Coal Mining In the Second World War 1939-1945
World War II and up to Nationalisation
The Second World War started on 3rd September 1939 when Great Britain declared war on Germany who had invaded Poland, one of our allies. Many miners volunteered and joined the armed forces, however some had to be sent back to the mines under the Restrictions of Engagement Order, as more coal was needed for the war effort.
Emergency drinking water tanks were introduced underground.
Of course each colliery had a Rescue Team whose job was to be always available no matter what shift, and of course each man had to be very fit. Training sessions were held frequently.
Petrol rationing began on 24th September 1939. Also coal was rationed under the Fuel and Lighting Order. Blackout restrictions were introduced. Of course a major blow to the industry was the loss of export coal to France, and other European countries. A fair amount of coal was from this region and most of the markets would never be recovered.
Emergency War Budget
An Emergency War Budget was introduced in Parliament by Sir John Simon on 27th September 1939. The first thing to be rationed was petrol. This affected everything. The basic duty on tobacco was increased from 11s 6d (57½p) to 13s 6d (67½p) per lb adding 1½d (½p) per oz in the shops affecting all users of cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars and snuff. Sugar duty was increased also making higher prices for jam, tinned fruit etc.
Dirt Tip On Fire
The dirt tip at Langton was on fire due to spontaneous combustion of the discarded coal and great efforts were made to douse the flames so as not to betray the position to possible enemy aircraft. Men on fire watching duties were employed at night at all collieries.
Pension Scheme 1939
The Nottingham and District Miners’ Pension Scheme 1939 was instigated.
Cost of Living Formula
From 1st November 1939 under a Cost of Living formula there was 8d (3⅓p) a shift cost of living rise granted for those aged 18 and over. For those under 18 it was 4d (1⅔p) a shift. Average wage in 1938 was £3 0s 10d (£3.04) a week or 12s 4d (61½p) per shift.
Average Earnings Per Shift
Average earnings per shift in Nottinghamshire were 15s 0¾d (75p), North Derbyshire 12s 3¼d (61¼p) and South Derbyshire 10s 11¾d (55p).
In the first few months of the War with Germany the manpower would begin to fall as many miners enlisted in the forces. It was the younger men that left and the average age of miners increased dramatically and in doing so the national output per manshift decreased and Sunday working was encouraged at some pits albeit that there were no overtime rates at the time, just a normal day's pay. (see overtime 1944).
Output and Manpower
There were 1,995 mines in the country with an output of 240 million tons and 14,000 mine management staff.
Just 22 companies produced two thirds of the total coal output.
In 1939 there were 124 colliery undertakings in Nottinghamshire, North Derbyshire and South Derbyshire producing 62.75m tons.
Nottinghamshire 16.7m tons, 41 pits using 349 coal cutters, 36 pits using 568 conveyors, 96 loaders.
North Derbyshire 13.9m tons, with 53 pits using 485 coal cutters, 44 pits using 556 conveyors and 79 loaders
South Derbyshire 884,000 tons, 7 pits using 46 coal cutters, 6 pits using 51 conveyors, 4 loaders.
Leicestershire 2.75 m tons, 12 pits using 118 coal cutters, 12 pits using 133 conveyors, 32 loaders.
Cost Of Living Rise
On 1st January 1940 there was a further 5d (2p) a shift rise due to the cost of living. For boys and youths under 18 it was 2½d (1p).
At Bestwood (Nottinghamshire) (BA Collieries Ltd) the surface manpower increased to a maximum ever of 762. No mine in Nottinghamshire ever surpassed this surface manpower total. At Grassmoor in Derbyshire the total reached over 800, but there were several pit tops, with a total of 12 shafts for the complex mine.
January 1940 was the coldest for 45 years.
Big Butty System
The Butty system had remained at the Bolsover Co pits until 1940.
From 8th January 1940, food rationing began and started with butter, bacon, and sugar and was followed by meat on 11th March. Foodstuffs from abroad were now severely affected by ship losses by enemy U boats.
Weekly allowance per person for tea 2oz (ounces), butter 2oz, margarine 4oz, sugar 2oz and fats 2oz. Extra cheese allowance allowed to workers with no canteen facilities and special ration for vegetarians who surrendered their meat ration.
Minister of Food WS Morrison rationed meat to 6oz per person per day (prime cuts).
A further 4d (1½p) a shift rise was granted to 18 year olds and over from 1st April 1940 as inflation spiralled, and 2d (¾p) a shift increase for those under 18 years of age.
The April Budget brought out a points system of rationing for clothing and tinned meats. Taxes were raised again and included tobacco duty at 3d (1p) an ounce and ½d (¼p) on a box of matches. Snuff went up also, being a tobacco product!
Whit Holiday Cancelled
The planned Whitsuntide holiday of 13th-14th May 1940 was cancelled by the Government due to the War effort
Emergency Powers Act
On 24th May 1940 the new Emergency Powers Act came into force effectively meaning that industry would be controlled by the Minister of Labour. There was a major reduction in employment.
Once again a Coalition Government was formed under the Conservative leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with Clement Attlee (Labour), as Deputy, for the duration of most of the War (until July 1945).
The fall of France in 1940 threatened the export market, in fact almost wiped it out.
More Miners Enlisted
Many more miners joined up. During 1940 because of the War, underground connections were made by the Bolsover Co for ARP (air raid precautions) emergency reasons between Rufford and Clipstone collieries, and between Clipstone and Mansfield in the Top Hard seam. Other colliery companies would make connections between neighbouring mines also.
Another Pay Rise
Another 5d (2p) per shift rise was granted in August from 1st October 1940, due to War increases. Under 18s received 3d (1¼p) a shift. A wage agreement was signed between Nottinghamshire coal owners and workmen on 1st December 1940.
A German Heinkel III bomber dropped two 500lb bombs at Ollerton (Nottinghamshire) on 31st October 1940. One landed near to the full weigh office and the other on Newark Road, but fortunately neither exploded. Members of the Local Volunteer Defence Corps later called Home Guard (set up on 14th May 1940), and a bit like ‘Dad’s Army’, certain important personnel were put in charge. Around Pinxton area, Les H Watson Chief Surveyor for Pinxton Collieries Ltd was one such example. He was also deeply involved in amateur dramatics at the Welfare Hall to entertain the locals during and after the dark days of the War. Monty Wright, ex Manager at Ollerton, now Agent, still residing at Ollerton Hall was another who was in charge of a platoon. He attended every night without fail.
Members of the Home Guard had to stand guard in all weathers for several days until the fuses were removed. Fire watching had been made compulsory at all places of work. Several other bombs were dropped on a couple of other occasions and a large one fell at the base of the railway embankment near to the station in Market Warsop where the explosion blew out the windows of houses – a fact kept quiet at the time. It is possible that their objective was the Edwinstowe forest where ammunition was stored in Nissen huts but although not exactly a well kept secret the Germans never found it.
There was a massive air raid by German bombers on 12th December 1940 and Kiveton Park pit on the North Derbyshire border with Yorkshire was stood from 16th to 21st December due to unexploded bombs on the colliery premises away from the pit yard and shafts dropped by a German raider en route to Sheffield. I don’t think that it was a deliberate raid on the colliery, and as at Ollerton above, probably the pilot unloaded the bombs hurriedly to lighten the plane so that they had more chance of escaping being shot down.
Also during the autumn of 1940, a German bomber dropped a string of bombs at Langton (Nottinghamshire). None of the bombs exploded, on the colliery site, but the pit was stood whilst the bombs were removed and exploded safely by the Army bomb disposal officers. However a mother of one of the miners was killed and also a woman at nearby Pinxton by a bomb hitting her house. Note in 1955 a bulldozer uncovered a bomb in a crater in the pit yard about 100 yards (90m) from the shafts. Men were still allowed to carry on working whilst the bomb was removed by Army personnel.
This info was from the Nottingham Guardian Journal 11 for 10th August 1955
I don't think they made a lot of publicity in 1940 because of moral during the War. We were at a low ebb.
At Morton (Derbyshire) around this time a string of incendiary bombs was dropped by a German bomber, encircling the pit tip and lighting it up, although no damage was noted. (Quote by my friend Cecil Hill of Ashmore Farm, Tibshelf).
Fortunately during the War not one pit was seriously damaged by German action, whereas one bomb directly dropped onto the pit shafts could have entombed hundreds! Strangely enough not one pit was bombed by the British on enemy territory, which would have done the same thing – was there a ‘truce’ on such an action?
Two Surface Workers At Ollerton Jailed
Two surface workers at Ollerton (Nottinghamshire), Frank Hickman and Ken Wright were sent to Lincoln jail for refusing to work underground for the War effort. They stood by their convictions but were punished.
At the Butterley Company’s pits there were now only 40 ponies employed whereas in 1929 there had been 577.
It was decreed then that a Forestry Commission be set up in World War I to alleviate the situation and grow our own timber. Vast forests of pine trees were set and these came to maturity some twenty or so years later and supplemented the imported timber.
To accommodate distribution to various collieries timber yards were set up, the local one being at Tibshelf.
Wooden Props And Saw Pits
Wooden props for use underground were considered by many miners to be far superior to the steel props as the wooden ones would tend to creak or split when heavy weight was coming on giving the miner chance to move to a place of safety quickly whereas the steel props showed no sign of movement at all but on occasion would tend to fly out under stress and hopefully not injure anyone in its path, however it is known that many miners did suffer injury through just that. millions of pit props and split bars were required at most of the collieries and there was quite a shortage due to the wood having to be shipped in from Scandinavia and many being at Tibshelf Ramper.
Tibshelf Top Pit Dirt Tip is seen in the background
The Saw pits at Tibshelf were set to supply timber to the local mines, much of the timber being imported from Scandinavia and off loaded at Immingham, then transported by train.
Sawn timber to the requisite sizes was then sent to the various destinations by rail again. Women workers were employed to assist the few men left at the yard.
In January 1941, there was a strike over wage rates at Ramcroft (Hardwick Colliery Co Ltd) (North Derbyshire). At all pits, a cost of living increase of 6d (2½p) a shift was granted from 1st January 1941 for over 18 years of age, and 3d (1¼p) for less than 18 years. At the same time the price of coal was increased by 8d (3p) a ton.
Land Mines at Kiveton Park
At Kiveton Park, close to the North Derbyshire border with South Yorkshire, 2 land mines dropped by a German raider exploded on the tip on 13th March 1941. Once again it was assumed that it was not a deliberate raid on the colliery.
New Coal Cutting Loading Machine
A Meco-Moore cutter-loader was installed at Rufford (Nottinghamshire) (Bolsover Colliery Co) during the Easter break 1941. The pit pioneered the new coal cutter, which had a bottom jib, middle jib and back jib and loaded coal onto a face conveyor.
First Pit To Provide Full Meals In The Canteen
Grassmoor (Derbyshire) (Grassmoor Co Ltd) was the first pit to provide full meals in the canteen. At Ollerton (Nottinghamshire) (Butterley Co), the Agent Montagu Wright also organised a pithead canteen in a Nissen hut offering a 3-course meal of soup with bread, meat and vegetables and a sweet, for 11d (4½p).
From 1st June 1941 a one shilling (5p) attendance bonus was granted to all miners over 18 years and 6d (2½p) for those under 18 for full attendance in a week.
A further 4d (1½p) a shift cost of living rise was awarded from 1st July for over 18 and 2d (¾p) for less than 18 years of age.
Clothes were rationed from 1st June 1941. A further cost of living increase of 4d (1½p) a shift was granted from 1st July. Coal was rationed from 4th July. Ration books were issued with coupons that were cut out by the retailer to show that the requisite amount allowed was adhered to. However it was not unknown for the system to have flaws and in some areas goods could be obtained on the ‘black market’ from unscrupulous dealers and the word ‘spiv’ became synonymous with this procedure.
Essential Works Order
Miners were now forced to stay in their jobs and others who had left to join the forces or other industries were being returned to the pits under the Coal Mines (Release) Essential Works Order. A miner could not leave his job without leave from a National Service Officer. Physically fit ex-miners were drafted back underground, along with some surface workers and guaranteed wages were paid (see 1942).
The Coal Supply Order 1941 was enacted.
During 1941, the Butterley Co management finally relented, and agreed that for the first time in the colliery village of New Ollerton that greyhounds could be kept. Dogs had been banned since 1923, also anyone walking on the open plan front lawned gardens were fined until soldiers billeted in the village began playing cricket on them during the War, then that rule was abolished. The colliery Bobby (Eric Healey) was employed to see that all rules laid down by the Company were adhered to. He made sure that all the children attended school unless they were ill etc. If he caught any boy walking or playing on the grass he would report it to the office and the miner would be fined either 2 shillings or 2 shillings and 6 pence out of his pay packet the following Friday and the lad probably ended up with a good hiding from his dad, Apart from the lawns which were cut by the Company at a standard rate of 2d a week, the rear gardens had to be kept neat and tidy and even the insides of the houses were inspected periodically to see that they were clean. Offenders were fined or sacked. Of course being sacked meant that the house had to be vacated, as that came with the job. Even couples, not married, but living together, were still asked to leave! Unfortunately also should a man get killed his widow was asked to leave about 2 weeks after the funeral if she only had daughters but could remain in the house if she had a son as he was expected to get a job at the pit on leaving school whereas a daughter could not.
The François Cementation Company of Doncaster (Yorkshire) was renamed The Cementation Co Ltd August 1941.
A steel headgear recovered from a closed Welsh mine replaced the one at Langton No8 / No9 shaft (Nottinghamshire) (Pinxton Collieries Ltd). Confusion arises here when there were only 2 shafts. The company named them No7 and No8 for part of Pinxton colliery where No6 shaft was at work. No9 shaft refers to the deepening of No7 shaft.