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The South Wales Echo, Monday 27th March 1995

(Extracts) - Death In Pits For The Heroes Of War Back To Welsh Menu

Back From The Field Of Conflict And Lost Their Lives In The Pits

THEY were the men who were Heroes twice over.....
They risked their lives for their country on foreign fields, then risked them once more for the coal industry deep below their native soil.
But while the guns and grenades of war couldn't claim them, the coal industry did.
Here are a selection of stories sent in about the scores South Wales miners who survived active service only to die in the pits.

THE salty air of Cardiff Docks must have smelted sweet in the nostrils of soldier Robert Phillips when he arrived back in the city on Christmas Day, 1916.

Weeks earlier, he had been held in a grim German prisoner-of-war camp, with little hope of setting foot on his native land again.

Private Phillips, of Station Road, New Tredegar, had gone to France with the Welsh Regiment in 1914 and took part in the battle of Ypres.

But soon afterwards, he was captured by the enemy forces. As a former miner back home, he was set to work in the German coal pits, forced to fuel the flames of the Kaiser's war machine.

But the coal mines provided him with the opportunity to escape, and he made his way by land and sea back to Cardiff.

A hero's welcome awaited Private Phillips when he returned to New Tredegar and resumed his occupation as a miner.

But tragedy was lying in wait for the young pitman,  who had survived through some of the bloodiest scenes of the Great War.

By now he had moved to Ystrad Mynach to work at the Bedwas Colliery, where he was killed in 1934 when crushed by a fall of stone.

Granddaughter Lynda Osbourne said that, at the time of his death, he was working alongside a miner with a speech impediment.

His colleague saw the roof giving way, but was unable to get his words out in time to warn him.

"Unfortunately, he could not shout quickly enough to warn my grandfather," said Mrs Osbourne, of Hengoed.

Two years earlier another former soldier, James Fetch, of Caerphilly, also lost his life at Bedwas.
He had fought with the Suffolk Regiment in the First World War.

Glyn died before his son was born.

Lynda Osborne
27 Aug 2012
Correction - Robert Phillips Escape PoW WWI

Hi Fionn, my name is Mrs. Lynda Osborne, just looked at the article on my grandfather Robert Phillips escape PoW WWI. "Back From The Field Of Conflict And Lost Their Lives In The Pits".....he lodged in New Tredegar at the time he signed up and when he returned after escaping, not Ystrad Mynach, which is printed, he lived in Ystrad Mynach when he was killed in Bedwas Pit 1934.

Also he was a victim of mustard gas when he was taken prisoner, my father remembers him sucking a bronze 3d piece at times to get his saliva in his mouth. 

We found out that he escaped when there was a change of gaolers (guards). He was presented with a gold watch, in New Tredegar where about 1000 people gathered outside the congregational church, for his heroism, also a certificate from King George 5th for his bravery.

My father was eight when his father was killed in Bedwas Pit, and is still alive at 86yrs old.

I found out a lot after I started my research, which is still ongoing. I am doing his biography.

I am enjoying it....take care!

Back From The Field Of Conflict And Lost Their Lives In The Pits

MINER Glyn Jones was as devoted to his family as he had been a devoted soldier.

Mr Jones had served with the Welsh Regiment in Burma during the Second World War.

But after demob, he returned to his wife and family at Lake Street, Ferndale and to his job at nearby No 5 Colliery. Wife Violet became pregnant with their third child and Glyn volunteered to work a double colliery shift to try to earn more money.

But tragedy struck when the 40-year-old pitman was killed in a roof fall during the extra shift.

Two days later his wife gave birth to their son Dennis. The father he never knew had gone to work for the last time on Friday July 9,1948 - the last day before the two-week pit holiday.

"Glyn offered to double his shift for the extra money as his wife was expecting and due to be confined at any time," said Reg Layshon, who is married to Dennis' cousin.

"But in the afternoon of the extra shift there was a roof fall, and Glyn was buried under it."

Dennis now lives in Reading.

MINER William Thomas

SOLDIER William Thomas won military honours in Egypt and the Sudan before being killed in a pit accident.

Mr Thomas, of the Swan Inn, Taff's Well, died at Nantgarw Colliery in 1911, aged 48.

He served in the 1st Battallion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry from 1882 to 1888, taking part in two Nile Expeditions and earning the Egyptian Medal and Kadive Star

MINER Charlie Whitty survived the Battle of the Somme.

He came to Cwmaman as a child from Beaminster, Dorset, and left school to work in Cwmbeol Colliery. During World War One he joined the army and was posted to the Royal Field Artillery.

He survived the Somme and returned to the pit. But on New Year's Eve. 1925, he was crushed to death by a runaway journey of coal.

MINER Jacky Jones was killed before he could join the Army. The 17-year-old had been due to enlist in the Welsh Guards, but died in a roof fall at Abercynon Colliery in 1933.

AN explosion claimed the life of a Rhondda pianist and World War Two hero.

Arthur Atkins, aged 40, was among the victims of the Lewis Merthyr colliery disaster in November 1956.
During the war, he had served with the South Wales Border Regiment.

RIFLEMAN Albert Peterson was released from army duties to work in the pits.
But he was killed on his fourth day at Elliott's Colliery, New Tredegar, in April, 1942. Mr Peterson was a sergeant in the 1st Rifle Battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment.

WORLD War Two veteran Frederick Goodman died in a pit accident on New Year's Eve, 1962.

He went to Bargoed Colliery after being demobbed from the Army. He was crushed to death by a journey of trams.

Another World War Two veteran, Arthur Thomas, died in a roof fall at Afan Colliery, Blaengwynfi in 1969.

RONALD BEVINGTON, of Beddau, survived dense fighting in Italy before dying in a pit accident at Cwm Colliery in 1966.

DAVID Harris took part in the Battle of River Plate while serving on HMS Exeter in World War Two.

But six moNths after leaving the Royal Navy he was killed at Pennkyber Colliery.

SOLDIER Benjamin Morgan spent months in hospital after being burned by mustard gas.

He fought with the Welsh Regiment during the 1914-18 war in Northern France. But he died in January 1937 in an accident at Penallta Colliery, Ystrad Mynach.

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