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Gresford Colliery Wrexham - Denbighshire - 22nd September, 1934

Those Who Died
Page 13 - A Personal Tribute To All My Mates

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In conclusion, I feel that I must congratulate all the Rescue Men for their splendid work during the recovery operations. All Teams were one, dependant on the others and all worked just as one unit. The majority of the Gresford Teams were new hands, and had been trained especially after the explosion. Each of them was equal to the best, even those who had 22 years of rescue work and training.

Common sense is needed on this kind of work. 'Brain not Brawn'. This is not a job where one can rush in. A physically fit man with common sense and that necessary 'pit sense' and 'pit knowledge'. None of us are brave men, but we claim to have sufficient confidence in the apparatus and being accustomed to pit work, fear does not enter our minds.

Of the Mines Inspectors, I never did care much for. They always seemed to know all and the Deputy or Workman nothing, but since my contact with them on this occasion I have entirely changed my opinion or should I say they changed it for me? They are a jolly good lot of chaps, particularly the two who constantly worked side by side with the Teams. One from Stoke and the other from Doncaster.

Neither in nor out of the pit did they differ from us. They were mixing with us constantly, and if they enjoyed our company, so did we enjoy theirs. We look forward to our next meeting, not we hope under the same circumstances, and the same kind of work. The Chief Inspector, Sir Henry Walker, always had a word of encouragement for the Teams. It built and cemented that confidence in him. We knew that nothing could go wrong if we followed his advice.

A word or two on the reports made at the time of the remuneration of the Rescue Men. The reports were varied and many of them that we were paid ?10 UKP per week.

Let me tell my readers that the Rescue Men at the explosion were not paid at all.

No man asked what the rate of pay was. The question of payment at a time like this does not enter the minds of men, but at Christmas 1934 the owners of Gresford gave a gratuity to all those volunteers who went down the pit on September 22 nd and 23 rd. Each man received the same amount which was generous, at the same time pointing out that the services rendered could not be reckoned in money.

The payment for the recovery work never reached anything like ?10 per week. It was an agreed rate which taken on an average did not exceed ?5 per week. I can safely leave it to my readers to judge the work and the pay. If every man engaged in the recovery was granted a pension of that sum per week for the remainder of his life, he would not be imposing or robbing the Exchequer if only one looks at the question from the saving of the unemployment pay. Nearly ?600 per week is saved in this way since it was made possible to reopen the part of the pit and the figure will be increased to ?1,000 as soon as they can re-employ men. Nor is this the most important. If we had the opportunity to advance and find the cause of the explosion to possibly prevent a similar happening. What would then have been the value of our work? And what value is placed on our present experiences by the Research Committee? The whole of the Mining Industry has benefited by the unique experience of opening up Gresford.

We are often asked for our opinion whether the bodies could be got out. We have all discussed the matter and personally I say that those that could be got out should. We have heard all the argument that is only sentiment, but the people who use this as an argument have no one belonging to them down the pit, and what is sentiment? Take sentiment from the human being and you place it with the animals. I say I should want mine out if I had one there and I should want the opportunity of visiting his last resting place. If there is nothing more than sentiment in having a proper funeral and a proper grave, why waste ground and go to the expense of a coffin? Why not make a big hole and bury the dead in a heap? Why take the Nobility to the Abbey? There is something more than sentiment. There is something in the inner man those appeals to all Christians and appeals to me.

The authorities must have had a good reason for not going forward to get those bodies out of which I don't know, but I have always had that assurance that whatever could be done for the sake of the bereaved and for the safety of their future; they would always do. The Ministry of Mines in co-operation with all other officials in these I place my confidence and consider that they are in a position to know what is best.

Gresford Working Coal

Now it is the early part of 1936 and 700 men are re-employed at Gresford, working and producing coal. The 'Dennis Area' where the entombed men lie is still sealed off. Visits have been made by the experts who still consider it unwise to break the seals and explore further. It is now hopeless in my opinion either to bring the bodies out or find the possible cause of the explosion. The roadways are undoubtedly closed up by this time with the falls of roof, and the floor lifting. Personally I do not see what purpose is served by the periodical visits of these experts. Past sorrowings are revived by those bereaved mothers and fathers and wives and it would be far better to console them with the blunt fact that their loved ones can never be recovered.

There is no question that the Rescue Men are responsible for the fact that so far the pit has been able to re-employ all those 700 men. The business in Wrexham (the shopkeepers etc.) have had some of their trade restored to them by the work of the Rescue Teams. 700 unemployed have made their minds easy and are now off the 'Dole'. The owners of the Colliery have had some part of the pit restored to them by those same Rescue Men, and the experience may be of untold value in the Mining Industry in future cases of this description.