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© Ernest James - Page 3
Chesterfield Mines Rescue

I can remember one time I took the call and had to stay back at the Station, the Rescue Van set off and as I went into the Drill Hall I suddenly saw the canaries on the shelf, I grabbed the cage and ran after the van. It was a large cage and I could not see over it, but the driver must have seen me in his mirror and stopped the van 30 yards in front.

When there was an emergency we had to inform Mansfield Rescue Station that our van had gone out and to which pit, they followed and stood by. Ilkeston could also be called out.

Chesterfield Mines Rescue Station was situated on Infirmary Road. Chesterfield Technical College stands on one side of Infirmary Road, the town end side and the Rescue Station at the North end about 500 yards apart. The Mines Rescue Station up to 1947 came under the name of North Midlands Coal Owners Association which was run under private enterprise. Although the N.C.B. took the mines over on 1 January 1947 there was not a lot of alterations made at the Rescue Station due to it being well organised. The mines were a different proposition and very big changes had to be made both on the surface and underground.

On the front of the Station was the Superintendents office, and the Duty room next to that. The Duty room was the place where all messages from the pits both underground and surface were sent in.

Next to the Duty room were the big double station door behind which stood the fire engine and the Rescue van. There were twelve sets of rescue apparatus in the van all the time. Also the brigades men's pit clothes were in the lockers, as we dare not lose time getting dressed before we set off.We had to take at least two vacuums of liquid air with us for filling the apparatus.

You can image the trouble and difficulty it was when getting dressed in the back of the van. We used to produce our liquid air, which was oxygen and nitrogen in our own liquid air plant on the station. Two canaries were always carried on the Rescue Van for underground emergencies.Behind was the Drill Hall which had to be kept spotless, there was also in this area the pit rescue van, which we used to take to the pits for training. Every pit team had to be trained three times a year at their own pit and three times at our station. The Drill Hall floor was painted green with an edging of white paint 3 ft from the wall. The rescue teams were set tasks to do once a year and we had to face the same medical every year. The idea was to first have the pulse taken and then we had to walk around the Drill Hall for 15 minutes at the rate of 5 miles an hour.

After that we had to get on to a static bicycle for 1 minute peddling with weights pulling back at you. After that we were taken into the Superintendents office and checked by NCB doctors. To pass the medical for instance if your initial pulse was 70 and you went into the office it may have risen to 160, you rested five minutes and the pulse was taken again, the pulse rate had to go down 50%. This meant 160 - 70 = 90 45 + 70 =115 pulse rate per minute to pass the test.

They had to get the apparatus
ready for trainning miners
like Charlie and Dave Hill.
We used to have our own aviary in one part of the Drill Hall with 30 canaries. There was a brigade man designated to his job, if he was away one of us had to do it. I can remember during breeding time I had to sit hours to try and spot the whistler which was the male bird.

Under the canaries were stacked the 7 yard stopping pipes for underground emergencies. The diameter of these pipes which were steel was 1 foot and 12 bolts which fixed through the flange to seal the stopping off. These pipes were used at the Creswell fire on 25 September 1950. I had the privilege of sealing the return airway stopping off with the assistance of H Wilcox who had been working on the surface and came on the scene at the last moment. The brigades men job was not only underground and surface emergencies we had duties to do on the station between 8am and 4pm and we had an hour off for dinner break. We the brigade men used to meet in the Duty Room every morning, when the 8am pip went on the radio, we lined up in the Drill Hall the Superintendent and Officers facing us, we saluted and then we were dismissed. Jobs were delegated to us such as getting the apparatus ready for the pit teams coming in for training.

Pit Terminology - Glossary




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