During World War II, there was a shortage of manpower in coal mining, an essential industry in war time. Ernest Bevin, then Minister for Labour, introduced a scheme whereby young boys were trained as miners instead of being sent to fight.
All boys registering for National Service were given a number. Each week the Minister would pick a number out of a hat. If a boy’s number ended in the number pulled out that week, he would be sent to the mines.
He became one of Bevin’s Boys.
Although this scheme was successful in maintaining employment levels in the mines, it also meant that young men unsuitable for the work found themselves underground. Some miners resented their presence and many of the Bevin boys themselves did not want to be there, so it led to a lot of social and personal problems. Absenteeism being a major problem.
The Bevin Boys did not receive the same privileges as those in the armed services. Their service did not contribute towards pension rights or a superannuation scheme. At the end of the war, the Bevin Boys were the last to demobilise and were almost forgotten.
Although urged to stay on in mining, the majority were glad to leave the industry.
In 2007, the government announced a special honour for Bevin Boys to recognise their work down the mines.
The first awards will be given in March 2008, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the demobilisation of the last Bevin Boys.
It is believed that the first Bevin Boy to be killed in an accident was Henry Robert Hale aged 18. He came from London and was working for the Heworth Colliery Company in Durham. He had only been working a month after his training when he was struck by the cage and killed
At the end of the war, there were approximately 45,000 Bevin Boys.
It was only in 2004 that the Bevin Boys were allowed to march as service men in the Remembrance Day parade, and so acknowledged for their efforts in the war.
Lord Brian Rix was a Bevin Boys.
In the first year that the scheme was introduced, 500 Bevin Boys were prosecuted for refusal to obey the Direction Order to report to the colliery, of whom 147 were sent to prison.
BEVIN BOYS ASSOCIATION
The Bevin Boys Association was formed in 1989 with a small membership of 32 in the Midlands area. Today the membership has grown to over 1,800 from all over the United Kingdom and overseas.
Two Annual National Reunions are held in the Spring and Autumn, consisting of three or four day events. Regional Reunions, normally one day events, are organised by Area Representatives covering all parts of the country. Parades and Galas are now a big part of our annual programme with the Sunday Remembrance Parade at the Cenotaph the highlight of the year.
The Bevin Boys Association is trying to trace all Bevin Boy conscripts, optants or volunteers who served in Britain’s coal mines during and after World War Two – 1943 to 1948.
The Bevin Boys Veterans Badges were officially launched in London by the Minister of Energy before an invited group of ex Bevin Boys and Government Officials on March 25 2008.
The Bevin Boys Association has also commissioned an official Commemorative Silver Medal. It is available to Ballotees, Optants, Volunteers or next of kin called up between 1942 and 1948. There is no minimum length of service to be eligible for this medal but we do ask that you provide details of the training colliery and colliery work.
More details and application forms for the Bevin Boys Veterans Badges and Bevin Boys Commemorative Silver Medal can be obtained from Warwick Taylor on 01305 261269 or 07711 960 452.