Remembering the Bevin Boys
PUBLISHED: 15:33 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:13 12 August 2010
An 82-year-old man who was forced to work as a miner for more than three years features in a new history book. Bob Kinnear, of Ridgeway Drive, Bromley was a Bevin Boy, and along with 48,000 other young men, was conscripted into coal mining when he was j
An 82-year-old man who was forced to work as a miner for more than three years features in a new history book.
Bob Kinnear, of Ridgeway Drive, Bromley was a Bevin Boy, and along with 48,000 other young men, was conscripted into coal mining when he was just 18 in order to make sure Britain had enough energy during World War II.
His experiences and memories are now documented in Called Up, Sent Down, a new book by Tom Hickman.
Mr Kinnear said: "I wasn't very happy when I found out I would be going under because I wanted to be in the navy. But it was my national service and so I just got on with it.
"It was scary down there and it was very physical work. We called it 'pit sense'. You always had to be aware what was going on because it was very dangerous, there were a lot of accidents but once we were down there we just did what you were told."
He was stationed at Oaklands in South Wales, a popular mine for Bevin Boys.
Their name came from Ernest Bevin, a former trade union official and then Labour Minister of Labour and National Service.
As Britain became more and more desperate for coal during the war effort, Mr Bevin gave a speech announcing the conscription of young men to work down the mines.
Mr Kinnear said: "I was down there for three and a half years from 1943 to 1946 for six days a week. We worked for seven and a half hours a day with 20 minutes to eat our sandwiches.
"They gave us a hard hat and a pair of boots but we had to pay for everything else. We always used to joke that we'd cause quite a furore if we turned up just in that.
"Some men objected and downed their tools, I never thought about revolting. Some people called us that awful name, a conscientious objector, which was a load of rubbish. There were conscientious objectors at Oaklands but I always stayed away from them.
"It was okay in South Wales because people knew there were lots of Bevin Boys but when we went home on leave we would get the finger pointed."
Mr Kinnear is now a member of the Bevin Boy Association and frequently meets up with former miners. He said: "I like meeting up. It brings back memories. I've read the book as well and really enjoyed it."
Called Up, Sent Down is available on www.amazon.co.uk .
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