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Minnie Pit Explosion 1918 - Emails Page 2

Those Who Died

Silla Mitford  - Minnie Pit - My Father
Sarah Portlock - Minnie Disaster, Mick Glover and John Lumsden
Alicky Sussman - Looking For Photographs of WW1 Coal Mine Workers
Michael Glover - Lives of the First World War - 1918 Mini Pit Disaster
Tim Holmes - John White, My Great Uncle, Died In The Minnie Pit Disaster 1915
Ian Bailey - Researching Minnie Disaster, I Would Like To Contact Some People
Annette Wheeler - My Grandfather: Thomas Morgan may be the same Thomas Morgan killed in the Minnie Pit Disaster,1918
Elizabeth Latham - Tracing History of Miner David Burgess - Disaster of 1918 at Halmerend North Staffs
Phil Rowley - My father John William was also a cousin of John Ikin

Minnie Emails   1   2   3

Silla Mitford   
13 Jan 2018
My Father

MinnieI read your article on the BBC website about the Minnie Pit. Although my father lived in Crewe, he said he went to work at this pit at the age of 14 which would have been 1922. There was apparently very little work in Crewe at the time and the railways were averse to taking on anyone who had been baptised Roman Catholic as he was. He said that you could still smell death down the pit at that time. He used to walk to work every day from Crewe to Audley along the railway lines.

Yours faithfully

Sarah Portlock
4 Dec 2017
Mick Glover and John Lumsden

MinnieHello –
On your web pages you have a Mick Glover and a John Lumsden who have information about the Minnie Pit disaster.

I’d be grateful if you could pass on my details to them as we are prepping a piece for the BBC website about the disaster’s centennial and it would be lovely to speak to them both about it.

Thanks in advance for your help


Sarah Portlock
Senior Broadcast Journalist
News Online West Midlands

Alicky Sussman
4 April 2017
Looking For Photographs of WW1 Coal Mine Workers
Dear Fionn,

I hope you don't mind me emailing out of the blue. I am an events producer currently doing some background research for a proposed national event marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day in 2018. I am trying to track down names and corresponding photographs of any coal miners working during WW1, and was hoping that you may be able to help?

I have found a lot of information on your excellent website, but wondered if you had any additional information as to the whereabouts of photographs that may exist - either of the miners who were tragically killed in the Minnie Pit Explosion of 1918, or any other miners working during WW1? I have found some very grainy images of Jabez and George Burgess, and wondered if you knew whether there were any more?

I would be most grateful for any information that you may have, or if not, any suggestions of anybody else that I may be able to contact.

With very best wishes,

Alicky Sussman

Dressed up and posing for a photograph as published in the Evening Sentinel January 26th 1918.

This source was connected by  Michael Glover

Unfortunately this faded photograph doesn't represent Jabez at his best. Others, missing do so better, look at the innocence of youth and wonder what the pain was like for the family. Jabez Willie Burgess was born in Audley, Staffordshire, United Kingdom in 1897, just 20, mining for 4 years, not old enough to go to the front in Europe but young enough to take greater risk mining coal in a very dangerous pit, as it was well known.

Click Here to Go To Lives of the First World War

Tim Holmes
7 Oct 2014
John White, My Great Uncle, Died In The Minnie Pit Disaster 1915

Dear Sir

I was delighted to come across your articles about the above disaster on your website. John White was my Great Uncle and I am thrilled to find so much information about the disaster, thank you very much.

You have a picture of a poster about the disaster on your site, do you happen to know which of the people illustrated is John? Also do you know what the writing underneath it says?

If you have any further information about the disaster or about John White in particular I would appreciate receiving it.

Best wishes

Ian Bailey
22 October 2012
Researching Minnie Disaster, I Would Like To Contact Some People

Hello Fionn,
I have just noticed two people I'd very much like to contact on your website, and both relate to the Minnie Pit Disaster, which I have been (and am) researching.
They are Elizabeth Latham (David Burgess) and Annette Wheeler (Thomas Morgan).
If you could forward my email I would be very grateful.
Ian Bailey.

From:           Chris Burgess
Sent:            20 April 2013 13:37
Subject:       Minnie Pit Disaster, Halmerend,1918

Hi, just tried to send on your site but was unable to use your e-mail, I would like to ask Ian Bailey if he managed to get in touch with Liz Latham, Liz is my cousin who I am in touch with, and has posted on your site about our Grandfather David Burgess who sadly lost his life in the Minnie Pit in 1918, if Ian still needs to contact Liz could you forward my e-mail address on, thank you yours

Chris Burgess.

Annette Wheeler
6 April 2011
My Grandfather: Thomas Morgan may be the same Thomas Morgan killed in the Minnie Disaster of 1918

Hi Fionn

I am researching my Family History and believe my Grandfather: Thomas Morgan may be the same Thomas Morgan killed in the Podmore Hall Minnie Pit Disaster of 1918.  Have you any further details of any of the men or do you know whether I can confirm it is my Grandfather through the National Coal Board.



Elizabeth Latham
13 November 2008
Tracing History of Miner David Burgess - Disaster of 1918 at Halmerend North Staffs

Can you help me? My name is Mrs. Elizabeth Latham. My mother was the youngest daughter of the late David Burgess from Audley, Bignalend Staffs, who was sadly killed in the Mini Pit disaster of 1918 at Halmerend.

She was not born until 6 weeks after the disaster and she never knew her father. Her mother who died had to raise a family of 4 or 5 children on no income only a few shilling per week, she had no compensation for losing her husband.

My mother was 18 months old when her late father was found and buried in Audley church. My mother is now 90 yrs of age and has such sad memories of her childhood because as she was a very young girl she had to be brought up by her sister because her mother was dying of cancer.

When her mother died, my mum was only 7 or 8 years old, so she never knew much at all about her late father and mother. Sadly, now to date, all my mothers other relatives have now all passed away and there is no way she can find anything out about her past family history, although she does know that her mother's maiden name was 'Warburton' and they came from North Staffs Cheshire. It is also known that her father David Burgess was a local churchman and preacher at the local chapel. It is evident that my grandfather's name is listed among the victims killed in the disaster at Halmerend on the memorial in Staffordshire. My late uncle always used to go every January to the anniversary of the disaster memorial service that took place. I would very much like to know more about what happened and any history attributing to my previous families life.

Thank you.

See also memorial plaque at Alsager's Bank church

See Also Memories from a Distant Past By Elizabeth Latham

Phil Rowley
1 Dec 2009
My father John William was also a cousin of John Ikin

Hello again Fionn,
I discovered this article relating to the above  and realise that my father John William was also a cousin of John Ikin who is mentioned in the story and was probably known to Ethel Burgess too.  As previously mentioned my grandfather Harry and great uncle Fred Rowley worked in the Minnie Pit and, the latter was killed in the 1918 disaster, his body must have also been undiscovered for a considerable time because his death was registered with that of David Burgess in late 1919. 

The lady who gave the interview to the BBC is Elizabeth Latham whose email you've published on your Minnie Pit webpage, I'd be obliged if you could forward this email to her as it may be of some interest.
Kind regards,
Phil Rowley

Email 1

Memories from a Distant Past
By Elizabeth Latham

  • By Elizabeth, 21/09/2009
  • Theme: Survival
  • Location: Stoke & Staffs

91 yr old baby remembers memories about her past in which her late father David Burgess was killed in the Mini Pit Disaster 1918 at Halmerend colliery in North Stafordshire. The events were to have catastrophic consequences on so many local people in the areas surrounding the pit, as it killed 155 young men, even young children aged 14 yrs. It recalls the survival of such family growing up only to lose their mum of 54 yrs and be brought up by an elder sister and her husband in a terraced house. To survive growing up through the 2nd world war, work during air-raids and blackouts. Play tennis in her only spare time with cousins of her family, have picnics in local beauty spots because they could never have holidays. Money was tight, everything was rationed in those early days, times were extremely hard and difficult. Her only route to happiness was to meet a young soldier who was stationed at Barthomley in the Old Vicarage with his regiment. In 1943, they eventually married at Pennfields, Wolverhampton, and it is in Wolverhampton where she still lives. Ethel will never forget her roots and where she came from, the memories she has of those times will always remain with her, but at an age of 91, they are treasured memories of a distant past.

It was a typical January day in 1918, dad had gone off to work for his usual shift, mum was heavily pregnant and had said goodbye to her husband as he went off to work.

Dad was a family preacher, but he was also a collier down the pit. Dad was David Burgess, mum was Ethel Ann, at home looking after two young children, oh, and me, well I was the young unborn baby my name is Ethel, and I was born 6 weeks later on February 25th 1918. If anyone could have foreseen what events happened that January day and changed the lives of that family and so many other families in North Staffordshire, this is the story of a tragedy that was to change the lives of so many people as the Halmerend pit disaster took place killing 155 innocent people including that of my father David Burgess.

There was an explosion at the colliery on January 12th 1918, the pit was flooded and 18 months later the body of David Burgess was eventually found.

My mother was left to bring up a young baby, and two older children on 10/- per week, there were no handouts. Even when I was growing up, my mother suffered with ill health so much so she had breast cancer and at the age of 54 yrs old she too died.

I was brought up by my sister Eva and her husband Arthur, they had to get married very young, and bring up the young children themselves, because when their mother was so ill, the family doctor knew how poorly the mum was and asked if she could have the two children to bring up, denying them the chance of having any children themselves and this is what they agreed to do.

With so little money coming in, Eva was a seamstress and worked at home, they had no holidays, a day out in the local beauty spots with a bottle of water, or a bottle of milk off a local farmer with a sandwich, or a hotcross bun for a picnic.

Mum (Ethel) grew up in difficult times, she had to run errands for family relatives for 3d, saving up over the week only to give up most of it for Sunday chapel collection plate. She used to go and play tennis for her local tennis club along with her cousins in Bignall End. She used to go to the village of Barthomley and play in tournaments. She used to go in the White Lion Pub afterwards for a drink with her pals and it was here she met her boyfriend (Sid) he was a soldier and was stationed in the Old Vicarage at Barthomley with the South Staffs Regiment, during the 2nd world war.

They used to have to shelter from bombs dropping over nearby Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester in air-raid shelters, one was in the garden of a house in Ravens Lane, Bignall End which belonged to mum's aunty and uncle. They used to spend hours with the neighbours sitting in the dark until the all-clear used to sound.

It was a tight-knit community where everyone knew everybody, and nearly every family had someone who was lost in the mini-pit disaster at Halmerend.

As time went by, Ethel's relationship with Sid blossomed, he used to walk her back home to Ravens Lane from Barthomley through fields and then return back on foot to his headquarters.

Mum started work at a clothing factory in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, Enderley Mills where she made uniforms for soldiers, brigadiers, colonels for servicemen, it was while she was here the gaffer informed them they could no longer work at his factory and that they were going to have to do ammunitions work making bullets at the nearby Radway Green ammunitions factory. This was to be worked in shifts, Ethel reluctantly agreed to do this but she hated every minute of it. She had to travel by foot in all weathers because she had so little money for bus fares and if the weather was really bad, buses just didn't run, and if she couldn't walk to work she didn't get paid. It was while she was working at the ammunitions factory, sometimes air-raids would sound and they had to stop work, go to the shelters or even just sit in the dark until the all-clear sounded before it was safe enough for them to go home. Because of the nature of the work which she did, it was felt that life would be a lot better if she moved away to Wolverhampton, and stayed with her boyfriends family.

In 1943, Ethel married Sid at St Phillips Church, Pennfields, everything was rationed, so she couldn't have a wedding dress, so she bought a suit, and a handful of guests were available to attend and the reception was held at a relatives house in Penn, Wolverhampton.

It is from 1943 until the present day that Ethel still lives in Wolverhampton, 91 yrs later, but it is her old roots and where she came from that she always now looks back on and remembers how difficult those times were back then. She has had such a sad life, but she had also had some special moments too. Enjoying holidays in Cornwall that only cost £18 for two weeks in a caravan at Holywell Bay, staying in bed and breakfasts at Blackpool.

She has lost most of her family and recalls that she still tries to think of people connected with her life when she was younger. She has old photographs of her family taken before she was born but still does not know who some of the people are. She never knew a lot about her father's family, she only ever knew about relatives on her mother's side. The family was named Warburton.

Her aunt and uncle used to have a shop that sold animal foodstuffs, maise, flour and ingredients for breadmaking and she used to help out in the shop at Bignall End. She also had an aunt and uncle who had a bakery in Bignall End, their name was Warburton too, they were relatives of Ethel's mum. To this day we still don't know if there is a connection between the Warburton family and bakers of Bolton.

It is also known that Ethel used to play tennis with her cousin Les Burgess in tournaments, and also her other cousins John Ikin, famous cricketer, and Aaren Lockett who was a famous professional who played for Oldham during those early years. A lot of history is found in the local cricket club at Bignall End of where these local celebrities used to play, and their photographs are seen in the corridors of this once local place.

t conversations with her present family. Ethel's marriage to Sidney sadly finished in October 1984 when Sidney died at the age of 65 with kidney failure. Sadly, there have been too many sad moments in Ethel's life to mention but it has also been an extraordinary life, too many memories from a distant past, but she has lived an incredible long life to recall those times, some of which she will never forget, and some of which she will never know.

This extract has been put together as a result of several discussions and conversations with her present daughter Elizabeth Latham, aged 53 who lives in Wolverhampton.