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Criggleston Disaster - Wakefield, Yorkshire - 29th July 1941 - Page 1

The Disaster
Lamp


Criggleston. Wakefield, Yorkshire

The colliery was the property of Messrs. Benzol and By-Products Limited and was about three and a half miles south-west of Wakefield. The Agent and the Manager was Mr. F.B. Howitt. The seams that were worked at the colliery were the Top and Bottom Haigh Moor and the explosion occurred in the No.1 West District of the Top Haigh Moor seam which was 256 yards deep. The Bottom Haigh Moor seam was about 11 yards below and had not been worked anywhere near the explosion area. The No.1 West District was opened out by taking a narrow bord face forward from which the end faces were developed to the right and left. Coal was first produced from these two faces on the 29 th April 1941 and at the time of the explosion these faces were 100 and 110 yards long respectively. The seam was almost flat, 3 feet thick with a blue blind roof in which there were bands of ironstone. It was undercut in a 4 inch band of dirt. Over the seam was a 4 inch dirt band which usually came down with the coal. The district was fully mechanised and electricity was used for coal cutting, drilling, face conveyors, gate conveyors, haulage, a loader and signalling. Direct current at 500 volts was used for haulage and alternating current at 400 volts for the rest of the electrical plant.

Coal was loaded on the day shift and on the afternoon shift the face conveyors were dismantled, the seam undercut to a depth of 5 feet 6 inches. Shot holes were bored, 7 feet to 9 feet apart in the coal and as required in the ripping gate lips, the ripping shots fired and the packs built. On the night shift shots were fired in the coal, the face conveyors were re-assembled and the gate conveyors were moved forward. There were two deputies in the No.2 West District on the day shift, one deputy and one shot firer on the afternoon shift and one deputy and two shot firers on the night shift.

The quantity of air passing in the district was last measured before the explosion on the 30th June 1941 was 10,600 cubic feet per minute of which 6,450 cubic feet reached the South Conveyor face. It was well known that the quantity of air circulating in a district varied in 24 hours, especially in mechanised faces with thin seams and so the percentage of firedamp varied. These fluctuations resulted in the different kinds of work that were carried out during the cycle and were independent of leakages at donors due to deficiencies or of their being left open. Just before the explosion 7,129 cubic feet were measured at the entrance to the district of which 3,958 cubic feet were measured at the South Conveyor face although in the meantime a brick wall with a door inset had been built to prevent direct leakages between the intake and return and a door erected in the West main gate.

The explosion occurred at 7.20 p.m. on Tuesday, 29th July 1941 in the sixth hour of the afternoon shift and it was confined to the one district. There were 25 people in the district at the time including 4 machine men and a timberer form the South Side coal cutting machine who was in the West Main Gate on the way out. The two outer of these men and the timberer for the coal cutting machine on the North face, who had reached the return airway were the only survivors., Twenty one men were found dead and one died in hospital within a few hours in the district. A deputy 280 yards away in another district heard a terrific bump and he went quickly to the No.1 West District and gave the alarm, to the surface by telephone. He helped the survivors and was able to reach the point where Bruce Beaumont was found but because of the firedamp he could not get to Charles Megson who he heard breathing. Megson died in hospital.

Four machinemen on the North Side had completed their work and were on their way out. They were found a few yards from their machine. The four rippers in the North Loader gate had completed the gate side packs and had only to erect another steel arch to finish their shift. The deputy and the shotfirer were with them. The four rippers in the South Timber gate had almost finished their gate side packs and the five rippers in the South Loader gate, were erecting a girder at the gate end. These men were found in a heap under the girder and it was significance that they met their deaths where they were working while other men in the district working a few yards away seemed to have had warning on the immanent disaster as they were found away from their working places, overcome by afterdamp. From the position of one man, it appeared that he had a warning, went out and then turned back.

The West Yorkshire Rescue Station Brigade were summoned from Wakefield and arrived at the colliery 15 minutes after the call. They went underground immediately and started an exploration of the affected area. They travelled the South side and then came back to the entrance of the North Loader gate. All the ventilating sheets and the door in the north Loader gate had been blown down and steps were taken to restore the ventilation which was short circuiting directly into the return. Sheets were erected about midnight at the North Loader gate between the intake and return and the exploration of the North face was able to be made without breathing apparatus by way of the North Timber gate. Two percent firedamp was found in the general body of the air and later on the South Side, a layer of firedamp was found near the roof along almost the whole length of the Loader and timber gates. There were only two small falls and no evidence of any great violence although the timber supports had been blown out. Coal dust played no part in the disaster. Arrangements were made for noting the position of the bodies which were then sent to the surface.

The Men Who Died Were-

A.E. Broadhead
45
Ripper
Bruce Beaumont
25
Machine man
William Mitchell
29
Shotfirer
Lloyd Fox
24
Ripper
Bernard Fox
32
Ripper
James Arthur (Joe) Fox
39
Ripper
Willie Handley
-
Ripper
Willie Hartley
30
Deputy
Jim Hancock
38
Machine man
Basil Wood.
53
Machine man
Arthur Piper
31
Machine man
Alf Oatland
-
Machine man
John William Mollart
47
Ripper
Robert Wilson White
40
Ripper
Harry Wright
36
Ripper
William Priestley
40
Ripper
George William Riley
29
Ripper
George Norman Nussey
49
Ripper
William Charlesworth
38
Ripper
Ezra Lambert
34
Ripper
Sam Tunnicliffe
45
Machine man
George Megson
Died later in hospital
27
Machine man

The Injured:-

Clar Kennett
Timberman
Ernest Broadhead
Machine man
Albert Fawcett Timberman

 

 

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