Grim faced mines rescue men to go down the pit at the Lofthouse Colliery, West Yorkshire.
On the 21st March 1973, miners were working at a coal face unaware that nearby were some flooded 19th century mine workings. Most miners escaped the subsequent rush of water but seven were missing. Hopes that they may have survived in an air pocket proved forlorn. Rescuers reached the scene six days later. Though there was a small air pocket, there were no survivors, and only one body was found.
Dudley Mines Rescue Team c 1920s.
The tragedy of Lofthouse Colliery in Yorkshire stirred the memories of old Black Country colliers as there was a similar disaster at the No. 5 "Dandy Pit," Lenches Bridge, Pensnett.
As at Lofthouse, and in the tradition of the mining fraternity, super human efforts were made to rescue those who were trapped.
Albert Sargent reconstructs this disaster from his own boyhood memories which were refreshed by browsing through 50 years of old copies of local newspapers.
Saturday, April 21st, 1923. Fifty-seven miners are working below the surface in the honeycomb of roads which made up the No. 5 "Dandy Pit" at Lenches Bridge, Pensnett.
It is a little after noon.
The shift is due to finish at 2pm, and, already, many of those miners are planning how best to spend the few brief hours of leisure time on that Spring Saturday afternoon.
Some of them, no doubt, would take a quick wash after the shift then make their way to the County ground at Dudley where their favourite football club, Lower Gornal Athletic, were due to play the Kidderminster side, Franche United, in the final of the Dudley Guest Hospital Cup. Others would be giving their young pigeons an airing in preparation for the imminent flying season. Many would be content to catch up with the digging of their cottage garden.
But George Raybould, who lived at Summit Place, Gornal Wood, was too uneasy in his mind to be so preoccupied.
"The'er's tew much wairter tricklin' threw this coal-fairce," he told his buddies. A colleague remarked that he "waz wet threw wi' sweat an' wairter."
Suddenly, without any further warning, there was a great inrush of water. There was no time to gather up their clothes and belongings. As one man, they made a mad rush for the shaft. The huge torrent of water followed at their heels. Only their speed, born of the instinct of self-preservation, saved them.
Walter Geary, working with others in a side road, was disturbed by the commotion. "Look out, wairter," he heard someone shout from the main road. In a split second he, and his mates, had joined the desperate dash to safety. The rushing torrents roared like thunder, yet they managed to keep their heads and entered the waiting cage in orderly fashion.
Meanwhile, 20 other men were drawn up an old water shaft. Others followed Raybould and Geary.
A hurried roll call was made at the pit head. Five men were missing. The trapped miners were: Ernie Haydon (40), married, of Boat Fold, Wordsley. William Simmons (married), Coopers Bank, Pensnett. Job Dando (44), married, Bromley, Pensnett. Tom Jordan (24), single, Coopers Bank, Pensnett. Enoch Cadman (56), single, Summer Street, Kingswinford.
The water rushed into the workings with such force that it swept away timber, and, in time, the cage became jammed.
From the moment it was known that five men were trapped little hope was held that they would be rescued alive.
They had been working steadily towards a honeycomb of old seams, mostly uncharted and abandoned since the mid-1850's. Only since 1911 had pit owners been compelled to file sworn details of disused workings.
All hope, however, was not quite abandoned. In the opinion of some who had escaped it was possible that Enoch Cadman, who was working at a coal inset, had managed to reach higher ground.
News was flashed to the colliery officials, H.S. Pitt and Co. Groups of miners and their womenfolk rushed to the scene. "It's another Nine Locks disaster," one weeping women was heard to sob. The older ones could remember the Nine Locks. It had happened 54 years earlier. Even young
people knew of that disaster. Their parents had made sure of that.
As the crowd waited anxiously for news of the trapped men it was learned that the water had risen well up the shaft. The crowd grew silent. They made way for yet another rescue team which arrived from the colliery of Messrs Gibbons, of Lower Gornal. Hopes rose again.
The men from Gibbons were a fully trained outfit.
Water was being tanked out of the shaft at the rate of two tons every 45 seconds. All through that Saturday night they performed super-human efforts in an effort to make an impression on the level of water. By Sunday morning, the height of the water had been reduced by only one foot. Several thousands of sightseers had now thronged the roads. Ears strained for welcome news. Hoping against hope that the untiring efforts would be rewarded with some success. A cheer went up as it was learned that a rescue party was preparing to go down the shaft. They were forced to retreat, although one of them did succeed in reaching a live pony. A tub, sadly, was wedged in the road and rescue was impossible.
Prayers that a miracle may be wrought were said in every church and chapel in the district during that Sunday. Rescuers, also were heard to offer prayers as they battled against impossible odds for the whole of the day.
All through that night the crowd waited for news. Monday dawned. Coal-stained, drenched to the skin, the teams of rescuers took a brief, silent break, then went below again.
Then, a little before noon, a murmur buzzed through that waiting crowd. Those nearest to the pit head, saw the smiling face of a rescuer as he stepped lightly from the cage. Miss Cadman - a sister of Enoch Cadman - stepped forward. "Tell me the truth," she said. "Ah con stond the wust."
"Go home," said an official quietly, your brother is safe."
The news spread like wildfire. Cheering, such as Pensnett had never before heard, filled the air.
It was true. Enoch Cadman had been found alive. They discovered him sitting in the first "split" - or ventilating passage - on the way to the thick coal. He was fast asleep, and his companion beside him was one of four ponies which had escaped drowning. He had been in pitch darkness for almost two days without anything to eat. He was completely exhausted, his trousers torn and his knees and hands badly lacerated through crawling along the roads in a search for some avenue of escape.
"Yoh must be an angel," he said to the leader of the party. "But yoh'n bin a lung time comin'." Then, as he noticed his torn trousers he quipped, "Ah looken like Robinson Crusoe."
As one of his sisters said afterwards, "Only those prepared to concede a miner a living wage should be allowed the full comforts of a bright fire." Her sentiments could well be appreciated because their father had been killed at the Wallows Colliery, Brierley Hill 42 years earlier.
Amazingly, despite his terrible ordeal, Enoch Cadman was driven direct to his own home with the echo of cheering crowds in his ears.
Unfortunately, the fears at first expressed were fully justified. The bodies of his four comrades were recovered from another part of the flooded workings. These were found at eight o'clock on the Tuesday night.
Members of the Pensnett Ward of the Kingswinford Rural District Council immediately launched an appeal. The colliery owners undertook to meet the whole of the funeral expenses.
Ernie Haydon was buried at Wordsley parish church on the following Saturday. The other three victims were all buried at Pensnett parish church on the Sunday afternoon. Contemporary reports said that every house along the funeral routes drew the blinds. People lined the route from an early hour and it was estimated that the crowd was between 10,000 and 15,000 all anxious to pay their last respects and to acknowledge that it was a hazard in which most of them lived, moved and had their being.
Bentley Colliery: On the 20th of November 1931 there was an explosion underground which killed 45 men and boys. Here is a scene from the funerals.
On friday the 20th of November 1931 at approximately 5.45 p.m on that day a huge explosion occurred deep underground in the North East District of the mine.
A sudden flash of flame shot across the workings bringing down the roof and walls, while miners were thrown through the air by the force of the blast.
The scene was one of devastation, some miners were overcome by flammable gas, known as 'firedamp', while others were trapped by roof falls.
Rescue teams arrived at the scene and began their journey underground to clear debris while fires burned, threatening more explosions.
Five hours later a second blast occurred resulting in three rescuers being severely burned.
Then a third blast occurred sometime later. 250 rescuers worked in stifling conditions, often driven back by heat, smoke and gas.
Tragic scenes met the first men who arrived from workings nearby. Miners were scattered on the ground with their clothes burned away, while others appeared to have been blinded.
It is said that the first rescue was carried out by Arthur Kirkland, who was badly burned and having lost a hand. Arthur was crawling to safety when he met T. Hannon, a pony driver, whose foot had become trapped under a tub. Arthur somehow managed to lift the tub off his foot and dragged the man 300 yards to safety. Sadly Arthur Kirkland did not survive, and the story of his strength and courage only became known later.
A miner working in another part of the mine before the explosion managed to return to the surface, but on hearing of the disaster he immediately joined the rescue effort. He went down the pit and found his own son lying unconscious. He dragged him out, to be taken to hospital, but it was the last time he saw him alive.
In September 1932 it was announced that eight men who had performed heroic assistance in the rescue effort, were to be awarded for their special gallantry. Awarded the Edward Medal for Mines in Silver were Ernest Allport, Deputy, St John's Ambulance man and a member of the Colliery Rescue Brigade. Edgar Hamilton Frazer, Divisional Inspector of Mines. Samuel Jarrett Temperley, Assistant Surveyor. John Ward, pony driver. Awarded the Edward Medal for Mines in Bronze were Richard Edward Darker, pony driver. Oliver Soulsby, haulage hand. Frank Sykes, Corporal; and Philip William Yates, haulage driver.
The Edward Medal was established in 1907 for heroic acts, performed by miners and quarrymen who endanger their own lives in pursuit of saving others in peril. Silver was the First Class award, Bronze the Second Class.
The Edward Medals were presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 24th of February 1933.
Some of the heroic acts carried out by the Bentley heroes .
Ernest Allport spent over three hours in breathing apparatus helping stretcher cases when his breathing apparatus needed replenishing. Following the second explosion, and a call for volunteers, he seized some breathing apparatus and joined a rescue party which pushed past a fire to rescue two other men.
Samuel Jarrett Temperley volunteered to lead a rescue party into the return airway despite a fire being on their route. Making their way there an explosion occurred severely injuring three of the rescuers, who then turned back. However, Mr Temperley and one of the mines inspectors went on even though he had no breathing equipment, and managed to reach the airway entrance where he helped to carry an injured man past one of the fires.
Pony driver John Ward was in a nearby part of the coalface when he was blown off his feet by the blast and covered in a thick cloud of dust. When he recovered, he guided himself in the darkness by feeling for rails and tubs, to reach the face. He helped an injured man to safety and repeatedly returned to the face to help other injured men for the next three hours, until he was completely exhausted.
On the 21st of November 1978, seven men were killed in an underground paddy train crash. Here we see some of the wreckage.
Aitcheson, Robert; aged 54, Faceworker.
Box, Donald; aged 39, Faceworker.
Green, Kenneth; aged 38, Faceworker.
Hall, David R; aged 21, Face Trainee.
Henderson, Geoffrey; aged 39, Faceworker.
Hickman, Michael Edward; aged 18, Face Trainee.
Mitchell, James; aged 55, Faceworker.
Butcher, J; Aged 57, Shift Charge Engineer.
Rush, Thomas J; aged 26, Supply Man.
Thompson, Paul; aged 26, Ripper.
The Cadeby Main Pit Disaster was a coal mining accident on 9 July 1912 at Cadeby Main Colliery at Cadeby near Doncaster, Yorkshire. It resulted in the death of 91 men.
Early in the morning of 9 July 1912 an explosion in the south-west part of the Cadeby Main pit killing 35 men with 3 more dying later due to their injuries. Later in the same day after a rescue party was sent below ground another explosion took place killing 53 men of the rescue party.