HEROES OF BOMB DUMP EXPLOSION
GALLANTRY OF ILKESTON MEN RECORDED
COMMENDATION FOR TEAM LEADER
The gallantry of the Ilkeston Mines Rescue Team who worked with other teams in a fume-filled maze of mine tunnels after an explosion last November in the R.A.F. bomb storage depot; near Burton-on-Trent, has been placed on record by the Air Ministry. Each member of the team, as well as the superintendent at Ilkeston, Supt. A. Syson, has received a warm letter of appreciation and thanks from the Air Ministry, while the team leader Mr. Donald Gordon Roberts, will duly receive a commendation which has been awarded to him.
The Ilkeston team promptly answered the call for help sent to them when the explosion took place, and under the supervision of Supt. A. Syson, who was placed in charge of the forward base, carried out most important rescue work successfully. The Ilkeston team consisted of Don G. Roberts (leader), Les Calladine, Les Havill, A. Clarke and Harry Astle. The full story of the feverish efforts of R.A.F. men. N.F.S. personnel and civilians to rescue victims of the bomb dump disaster near Burton has now been told, with the announcement of awards for gallantry to 14 of the rescuers and commendations for 10 others. The men were faced with a bewildering situation, says the official citaton, with poisonous fumes percolating through the labyrinth of under ground passages, a danger of roof falls and a possibility of a further explosion of the remaining bombs. In these conditions men worked until many of them collapsed and had to be carried out.
600 yard Crater
The depot was divided by a solid wall into two parts known as the Old and, New Mines. The explosion "on an immense scale" occurred in the New Mine and completely obliterated it, the citation discloses.
Serious damage was also done to the Old Mine, where blast caused dangerous roof falls and cracks, scattered bombs and other explosives over the floor, while poisonous fumes, generated by the explosion, percolated from the New Mine. In the New Mine a crater 350 yards by 600 yards was formed with an immense open rent in continuation to the north west. Apart from the damage to the depot, a nearby commercial mine was completely wrecked by huge quantities of rock and sodden earth thrown up by the explosion and by the escaping waters of a small lake which had burst open. Overcome by fumes
Rescue teams, were in action for 21 hours, and entered the fume-filled workings on no fewer than 12 occasions, some members going in more than once among unusual and dangerous fumes which caused the death of one of their number. Several of the men worked until they were either overcome by fumes or exhausted. Mr, Roberts' "courageous leadership was largely responsible for the rescue arrangements working so smoothly and efficiently." He went underground several times. Letters of Appreciation from Air Ministry
Supt. Syson is an Ilkeston born man. He has been 23 years at the Ilkeston Rescue Station, where he has been in charge for the past nine years. He is married and Mr. and Mrs. Syson's only boy attends Ilkeston Secondary School. In the letter which Mr. Syson has received, which is on practically the same lines as the letter which the members of the team received, the Under Secretary for the Air Ministry says: "The Air Council desire to record their high appreciation of the valuable help you gave as team superintendent under the exceptional and hazardous conditions which prevailed.
Team Leader Don G. Roberts is 29 years of age and is the only son of Mrs. Roberts 82 Station Road, Ilkeston and the late Mr. Arthur Roberts. As a lad he went to Chaucer and subsequently to Hallcroft. On leaving school he was employed as an electrician at Cossall Colliery. He joined the Rescue Service at Ilkeston in 1939. He is a married man. The other members of the team hail from surrounding districts. The following letter has been received by Supt. Syson and by the members of the Rescue Team from the Permanent Under Secretary of the Air Ministry -
"I am commanded by the Air Council to say that they have had under consideration the reports that they have received on the rescue attempts made with such gallantry and determination after the explosion at the Royal Air Force bomb storage depot at, Fauld on November 27th, 1944. The Council are deeply appreciative of the help given by the Mines Rescue Organisations, and wish me to thank you personally as a member of one of the teams which took part, for the services you rendered in the difficult and hazardous conditions which prevailed. You will be glad to learn that the good work of your team has been recognised by the award of a commendation to your team leader. The services rendered by the teams will be recorded in permanent form at their respective headquarters."
Mr. Harry Astle, a member of the team, has recently been appointed to take charge of a rescue station at Nuneaton.