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From:    Mrs P Pickett
Sent:     19 January 2011
My Father, a Bevin Boy, Was trapped Down Manvers Main in 1945 For 3 Days

A story has just come to light about my late father’s time as a Bevin Boy at Manvers Colliery. I have been told that he was rescued after spending three days trapped in the mine where he sustained a broken shoulder and cracked ribs.

He had never told us about it but I see that he would have been there at the time of the accident on 4th March 1945 when 5 men were killed. I have found a report of the accident but it only mentions deaths not injuries. So I would be most interested if anyone can tell me any more about it. I do have a very old group photo of the
Bevin Boys
of Manvers Colliery which includes him. It has been taken from an old magazine.

So can anyone help?   
Regards Mrs P Pickett

Manvers Main
Wath-on-Dearne, Yorkshire. 4th March, 1945

The colliery was the property of the Manvers Main Collieries, Limited and there were four shafts at the colliery but in connection with the accident only Nos. 1 and 4 shafts need be considered. These served the Haigh Moor and Meltonfield seams which they intersected at 347 years and 122 yards respectively. The No.1 shaft was the downcast and was 13 feet in diameter and the No.4 shaft was the upcast, 16 feet in diameter. Mr. G.C. Payne was the agent of this and the Barnborough Main Colliery which belonged to the Company.

Mr. E.J. Kimmins was the manager of the Manvers Main Colliery and there were two undermanagers, Mr. A. Wild was in charge of the No.1 pit in which the Haigh Moor and the Meltonfield seam were worked. The district in which the explosion occurred was last visited by the manger on 1st February and by the undermanager on 17th February 1945.

The explosion occurred in the Meltonfield seam which was three feet nine inches thick, clean coal with a shale roof and a fireclay floor. It had been extensively worked in the district, usually by the longwall advancing system and in comparison to other seams in the district was not considered gassy but there had been explosions in the seam at other collieries.

Some years before the management decided to try intensive mining to increase production by installing power loading on the pillar and stall system in the colliery in the Meltonfield seam and the necessary machinery was made available by the Ministry of Fuel and Power. The system was abandoned because of difficulties with the span of the roof which was over 13 feet wide and was replaced by a retreating longwall system. The faces at first were 60 yards in length but as experience was gained, they were lengthened to 120 yards. After being retreated for 55 yards, water from the Oaksrock above came through the roof and the faces stopped. A pillar of coal 35 yards across was left, after which another longwall face, 120 yards long was opened out beyond and retreated as before. Ordinary longwall machinery was used on these faces.

The North-West district was being headed at the time of the disaster with a view to opening out a retreating longwall faces on this system and it was in this area that the explosion occurred. The report comments:-
“The longwall retreating method has been practised to a limited extent in this country for many years and there was nothing new in the system adopted in this case except that American shortwall machines and Joy loaders were used in the headings.”

The opening out of the North-West district was done by driving two parallel roads, 13 feet wide and the height of the seam which were known as the top (intake) level and the bottom (return) level, with connections or slits at intervals of approximately 36 yard centres or 32 yards between the slits. These were later closed by brock stoppings covered by brattice cloth left in some of them for the conveyors. From what was seen after the explosion Mr. Joseph Hall, of the National Union of Mineworkers, questioned whether the stoppings in the 5th and 7th slits were ever there. From two levels three pairs of headings were driven to the dip. These were called 1’s and 2’s, 3’s and 4’s, and 6’s and 7’s and these were about 13 feet wide with a view to form panels for the extraction by longwall. The 1’s and 2’s had been standing for some weeks before the explosion. The faces of the 6’s and 7’s headings were undercut to a depth of seven feet by shortwall machines, holes drilled by Siemens-Schuckert drilling machine, and the coal then blasted and loaded by12BU Joy loaders on to B.J.D., Type H.C. scraper chain conveyors installed in the headings and in the section connecting slit from the face. The chain conveyor in 7’sheading delivered on to a Meco gate belt conveyor which was at the top level and ran through the length of this level to the trunk gate conveyor gate 60 yards beyond the bottom of and running parallel to the North Plane. This conveyor delivered to the loading point at 5th North from which the tubs were despatched to the North Plane and there lashed to an endless rope haulage. No ripping was done in the levels or headings which were supported by steel girders set on wooden props.

For ventilation and inspection purposes the North-West development area formed part of the North district, the lamp station for which was at 5’s junction on the North Plane. The ventilation was produced by a fan situated at No.4 shaft which circulated 320,000 cubic feet of air per minute at a water gauge of 2.4 inches. The total quantity of air circulating in the north district of the Meltonfield seam as last recorded by Mr. Fretwell on 28th February, was 34,368 cubic feet per minute when, the measurement was taken on the North Plane. To ventilate the headings in the North district there were three auxiliary fans. One in 4’s heading which was driven by compressed air and the others were driven by electricity. The fan for the ‘6s and7’s headings was a Meco EF4 driven by a 5 h.p. motor and was at the junction of 7’s heading with the top (intake) level. The air was carried through canvas tubing, 16 inches in diameter, to the faces of the headings as required. When there was cutting and blasting in the 6’s heading the tubing was removed from the 7’s heading face and transferred by way of the last cross slit to the face of that heading. At the time of the explosion the tubing was in the 7’s heading, suspended near the roof and according to the evidence of witnesses who saw it the previous shift, within eight or ten yards of the face.

Pit Terminology - Glossary


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The Report