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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 February 2007, 18:16 GMT
Badge honours Bevin Boys' service
Bevin Boys
Some Bevin Boys at Hirwaun Hostel in south Wales in 1945
Thousands of men conscripted into the pits as miners during World War II are to be recognised for their contribution to the war effort.

Up to 50,000 young men became Bevin Boys, named after wartime minister Ernest Bevin, who devised the scheme to maintain the mining industry's output.

The Bevin Boys Association has long campaigned for its members' efforts to be recognition as war service.

Veterans Minister Derek Twigg agreed to badges being struck for the survivors.

I think we've got to have the pithead gear on it, that would distinguish that we were working in coal mines
Warwick Taylor, Bevin Boys Association

It was in 1942 that, due to a serious shortage of coal, Ernest Bevin introduced various schemes to get extra men to go into the coal mines.

Many of the regular miners had been called up into the forces, leaving a shortfall of able men.

Many of those subsequently drafted into the mines were often known as the "forgotten conscripts".

Alan Jennings, 80, from Cardiff, said he had volunteered and been accepted by the RAF, so it was a shock when he was conscripted to work underground.

"I worked in a solicitor's office, so I was really ill-equipped to work as I eventually became a collier's assistant, shovelling coal all day long on my hands and knees at a 3ft seam," he said.

Coal mine
Coal was still required for fuel the British war effort

"It was a completely hostile and alien environment - minimum of light, maximum dust and noise."

Warwick Taylor, vice-president of the Bevin Boys Association and a historian of the movement, said some people regarded the Bevin Boys as cowardly for choosing mining duties instead of active combat - but stressed that many had had no choice.

"A lot of us were balloted, it was a question of a number out of the hat. Well, you did have a choice, three months imprisonment if you refused to go," he said.

Mr Taylor, who served at Oakdale colliery in south Wales, said their contribution was unrecognised until 1998 when they were allowed to participate in the remembrance parade at the Cenotaph in London.

He met Mr Twigg in London on Wednesday, in the presence of an MoD representative.

Bevin Boys on a march
The group has regular regional and national reunions for old Bevin Boys

He said: "The minister was very sympathetic towards our campaign for a badge or a medal.

"We are going to get an award. It will be a badge, not a medal, but it will take a little while as the ministry will go into the design and manufacture."

He said the MoD was looking to strike 5,000 badges for surviving Bevin Boys.

He added: "I think we've got to have the pithead gear on it, that would distinguish that we were working in coal mines."

But Mr Jennings said he wished their contribution had been recognised earlier.

"All Bevin Boys now are 80 years old and above, and it is far too late for many of them," he added.


SEE ALSO
World War II miners hold reunion
11 Apr 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Bevin Boys go back underground
14 Feb 03 |  England
In Pictures: Wartime exhibition
19 Feb 05 |  In Pictures

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