Coal Mining In the Second World War 1939-1945
World War II and up to Nationalisation
All Had To Register For War Service
In January 1945 food allowances were still strict. 4oz bacon per person per week, 2oz tea, 8oz sugar, 8oz fats, 3oz cheese, meat to the value 1s 2d (5¾p), 2 pints of milk.
By March the milk ration was increased to 2½ pints. However at the beginning of May there was a reduction in the bacon ration and clothes coupons were reduced to 48.
On 23rd April 1945 blackout restrictions introduced early in the War were lifted completely.
The Reid Report
In March 1945 the Minister of Fuel and Power presented to Parliament the Report of the Technical Advisory Committee on Coal Mining which was known as the Reid Report, after its Chairman, Mr Charles C Reid (later Sir Charles Reid). The committee consisted of 7 members, all mining engineers with experience in the management of collieries etc. The recommendations of the Committee was divided into methods of working coal, including mechanisation, underground transport, health and safety including ventilation, lighting and power supply, shaft winding, colliery layouts, machinery maintenance, training for new entrants, education in the form of explanations by management of new methods and further education at suitable venues to offer advancement in management, and labour relations. Also better manriding facilities (by locomotive), and better tunnelling methods. Surface layouts at mines were also advocated with reconstructions to allow double shift winding.
The report would lead to the ‘Ladder Plan’ which would provide part-time education for young men as apprentice craftsmen and surveyors to create qualified Craftsmen, Surveyors, Under-Officials, Undermanagers and Managers.
Price Of Coal Increased
The price of coal was increased on 1st May 1945 by 3s 6d (17½p) a ton.
In April a White Paper on the Coal Charges Account was published, briefly setting out the various payments paid into the Account from the districts. At the time the Account had been subsidised by the Treasury to the extent of £25m owing to increases of costs to the Wages Agreement and further reductions in output proving greater than expected. This ‘overdraft’ was the reason for the increase in the price per ton of coal.
North Derbyshire contributed 1s (5p) per ton
Nottinghamshire contributed 1s 7d (8p)
Leicestershire contributed 3s 7d (18p) whilst
Yorkshire recovered 6d (2½p) a ton.
War Against Germany Ended
The War against Germany ended on 8th May 1945 and the 8th and 9th May were granted Public holidays to celebrate VE Day (Victory in Europe).
Street parties, like this one at Brinsley Nottinghamshire, were held to celebrate
Working Through The Celebrations
Miners who had been required to work over the 2-day celebrations had been assured that they would receive an extra £1-a-day grant. However an angry pay row evolved when it appeared that the pit bosses had absorbed the grants into the men’s wages so that they were no better off, as stated by the Nottinghamshire and District Miners’ Federated Union at a meeting in Nottingham.
After the celebrations it was back to the drab realities of life as the Minister of Fuel decreed that there was still a serious fuel shortage and that all outdoor decorative and display lighting was to cease.
War Against Japan Ended
The War against Japan ended on 11th August 1945. Japan finally signed their surrender on 11th September after the dropping of Atom bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima by American bombers. Street parties were held in all the villages and towns to celebrate VJ Day (Victory over Japan).
Mines Short Of Men
The mines were still short of men and of course many men who had left the pits to do war service were killed. Some miners began drifting back to the pits after being demobbed, also POWs (Prisoners of War) were being repatriated. Some servicemen who had been wounded were only offered the poorer paid jobs on the pit top, and of course many others were reluctant to return to the pits.
Throughout the hostilities there had been 11 enemy attacks on Nottingham with one being a serious raid on 8th/9th May 1941.
Some bombs were dropped on Mapperley Park, Sneinton, Carlton Hill and River Trent side districts. The University College Shakespeare Street was damaged. There were 23 attacks on Derby. The number of air alerts to February 1944 was 223 for Nottingham, 129 for Worksop, 163 East Retford, 168 Eastwood, 271 Newark and 165at Harworth.
Prisoners Of War
A major Prisoner of War camp for Germans was in Wollaton Park, Nottingham. Another one was at Boughton Camp near Ollerton. One for Italians was in the Nissen huts (later a Technical school), now the site of Morrison’s Supermarket at Sutton Road adjacent to King’s Mill Hospital Sutton-in-Ashfield (originally an American Army Hospital. It was an American GI who gave me my first orange, and did I want some ‘gum chum?’) The Bolsover Ward in the hospital was allocated for injured miners. I remember the Italian prisoners of war some of whom were allocated jobs on the local small farms and some were allowed to wander about on their own to fetch cigarettes etc from Rowlston’s shop on Coxmoor Road at the end of the street where I lived. One patted me on the head with a comment ‘Ah bambino’. They wore grey outfits with a yellow blob on the back of the tunic top – however they had no intention of escaping! I imagine they were too well looked after here.
Following the ending of the hostilities some of these prisoners stayed here and integrated into the society and married local girls and the odd ones found work in the pits. Poles who had joined our forces stayed as well and many were found work down the Midlands pits. I knew several by sight to nod to at Teversal and they were all good workers and respected, generally quiet of course because they could not speak English properly, however their English was far better than our Polish. One of my bosses was Cheslaw Stasiewicz ex RAF who started as a Surveyor's linesman at Annesley. He always seemed speak back to front as we say.
Winston Churchill There was a short Conservative Government from May until June 1945 and Winston Churchill continued as Prime Minister, when the Coalition was disbanded, after the War.
A landslide victory elected a Labour Government in 1945 until Oct 1951, and Clement Attlee the Deputy PM in the Coalition Government during the War was elected Prime Minister 1945-1951.
On 22nd May 1945, food rations were cut once again and on 1st September clothing ration cut by 25%.
Pits in a Terrible Condition
Many of the pits were now in a terrible condition and production was falling steadily week by week, through one reason or another, not least absenteeism. Restrictions on steel and equipment were taking its toll. However the War had intervened in many new exploits in the mines and some would be closed through lack of development. The coal stocks had fallen to an all time low and there was a scarcity of certain grades. Throughout the country there had been a drop of domestic consumption of coal. There had been an increase in the use of coke, gas and electricity. The wholesale coal trade organisation was divided into 4 areas and the Midlands area covering Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and others came into effect.
Little Pits Record Output
However as reported in the Daily Express 11th June 1945, ‘the men of the little pits get a record output’. Stanleigh Turner was head of the Moira Coal Co owning 5 mines, officially counted in South Derbyshire, although they are actually in Leicestershire. The total workforce was just under 2,500 men and boys. The British and American machinery had increased the output by 50%, though the miner’s wages had not increased. John B Drinnan, Chief Mining Manager for Moira Coal Co took the visitors underground at Rawdon colliery. At the coalface 3 young men ‘busted’ the coal by means of a compressed air plunger to a depth of 4’ 6” (1.37m) into the coal. A team of 6 men were employed with the operation of the Meco-Moore power-loader in the 7 feet (2.13m) thick seam. One turnover on the 150 yards (137m) long face yielded 500 tons which was sent out by conveyor to the pit bottom. The multi disc cutter loader machine had been used for one year and was due for an overhaul. This one was the only one other than those being used by the Bolsover Co pits in Nottinghamshire where the machine was invented (trials at Rufford and Clipstone).
General Election in July 1945: Labour Party returned to power with a majority of 140 over all other parties. Clement Attlee continued as Prime Minister. He commissioned Sir William Beveridge to submit a report on the 5 giants of the period. These were Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.
Minister of Fuel and Power 23rd May –2nd Aug 1945, Gwilym Lloyd George (Con). Emmanuel (Manny) Shinwell (Lab) succeeded from 3rd July 1945-1947. President of Board of Trade, Oliver Lyttleton (Con) 25th May 1945-July 1945, succeeded by Sir Stafford Cripps (Lab), 27th July 1945-1947.
Following the report of the Forster Committee The Coal Mines (Training) General Regulations 1945 were issued under the Coal Mines Act 1911. The main provisions of these regulations to come into force on 1st January 1947. Two Training centres would be opened in the No1 Area, one at Williamthorpe for the southern part of the Area and the other at Markham for the northern part. Every new entrant would be sent to the nearest one to the colliery where they were to work.
Claim for 5 Day Week
The Executive of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) approached the Ministry of Fuel and Power and the Coal Owners with a claim for a 5 day week of 7½ hours a day.
The holiday pay for 1945 for the one week was £5 15s 0d (£5.75) for adults, £4 12s 0d (£4.60) for 18 to 20 years, and £3 9s 0d (£3.45) for under 18 years old.
Desperate Need for More Coal
The Chairman of the Mining Association Robert Foot stated that the colliery owners thought private enterprise was the right basis for efficient production in the nation’s interest.
Mechanical loading and conveying in American mines was 50% above hand loading. The Minister of Fuel and Power stressed the desperate need for more coal for the winter to meet domestic demands, and to maintain gas and electricity supplies.
Mr Arthur Horner was appointed by the NUM to be National Production Officer, to increase production of coal by any means possible.
Manny Shinwell Visit to Sheffield
The Mines Training Centre at Sheffield was visited by Manny Shinwell, Minister of Fuel and Power. He stated this country was producing mining machines as good as the ones imported from USA.
The Water Act 1945
The Water Act 1945 was passed. It would lead to Regulations regarding water abstraction and records (1947). Many pits abstracted water for coal washing purposes.
By defeating the Government in Standing Committee on the Industrial Injuries Bill, Labour MPs mainly from mining areas succeeding in deleting from the Bill the clause providing for the customary waiting period of 3 days before an injured man could claim compensation.
Absenteeism From All Causes Was Rising And Was Causing Concern.
Valuations of Collieries Completed
The report of the Coal Commission up to 31st March 1945 stated that the valuations had been completed and the end of the transactions by which coal royalties had been transferred from private to public ownership, (in total £64,559,559).