Thursday, 22 May 2014

Bevin Boys and Lumberjills

Last week for the project 'Stitching the Wars'  I met a Ethel and Les, who brought to light time during the 2nd World War working outside in the Timber Core (known affectionally as Lumberjills)  contrasted to life spent underground in the dark-  a Bevin Boy.

Cresswell, Derbyshire. Thanks to Warwick Taylor OBE, Bevin Boy Veterans.

The remarkable group of people recalling the war also spoke about:  facing daily danger as young women working in the Munitions, whose faces went yellow from the chemicals. Life as a school girl working in the laboratories of a Steel Works in Barrow in Furness and a memories of the torn face of an German pilot, crashed in a farmers  field.

Today for the project 'stitching the wars' I'm going to share parts of my notes describing Les's time in the Bevin's Boys.

"At 18 I served in the war as a Bevin Boy. Ernest Bevin in his wisdom or folly called up all the miners, so we had to replace them - if you were allocated a certain number you’d have to go.

Cyril Lesley Cox (Les)

I’d worked on the land all my life, so to go down 580 feet was quite an experience. Cresswell in Derbyshire to start, then Nottingham.

We turned black. It was dark in the morning when we went down and dark when we came up. If we were working weekends as well, we wouldn’t see sunlight for 3 weeks.
The first time I went down the mine it was 3 days before my 18th birthday. Those lifts dropped like a stone, up there one minute, the next moment on the floor of the colliery. I was in billets to start, then eventually in a private house. The bus would pick us up about 7, we’d finish about 5. We’d have a meal in the canteen about 5 or 6pm. I was in the haulage; you had to work till the trucks were disposed of. The work was very monotonous and you were always in the dark. I had a cap lamp, as I had to use both my hands- bringing empty trucks in or filled ones out.

Photo credit and thanks to Warwick Taylor OBE, Bevin Boy Veterans. 

            We only had a months training, that was in Cresswell. Had accidents like,  but thankfully I was never involved. One of the lads in my room left as he had hurt his legs.
            They had steel girders holding the roof up, wonder how they kept going. I wasn’t bent over, I didn’t have to dig the coal- had a steel wire to clamp onto the steel truck on wheels. It would be very cold when we went to one place, then hot in another.
            I was only in billets for a short while, then in private digs paid for by the government. I didn’t have a bad life during the war. We were fated a bit, the girls liked a fresh face so we were spoilt- we had the village to ourselves!

I did a milk round before the war with a horse and cart. After the war went back to the milk. The job was there, you had to go back to where you came from."

Thanks to everyone at Granby House, Youlgrave and Carol from The Farming Life Centre for inviting me along and for Warwick Taylor OBE for his kind permission to use photos from his website

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