Information and photographs submitted by subscribers are posted in good faith. If any copyright of anyone else's material is unintentionally breached, please email me

North Staffordshire Colliery Owners Association - Page 1

The History And Development Of The Mines Rescue Service In Britain - Researched by John Lumsdon

Walter Clifford 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

"Colliery Rescue Work in General"
Breathing apparatus and its Employment
Practical Paper by Mr. W. Clifford

Rescue brigades, apart from the possibility of saving life, exist chiefly for the prevention of further fatalities after a disaster and for the recovery of the workings in the quickest and safest manner.

Walter Clifford
Walter Clifford

The following is an eminently practical paper on colliery rescue work, read by Mr. Walter Clifford, Chief instructor at the North Staffordshire Colliery Rescue Station at a recent meeting at the local Mining Students Association. (November 1920)

The subject of this paper is to be "Colliery Rescue Work in General", with no emphasis on my particular part. The writer hopes that the paper will be interesting as well as instructive; trusting that at least some portions of it will be found useful to students preparing for examinations for 1 st and 2 nd Class Certificates.

Proto Apparatus being worn at Berry Hill The Proto rescue apparatus is dealt with, as it is the one, which has always been in use in this district, and, also by the majority of rescue stations in Great Britain.

This apparatus is now generally admitted to be the best type for colliery purposes as it is comparatively simple in design, fitting the wearer comfortably and not being of excessive weight. Its period of use is not strictly limited to two hours, as is the case with several types formally in use in England. Before dealing with the apparatus its self, a few remarks might be appreciated.

Photo - Proto Apparatus being worn at Berry Hill

Use in Colliery Disasters

There are still colliery people who maintain that rescue apparatus is a danger, and that we should do better without it as was the case 15 years ago maintaining that, more lives had been lost by its use than would have been if it had not been used. It is hardly conceivable that there are any such men in this district, (North Staffordshire) baring in mind the rescue and recovery work carried out, but they are still to be found in various parts of the country.

The majority of people have the wrong conception of rescue work and apparatus, thinking that rescue men and apparatus exists for the purpose of dashing into a fire or district full of noxious gases, and dragging out any men unfortunately imprisoned.

Colliery disasters generally occur at some distance from the surface and, as a rule, before the apparatus can be taken to the seat of the trouble, all hope is gone. But there have been cases in this district (North Staffordshire) at Crackley, 1914; New Hem Heath 1915 and the Minnie 1918, where men have been fetched out of gas, and have been revived successfully. A man acquainted with colliery workings realises that such cases must be rare, owing to the difficult and long roads to be travelled.

Rescue brigades, apart from the possibility of saving life, exist chiefly for the prevention of further fatalities after a disaster and for the recovery of the workings in the quickest and safest manner.

Numerous cases are on record where men, unprotected from gas, have been overcome when on recovery work, or a second explosion has taken place, killing most of them.

A striking illustration of this was at Cadely in 1912, where an explosion occurred in the workings, killing 30 men by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Immediately, as in all such cases there were numberless volunteers and about 50 descended the pit to render any possible help, accompanied by two or three Inspectors, who took a man equipped with breathing apparatus, with the object of securing samples of air. A second explosion took place and the only man to come out alive was the man wearing rescue apparatus, as when he felt the puff of wind, he coupled up his mouthpiece and nose-clip, and walked out safely. All the other men died from afterdamp poisoning and not from violence. If all these men could have had rescue apparatus, not necessarily using it when in good air, it is reasonable to suppose they would have come out safely to the surface.


Page 2