I am not flattered or giving undue praise, when I say that those higher officials, Inspectors and Agents, who accompanied the teams did exceptionably well. Many of them were not accustomed to heavy manual labour, but they would take any position as allotted by the Captain on the Team. Haulage, carrying blocks or building made no difference to them and they worked side by side, and took their turn at the heavy work, like other members of the Team. We marvelled at their fitness and capabilities, I thought some of them had never caught hold of a hammer or shovel. They surprised us all. Each Team looked forward to these people coming down with us. It meant a man extra in the Team. As a rule there was an Inspector of Mines with each Team. These changed around to avoid being the last down the shaft. If ever such work is necessary again, I am sure Teams will ask the Mines Department for those same Inspectors. Occasionally after the fresh air had been put into the pit, we had other visitors accompanying us down. They were sightseers, some for experience which we hope they will never need. At this time Gresford must have been the Buxton Research Station. Every day eminent Professors were moving to and fro with the paraphernalia. During the opening period, I think every Country that was connected with Mining and Research work was represented and later Mr. Ernest Brown, the Minister of Mines came along to see for himself the work that had been done.
Stopping 'F' was completed on the 28 th April and we were pleased to be moving on to the next, stopping 'E which was to be erected in the 'slant'. This was not considered to be near so important as the previous one, and it was decided that three thicknesses of brattice cloth across a framework would suffice, and this only took two shifts to complete. Next one, stopping 'H', was to be put in the 'Dennis Return Airway', but we had other tasks. Occasionally we would accompany the Research Doctor from Birmingham University who would want a few samples of the air in the pit from various places. It was a treat for any Team to accompany him, and if because he had the apparatus on, he could not speak his motions were equally as humorous and we were taught how to take and bottle the little samples of air and the direction of the ventilation.
He was quite a hefty chap, about 16 stone in weight, so he could not overrun us, we were always 'top dogs' as he had so much more to carry, and many times he was glad of a halt in the journey. I remember that on one occasion we had to take down a hand pump with 100 yards of hose for delivering the water from the 'sump' into the low side. This was water which, in the first occasion down, had stopped the cage from entering the sump. As I said we took the pump and the suction pipes consisting of two large lengths coupled together with a clamp. We fitted the pump as near to the shaft side as the suction pipe would allow, and the Doctor thought to make himself generally useful, put his sample tackle on the side, and begins to couple the hose to the pump. Then throws the (as he thought) securely coupled lengths of suction hose into the water ready to start pumping. Every man worked in turn his hardest to get the water delivering. No good. Examine the valves of the pump. Still no water. Blame the engineers who have sent the pump down. Try again. No good. Hold on a minute. Why, there is no wonder we have not pumped any water, there is only two feet of suction pipe. Not near the water, and the remainder of the pipe is floating about in the sump uncoupled from the pump. One hour wasted. What is to be done? We must go to the surface and procure another length to couple up to the suction side, but we were careful to tell them on the surface, that the piece we had taken down was not long enough to reach the water.
You can imagine the puzzled look on their faces. They probably thought we had put the pump where it was intended to deliver water. Our Doc, was never forgiven for throwing the suction pipe into the sump and the joke was always revived when we were sure no one directly connected was listening.
Stopping 'H' was being built in a place easy of access, only 100 yards from the 'Martin Pit Bottom' along the 'Main Martin Return'. This was to be built similar to 'F' stopping i.e. blocks of wood. By this time every man was so accustomed to his apparatus that everything was much easier, only listening to the valves click watching the pressure gauges, making sure that every man had a sufficient supply of oxygen, and this stopping much smaller of course the 'F' was put up in tree days, It had previously been decided that seven stoppings would be necessary, but after reconsidering, the Mining Engineers were of the opinion that some would be unnecessary for the time being at last, and so we were put on to build 'D' stopping, of sand bags.
This proved to be very hard work. We had up until now only had to transport the material to the 'dip', but for 'D' we had to go to the other side of the pit, to the 'Rise', and the whole way we were travelling up to the knees in 'slurry' and grease. A trolley was being used to load the bags of sand, some pulling the trolley by means of a piece of rope, others pushing behind. 500 bags of sand were needed. How pleased we were when the last bag was put on. This completed all the stoppings around the pit bottom, and after a careful inspection by Agent, Inspectors and Rescue Teams of all other stoppings it was found that all were doing the work expected of them, and the second stage of the recovery could be considered with a practical possibility of success.
Seal Taken Off Dennis Pit
By taking the seal off the Dennis Pit and dismantling the airlock at the top of the 'Martin Pit' natural ventilation would be set up and make it possible for those persons, not trained in the use of the apparatus to enter the pit. Those high officials who had waited day after day on surface listened to the reports of progress made, curbed their impatience week after week. These could now go and see for themselves the work that had to be done to make it possible for them to go down.
Separating doors in the roads between the two pits in the pit bottom were opened wide, and men who had done no work for 7 months were busily digging the sand seal off the top of the 'Dennis' shaft. Removing boards, girders and other material.
The foul air being liberated from the pit was like dense black smoke. It was found later that the latter explosion (after the seals had been put on) had dislodged two girders forming the seal, and these had fallen down the pit doing damage to the, extent that no one knew at present, but all could conjecture.
This was a very anxious time for all concerned. If the stoppings erected were not airtight some more oxygen would feed through on to what? If the fire was still smouldering, there was a possibility that the whole lot would be set away again, but, as has been proved those stoppings were good and held put the necessary oxygen. A task had been accomplished by the Mining Engineers, Inspectors, Research Doctors and Rescue Men. Something unique in the Mining World. The only pit ever opened after sealing by Rescue men working in an irrespirable atmosphere.