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Reunion plan for conscript miners.

Byline: By Dave Black

Young conscripts who helped keep the coal fires burning during the Second World War are being invited to a reunion more than 60 years on at an annual celebration of the North-East's mining heritage.

Instead of joining the Armed Forces, thousands of so-called Bevin Boys were sent to work down the pits from 1943 to tackle a shortage of coal for the factories fuelling Britain's war effort against Hitler.

Those selected for the work were drawn by lot in the London office of Labour minister Ernest Bevin from the names of all young men conscripted for national service. Bevin Boys were sent to the North-East from all over the UK to be trained in underground mining skills and then sent to work in the region's pits ( some of them staying here for the rest of their lives.

Now local historian and former pitman Mike Kirkup ( who is the regional representative of the Bevin Boys Association ( is organising a reunion for surviving North-East members at the annual Northumberland Miners' Picnic.

He hopes about 12 former Bevin Boys from all over the region will gather for the picnic's wreath-laying ceremony and miners' remembrance service at the Woodhorn Museum and Archives Centre in Ashington on Saturday June 9.

Mr Kirkup, who lives in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, said Ashington was one of 12 training bases for the Bevin Boys from their inception in 1943. He continued: "Some of them stayed behind after the war to marry local lasses and carved out a career for themselves down the pit. All of them have now passed their 80th birthday so I thought this year's miners' picnic might be the last chance to get a group of them together. There were 48,000 of them nationally but their numbers are dwindling rapidly.

"A lot of people think Bevin Boys were conscientious objectors because they worked down the mines, but that was not the case at all. They were selected in a lottery and most of them would have much preferred to have joined the Armed Forces."

Sid Stowe, 81, who lives in Bywell Road, Ashington, with his wife Rose, 86, became a Bevin Boy in February 1944 when his name was drawn out of the lottery and he was sent to the North-East from his home in Oxfordshire.

He trained at the disused Cramlington Lamb Colliery before going to work at Ellington Colliery, where he stayed until he took redundancy in 1983. Mr Stowe said: "I was 19 at the time, working at an aerodrome in Worcestershire and thought it was the end of the world when I was conscripted for service in the pits.

"I had never seen a mine before and had never been underground. We were sent to Cramlington to train and billeted in a hotel in Newcastle. I was allocated to Ellington Colliery where I met some wonderful people."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 10, 2007
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