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Mines Rescue - Page 1
Mansfield Rescue Station
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Mansfield Mines Rescue 1909.

Before 1906, rescue work was left to volunteers from the colliery at which the disaster occurred, led by mining engineers from neighbouring collieries.

A Royal Commission appointed in that year recommended that Central Rescue Stations manned by full time brigades should be provided in every coalfield by the owners, and that each colliery should also have part time rescue brigades of trained men.
This became law in 1912.

mansfieldOne of the first central rescue stations was at Mansfield Woodhouse. This was maintained by a company in which all the local coal owners had shares. Later, after nationalisation, it was taken over by the NCB, like all similar stations.

Mansfield Mines Rescue 1909. The Miner's Rescue Station opened in Mansfield Woodhouse in 1909 and moved to Leeming Lane in 1958.

I am not sure if the Ilkeston station had an underground fire pump but the Mansfield Station did and the stations were very similar. The fire pump was for dealing with underground fires, an "Elswick" double acting hand pump was installed.

This pump weighed 35 lbs and measured 13-in. x 7-in. x 17-in. and was capable of delivering 25 gallons a minute at 125 double strokes per minute. It could throw a 3/8 -in. jet of water about 40 feet vertically. Suction was taken from an ordinary water carrying tub or a small canvas portable dam measuring 3 feet x 18-in. x 18-in. The delivery hose was 1½-in. internal diameter and suction hose 2½-in. The valves were entirely of metal. Staff. There was a resident corps of nine men, including a motor driver mechanic, employed at the station. Five men were always immediately available for emergency work.


mansfield17Permanent Corps Rescue Brigade at Mansfield Woodhouse, about 1914 with their engine. As can be seen, the early brigades were modelled on the fire service.

Early rescue work was left to volunteers like the St John's Ambulance Brigade which miners were encouraged to join. In 1906 the Permanent Corps Rescue Brigade was set up, and by 1912 became compulsory.

Mansfield colliery rescue team No 3 (c1911) in Meco breathing apparatus, and with a canary. In the 1980s the colliery had an aviary of 22, while the rescue station had 18. As the birds warned of carbon monoxide gas, two accompanied the team on each call out, and were only replaced by electronic detectors in the 1990s.

Click here for more information about breathing apparatus


The miner on the right, seated, is John Thomas Rigley.
He was My Grandfather, Val Canning
Third from the left on the back row is Billy Anderson.

Click for breathing apparatus

Babbington colliery No 1 Rescue Team (c. 1911 ) on one of their training days at Mansfield Woodhouse Rescue Station. By 1911 each colliery had to have a part-time rescue team to cover each shift. The station superintendent is there in uniform and the dog sometimes accompanied the Brigade on emergency calls.

Mansfield Museum

Made in Mansfield — The Importance of Mines

The Made In Mansfield industrial gallery in the arcade at Mansfield Museum arcade looks at eight of the more well-known industries that built Mansfield’s reputation for manufacturing — and reveals stories about the work and the social aspects of working for major companies in the past. The museum is bringing News Journal readers the story of the people and companies that made Mansfield a centre of industry — and reveals stories about the work and the social aspects of working for major companies in the past.

A Mining Town THE growth of British industry led to a huge demand for coal. The first mines in this area were at Skegby, where coal lay closer to the surface.

Mansfield’s best coal lay about a quarter- of-a-mile underground and could not be reached without steam power.

The Warsop Main, Sherwood and Mansfield collieries were all founded around 1900. More mines nearby made Mansfield the centre of a major coalfield and its population more than doubled to reach 36,888 in 1911.

Mansfield Mines Rescue Service COAL mining was a very dangerous business — explosive and poisonous gases, heavy machinery, long tunnels and deep lift shafts all took their toll and 286 miners lost their lives working in the Mansfield, Sherwood and Warsop Main collieries.

Many more would have done so had they not been quickly rescued from their under-ground workplace.

Mansfield was home to one of the first and last central Mines Rescue Stations. It was opened in 1909 and went through nationalisation and privatisation to become the base of the national Mines Rescue Service Ltd.

Don’t miss museum’s Feel Good Friday

ON the last Friday of the month, from 11am to 1pm, Feel Good Friday is a free monthly session, aimed at adults and run in partnership with Mansfield District Leisure Trust.

Every month people will get the opportunity to have a go at a variety of different activities and get advice about how they and their family can lead a healthier lifestyle.

The dates for 2017 were January 27, February 24, March 31, April 28, May 26, June 30, July 28, August 25, September 29, October 27, November 24 and December 15.

Join the museum at the first Feel Good Friday on Friday, 27th January 2017, at 11am.

The first free session will include a chance to try some healthy food and meet the team running the activities over the forthcoming year.

For more information on the Feel Good Fridays or other events, contact Jodie Henshaw, museum development officer, on 01623 463088 or email

Mansfield Reporter Friday 01 August 1913 page 2 column 6-7

What Rescue Work is Like

The preliminary stages of the instruction include lectures by the superintendent on various aspects of rescue work. The men get used to the apparatus and for the first seven weeks out of the twelve they work in the galleries without gas. At the eighth practice the team get their first experience of an irrespirable atmosphere, and the orders are to do nothing but stay there for an hour. This is the “breaking in“ process. The instructors last words as the door is closed upon them are “Keep together, watch each other’s gauges, and if any man goes wrong, don’t throw him out, but get on the emergency apparatus”.

As each team arrives at the station men change into their pit clothes, adjust their breathing apparatus, and listen to the order of the morning’s practice. Then they form up in the parade square, and No. 2 carries the cage in which a canary would be placed in real rescue work, as well as an ordinary pit lamp.

The odd numbers each carry a spare bottle of oxygen for emergency purposes, and five of them take electric lamps.  The bird carried by No.2 is supposed to find gas, and the man at once calls attention to the fact, whereupon the whole team put on their mouthpieces and nose clips and turn on their oxygen. No 2 looks along the line to see if everyone understands, and then having seen that each man has on his mouthpiece, the captain gives three signals with a spanner which he carries. No 2 man thereupon wheels round, and the little company march back 15 or 20 yards into a spot where the bird shows no sign of distress. This forms the base of the recovery operations.

The canary is placed on the ground and the team put down all the spare gear which they do not require to take into the gas with them for it is well to travel “light”.  The captain now looks at his watch, and notes the time in his book, reads the air gauges, listens to and test each man’s tube to ascertain if the apparatus is working properly, feels the joints of the outfit to see if all are tight, and lastly enquires of each man if he is all right. All being correct, the captain signals for the team to proceed to the rescue.

What the Team Does

All these operations are carried out in the parade yard of the Mansfield station prior to the men entering the foul atmosphere of the galleries. What would happen afterwards in the case of disaster in the pit was described generally to a “Guardian” representative by Sergeant-Major Huskisson.

The team, he explained, travel in the gas by ten minute stages, and then halt for two minutes. This interval is employed by the captain in reading the gauges and listening to the tubes of the apparatus. Each man starts out with 120 atmospheres of oxygen, and it is left to the captain to watch the gauges and calculate on the work which is to be done, how much air each man will require to reach the base again. The general idea of rescue work is this: After an accident the team will ascertain, as near as possible, what are the conditions below, and how many men are not accounted for.

Suppose, for instance, that 20 men have not come up. We should descend the shaft and in addition to the ordinary outfit we should carry some additional apparatus to use at a “salvator”. The team would go through the gas until they found their men either dead or alive. If alive they fix a “salvator” on each one, and bring him through the gas to the base. If the team came across two men, one injured and one uninjured, the later would be brought out first, and on the second trip the men would take a stretcher and upon it carry the injured miner to a place of safety. The idea of forming a base is that any people without apparatus following the team, such as doctors, inspectors, colliery officials, and ambulance men with stretchers, would know, on seeing the bird and the spare gear of the rescue team by the road side that they must not advance beyond that point, because from 15 to 20 meters onward would be the gas which the canary had found. If on returning to the base, the team find the bird alive, they can take out their mouthpieces to speak, but if the canary is dead, they will know that the gas has backed towards the mouth of the pit and in this case they will proceed right to the bottom before they detach any part of their apparatus and get another bird.

Information from Alan Beales