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A Question From Patricia Kawar
Bentley Colliery Disaster, 20th November, 1931 - Page 4
My father was working in the mine at that time - Those Who Died
Mines Rescue

Post Card sent by Carole Dick

The rescue party and Mr. Temperley returned inbye and passing from the face down 141’s to the crossgate, Mr. Temperley remained at the face although the smoke was then so dense they should not see, recovered the body which Mr. Frazer and Mr. Temperley as has already been described, carried down the crossgate from 140’s flatsheets and brought it out by way of the face and down the 142’s gate to 140’s crossgate.

There was a grave risk of a further explosion in the area where this work was being done and those without apparatus also ran the risk of being overcome by the foul atmosphere. In fact a further explosion did occur shortly afterwards, but happily by then all persons had been withdrawn from this area.

The name of the Agent, Mr. Donald MacGregor, has already been mentioned but nothing recorded of his movements. As mentioned in the Report, after instructing the Manager to remain on the surface to attend to essential work, Mr. MacGregor went down the pit and into the North East District where he arrived at about 7 o’clock. Being informed that the men in the 147’s and 148’s had been got out, he started at 146’s, intending to travel along the face to the return end. Ernest Hayes, an ambulance man, accompanied him as far as the left bank of 143’s, where he (Hayes) had a tragic experience of finding his own son terribly burned. Mr. MacGregor the went forward alone, but finding the atmosphere bad he returned along the face and went down 143’s gate to 140’s new crossgate, where he met three rescue men, Robert Bestwick, Ernest Allport and Alfred Clay. He returned with them, they coupling up their apparatus in 143’s gate, and led the way past a fire in the right waste of 142’s stall to 141’s stall. In 141’s stall, opposite the left gate pack, a broken wooden prop was burning and this Mr. MacGregor tried to put out with his cap. There were injured men in each of the banks and as stretchers were needed on which to remove them. Mr. MacGregor went to the telephone on 140’s new crossgate to hurry up their dispatch. He was by this time badly affected by afterdamp and although unable to do any further work on the face, he remained in the district until the bodies were recovered and the injured removed.

Such is the bald narrative of work well done. It should be added that offers of assistance were made by all the neighbouring collieries and that many volunteers came forwards and offered their services, whilst others stood by with their rescue brigades at their collieries ready at a moments notice should their services be needed.

There was a third explosion at about 1 a.m. just at the time when the exploring party was trying to get into 141’s return from the 140’s old crossgate. Prior on the attempt it was evident that fires were raging and that further exploration of the district would have to be abandoned and the district sealed off by three seals at appropriate points. This work was taken in hand at 2 a.m. and completed 12 hours later. The work of reinforcing the seals went on for several shifts.

For More Information About The Monument See Jan Kitson Roberts' Email

The Men Who Died

From stall 140:-

  • W. Agnew
  • L. Guy and H. Windle, who died the following day.

From stall 141:-

  • H. Womack
  • G. Singleton
  • L. Sleath

From stall 142:-

  • J.W. Grain
  • W. Prichett
  • C. Wilcock
  • H. Hibbert
  • D. Maloney.

From stall 143:-

  • R.T. Derrick
  • J. Prichett
  • J.R. Greaves
  • A. Kirkland
  • C. Hayes
  • J. Callaghan.

From stall 144:-

  • W. Farnsworth
  • W. Ward
  • J. Brett
  • J. Leyland
  • A. Calladine

From stall 145:-

  • S.W. Templeman
  • H. Cheetham
  • H. Lawton
  • S. Buxton

From stall 146:-

  • T. Hopkinson
  • J, Allsop
  • A.E. Huckerby
  • J.E. Peck
  • Hopkinson

From stall 147:-

  • T. Green
  • J. Brown
  • L. Jones
  • J. Llewellyn

From stall 148:-

  • G.R. Bentley
  • W. Middleton
  • C. Atkinson
  • Beastall
  • A.E. Barcock
  • Cawood.

The bodies of five men were not recovered:-

  • J.W. Rowe
  • W. Brocklehurst
  • S. Mason
  • J.H. Smith
  • T. Dove.

The injured:-
  • Walker
  • Hall
  • Hannon
  • Harold Roberts. He did recover but he suffered with his arm for the rest of his life as it was not placed in a plaster cast because he was so badly burned that he was not expected to survive the night.

The inquiry into the causes and circumstances attending the explosion which occurred in the North East district, Barnsley seam at the Bentley Colliery, Doncaster, Yorkshire on the 20th. November 1931, was conducted by Sir Henry Walker, C.B.E., LL.D., H.M. Chief Inspector of Mines, at the Co-operative Hall, John Street, Doncaster and opened on the 29th. December 1931. All interested parties were represented and the proceedings lasted for eight days. The Report was presented to Isaac Foot, esq., M.P., Secretary for Mines on the 18th. April 1931.

Owing to the fires that were found after the explosion the consequent risk of further explosions, the work of recovering the bodies and the injured had to be done as quickly as possible and there was little time to take detailed observations as to the point of origin of the explosion. There was sufficient evidence to place the point of origin at the neighbourhood of the 140’s stall. Props at the face had been blown from south to north and the door at the 141’s had been blown outbye.

As to the cause there were several alternatives, spontaneous combustion or a damaged safety lamp. There was no shotfiring and electricity was not used and the Inspector considered that matches or any other such means of ignition were unlikely.

The inspector concluded that :-

“I think the explosion was caused by a gob fire either in the waste between 141’s and 140’s or in the old gate and in lean to the former for the reason that if the explosion originated in 140’s old gate and the force behind it, the brattice led into 140’s fast end would have been blown away and it was not.

”The inquiry also recommended that some other material be used in the packs other than the ‘Conny’ coal and the fact that were discrepancies in the Report Books was also commented on.

The Inspector concluded the report by saying:-

“I would like to put on record my admiration of the conduct of those engaged in the work of recovery, conduct which fully upheld the high traditions of the miner”.

Bentley Pit