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BBC Wales's Hywel Griffiths reports
"The Bevin Boys were shown how mining technology has changed"
 real 56k

Bernard Broad, Bevin Boy
"I said to the pit manager I was off; he said 'no you're not'"
 real 28k

Monday, 9 April, 2001, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
War coal mine heroes reunite
Bevin Boys
The teenagers at work during the war
More than 100 former 'Bevin Boys' have taken part in a reunion, more than 60 years after their endeavours to keep Wales's mines working during World War II.

An estimated 48,000 boys - who were too young for army service - were recruited into the coal mining industry during the war.

Named after the then minister of labour Ernest Bevin - who initiated the scheme to bolster the war effort - many were conscripted by a ballot scheme without choice. The alternative was prison.

Former Bevin Boys
Bevin Boys examine modern mining equipment
Surviving members of the Bevin Boys Association have visited Wales's only remaining deep mine at Tower near Hirwaun and were also guests of the Rhondda Heritage Park.

The Bevin Boys were among the unsung heroes of the war effort - alongside the Land Girls who worked on farms.

They did not receive any real recognition for their part until the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in 1945.

The young workers first came to south Wales in 1943 and were not de-mobbed until 1948.

Their service underground began with a month's intensive training to prepare them for the rigours of working underground.

Pit ponies

"That is probably why they put us through the initial training, a quarter of which was taken up with physical training."

The boys had to get used to speaking Welsh, as the pit ponies did not understand commands in English.

Bernard Broad, from Pontypridd, did not want to follow his family into mining, but he was ordered to work as a Bevin Boy at Cilfynydd.

"The day the war finished I went to the manager of the colliery and said, 'I am off, I am finished'.

Warwick Taylor., Bevin Boys Association
Warwick Taylor: 'Hard graft'

"He said, 'you are not going anywhere, you have to be de-mobbed the same as army personnel, you are under the army'.

"That was it and I had to stay in until 1947."

Tower Colliery chairman Tyrone O'Sullivan paid a personal tribute to the Bevin Boys, who he said were all but forgotten by their country.

He said the reunion was a fitting occasion to commemorate the achievements of the thousands of young men who supported the war effort.

The climax of the event came as they visited Tower Colliery, Wales's only surviving deep mine, to look at how mining technology had changed.

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13 May 00 | Wales
Memorial marks mining tragedies
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