ending in 0 or 9, which included my own, were to be trained as miners.

I was then living in Sherborne, Berkshire. Men were conscripted at 18 but by volunteering between the ages of seventeen-and-a-half and eighteen it was possible to volunteer and have a say in which service one joined. I did this with the intention of joining the Royal Marines. Unknown to me, because of the last digit of my national service number, I had already been selected for mining duty. As I really wanted to join the Royal Marines, I tried to get out of mining on medical grounds by claiming to be acutely claustrophobic. Unfortunately, when I went to my appeal, there were 24 other ‘acute claustrophobics’ present, so this ploy did not work and I was sent to Askern Colliery for one months training. I worked in the mines for three-and-a-half years, sometimes at a depth of a thousand feet. After the war, many of the miners did not want to go down the mines again, and moved into other occupations. Therefore, we conscripts had to continue this occupation after the other services had been demobbed.

Many people are not aware of the sacrifices made by the ‘Bevin Boys’. There were many deaths and injuries in the mines but we did not get any acknowledgement from the general public (or officially) for our contribution to the war effort. Often, we received verbal abuse or were spat at in the street and asked, ‘Why are you not in uniform?’

I am very proud to say that we are now officially recognised as WWII veterans and are represented at the Cenotaph. It has now been acknowledged that the Bevin Boys are entitle to three service medals, namely, the National Service Medal, the General Service Cross and the Restoration of Peace Medal. However, many Bevin Boys do not wear their medals as, unlike those in military service, we were told we had to purchase ours.


Contributed by:

Ernest W. Stonestreet
16 January 2006
Bevin Boy 1945

This story was submitted to the People’s War site and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

Contributed by toplocks
People in story: Ernest W Stonestreet
Location of story: Rhigos. South Wales
Background to story: Civilian Force
Article ID: A8581791

On the 2nd December 1943 Parliament decreed that Men between 18 and 25 were to be directed into the mining Industry by Ballot. Too many miners, had been called up, resulting in a grave shortage of coal.

Imagine my surprise to find I was one of those affected. So I was directed into The Coal Mining Industry (Bevin Boy). There are those who believe that we chose this form of National Service, not so. I still have my documents which read ”Any person failing to comply with a direction under Regulation 58A of the Defence (general) Regulations is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or a fine not exceeding £100 or both. After a Month’s training in the bitter winter of 1945 being sent to a drift mine at Rhigos. South Wales.

Ernie Stonestreet on left Miners Hostel, Hirwaun, South Wales.
I was sent to work with a skilled Miner cutting coal. Eventually handling “Dynobel” (Explosive) and the detonator which brought down either the coal or roof as required. When I become 21, I was put to repairing by night which involved putting up 14 foot rings to make new roadways. I fulfilled my obligation in South Wales, completing three and a half years there. We received no gratuity nor Demob clothing, a difficulty on returning to office work and coupons being required. I tried to get some form of recognition for Bevin Boys, no one was interested, I even tried M.P.’s ,receiving a letter from Ness Edwards, Minister of Labour, saying “nothing doing”. British Legion pointed out they only recognised the Armed services.


Contributed by:

CSV Media/BBC Radio Solent People's War page
03 June 2005
Phil Yates - A Bevin Boy's Story

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Stan Tate. This user did not write any autobiographical information about him/herself while the site was active. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

Contributed by Winchester Museum WW2 Exhibition
People in story: Phil Yates
Location of story: Pontefract, West Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian Force
Article ID: A4148741

I was one of the last group of Bevin Boys to be conscripted to the coal mines in April 1945.

My instructions were to report to the Prince of Wales Colliery in Pontefract West Yorkshire, with lodging accomodation at Hightown miners' hostel at Castleford, three miles away.

After the usual four weeks training was completed I was told to stay at 'The Prince' (as it was known) and I worked, first, pony driving at the loader end of the coalface and was then transferred to haulage road inspection and finally on pit bottom (nearest point to the cage) working as a "catch-striker" who releases the "catch" so that empty tubs come out one end and full tubs of coal can go in at the other end.

After two years I was transferred to Ackton Hall Colliery at Featherstone, the other side of Castleford. There I became a "catch-striker" again and, with another Bevin Boy, was trained to become an "on-setter" (the person who works the cages from pit-bottom).

I was "demobbed" in March 1948 and returned to Winchester in Hampshire to resume my career in the legal profession. During my time as a Bevin Boy I was never known by my Christian name of Phil - I was called "Win" from Winchester at "The Prince" and "Sid" at Acton Hall. I still correspond with Bevin Boys who knew me by those nick-names.

I am now a prominent member of the Bevin Boy's Association, attending reunions and I am joint area representative of the Southern Counties Branch (with Warwick Taylor) We are in the process of writing a book about the Association which should be published next Spring (2006), I wrote a booklet in 1993 called "The Bevin Boys Story" (re-printed in 2004).

The person to contact now is:-

D.Elizabeth Todd [Mrs]
“The Chalet”,
24 Oldfield Way,
Heswall, Wirral,
CH60 6RG


Contributed by:

Michelle Moore CSV Action Desk Leicester
11 August 2005
Finding Out About The End Of The War With Japan

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Stan Tate. This user did not write any autobiographical information about him/herself while the site was active. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

Contributed by Michelle Moore CSV Action Desk Leicester
People in story: John Hawthorne Dickinson
Location of story: Cannock Chase
Article ID: A5000068

During World War II I was an apprentice at the Grove Colliery of the Brownhills Collieries Ltd, owned by William Harrison on Cannock Chase, having left school at 16.

Aged 17, I was on the night shift on 14th of August 1945, the day the Japanese Emperor announced the total surrender of Japan. My job was overseeing two in bye pumps, which I think were in the New Mine Seam. It was quite wet as the workings were not very deep down. The shift ended at 6.30am the next morning, and we all assembled in the pit bottom by about 7.00am to go up to the surface.

It was normal practice for the cages to be kept somewhere in the area of mid shaft. The Onsetter (a man who supervises the control and loading of the cages) rang for the cage and a complete dummy run of the cages with tubs (trucks) has to made for safety reasons. As the cage arrived in the pit bottom written in capital letters on the end of the tub was "THE WAR IS OVER". A great cheer went up and we went up to the pit to find that no one had come to work and the Colliery was deserted, except for those necessary for overseeing its safety and its machinery.

I managed to catch a train home. One has to remember that the time in Japan is 9 hours ahead of ours.

Pit Terminology - Glossary