They had seen the fall of country after country, the battle of Flanders lost, the nation desperately engaged in the battle of the Atlantic and the enemy were ferociously endeavouring to bomb and burn Britain into submission, but courage and determination was maintained. We all accept that the armed forces are vital to the nations defence, but just as vital were the army of miners.
Britain was at war with Nazi Germany and many people were being killed as a result. On the home front, high explosive bombs were dropped over a wide area of Stoke-on-Trent and the surrounding districts. Householders, firewatchers and civil defence workers extinguished fires as these explosive devices were triggered off.
Nationally there had been failures and disappointments during the early parts of the war, and families had borne their losses with fortitude and patriotic pride.
SNEYD. Burslem, Stoke on Trent. 1st January, 1942.
The Sneyd colliery was the property of the Sneyd Colliery Company Limited. The explosion occurred at about 7.50 a.m. on Thursday, 1st. January 1942. Fifty five persons were killed immediately and two others died in hospital from injuries received. At the time of the explosion one of those two were very close to the bottom of the No. 4 shaft and the other in the Cockshead Level near the Hardmine intake. No one in the Banbury seam beyond this point was found alive.
Normal work was being done at the time of the disaster and coal was being won on the 22’s face and the 21’s face was being prepared for similar work during the afternoon shift. These two faces were worked on the morning and afternoon shifts alternately week and week about. The coal from the 21’s face was hauled by main and tail electrically driven haulage gear placed in 21’s level about 40 yards inbye of the bottom of 22’s jig. The coal from the 22’s face was hauled along 22’s level by a compressed air driven endless rope haulage engine to the top of the 22’s jig and from there jigged down to the 21’s level. From the outbye end of the 21’s level all the coal was jigged down the Banbury Crut Jig and from the foot of the jig hauled by a chain tail and gate electric haulage gear places near the bottom of the No.4 shaft. The haulage gear in 21’s level was the only electrically driven machinery in the Banbury Seam.
The Banbury Crut Jig was a drift about 200 yards long which rose 1 in 3 from the Cockshead Seam to the Banbury Seam. It was driven in late 1937 and the first ninety yards went through strong bond and the remainder through shale which was supported by steel arches 12 feet wide at the foot and 8 feet to the crown of the arches. The coal from the Banbury Sea, about 1,700 tons per week went down the jig and was sent outbye to be wound at the No.4 shaft. Stone and other rubbish was sent this way as well.
The haulage was self-acting with loaded tubs going down the incline and pulling empty ones up always on the same side. The jig wheel was placed horizontally about 12 yards on the inbye side at the top and the hauling rope passed two and a half times round it. The wheel was fitted with a brake ring around which were an iron brake and contained wood blocks lined with Ferodo linings. Six coal tubs or five tubs of stone formed a full set and there were six tubs in an empty set. The gauge of the rails was two feet and a half inch with two feet four inches between the full and empty roads. On the right hand side looking inbye there was a 6 inch diameter pipe to take compressed air to the haulage, coal cutting and conveyor machinery in the Banbury Seam. This pipe was at a slightly higher level than the outside rail, with it’s nearest surface about eight or nine inches from the head of the rail. At about 92 yards from the bottom of the crut there was a gland round this pipe with a cock fitted in the top. The gland covered a half inch square hole. Between the wheels of a tub moving on the full road and the lugs of the gland nearest to it there was a clearance of three inches. On the right hand side of the crut there were canvas slings which carried electrical cables which carried 3,000 volts which fed the 50 h.p. motor which drive the main and tail gear operating the haulage on 21’s level.
Normally these canvas slings were 6 feet apart with the cables suspended four feet from the floor. The height of a tub standing on the rails was 3 feet 2 inches. Near the top of the crut there were two ‘Warwicks’ 41 feet apart but connected by a wire rope in such a manner that when one was up the other was down. A set of six tubs with couplings stretched, measured 34 feet.
On January 1st. 1942, fifty-seven men and boys lay down their lives for King and Country just as if they had been fighting with the armed forces. Their deaths were not caused by enemy action but by a horrific underground explosion at Sneyd Colliery on the outskirts of Burslem and Smallthorn, bringing great sorrow and grief to the community. It's sad to think that in normal times the pit would not have been worked on New Year's Day, but due to the urgent demand for coal, to make the instruments of war, the manager appealed to the men to work, and they whole-heartedly responded.
The tragic explosion occurred at 7.50 am. on January 1st. 1942, 800 yards below ground. The first report was that seven men were dead and fifty-one were missing. A tub runaway down the jig and came off the rails. As this happened the explosion occurred.