1944 - Page 1
Lord Porter Award
The National Reference Tribunal in January 1944 chaired by Lord Porter granted new minimum rates of £5 underground and £4 10s (£4.50p) on the surface.
The Porter Award increases for juveniles was as follows: -
- 14 years 38s 6d (£1.92½) underground and 31s 6d (£1.55) on the surface
- 14½ years 40s 6d (£2.02½) and 33s 6d (£1.67½)
- 15 years 43s (£2.15) and 35s 6d (£1.77½)
- 15½ years 45s 6d (£2.27½) and 38s (£1.90)
- 16 years 48s (£2.40) and 40s 6d (£2.00½)
- 16½ years 50s 6d (£2.52½) and 42s 6d (£2.12½)
- 17 years 54s (£2.70) and 45s (£2.25)
- 17½ years 57s 6d (£2.87½) and 47s 6d (£2.37½)
- 18 years 70s (£3.50) and 60s (£3)
- 19 years 75s (£3.75) and 65s (£3.25)
- 20 years 80s (£4) underground and 70s (£3.50) on the surface per week.
First Training Establishment
On 25th Jan 1944, 130 Bevin Boys billeted at Chesterfield were sent to Creswell Training Centre.
On 21st February 1944 the first Central Training Establishment for the region was opened at Creswell (Bolsover Colliery Co). It released its first intake of 137 boys on 29th May. Shortly afterwards a fully reserved Training face was initialised at Gedling (BA Collieries Ltd).
The Coal Mining (Training and Medical Examination) Order 1944 established the general principle that no one was to be employed in or about a coal mine on work which he had no previous experience, unless under adequate instruction and supervision, until competent to do the work without supervision. The Order also required Training Officers to be appointed to superintend training at collieries and keep records and reports on trainees.
Training and Medical Examination
Bulwell (Nottinghamshire) had a pithead restaurant now. However the pit was soon to close in 1945.
Grassmoor (Derbyshire) was the first pit to offer full cooked meals in a canteen.
‘Bevin Boys’ aged 18 to 25 were conscripted into the mines in late 1943 and through 1944 due to the war effort to produce more coal. Every 10th person called up for military service was transferred to the mines. It was a lottery. Every month Ernest Bevin’s secretary put 10 digits into a hat and for a period of approximately 20 months, two of these numbers were drawn out and all those men whose National Service Registration Number ended with one of those two digits were directed into the coal mines. There was no escape, except for those accepted for flying duties in the RAF and Fleet Air Arm or Submarines or certain men on a shortlist of highly skilled occupations required for service trades. They came from all walks of life and many such as sons of doctors or parsons etc had never seen a pit before and were quite unprepared for a job of coalmining underground.
'Bevin Boys' aged 18 to 25 were conscripted
No underground toilets, it was left to a shovel upwind of others.
There was nowhere to wash ones hands before eating the break meal (snap). Most were definitely not cut out for a life in mining. Famous names like Eric Morecombe and Brian Rix were two such recruits.
They were usually accommodated first in local homes then in purpose built hostels (Nissen huts with beds for 12 men, and had lockers, lavatories and baths, there was a welfare centre and recreation room, dining room and food prepared by cooks) and received an average of £2 10s (£2.50) in pay (at 17 up to 59 shillings (£1.82), and at 21 years old, 39 shillings and sixpence (£1.96). Most pits received their quota of Bevin boys and after the war they were “demobbed” like the servicemen but received no gratuity. Out of 22,000 conscripts nationally, over 2,300 were taken into pits in Nottinghamshire. Many rules were laid down, such as no disorderly conduct, drunkenness, gambling, betting, borrowing or lending money.
In this area, Creswell was a major sorting out and training centre, opened in January 1944, catering for up to 520 ‘boys’ at a time. The Bevin boys were allocated digs with local people and then started life underground training, usually with a big shovel shifting coal. Following the end of about one month’s underground training period or for some several months they were allocated to various other pits to fill vacancies left by enlisted men. Although many had never seen a mine in their lives before, 99% of them settled in to their new life fairly quickly although overall it was found that attendance was poor. The Forest Town hostel housed 500 with a Manager and a staff of 12.
One Bevin boy Roy Dickinson, known as ‘Dicko’, told me in 2007 that he lived in Nottingham and wanted to join the RAF but was conscripted and sent to Creswell to train as a miner in October 1944. He had to go to London Road School, Nottingham for a medical.
After being passed A1 fit he was transported to a Miners’ Hostel at Clowne housing 500 men. For about 6 weeks they did physical training, dressed in shorts and plimsolls. A good English breakfast was provided each morning and a good substantial 3 course meal in the evening. Sandwiches for snap were provided also.
They visited several colliery surfaces to see the types of jobs on offer. He was allotted to Creswell colliery nearby for formal training firstly on the surface on various jobs such as sorting coal on the screens etc, then he was transferred underground but he reckoned they ‘played’ at being a miner there because they were always under the watchful eye of a Training Instructor who would help, but he got a great shock when sent to Gedling to do some proper work, on his own, firstly pony ganging then shovelling on a coal face for £4 a week.
He recalled on one occasion when he lost his pony or ‘donkey’ as he called it. It had wandered off whilst he wasn’t looking, however when he returned to the pit bottom stables to explain he found the pony named Captain stood in his own stall waiting to have its gear removed, so he didn’t report it and carried on as though he had escorted the pony back. A piece of cardboard was put at the back of the hand lamp so that all the light was projected to the front so that it was easier to see where one was going.
He hated the underground life having previously worked for Kettch and Sons hauliers as a driver and after about a year began to holiday on odd days like some miners did.
Another part of his work was on the haulage underground where he had to clip 4 tubs of coal onto a moving haulage rope with great dexterity otherwise like some who were run down and bruised badly, luckily not too severely. Because he was more fortunate than the others who came from areas of the country not associated with mining and lived far away he lived nearby and it was easy to slip into Nottingham, eat his snap (sandwiches) on Slab Square, feed the pigeons, walk round then go back home at the recognised knocking off time as though he had been to work.
After a time a letter was sent to his home from the colliery and opened by his mother who was ignorant of his absenteeism. They had to attend Court where his mother pleaded for him as he was unaccustomed to the underground life and it was affecting his nerves and the magistrates were lenient on this occasion, he was let off with a caution and ordered back to work. Of course being conscripted into the mines was like being in the forces and that action would have been classed as AWOL, (absent without leave).
He said he was injured in the pit whilst on haulage work and as soon as he could in early 1947 when they were releasing miners from the pits he left. There must have been hundreds in similar circumstances who just had to ‘grin and bear it’.
John Burgess aged 19
John Burgess (6153) (pictured aged 19 in 1944 and 82 in 2007, d 2012) was one such recruit in this area 1944-1947 who stayed in the industry.
John Burgess aged 82
He originated from Winchester and did his training at Creswell, worked at Annesley pony ganging to start with, followed a management career, taking exams in mining and obtained a First Class certificate (Manager’s) and was promoted to Undermanager Bentinck, transferred back to Annesley, promoted to Deputy Manager Silverhill, temporary Manager at Teversal, promoted to Manager at Sutton then General Manager Harworth.
Colin Wells (6005) also a Bevin Boy, started as a linesman at Annesley also became a ripper there whilst studying becoming an Undermanager at Pleasley and was a Manager at Shirland and then Silverhill.
Jim Hewitson (5278) did likewise in Lancashire and became Manager at Rufford then North Nottinghamshire Area Safety Engineer before transferring to Industrial Relations in South Nottinghamshire.
Frank Haynes was another who became an NUM official and later Labour MP for Ashfield.
Frank Gearing another Bevin Boy was allotted to Silver Hill on haulage duties to 1946 when he transferred to the Surveyor’s underground lining staff. In 1951 he joined the Staff Superannuation Scheme and became an Assistant Surveyor at Silverhill eventually becoming First Assistant before transferring to No4 Area HQ Planning department at Huthwaite then leaving the NCB in 1960 to join Tarmac the civil engineering firm where he was involved with the underground tunnelling work for the Bala Dam in Wales, eventually reaching the position of Area Manager in the North East. The centre closed in June 1945.
The first of the trained Bevin Boys in the Nottingham area started work at Clifton and Radford pits on 21st Feb 1944. Others would later go to Babbington, Bestwood, Wollaton and Gedling.
By Autumn 270 Bevin Boys had been sent to the Ripley area, urgent calls to Nottingham householders required for homes for the Bevin Boys.
John Berry was also a Bevin boy and he held several management positions in Scotland before being appointed to his position as Deputy Director North Nottinghamshire Area at Edwinstowe.
John V Faben was an evacuee from Lowestoft and began in the mining industry as a pit top worker aged 14½ at Whitwell, then underground worker at 15, face man, Deputy, Overman Markham, Planner Silverhill, Assistant Undermanager Ollerton, Undermanager (5203) Harworth, (transferred to Bilsthorpe) and then North Nottinghamshire Area Mechanization dept (died 2008). He was an active member of BACM (British Association of Colliery Management) whilst at work and a volunteer helper when he retired, like I am now.
Miners’ Hostels were set up to accommodate the recruits
Alfreton Miner's Hostel, Nottingham Road
(and also Polish entrants later).
Locally there were Hostels in
- Hardwick Park (RAF)
- Creswell (for 500 men)
- Eastwood (for 320)
- Hucknall (for 150)
- Woodhouse (for 250)
- Worksop (for 400-500)
- Queen’s Drive (for 500)
- Alfreton, Nottingham Road (for 200)
- Mansfield East, Forest Town
- Mansfield North, Abbot Road Mansfield (for 500 each)
Workings Getting Further From The Pit Bottom
As the workings at all pits were extending on longwall advancing methods, the workings were getting further and further from the pit eye or pit bottom every day, and a noticeable drop off in production became apparent.
Rope-hauled manriders or paddies began to be installed to transport the colliers several hundred yards inbye towards their workplace so that they would fresher to start work and not be so tired as if they had walked there, and of course return them at the end of the shift back towards the pit bottom. Of course this was expensive and it was only the larger companies that spent money on such ‘luxuries’. Many men illegally rode on the back of a tub or on the draw bar, which was even more dangerous.
Westthorpe (North Derbyshire) was taken over by United Steel Companies Ltd in 1944. The firm of J and G Wells became part of Rother Vale Collieries.
An improved Meco Moore coal cutter-loader was installed at Clipstone (Nottinghamshire) in the Top Hard. These machines, a development of the AB 15 longwall coal cutter would prove to be very popular machines, and go on to produce many millions of tons of coal at some local pits, particularly in the thick Top Hard seam.
BA Collieries (Bestwood and Amalgamated Collieries) were using three 12BU Joy Loaders in Room and Pillar work in the High Main seam at Bestwood colliery (Nottinghamshire).
Around this time the Swanwick Collieries Ltd took over Swanwick mine from RCA Palmer-Morewood.
The High Main seam at Kirkby Summit (Nottinghamshire) was entered (Butterley Co). The seam was developed by headings to work on the room and pillar system following the failure of the first short longwall advancing face at the edge of the shaft pillar in the 3’ 6” (1.07m) thick seam. Twin Butt entries were driven into an area with cross cuts to the proposed boundaries of a district and the headings or rooms up to 10 yards wide were extracted for up to 100 yards (91m) advance with ventilation effected by fan. A pillar of similar width was left and a further room was begun. Several rooms were worked at one time on the retreat system. Coal was undercut and blown and loaded out by shovel onto conveyors or scrapers. Some teams of men would achieve several cuts in a shift, boosting their piecework earnings.
Several other attempts to work the shallow seam on the longwall system had failed in 1943, 1945-1946 and 1953. This was a partial extraction method due to the closeness of the overlying Permian water-bearing measures and partly because of undermining the town of Kirkby, to minimise subsidence damage. The first room was extracted during October 1945.