AN exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of the Bevin Boy scheme has opened at the National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield.
Among the stories being told through A Bevin Boy in Yorkshire is that of artist Martin Hill, who wanted to join the RAF but was instead sent down mines in Sheffield and Barnsley.
The exhibition features his sketches, diaries and letters home to Brighton.
Also speaking at the exhibition’s opening yesterday was another former Bevin Boy John Etty, who worked at Caphouse Colliery, which is now the site of the museum.
Mr Etty will be better known to rugby league fans as a player with Batley, Oldham, and Wakefield Trinity during the 1950s and 60s, and is one of the six surviving members of Trinity’s 1960 Challenge Cup-winning team.
He said he remembered his service “not fondly” because of how dangerous the work was, and twice survived brushes with death - once when a lift collapsed and another time when a miner working next to him inadvertently picked up a stick of dynamite on the end of his pick.
In 2008, he was one of 27 Bevin Boys presented with badges by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
“I was very pleased,” said Mr Etty, 87. “The Prime Minister spoke to all the Bevin Boys and their wives and I was very pleased we had finally been recognised after 70 years.”
In 1943 during the Second World War, Britain faced a coal production crisis, threatening both industry at home and the war effort.
Ernest Bevin, wartime Minister for Labour and National Service, decided that one in 10 conscripts aged between 18 and 24 would work in Britain’s coal mines.