The unveiling of a memorial to the “Bevin Boys” of World War Two by the Countess of Wessex at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire last week, brought back memories to myself, and probably to several other Sheffield residents, if there any still alive.
In 1942, on reaching 18 years old, I volunteered for National Service and passed my medical at the Edmond Road Drill Hall, Sheffield, and eagerly awaited my call to the Forces. A few weeks later I was shocked to receive an official letter telling me to report for training down the mines, and later told to report for work at Markham Main Colliery in the pit village of Armthorpe, near Doncaster.
Unwillingly, I travelled there every week for the next three years, along with around a dozen other Sheffield area young men, coming home at weekends, depending on what shift we were working, on the bus from just opposite the Gaumont Picture Palace in Doncaster, and returning to our lodgings in Armthorpe, on the Sunday night,ready for another shift down the deep pit. I was lucky to escape serious injury from roof falls on more than one occsion, but returned home with just a few scars, though worse than those were the widely-held opinions of many folk, who believed that we Bevin Boys had gone down the mines just to escape going into the Army, and even today, after 70 years, I’m still furious at those allegations.