The ovation that the second team received on their return to the surface will live long in my memory. They were met by crowds of people who could no longer be restrained. Their emotion and enthusiasm carried them into the Pit Yard to congratulate those brave lads on their achievement.
The third team is now ready after passing the preliminaries. They are to go further again and explore and report on the road leading from the pit bottom. It is impossible to describe the havoc which met their gaze when they got off the cage many of the men in the third team were well acquainted with the pit bottom prior to the explosion in September and even they could not realise that this was the same place that they knew so well.
The floor of the roadway was lifted up, rails and sleepers all torn up and strewn about the pace in an indescribable manner, the brick walls in the pit bottom all broken down, heavy sections of girders bent and broken pointing in all directions, the 'landing' and 'scaffolding' all blown to pieces and needing renewing. This team had a peep at the 'Pit Bottom Office' or 'Bosshole' for the first time since the explosion. Was it the same place they had known previously? They could not be sure, but it must be. It only appeared to be a small cavity in the brick wall but there were some books etc. and this must be the place they had known as the 'Bosshole'. The damage done to the place was appalling. What could they report on arrival back at the surface? It would take a lifetime to give anything like an accurate description of the havoc below. However this completed the first day's work of the exploration of the Gresford Colliery and I for one was feeling very pleased that all we had been asked to do had been done successfully and without further loss of life.
One can imagine the grave looks and puckered expressions on the faces of those officials responsible for opening the pit after they had received the report of the third team down. What had caused those terrific later explosions? Was it the fire after the first 'Dennis' explosion that had ignited the gas after the sealing of the shafts? Theirs was a very grave responsibility. They were getting no rest either day or night, if so much damage had been done around the pit bottom, what was the damage likely to be nearer the seat of the explosion wherever it had occurred?
What to do first and how to set about the job? All this needed a lot of discussion and a decision was not easily arrived at. One thing only was certain they had decided to reopen the pit, and the work must go on until something definite had been done.
The analysis of the atmosphere assured the authorities that the fire which had been seen on 22nd September had, through lack of oxygen supply, died out. Thus the seals on the pit had achieved. Well the rescue teams must continue and we are again organised into shifts to carry on with the work of exploration and finding suitable places to erect stoppings in the 'Dennis Intake' and return airways thereby making doubly sure that we stop still longer the supply of oxygen to the seat of the first explosion. The work on the first day was as nothing compared with what was to follow and done by the Rescue Men in the further exploration of the disastrous pit. No man ever dreamed of so much damage. No man had ever seen such a calamity in any mine in the whole world. There was nothing for hundreds of yards around the pit bottom that was not wrecked. Upheavals in the floor, falls of roof girders, tubs, rails, and timber everything and every kind of material was blown and twisted into all shapes. Every move had to be done with the utmost care. Not only had we to face the poisonous gas, but we had the possibility of further falls to look out for. May be in crawling past some fall or twisted girders there was always the possibility that one might knock off the nose clip or catch the air pipes and pull them off the equipment. In the first 4 weeks of the reopening 5 teams were engaged on the work, and after this time it was decided to reduce the number to 4 teams. Three to be down the pit and one team in the airlock as banksmen, and loading material required below.
An attempt was made to get from the bottom of the 'Martin Pit' to the bottom of the Dennis Pit', but at first this attempt failed owing to the heaped up material which had been thrown together by the explosions. The teams had to go through water, waist deep to get to the roads, where the stoppings had to be put in. Really I don't know how we all stood the strain. Considering the heat and the water, it was perfectly wonderful, the spirit of endurance shown by every man. Personally, I did not credit myself that I could take such a gruelling. But even in all this, there was always some little humour. Particularly so when we had the Ministry of Mines Doctor in the Company. One thought so little of the work when listening to his jokes, but for all his jesting, I suppose he did it for a purpose and knew it was better than his medicine as a nerve smoother. He was quite a genuine chap was our Doc. Always ready with some good advice, many others were similar.
One good lady of Gresford in particular was always waiting in the cabin at the surface, awaiting our return from below, and she always had a good big basket of food, chocolates and cigarettes and she was doing this daily for three months.
Later she had to cut the food out of her benefactions, as the Colliery Company wished to make themselves responsible for this part. I will not comment on the change but thank the Company for their efforts. The good lady was not going to be put off like this and if she couldn't bring sandwiches along she came with other far more delectable delicacies and the current newspapers. The Vicar of Gresford was also a daily visitor and he had to bring along his quota of chocolates and cigs.
Everyone connected with the work seemed to be determined to keep our minds off the work we were doing the time we were 'standing by' in the cabin. The Press reporters had photos to show us, they had taken for their respective papers. I am sure that each of the Rescue Men had enough photos of himself to paper the living room with and at this juncture I would like to pay a compliment to the Gresford Teams of Rescue Men for their jovial and friendly ways and the way they acted to those from other collieries. Whenever we were in the need of anything wanted help to carry out our work they were always willing. It was a big help to a strange team to have knowledge of roadways and roof conditions prior to the explosion. Whatever we had occasion to ask for, that thing was immediately given to us. Doors and bridges also air crossings as marked on the plan no longer existed.