Coal Mining In the Second World War 1939-1945
World War II and up to Nationalisation
A Spitfire Fund, under the Wings for Victory campaign for the War effort raised about £5,800 for a Spitfire aeroplane named the ‘Nottinghamshire Miner’. The money was collected from all collieries and the generosity of the miners who would have been on about £3 10s ( £3.50) to £5 a week is shown by the magnificent response to the appeal. There was a picture of a Spitfire above the serving counter in Ollerton canteen noting the amount of money collected at the pit.
War Additions To Wages
By September 1941 miners were getting cost of living War additions of 2s 8d (13⅓p) a shift, to which now there was added, unconditionally, the 1s (5p) bonus from 1st June for adults and 6d (2½p) a week for boys. The Government regulated the pits and coal prices.
8oz more cheese rations were to be made available to Land Girls and Railway Train Crews from 1st September 1941 bringing them in line with miners and agricultural workers.
Output per manshift in Nottinghamshire stood at 84 cwts against a national average of 59 cwts.
The first Manager was Mr Fenn from Nottingham. The second Manager was Dan Rogerson from Rotherham.
He and a few others were sent to South Normanton colliery to assist with improving coal production during the War. The Undermanager and Deputy was Arnold Heappey. The men were transported to and from work by lorry. During the day coal was delivered to households, farms and the small slack to a Steel works in Sheffield and also a power station. Unfortunately in the early days ventilation was a problem and to create a good airflow through the mine a centrifugal fan was installed. Naked light acetylene lamps were used for illumination.
George Spencer MP
As late as this, George Spencer MP was arguing against a National Wages Board, opposing the attempt to impose a levy to finance guaranteed wage payments to miners on short time working.
His argument was that the average output per man in Nottinghamshire was 84 cwt against a national average of 59 cwt and this was not due to the chance of geology, but to harder work by the Nottinghamshire miners.
He utterly opposed the principle of ‘asking the workmen of one district to help pay the profits of another district’.
(He was right: note how the NPLA (National Power Loading Agreement) of 1966 (see), pegged the Nottinghamshire Area miners’ pay, whilst all the other Areas in the country caught up!)
Average Wages Per Shift
North Derbyshire 15s 9¼d (78¾p)
South Derbyshire 17s 5¼d (87¼p)
Nottinghamshire 18s 9d (93¾p)
Leicestershire 17s 9d (88¾p). Overall average gave wages of £4 11s 1d ( £4.55½) per week or 17s (85p) a shift.
Output For 1941
Nottinghamshire collieries produced 17.8m tons with 43 pits using 346 coal cutters, 36 pits using 549 conveyors and 97 loaders
North Derbyshire 14.5m tons, 55 pits using 456 coal cutters, 45 pits using 615 conveyors, 55 loaders
South Derbyshire 1.3m with 7 pits using 42 coal cutters, 6 pits using 56 conveyors and 4 loaders
Leicestershire had 12 pits using 113 machines and an output of 3.62m tons.
Sir Stafford Cripps decreed that soap rationing to begin on 9th February 1942. Personal tax allowances eliminated. No fuel for pleasure motoring and a cut in clothes ration. Sporting events were curtailed. Cigarettes went up to 2s 4d (11½p) a packet of 20 and women’s silk stockings were unobtainable (except from Yanks and spivs on the black market).
Fuel rationing that began on 4th July 1941 was scrapped from 13th May 1942.
Coal Could be Sold in Containers
The Coal Supply Order 1942, giving powers to sell coal in containers.
Government Took Over the Running of the Pits
The Government again took over the running of the pits in wartime as it had done in the First World War, but not the ownership and this time only monitored the production, allowing the local districts to dictate.
A new Drift mine
A new drift mine was opened by 3 men at Harper Hill off Wild Hill, near Huthwaite (Nottinghamshire), to work the Dunsil seam about 3’ 6” (1.07m). (later owned by Horace Taylor, of Whatstandwell). The first sod was cut on 3rd May 1942 following opencast mining which had begun to the West of Tibshelf around this time for the War effort. The limit of overburden for Open casting work then was about 10 yards (9m). George Wilson a good miner from Sutton drove Wilson’s Slit, the first roadway for an air road at right angles and the main heads to the dip at about 1in5 in the 3ft 6in (1.07m) thick Dunsil seam with 6 ft x 6 ft (1.8m x 1.8m) arches and stalls were opened up either side in the following year. He also ran a coal business.
From 1st July the Coal Act of 1942 amended Section 5 of the Coal Act of 1938, which vested in the Coal Commission all property and rights in coal. The royalty owners in the country received a sum of £66m. All the main areas relating to the control of coal, peat, lignite and shale were transferred from the Mines Department, the Board of Trade and the Home Office to the new Ministry of Fuel and Power. The new Minister was Major Gwilym Lloyd George, 3rd June 1942-1945 (Coalition Government).
The Mines Inspectorate now came under the Ministry of Fuel and Power (later the Ministry of Power) 1942-1969.
New Wage Rates
On 18th June 1942 there was an increase in wages
Underground workers over 21 2s 6d (12½p) giving £4 3s 0d ( £4.15) a week,
Surface workers a weekly wage of £3 18s 0d ( £3.90).
This was known as the (Lord) Greene Award, which fixed the first national weekly minimum wage.
Rates for juveniles were now:
14 years 32s ( £1.60) per week underground and 27s 6d ( £1.37½) a week on the surface
14½ years 34s ( £1.70) and 29s 6d ( £1.47½)
15 years 36s ( £1.80) and 31s ( £1.55)
15½ years 38s ( £1.90) and 33s ( £1.65 p)
16 years 40s £2 and 35s 6d ( £1.77½p)
16½ years 42s 6d ( £2.12½) and 37s ( £1.85)
17 years 45s ( £2.25) and 39s 6d ( £1.97½)
17½ years 48s 6d ( £2.42½) and 41s 6d £2.07½)
18 years 52s ( £2.60) and 44s ( £2.20)
18½ years 54s ( £2.70) and 46s ( £2.30)
19 years 56s ( £2.80p) and 48s ( £2.40)
19½ years 58s ( £2.90) and 50s 6d ( £2.52½)
20 years 60s ( £3) and 53s ( £2.65)
20½ years 62s ( £3.10) and 55s ( £2.75) per week.
Rates for Boys were now:
14 to 15 underground were increased by 1s 3d (6¼p) and on the surface by 9d (3¾p).
15 to 16 years 1s 6d (7½p) and 1s (5p)
16 to 17 years 1s 9d (8¾p) and 1s 3d (6¼p)
17 to 18 years 2s 3d (11¼p) and 1s 6d (7½p)
18 to 19 years 2s 6d (12½p) and 1s 9d (8¾p)
19 to 20 years 2s 6d (12½p) and 2s (10p)
20 to 21 years 2s 6d (12½p) and 2s 3d (11¼p)
Over 21 years 2s 6d (12½p) underground and 2s 6d (12½p) for surface.
Nottinghamshire 21s 7d ( £1.08p) / shift
North Derbyshire 18s 6½d (93p)
South Derbyshire 20s 9¾d ( £1.49)
Leicestershire 21s 1½d ( £1.06).
Also in September a National output bonus scheme was begun. The standard for Nottinghamshire collieries was 337,600 tons per month, which equalled 100%.
For each 1% addition to this tonnage a bonus payment of 3d (1¼p) a shift was agreed.
For 102% the rate was 6d (2½p)
For 103% it was 9d (3¾p)
Up to 115% and over it was 3s 9d (18¾p) per shift.
However the scheme set off with 101.2% for the 4 weeks ending 3rd October 1942. With the following monthly returns on:-
31st Oct 99.8%
28th Nov 101.1%
26th Dec 1942 103.2%
23rd Jan 1943, 98.1%
20th Feb 97.2%
20th Mar 96.8%
17th Apr 96.9%
15th May 96.3%
12th June 96.8%
10th July 98.3%
7th Aug 1943 98.3%.
Price of Coal Was Increased
From 3rd July 1942, the price of coal was increased by 3s (15p) a ton.
First Hydraulic Props on Trial
The first trial in Great Britain of hydraulic props, made by Dobson of Nottingham, was carried out at Ramcroft (Derbyshire) in the Waterloo seam and proved successful.
Opencast Working For the War Effort
One of the earliest Opencast sites as part of the War effort was at Shipley where the Top Hard, Dunsil and Waterloo seams were very close to the surface at Heanor Gate and Parkfield Farm. Hill Top, Kimberley district, Top Hard, Dec. Opencasting continued at Tibshelf. Opencasting started in Britain as a Wartime measure under the Defence Regulations. Site at Woodthorpe Hall Blackshale. Although opencasting would continue down to a maximum depth of 16½ yards (15m) a Code of Practice would not be issued until 1951. Output for 1942 was 223,000 tons. In later years the opencast workers would be referred to as ‘Sunshine miners’.
Average wages per shift:
North Derbyshire 18s 6½d ( 92¾p)
South Derbyshire 20s 9¾d ( £1.04)
Nottinghamshire 21s 7d ( £1.08)
Leicestershire 21s 1½d ( £1.05½)
Output for 1942:
Nottinghamshire produced 17.7m tons from 43 pits using 330 coal cutters, 36 pits using 559 conveyors, 92 loaders
North Derbyshire 14.8m tons, 52 pits using 459 coal cutters, 45 pits using 667 conveyors and 59 loaders
South Derbyshire 1.4m with 7 pits using 46 coal cutters, 69 conveyors and 5 loaders
Leicestershire had 13 pits using 108 machines producing 4.05m tons.
Essential Work (Coalmining Industry) 1943 came into force on 6th April. Some experienced men were fetched back from the forces to work in the mines.
Coal Act 1943
The Coal Act 1943: Under many leases, notices of approach had to be sent to certain surface owners when workings were approaching certain specified buildings. This often involved giving notices to third parties and occasionally resulted in coal being sterilised for support purposes. In order to regularise such working, Sec 11 of the 2nd Schedule of the Coal Act 1943 vested in the owner rights to work such coal without notice, provided any damage caused by such working was accepted by them and compensation paid or damage made good.
Para 6 Notices
As with the 1938 Coal Act, under Paragraph 6 (3) the surface owners may after the Para 6 notice first being published, request the NCB to examine any plans and specifications of any proposed building about to be erected within the area of the notice for approval of design. If reinforcing was recommended to withstand future mining subsidence then the surface owner could be reimbursed for the additional expense. Of course there were many complications as you can imagine, particularly in already densely occupied areas. It was deemed that if the developer declined the advice, the NCB would only be liable for damage to a building which it is estimated would have occurred should the recommended structural precautions have been incorporated. This was after the publication of the notice.
First to Win an Output Bonus
During June 1943, North Derbyshire miners were the first to win an output bonus of 6d (2½p) a shift. Harry Hicken became Regional Labour Director. The war industries were demanding more and more coal. With this soaring demand a miner could not leave his place of employment without permission from a National Service Officer.
Coal Prices Regulated
Coal prices were regulated and the Government continued its grip on the industry by making physically fit ex-miners return to the pits as well as surface workers being drafted underground. Some did not relish this and refused, and were penalised by a jail sentence.
There were 16 lads on the surface at Newstead (Nottinghamshire) (Newstead Colliery Co), hoping to go into the forces and 15 of them were cajoled into going down the pit, however Sidney Page a young surface worker refused to work underground for the War effort and was jailed. He had wanted to join the Royal Navy. He was sacked and collections were made for him. The Courts sentenced him to 30 days in Lincoln Gaol. The men came out on strike on Monday 13th September 1943, followed by all the Leen Valley pits, bringing the Nottinghamshire Coalfield to a halt, however the Home Secretary Herbert Morrison ordered his release when Page agreed to go underground, providing he could have his surface job back after the hostilities ceased. A mass meeting of striking miners was held in Hucknall and were assured of his release after 8 days in prison and there would be no victimisation.
On Friday 17th September 1943 the strike was over and the men returned to work the following Monday. Sid Page would go on to be a coal face worker and retire in the 1980s.
Explosion at Coppice
On 28th June 1943 there was an explosion at Coppice colliery (Shipley Collieries Ltd), caused by a shot firing accident and an ignition of methane gas. 4 men were killed, all dying in Nottingham General Hospital from toxaemia, following burns.
Explosion at Bolsover
A mystery explosion had occurred at Bolsover on 15 April 1943 when 3 men were killed and 2 injured.
An aerial ropeway was commissioned at Bolsover (Derbyshire) for the dispersal of spoil.
Miners' Coal Exempt
The Coal Distribution Order, 1943: Emergency Powers (Defence) Coal came into force on 1st September. Miners’ free coal was exempt.
Information To Be Available
The Ministry of Fuel and Power (Information) Order, 1943. Miscellaneous information to be furnished by persons carrying on coal mining undertakings.
Pneumoconiosis Scheme, 1943. At last it was realised what damage was being done to the lungs by coal dust.
The Last Gin Pit
The gin pit at Eckington (North Derbyshire) shown in the photo was only abandoned in 1943.
It seems incredible that an 18th Century outdated and crude inefficient system of winding using horses and a gin could have survived to almost half way through the 20th Century.
New Machine Unable To Match Handfilling
During September 1943 AB Meco Moore Coal cutter-loaders were on trial at Thoresby and conventional handfilling methods of 20 tons plus per man, per day. Rufford collieries (Bolsover Colliery Co), (Nottinghamshire) but at first were unable to match the handfilled output.
Evacuees from the South
During the Second World War evacuees were moved out of London and the South East to places in other parts of the country for safety and were billetted with local families, many in the Midlands and in mining.
Dig For Victory
The slogans such as ‘Dig for Victory’, in other words grow your own vegetables were placarded, along with ‘make do and mend’ etc.
Young women were allocated to working on the farms instead of being called up for the army or other branches of the forces. They were called Land Girls.