2nd December 1943. Called Up-Sent Down.
In World War I the demand for thousands of men to serve in the forces resulted in a shortage of skilled men and a Schedule of Reserved Occupations, which exempted many workers from enlistment.
However the Schedule failed to mention miners which proved a serious omission in World War II with diminished coal reserves caused by lack of imports and manpower shortage.
Women who took over many men’s jobs in war-time were banned from working underground in pits owing to 1842 legislation.(1)
The coal situation got so bad that Today in 1943 it was announced in the House of Commons by Employment Minister Ernest Bevin, that balloting was to take place for young men to work in Britain’s pits, rather than serve in the forces, to satisfy the desperate need for coal: the ‘Bevin Boys’.
In all 50,000 of those aged between 18-25 were to be conscripted by ballot depending on the last digit of their Registration Number. They undertook four weeks training at 13 Training centres and paid £3-10s a week with 25 shillings for board, the going rate for workers then.(2)
Any who refused to serve were liable to fine and imprisonment under the Emergency Powers Act (EPA). In April 1944 The Colliery Guardian reported 135 ‘ballotees’ refused who were prosecuted for not complying under the Direct Labour Order. 32 were jailed, with 19 released after agreeing to work, but absenteeism was always a problem.
Those whose ‘number came-up’ had to supply their own tools, were likely to be abused for not being in uniform, or stopped by police for the same reason, and seen as ‘Conchies’. After the war they received no thanks, gratuity or medals.
Though most were released from the pits in 1945, many Bevin Boys worked until 1948. They were eventually allowed to march in the Whitehall Remembrance Parade in 1998 and in 2007 were granted a medal, by which time many must have died.
(1) 10th August 1842 Act.
(2) The first numbers came ‘out of the hat’ ballot in the Minister’s Office on 14th December.
Ref; flickr.com/Boy’s Own Paper/Pic Image.
Ref: the forgottenconscripts.co.uk.
Ref: bevinboysassociation.co.uk/Banner Image.