Fred Staples receives "Bevin Boy" Medal
At the beginning of the war the Government, underestimating the value of experienced coal-miners, conscripted them into the armed forces. By mid-1943 the coal mines had lost 36,000 workers, and these workers were generally not replaced due to the availability of cleaner work. It became evident that the miners needed to be replaced. The government made a plea to men liable to conscription to offer to work in the mines, but few offered and the shortage continued.
When December arrived and Britain was becoming desperate for a continued supply of coal for both the war effort and a winter at home, it was decided that a percentage of conscripts would be directed to the mines. The colloquial name "Bevin Boys" came from the speech Bevin made announcing the scheme:
Selection of conscripts
The scheme ran between 1943 and 1948 and involved
recruiting men aged between 18 and 25 years to carry out this work rather
than serve in the armed forces. Some 48,000 men were either conscripted
or volunteered under the scheme.
Fred was given 6 weeks of training before
working down the mine. The work was typical coal mining, largely a mile
or more down dark, dank tunnels, and conscripts were supplied with helmets
and steel-capped safety boots. Bevin Boys did not wear uniforms or badges,
but the oldest clothes they could find. There wasn't much high-tech mechanisation
in those days, so it was all down to the pick and shovel and hard physical
During 1944, the residents of the two parishes
donated to a "Bures Welcome
Home Fund" which raised funds to give to the servicemen on their
return home from the war. A token of the villagers gratitude for what
they had endured whilst conscripted.
In June 2007 the Prime Minister announced that the Government would introduce a medal to formally recognise the contribution made by the Bevin Boys who worked in the UK coalfields during and immediately after World War II.
In recognition of this work, Fred received
his medal early in September 2008, which now proudly sits on his mantelpiece.
He also joins the ranks of the famous,
such as Brian Rix and Eric Morecambe.